Posts Tagged ‘boss’

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Do you care for me?

October 21, 2013

I recently conducted qualitative research for a graduate school thesis…how employees perceive leadership as told through their worst boss stories.

At the heart of looking at worst boss stories is being able to peel back what is hard to articulate in a positive boss relationship.  Worst boss stories allow you to drill down to what is really important when a relationship isn’t what it is supposed to be because what is actually needed is able to come through more clearly.  This research provides a back-to-basics step in clarifying what employees really want from the relationship with their boss.  My research shows there are two overarching themes…employees expressed a need for task support and emotional support.  Now this is not a new revelation but the research provides an additional body of research from a different perspective, one not told in academic research.

So why study leadership and the boss/subordinate relationship?  Some would consider it to be an over-exhaustive subject.  Because we are human and we like to study relationships.  Outside of marriage and raising kids there is not another relationship we focus on more than the boss/subordinate relationship, which is at the heart of leadership.  Let’s face it, when something is a main constant in our lives we have a tendency to obsess about it.  In fact, as a society, we are obsessed with leadership.  A recent Amazon.com search pulled up almost 85,000 books on the topic of leadership.  Which provides another reason for my research – to cut through the enormous amount of styles…situational, country club, charismatic, authentic, and what about being creative…and focus on the relationship.

From the stories told and understanding what task and emotional support is as defined by my research provides a simple, though often overlooked reality of the boss-subordinate relationship.  When you drill down to the heart of what employees are looking for they need three things from the boss subordinate relationship which I call the Leadership Covenant³™.  The tenants of the covenant are:

1. Care about me
2. Guide me
3. Speak up for me

Employees want to know you care about them.  In a recent article in the Fortune magazine Frank Blake, CEO of Home Depot talked about the first step to improving customer service is to “start by taking care of the associates.”  Blake goes on to talk about the first question an employee will ask of the company, which isn’t about training, but is “Does the company care about me?”  It is a basic first step in building the relationship.  Companies must care and bosses must care.  I believe when you stop caring about the people you lead you cease to be a leader.

Employees want to be guided.  They want direction, but they don’t want to be controlled or dis-respected.  Academic research shows that one of the three reasons someone stays at a company is direction.  To be engaged and a contributor to the company’s success you have to know what you are doing and what is expected of you.

Employees want a boss to speak up for them.  Be an advocate…look out for employee’s interest, help them develop their skills and career, understand what drives and motivates them. And when you are speaking up for the employee, don’t take credit for what they did.  Simple enough, surprisingly hard for many to execute on.  (Read this article if you have a boss who takes the credit and blames the failures on you.)

The Leadership Covenant³ is simple to understand, but execution seems to provide the most hurdles.  So what do you think?  Take our poll and don’t forget to share your comments.

 

 

 

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