“Boss” has gotten a bad rap. Many people associate that term with a domineering, order-giving jerk. I think they’re confusing the term “boss” (a person responsible for the performance of a group) with “bossy.”
The Cambridge Dictionary says that: “A bossy person is always telling people what to do.” Great bosses lead productive teams with great morale. Great bosses aren’t bossy at all. They know three important things.
Being Bossy Is Crazy-Making
If you tell everybody what to do, all the time and everywhere, you’re going to wear yourself out. Great bosses know that caring for their people includes helping them develop their skills, abilities, and decision-making. They can’t do that if you’re always telling them what to do. But, if you can stand back and absorb the mistakes that go with learning, people on your team will take a lot of work right off your shoulders.
What’s the alternative? You make yourself crazy trying to do everything and know everything. Morale plummets, and so does productivity.
You Don’t Have Control Anyway
Nobody tells new managers this important truth. When you become responsible for the performance of a group, your power goes down, not up. Oh, sure, you can punish people who don’t do what you want with whatever means your organization will allow.
That’s more like revenge than like power. And, if a team member is willing to absorb the punishment, their behavior simply won’t change. Productivity and morale will plummet.
The only thing you can control is your behavior: what you say and what you do. That doesn’t seem like much, but it’s enough. Use what you say to set clear expectations and to coach, counsel, and encourage. Use what you do to reinforce what you say and set the example.
People Work Better When They Have Control
Edward Deci and Richard Ryan defined “autonomy” as one of the three key drivers of intrinsic motivation. David Burkus reviewed studies of how people respond to increased or decreased control of their life in his great book, Under New Management. He summarized them this way:
“The researchers found a significant correlation between employees’ perceptions of autonomy and their overall performance. In short, the more managers cede control over what to do and how to do it, the more employees do it well.”
The best bosses aren’t bossy. They know that being bossy makes them crazy, that they don’t really have control anyway, and that most people work better when they control their work.
More From Wally Bock
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In addition to writing the Three Star Leadership blog, Wally Bock is an author, ghostwriter, writing coach and book doctor. In his past lives he has run a small publishing company, been a popular keynote speaker to audiences around the world, and served as a U. S. Marine. He loves good beer, good friends, and good stories.