How to be a better boss
After looking at the common mistakes accountants make when managing their teams, Blaire Palmer explores the actions you can take to improve your people management and become a better boss.
When it comes to your employees, sometimes it might seem like you can’t do anything right. Even though your intentions are good you still end up confusing people about your motives and turning people off when you were trying to engage them.
Welcome to the wonderful world of people management.
It’s important to remember you’re not going to get it right all the time and that what works for some people won’t work for others. It’s also important that you don’t try to pretzel yourself in to someone you’re not just to try to be the kind of manager that your people like. Being liked isn’t the goal here. But being trusted is.
There are a few actions you can take to be a better boss.
Contract properly with your team
Rather than assuming you know how they like to be managed, ask them what they need. You can do this one-to-one or at a team meeting but be prepared for different people to need different approaches.
Some will want you to back off, others will want more contact. Some want you to coach them, others want you to teach them. Allow them to explain what they need of you in order to do a great job.
Explain your operating instructions
At the same time, you have needs of them and a style of leadership you prefer. Once you’ve heard what they need, reciprocate by explaining how you work. When you do the things you do, what do they mean? For instance, when you leave them to it does this mean you don’t care anymore or that you trust them?
If they need you, what’s the best way of letting you know? How much detail do you like and in what format? If they have a problem with you how would you like them to bring it to your attention? Don’t assume people know how you operate. Explain.
Communicate regularly and in person
Tell people what you know. Tell them what you don’t yet know and when you might be able to tell them more. Trust them with sensitive information even if they might find it unsettling. Explain how to interpret data like client attrition or hikes in fees.
Don’t leave a vacuum for speculation. Take questions and answer them as honestly as you can. If information can’t be shared explain why but also challenge yourself to question why certain information is held back and whether it’s really too delicate to share.
Don’t hog the workload
You’re not superman and there’s no reason you need to kill yourself just to prove you can handle it. Model the kind of work-life balance you expect of your people.
If there is literally too much to do find ways to reduce the workload for all. What’s the stuff that makes the difference? And what’s the stuff that’s just busy-work and gets in the way of delivering to clients? Fix the problem at its core.
Never say “We’re all in this together”
Instead, listen to what worries people. Then work out how you can make change less disruptive, less painful and less uncertain. Involve people earlier in the process so they can influence the strategy and feel more control over their future. Show people you’ll take care of them even if the worst happens and they are no longer needed. Build trust before you have to call on that trust, so when you have bad news, people are on your side.
Of course, none of this will prevent people blaming you, moaning about you at the pub after work or doing impressions of you behind your back. You wanted the big job and you got what you wanted.
When they take over they’ll experience the loneliness and the no-win reality of being in charge. But you can be a better boss than you are today by understanding that leadership is in the eye of the beholder.
Understanding how you are perceived and listening to what your people need of you will help not only those who feel stuck in a rut and blame it all on you, but your very best, most highly motivated people…the ones you really want to keep.
For more tips on being a better leader, including practical questions to ask yourself, download Blaire’s free ebook here.
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Blaire Palmer is a leadership coach, author and conference speaker. As CEO of That People Thing she works with senior executives to help them rethink how to lead in these fast-changing times. Blaire is a judge in the Investing in People category of the 2020 Accounting Excellence Awards...