Best Boss Ever
When I have the chance to talk to my clients about their company culture, we often talk about what kind of a boss they want to be. In a client meeting recently, with my Team Captain present, I said:
“I try to be the kind of boss I would want to work for.”
She stopped me and said she had never heard me say that before. I’m sure I’ve said it many times, probably just not in front of her.
But I should be saying it in front of the whole team. They need to know that when I evaluate whether the company can afford to pay for a new benefit or give raises, I am always thinking like an employee. But it goes beyond raises and benefits. It goes to the everyday way you treat your employees.
I work hard to build a transparent culture, where everyone knows what’s going on all the time and feels included. I don’t always make decisions based on the feedback I get, but I do take it into consideration.
I’ve never forgotten the bosses I’ve had and how they treated me and the other staff. The ones that stand out are the particularly bad ones, of course.
But that’s my reminder to be the best boss I can be all the time.
If you are a boss, then you may be doing things inadvertently that upset, hurt, or just turn off your employees. In today’s culturally sensitive environment, we all need to pay attention to what we say and how others may interpret it.
Although race is a factor to consider, also consider gender, sexual identity, and age when you look at the messages you are sending.
Employers are prohibited from discriminating, but that doesn’t mean our own biases don’t sneak into our interactions with employees.
It might be as simple as forgetting to check in with your employees about what’s going on in their personal lives. That might come across as uncaring or unsupportive.
Or it could be more complex or blatant, like ignoring someone who is soft spoken because the rest of the group is loud and enthusiastic. This seems like it isn’t a cultural issue, but that might depend. Is this person the only woman in a group of men? If so, are you leading like one of the “good ole boys”?
This is an insidious habit that is too often ignored by the older generations of male leaders. I see it time and again. The “hey, honey, bring me a coffee” mentality that permeates this generation. And to top it off, I don’t think they have any idea what is offensive about it.
As a firm of entirely women, we are aware of it when we see it in our male clients. Not all of them, of course, but we do see it.
These men don’t understand that they need to treat women (and others not in their same group) as equals. But not as if they are in the locker room.
I’m not sure how to explain it better, much less how to change it. But if you fear you might fall into this category, even if just occasionally, I encourage you to look at your actions from the other person’s perspective.
Think to yourself, if I were the other person and my boss said this to me, how would I feel? At least trying to gauge how it would feel will help you to become aware of whether you are accidently being offensive. I truly believe that the majority of bosses who still think like this don’t mean anything by it. Of course, that is part of the problem. If you don’t see a problem, you aren’t inclined to change it.
The other approach that might work is to talk to your employees, either as a group, one on one, or even in an anonymous survey. Find out how they see your leadership. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and listen to how they hear what you say, how they feel in reaction to your actions.
Having happy employees is key to your business success.
Are you sure they are happy? Have you asked? Have you evaluated your own behavior to see if it is healthy and supportive?
That’s why I look at my actions from the perspective of an employee. I want to be the boss I would want to work for. Too many years of misogynistic leaders have taught me to be aware and sensitive to how I treat my employees. I would encourage and challenge you to do the same.
It’s easy to think we are great bosses because we pay well, offer good benefits, and throw fun holiday parties. But that’s not enough.
We need to evaluate our entire culture and how our actions impact it.
We need to ask the hard questions. Am I treating everyone equally and fairly? Am I offending anyone with my actions or words? Would I want to work for me? And do they feel like they can approach me if I do accidentally step over a line?
It takes conscious effort to be the best boss you can be. Don’t assume everything is fine all the time. Step up and take responsibility for leading and for creating a safe and inclusive environment. Be the boss that everyone remembers as the best boss ever.
Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (www.strongwomenthriving.com), a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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