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Leading Off
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Consider this paradox: employee relationships with their bosses are by far the most important determinant of job satisfaction. But more than 70 percent of people say that spending time with their boss is the most stressful time of the entire workweek. Think there’s room for improvement? As hybrid and remote work take employees away from offices, a leader’s most critical test will be the ability to provide the understanding, trust, and care to connect with and enable teams and employees to deliver their best work and grow in a physically distanced environment. This week, let’s focus on the boss factor in this new world of work and what may constitute the difference between merely being a boss and serving as a leader.
Trust will be leadership’s leading indicator in the next normal
Few workers believe they are working at 100 percent of their potential, and a troubling number of them admit that they are working at even half that level. In this article from Harvard Business Review, the authors find that one key to boosting effectiveness is the trust built when supervisors and organizational leaders care about employees’ work-related concerns and well-being. The level of trust that we feel toward our colleagues and our companies is likely to become more extreme, in both directions, says Adam Grant in the Economist. That’s a cautionary note to bosses as they ponder vaccination requirements and monitoring of remote workers as business resumes.
That’s the percentage of survey respondents who described relations between management and employees at their workplace as “very good” and who also reported being “very or completely satisfied” with their main job. Senior leaders can create a step change in both shareholder and social values by clearly articulating the steps that can produce sizable gains from high job satisfaction. These include educating managers on their pivotal roles and embedding quality of workplace relationships into manager development and performance appraisals, a criterion hard to find at most companies.
A big number exhibit
“Presume that somewhere, something traumatic happened other than ‘I was locked in a house.’ Nobody came out of this unscarred.”
So says psychologist Robin Smith, quoted in an article in Fortune. As the pandemic took hold, it ripped from people the control they typically enjoyed over events and their lives. Many relocated to stay safe. Trauma was everywhere, and in most cases, the process of bosses helping employees was reactive. As a new transitional moment of return to work looms, the test for bosses is to anticipate the stories of workers who will be coming back, to understand them and communicate openly and genuinely, and to make as clear as possible what the people they lead can expect by way of support.
Tera Allas
Tera Allas, the director of research in McKinsey’s UK and Ireland office, has a message for bosses on the way up: “The characteristics that tend to get you promoted are not necessarily the kind of characteristics that might go with being a good servant leader.” In this podcast, Allas parses the character traits that define the difference between boss and leader in ways that will seem immediately familiar. Those on the promotion track tend to be self-centered, focused on their individual performance, and very good at articulating their own point of view. For their part, servant leaders provide a platform for employees to deliver their best work. Of course, there’s a middle way, too—one that’s built on trust and puts a premium on psychological safety and empathy—that can serve as a goal for progressive organizations.
The devils, in their details
Where’s the outrage? We all know jerk bosses, and we put up with them. But then there are the truly abusive ones who bully and belittle, insulting people, invading their privacy, and worse, leaving harm in their wake. And yet, it seems organizations and employees often put up with these toxic taskmasters. Why? The authors of “Stop making excuses for toxic bosses” in Harvard Business Review suggest that many people tend to forgive the indiscretion, especially when the boss appears to be making amends for uncivil behavior. But those amends, the authors learned via anonymous surveys that abusive bosses volunteered to take, were more likely to “fake nice” rather than genuinely “make nice.” Through actions such as doing small favors for those they offended, toxic bosses worked to manipulate their social image but avoided changing their actual behaviors. Sanctions, rather than forgiveness, seem a better remedy.
Lead with service.
— Edited by Bill Javetski, an executive editor in McKinsey’s New Jersey office
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