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It’s often said that people don’t leave companies; they leave bosses. That’s because no one has a greater impact on the day-to-day life of a worker — along with their personal performance, productivity and attitude — than their direct boss. Their boss creates their job description, defines their activities, sets their standards and expectations and reviews their performance. More importantly, the boss creates and instils the vision, purpose and local culture for the work team.


In this piece, Geoff Lawrence, Managing Director of Vistage shares his thoughts on how to become a better boss. The CEO may profess high ideals, values and beliefs to the company, but it is the boss who dictates and drives the culture that employees work and live in every day.


At the same time, no role has experienced greater change because of the COVID-19 pandemic than the frontline manager, also known as the boss. This is primarily due to the shift from the traditional, Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 workplace to the hybrid workplace.


Once capable of managing employers in the office, bosses are still adjusting to how they best digitally connect and engage with remote employees. This requires greater clarity around tasks, deliverables and accountability. Bosses will need to maximise in-office days for collaboration, innovation, problem-solving and team-building events, or risk losing the focus of their team.


A newly empowered, enlightened and remote workforce will demand more from their bosses than ever before. In any scenario, employees still require job structure, task identification, deliverable schedules, goals and metrics, but they also need their bosses to simultaneously serve as a leader, coach and manager:


Leader: Leaders engage and connect their team to the organisation’s goals. They set the vision and direction for the workgroup, aligning the efforts of individuals and teams to broader objectives. They embrace culture at the team level and provide a consistent connection to the company’s culture. They also recognise and reward behaviours that exemplify culture and performance expectations.


Coach: Coaches empower individuals to improve and teams to excel. They motivate and inspire workers to realise their goals and become the best they can be. They work with people to develop their skills, enhance their capabilities and realise their potential. Along with helping people set goals, they hold them accountable for the activities and results needed to achieve those goals.


Manager: Managers are responsible for individual and team performance. They must clearly define roles, activities and responsibilities; set standards and expectations; and evaluate, critique and grade performance. Performance management is no longer about counting numbers or tracking attendance, but about ensuring the quality of deliverables.


Employee development — inclusive of leadership development — is one of the top 10 investments for small and medium sized businesses in 2022, according to Vistage research. Specifically, 78% of CEOs are directing resources towards programmes that develop the “bosses” in their organisation — that is, managers of people and other leaders.


These are wise investments. Why? Because bosses have the greatest direct impact on the employee experience, which in turn impacts business performance. Building better bosses, then, builds stronger, high performing organisations


It’s hard to overstate the importance of a boss. A boss dictates the employee experience. A boss contributes to the performance of an organisation. A boss reinforces a CEO’s strategy, culture and performance expectations. However, a boss doesn’t instinctively know how to fulfil these duties; they must be guided. This is especially true in the new, digital workplace.


As CEOs look to develop their bosses, they should anticipate a steep and rocky learning curve. Bosses will make mistakes as they learn how to adapt to the new workplace and while some will adapt naturally, others will follow at a slower pace. To accelerate this process, CEOs should create opportunities for bosses to share what’s working and what’s not working.


Thus, investing in the training and development of bosses — and helping them become better leaders, coaches and managers — is essential for CEOs. Those who do this first will be the fastest to realise productivity gains.

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