5 things I admire about my bosses

Work has been ridiculous and I haven’t had time to update my blog in a long while. Neither had I felt inspired to do so.

However I am making the extra effort to do so tonight because I finally see some light at the end of the long dark tunnel.

Since the official reorganisation of my division, I’d been thrown into the deep end of the media pool and almost left to drown on my own. I’ve been through all kinds of backstabbing and politicking in my years in this department but one month of dealing with the media and I totally broke down.

Something changed from that day I cried my hearts out. I realised that I was no longer in the play pool for marketing, unknowingly I had graduated into the adult world of real politics, lobbying and subtle nuancing.

It was no longer a warm fuzzy feeling of young people doing creative projects and presentations together. It was now the cold hard truth of how mercenary the media is, how unforgiving lobbyists are and how unprepared our young officers are to be facing all this. Ironically, speaking before a crowd of 500 members is peanuts in comparison.

Anyway back to the topic on hand. These are my personal observations of behaviours people admire about their bosses. Hopefully I will be confident enough to emulate some of these in due course so as to win the respect of my staff as well.

1. Sticking your neck out for your belief in your people

Not many bosses have the guts to put their career on the line to stand by what collectively he and his management agree on when questioned by political masters. Often we see bosses who say one thing but quickly backtrack or change their minds when trouble comes or when their bosses’ tell them otherwise just to save face or please them. But I think ultimately your officers look up to you when you display integrity to stick by what you believe in and carry it to the end even if it means getting in trouble or end up in the black book of higher management.

2. Displaying humility and admitting that you don’t have all the answers

It may appear to be a sign of weakness to admit you don’t have all the answers. But it is worse to claim to have it when you don’t fully understand the situation, the context or have the necessary skills to resolve the problem. I never expected to see such vulnerability displayed by this top boss whom I have always deemed to be obnoxious and full of himself. It actually takes courage and wisdom to admit this so that someone else who is more capable can step in to fulfil the functions of the role for the good of the organisation.

Reminds me of this quote that I love – “God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” I guess it takes a lot of security to know that I don’t need to excel in everything to keep my job!

3. Remembering that your job is to help your people do their job better

As an individual contributor, we do things to solidify our contribution to the organisation – pick the right projects, network with the right people, sing the right song, etc. However as a manager when you have people taking instructions from you, it is no longer about you looking good, it is about helping your staff achieve their KPIs in the most efficient way, profiling their achievements further up and protecting them from unreasonable demands from management. Ultimately it is about servant leadership. Your staff don’t serve you, you serve them. And the best reward a manager can have is to see his own people fulfilling their potential.

4. Being generous in expressive compliments and constructive feedback 

The first I observe in my fellow colleague. She is so natural in dishing out compliments and encouragement that is unabashedly sincere and sharp. You know there are people who say ‘Wow great job!’ and then there are those who say ‘I am impressed with how you came up with such a creative solution to the problem.’ And then somehow is able to always pick out the positive in everything you do that just keeps motivating you to do better and better. These compliments mean a lot more because someone bothered to keep track and notice the effort you put in.

On the other hand, I believe in the importance of giving timely and constructive feedback on how one can do their job better. I am not saying that it be done from a ‘I know it better than you’ manner but rather ‘I want you to excel in your work so I am going to risk offending you’ perspective. It is not easy to give feedback but it is worse to let someone continue digging his own grave and just be a spectator.

5. Helping your people envision something bigger than themselves

Yes people work hard for the money, the power or the fame. But I believe deep down, all of us would prefer if we could work for something we passionately believe in. When your people are focused on titles and pay check, they become self-serving, narrow minded, politicking creatures that ruin the work place culture. I suppose I would have succumbed to that culture if not for another top boss who inspired me to embrace the larger purpose we serve. And when my staff felt like giving up on a very long drawn tedious project, unconsciously I found myself appealing to his passion and recounting how far we have come in improving the situation from two years ago. I don’t know if it made a difference to him but it certainly motivated me to keep on moving forward.

And there you have it. My compilation of 5 things I admire about my bosses. I hope if you are leading a team, you would find these insights useful too.

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