So, now you're the boss

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Being a boss is hard work and it's different work from what you did as an individual contributor. Here are some important things you should know if you've just become a boss.

You have not just become a jerk, but some people will think you have. There are people in the world who think that all bosses are jerks.

Some of those people will be in the group that used to be your friends. You can't do much about that except giving the ones willing to change their minds a reason to do so.

That's not all. Some of them will expect special treatment. Some will use their "friendship" with you as a way to lord it over others.

It is sad to lose those friends, but you will lose some. Your continuing friends will support you in your new position. It is good to have real friends who stay your friends even when you succeed.

You have become a leader whether you want to be one or not. That's because the people who work for you will treat you the way they treat any leader.

They will expect you to set direction and help them understand the importance and purpose of their work. The will expect you expect you to make decisions. They will not tell you things they used to tell you. They will filter a lot of what they do tell you through their self-interest.

Since you are going to be a leader anyway, you might as well be a good one. It takes just as much effort to be a good leader as to be an ineffective one, and it's a whole lot more pleasant and rewarding.

No matter what you may think, you actually have less power now than you did before. That's because your performance is based on the performance of your team. Their performance is your destiny. That's the bad news.

The good news is that you have much more influence than before. Since people are treating you like a leader, it means they will watch what you do and listen to what you say even if it may not always seem that way. You can use what you do and say to influence their behavior and performance in powerful ways.

So set upon a course of self-development that includes developing your leadership skills. Start by picking out some role models to emulate, after adjusting for your own style and situation, of course.

Remember that you have two jobs. You must accomplish the mission. And you must care for your people. Be sure to develop the skills that will help you do better at both.

Figure out a way to get honest feedback on how you're doing. That's one thing that keeps many managers from achieving their full potential. They want to hear the good things about their behavior and performance, but not the bad.

You listen to honest feedback for two reasons. First of all, it helps you do better. If you know what needs improvement you can work on it. Second, it helps create an environment of candor for your team.

When someone gives you feedback, especially feedback that's tough to hear, say, "Thank you." Do not dispute, argue, or nit-pick. Say thank-you.

Don't just get feedback from others. Make it habit to critique your own leadership performance. Take a moment or two after every significant action to note the situation, what you intended, what happened, and how you might do things better next time.

Find some people to talk to about your new role. Leadership is an apprentice trade. You learn most of it on the job. And you can learn a lot by talking to other leaders about your new role. They can help you with general principles and with specific situations. Pay special attention to the advice of the most effective bosses.

Making the transition from individual contributor to effective boss usually takes twelve to eighteen months. During that time you'll develop your own style and learn what works best for you.

New Boss's Bottom Line

Good bosses are the bedrock of business. Good bosses are the people most responsible for productivity and morale. You can join the club of good bosses, but it won't be easy and it won't be quick.

Start by paying attention to the differences that come with being a boss. Work on developing your leadership skills. Be the best boss you can be every day and a better boss the next. Becoming a great boss is worth the effort.

Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.



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  • 9/17/2010 11:36 AM Rick Hoke wrote:
    Hey Wally,

    You bring up some really good points here. You are right on the money when you talk about the upside of even becoming a manager. I'm a sales professional and do very well. I often wrestle with becoming a manager for the point you made. You are now on the hook for not just your number, but the number of each person you manage. That can be quite daunting.

    Another point I'd like to bring up is this. As a new leader, one must learn to manage his own expectations. Put another way, a new manager is going to make a mistakes along the way and he is going to have to grow into the new role. Growing pains if you will. New managers must realize that they have been chosen for their potential. There will be bumps along the way and you must take them in stride.
    Reply to this
    1. 9/17/2010 12:06 PM Wally Bock wrote:

      That's a great point, Rick. When you get moved into management, you're used to knowing your job, doing well, and not making many mistakes. In your new job, that won't be the case. Thanks for reminding us of that.

      Reply to this
  • 9/17/2010 12:07 PM Matt Ulinski wrote:
    Wally, as a new boss one of the most difficult things I faced was not having the answers to questions my coworkers would ask. I feel that each time I said, "I'm not sure I'll get back to you." I lost a little credibility even if I came back with a sound answer.
    Any Suggestions?
    Reply to this
    1. 9/17/2010 1:01 PM Gayle Ely wrote:
      In my experience I have found that when a boss says "I'm not sure, I'll get to you", I am very appreciative of his/her honesty. And their credibility is maintained when they do get back with me. Employees know when a boss is trying to snow them as if they know the answer, but they really don't. If you're uncomfortable in saying "I'm not sure", how about "Good question" instead. That affirms the employee and still allows you to find the answer and get back with them.
      Reply to this
      1. 9/17/2010 1:11 PM Wally Bock wrote:

        Gayle – thanks for sharing your perspective and experience. It's very helpful.

        Reply to this
    2. 9/17/2010 1:10 PM Wally Bock wrote:

      Thanks for asking the question, Matt. Let me respond in a couple of ways. First, being honest and then getting the answer is the right move. The key is that you have to get the answer quickly and get back to your team member. That's the part where credibility is built.


      You also must decide if there's a real "knowledge" issue on your part. If there is, you should take steps to remedy it.


      One of my coaching clients worked for a company that made a line of industrial consumables that were used by different industries. When he was promoted, he was transferred from an office that dealt mostly with agricultural customers to one where most of the customers were in the automotive industry.


      That meant most of the product knowledge he'd amassed was useless. For the first several months, he set aside an hour a night to study product applications in the automotive business. He sought out people who knew the business well and asked them for advice on what it most important to know.


      By being open about what he was doing and honest with everyone he worked with, he got through the period with minimum sniping. That didn't mean he escaped scott-free. But he couldn't do anything about that.


      Reply to this
    3. 9/20/2010 3:55 PM Jayne Gerlach wrote:
      The other point that I would make is that the manager or boss doesn't always have to have all the answers. In some cases, it's fine or even better to turn it around and ask the employee what they would do or direct them to someone else. If the boss spends all of their time answering questions, they won't have time left to make plans and act strategically.
      Reply to this
      1. 9/20/2010 5:11 PM Wally Bock wrote:
        Excellent point, Jayne. Thanks.
        Reply to this
  • 9/22/2010 7:09 PM Dick Wells wrote:
    Wally, there is a reason that boss is too often a four letter word. You have given a lot of practical suggestions that will help bosses become leaders who have enthusiastic followers not just employees. New - and old - leaders need these reminders.
    Reply to this
    1. 9/22/2010 7:43 PM Wally Bock wrote:

      Thanks, Dick. I learned from watching great bosses work with the idea that if we can learn what they do, we can do the same things and get the same results.

      Reply to this
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