I had this boss who was a real “tough but fair” type with heavy emphasis on the “tough” part. He called me into his office one morning and asked me this:”How hungry are you?” I said nothing at first because I had no idea if this was a trick question or he was really concerned about my appetite. I got up the nerve to ask him what he meant. “Your career”, he said, “how badly do you want to get ahead?” Well - I did want to get ahead and I told him so.
He offered me an assignment to serve for two years as part of a committee that would investigate employee nominations for a corporate technical excellence award. The award recipients would receive a significant amount of corporate recognition and substantial monetary award. This award was a major deal in the IT and Operations departments but not so much in our world. We were a headquarters’ staff — type organization developing non-technical corporate practices so there was really no requirement from his management to place someone on the committee. This was the kind of information that came down from higher management as an FYI – if you have an interest in assigning someone to this committee feel free to do so. And, as I read through the material he provided to me I could see that there would be a lot of work involved with serving on this committee. It was also clear that I was expected to balance the demands of my current position and this new assignment without sacrificing the quality or execution of either. So…”Why would I want to do this?” I asked.
George (that was his name) explained it to me. I would meet people from different organizations, see them operate, learn their culture, help them to learn ours, develop investigation techniques, gain a better understanding of return on investment, sharpen my communications skills, improve my decision making techniques, and improve my time management so that I could perform both functions and continue to exceed objectives. Basically, this assignment would provide me with an opportunity to acquire the skills that were essential if I were to move to the next level and beyond. He stated that he wasn’t getting anything out of it but he knew it would be a good developmental experience for me and left it to me to decide.
What makes a good boss? Obviously, managers need to possess a wide variety of skills to be credible and to position themselves and their team well. But which boss made a difference in your career? Who gave you something that helped you over the long-haul? Who paid it forward?
In the past, one could do well by focusing on his or her own performance. Today’s manager is one who must excel individually and as part of the collective. Having the right networks and building effective professional and interpersonal contacts with diverse colleagues will pay dividends throughout your career. Great bosses recognize this and prepare their subordinates for opportunities now and in the future.
The key take-aways are these:
· Establish a “high-performance path” for your team. Find ways for them to stretch by offering them challenging assignments that will position them well going forward
· Tomorrow’s leaders will face the new normal of constant change. It isn’t enough to master today’s challenges — a future leader will have to demonstrate that he has the stuff to deal with tomorrow’s complexities. Look for opportunities available to prepare your high potentials for the future. Move them out of their comfort zone and trust them to perform well
· Be available to offer support, insights and feedback — the heart and soul of your job
Well, I took the assignment. Admittedly, I was challenged to keep up with my day to day job as well as the committee work but it did pay off. I extended the reach of my network significantly and increased my interdepartmental visibility. I met a Vice President who a few years later, recruited me to be his chief of staff. My exposure to different operating procedures, functional team values and cultures was really a value-add with future assignments within my company. Learning to communicate across diverse teams is a skill that I use today in my work as a business coach and change manager.
A great boss will seek out opportunity to develop her direct reports even if there is no direct or immediate benefit to herself. A great boss will trust his subordinates to do well in challenging situations. A great boss will pay it forward. And if you’re a great boss, you might just have a blogger like me write a story about you sometime in the future.
Real Leadership Associates can help you create developmental plans for your high potential managers. My mentoring offers are designed to assist in objective setting for performance, identifying growth opportunities and providing feedback. Business coaching can help your direct reports balance the demands of their work plans with growth initiatives. If you are interested in hearing more contact Beth
As the fourth quarter and autumn are upon us, I wish you good progress with end of year accomplishments, next year's planning and beautiful fall foliage! Take care. Talk to you in a month or so.