“My best employee suddenly quit out of the blue! I don’t even know why, he said he was happy… what happened??”
I had bad news for him.
I had bad news for him.
We’ve all heard of the big names in leadership books. Here’s an alternate list to look at - not strictly leadership related but packed full of food for thought… perfectly in time for summer holidays at the beach!
This is NOT the solution to a performance issue or behaviour problem! Try this instead, it’s tricky but will save hours of headache, resentment and pasting their face on a pinata.
Because of COURSE those things are not going to create innovative, collaborative, motivated workplaces… but why are you assuming that’s what they were ever for?
You’re missing the point my friend.
What to do when all your team members want to do is head to the patio for a pint…
I was loving the explanation of the program, the type of support I’d get, the results I’d see in my skills as a leader… and then they landed the kicker.
‘Yes, you get all of these amazing results for only $14,500, and we have payment plans!'
(So in case you’re wondering how the story ends, no, I have not done said program)
Let me be very clear here: yes I am absolutely an advocate for investing in yourself and your skills (obviously), I have spent many thousands on my own career development.
And yes I’m quite confident I would have had an amazing experience and gotten some real transformational skills and learnings from this program.
Look if you have the cash sitting around and want to take that crazy expensive program then hells yes, go for it.
But DO NOT hit ‘add to cart’ because you think it’s the ONLY way to become a better boss (and certainly don’t go into debt for it!).
What I’ve always found with myself, and the clients I work with, it’s the small day to day habits and behaviours that make (or break) you as a boss. And those you truly can get better at with a much smaller financial investment.
Sounds weird but trust me! Being a leader demands that you’re able to think on your feet, stay in the present moment and truly LISTEN to the person across from you. And there’s no better way to easily practice listening skills than with an Improv class. Yes I realize it definitely doesn’t sound like fun for the introverts, but who knows, you might have a laugh or two as well as learning deep listening skills!
Have some tough client feedback you have to give to a team member and sweating bullets? Grab another boss you trust and have a practice. Say it out loud to them, play with the wording a bit until you feel confident you are delivering the message you mean to deliver, while not totally crushing their confidence. A practice buddy is a great free way to think out loud and prepare for some of those tougher moments.
Your day to day habits are absolutely what makes you the Boss that you are. So start getting conscious of them. Start a list of 5 things you want to do daily or weekly that will make you a more impactful Boss - and actually track when you’re doing them. What you pay attention to and measure is where you’ll see growth and change, make this a priority and you might be amazed at not only what you notice about your default habits but also the positive changes your team starts to notice about you and how you lead.
(Not sure what new habits to try? Check out the Top 5 Morning Habits of the Best Bosses)
Easy one - grab a google doc, throw some questions in there about your boss impact and send it out to your team. Bonus points if you also send it to suppliers, contractors and potentially a client or two!
Now be careful here, keep in mind that feedback is ONLY people’s perspective, it is NOT objective reality, so think of it as useful data not facts about you and your personality.
(Not sure what to ask? Get in touch and I’ll send you a FREE 360 feedback Boss Template)
I know I know, this option seems a bit hippie for you. But you don’t have to wear birkenstocks and diffuse patchouli to appreciate this one, it’s all the rage in leadership programs in companies like Google, Apple, Nike, General Mills and even Goldman Sachs! Try a little challenge, download the Headspace App right now (no I'm not an affiliate), try it for a week and just notice what it's like to take those 10 minutes a day (yes that's all) and just inhale/exhale. This is going to help you with skills like resilience, patience, calm and empathy - all key Boss skills.
This is the biggest one I’ve seen make a huge impact… but a lot of bosses just aren’t comfortable with the vulnerability it requires.
This is a simple one: Tell your team what you’re working on.
Tell them you know you have some challenges with listening, or collaborating, or not bulldozing people into agreeing with you. Tell them that you’re working on it, how you’re working on it, and that you want their help. You’ll be asking for feedback from time to time and looking for them to give you insights into where they see you still doing this - and bonus points for telling you in the moment.
This is the absolute top way to get better as a Boss… might feel like the riskiest one on the list, but it’s also the one with the best chance of a big payout.
Hiring a new team member and want to get it right?? Get your checklist to make sure you're covering all the bases!
‘But he’s such a nice guy, I really like him… but oh his quality is so bad even though I’ve been giving him feedback for over 6 months… I mean… maybe he’ll get better??’
‘Uuugh her work is good… but the team hate working with her and she is kinda… well… mean to people’
‘He’s great at what he does… but it’s like pulling teeth to get any work out of him, I’m spending hours each day just getting him to do his job!’
Ok Bosses, I’ve heard it all before. You don’t want to fire someone because… well there’s a multitude of reasons - don’t want to have to recruit to replace, too busy to deal with it, hoping it will go away, actually really like the person, and the big one: don’t want to be an ass-hole.
And you know what, firing is DEFINITELY not the first option on the table! Have those tough grown up conversations to talk about what’s not working, what you would expect to see changed and agree on what they’ll try differently (and how you will support). Of course that’s the first approach.
But sometimes… you HAVE to be willing to be the bad guy and get someone off your team, even though it feels like crap. And of course HUGE disclaimer here, before going down this route you MUST check in with your local employment legislation to ensure you're doing it the right way.
Here are the top 3:
This one should be easy but bosses get seduced with the person’s quality of work. I get it, they write good code or create good graphics or whatever the task is. BUT if they are always miserable, treat the rest of the team like garbage and bring down EVERYONE else’s motivation… to the point where some of your other team may even be thinking of leaving to avoid working with them?? It’s time to go. They obviously aren’t the right fit for your team and NO ONE wants to be that person on a team (even if it seems like they don’t care, trust me, they’re not happy either)
This is such a hard one. Because you LIKE them. You probably spend a ridiculous amount of time chatting and talking about personal stuff during your meetings, you genuinely think they’re great… they just can’t seem to do a good job no matter how much support, training or feedback you give them. I KNOW this one is hard, trust me, it freaking sucks. But it’s time to let them go. No one wants to be bad at their job, and being continually told their work isn’t good enough isn’t right for them or you (or the rest of the team who are likely picking up the slack). I know it feels like shit but they need to be in a role where they are liked AND valued for their work.
Ah the good old ‘can do it but won’t do it’ team member. And this one is truly frustrating because you know they CAN do good work, you’ve seen it before… they just don’t. You can’t figure out why.
Full disclosure… this one might actually be your fault. Maybe they just struggle with the way you manage or give direction or the team dynamic. There is a chance this one can be saved with a grown up conversation. But likely it’s a mismatch and they would be more successful somewhere else, and you would be better off having a team member who naturally seems to work well in your team’s dynamic and can hit the ground running, without you constantly checking in with them. This one is hard because it is more of a grey area, but just keep in mind, as a small biz owner you don’t have the luxury of oodles of money to hire people who sometimes do good work. You need the dream team who are just as in it as you.
And remember, you don’t actually say ‘you’re fired, get the f*ck out of my company’ and never talk to them again! Believe it or not you actually CAN terminate someone’s employment with you AND do it while being kind and respectful.
It’s time boss. Free up you and your team’s workload and get those people off the team. Let me know what questions or comments you got!
Stomach drops, palms sweat. And yes we all say things like ‘I love feedback’ and ‘feedback is such a gift’... but deep down we all get that ‘oh shit’ feeling when we hear that sentence. EVEN when you’re the boss you still get it… which seems extra crappy, you’re in charge and you STILL don’t get to escape the ‘oh shit’ feeling!
Here’s a little known secret that as a Boss you really need to know: feedback is NEVER about the person. Yep, even when you give that well meaning constructive criticism to your team member… that’s not about them. It’s about you. It’s about YOUR views and beliefs and expectations.
Here’s the deal, feedback simply gives you a view into someone else’s perception. No more, no less. And perception is NOT reality… but it sure as hell is what people use to make decisions.
So you need to have an inside view into what your team thinks about you. Not because it’s ABOUT YOU, but because it will be what they base THEIR decisions on - how motivated they feel, how loyal they’re likely to be, whether they’re happy to continue working for you or desperate to find the next job! And let’s be honest, you hired a team for a reason - to grow your biz, increase your audience, free yourself up to focus on your own zone of genius - so the last thing you need is a demotivated team who are looking to escape.
I know, I hear you thinking ‘well I ask them for feedback all the time and they just say everything's good’. Yep, that’s called Power Dynamics at work my friend. Even if you’re the most amazing boss in the world there is STILL a power differential between you two and that makes it uncomfortable (at best) for them to be honest with you about your Boss performance.
Often saying ‘can I have some feedback’ will result in crickets. Give your team member a structure which makes it much easier to come up with points for you. The benefit of this specific structure makes it feel much less personal and focuses on behaviour so can create a lot of comfort in being honest.
At a team meeting ask the whole team (even if it’s a team of 1!) to come prepared with 1 suggestion that they have on how to do things better. Although this isn’t direct feedback for you, it will give you an idea of how things are going in general and where people’s pain points are, which you can then take and use when reflecting on what you want to do differently as a Boss.
An oldie but a goodie! Set up an online form and ask everyone to go in and put some feedback on your performance as their boss. You can make it anonymous if that will help create more comfort but if possible try to have people own their advice and thoughts for you. And no need to over complicate this, you can even use something as simple as a google forms document to gather the feedback
If you don’t already have a Coach or Consultant that supports you on the people side of things, you can find one who can help you regularly with your own development. Not only can they say things to you that your own team can’t because it’s a different power dynamic, they can also interview your team to get some juicy tidbits of where your top development opportunities lie.
As always, get in touch with any comments or questions!
YES! Congratulations, you’re at a point in your biz where you are ready to bring someone on so you can keep on growing and doing your work. Seriously take a second and think of how far you’ve come and how great it is that you’re here - so many new businesses don’t ever get to this point!
Ok, now let’s get down to business, you have your new hire ready to join your team and you’re stoked… now what? Being a boss comes with a whole new set of responsibilities, where to even start?
Here’s a cheatsheet of the top few things to make sure you’re thought through and are ready to action before their first day:
Did you know it can take up to 6 months before someone is 100% competent in their role?? Yeah, I know, you hired them to REDUCE your workload so this can be a scary statistic. But the good news is you can cut this onboarding time in half and reduce your own workload by putting in some work before their first day. Create a detailed 6 month onboarding plan for you and your new team member, add and change it as you go (you can download your FREE New Team Member Checklist here!)
This is something that you’ve likely thought through long before hiring but do another sanity check, especially since you’ve found the person and they might have different skills than you were originally intending. Does their role and responsibilities still make sense?
And as importantly, do THEY know what their role entails and what the expectations are of the role? Sounds silly but it's actually one of the number one ways new employees and bosses get frustrated - lack of clarity on what the work is supposed to be and the results expected. Get it clear up front to save a lot of headaches and rework!
Have you agreed all the aspects of their compensation with them? Salary, when/how they’ll get paid, any benefits or perks you’re supplying and how they can access? What about a bonus or profit sharing, how/when will that work out? Have you penciled a date in your own calendar of when you’ll review their salary to make sure it’s still fair based on the value they’re bringing to your biz? This can be a big stressor for new hires, make sure it's all clear so they don't have that in the back of their mind and can just focus on the new exciting job!
Being a boss is hard work - but doesn’t need to be as lonely as we sometimes make it out to be. Do you have a biz bestie, consultant or coach to work with to think things through, bounce ideas off of and check in with? Make sure you have someone you can rely on to keep your head on straight!
Questions or comments?
Oh man has hollywood given Team Building a bad rep with that whole ‘fall backwards and I’ll catch you’ trust exercise. I have run countless Team Building workshops and never once have we fallen and caught each other, I promise!
Team building activites are absolutely important. Getting a team to really trust each other, debate about the right direction, challenge each other, give each other useful feedback, hold each other accountable, praise and celebrate each other… this is ALL the stuff Bosses desperately want to see in their teams. It’s the secret sauce to getting a team providing super high value back to a biz effectively and efficiently… not to mention freeing you up to work in your zone of genius instead of constantly being middle man between your team members!
When you’re celebrating a launch that you’ve pushed over the finish line, have a party! Get everyone on camera, make sure everyone had a budget to get themselves some celebration bubbly and/or nibbles, and celebrate together. Keep this very much in the ‘party’ mode, you can even have some topics of conversation prepared in the background to throw out to the group to make sure it stays in celebration mode rather than back sliding to work updates mode. This can be a little challenging when in different time zones but you can still make it work!
The idea here is to very regularly have bite size ‘get to know each other’ actions on the agenda. This could be something as simple as ‘how was everyone’s weekend’ before diving into the ‘to-do’ part of an agenda, to funny learn about each other icebreakers like sharing what they wanted to be when they were kids. A common one used is ‘2 truths and a lie’ - everyone says 3 things about themselves, 2 true and 1 lie, and the rest of the team have to guess which are which.
Although I’m the first one to be hard on regular meetings, this can be a useful one. A regular virtual meeting that includes everyone and gives a little window into what everyone else is working on can help people feel connected and part of something bigger than a daily to-do list. Each person gets 30-60 seconds at the MOST to give a quick peak into what they have going on, challenges they’re coming across or where they’ll want help from others in the team that week. And keep it super brief - the longer this goes on the less effective it will be. Bonus points if you pay for lunch or nibbles on a monthly basis!
Ok, yes this one seems odd given you’re all living in different cities (and possibly different countries!). The idea here is that you pick a day when everyone is going to knock off work early, even just an hour or two, and go explore somewhere interesting in their local area (ideally with company funds, set a modest budget ahead of time).
Everyone then does their own local activity, with their family or friends - could be the zoo, a ball game, maybe a hike in the local park. And they share photos and videos to a group spot throughout the day! Point out interesting aspects, share some livestream videos with all of you, so even if you’re not in the same timezone you can appreciate the outing.
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