We are now nearing the halfway point of a 12-month series describing the 20 Characteristics of a “Best Boss.” To recap, so far we have examined how a “Best Boss:
#1 -- is a good communicator
#2 -- holds himself and others accountable for results
#3 -- enables success, and
#4 -- motivates others.
This month we are tackling two topics that are integrally tied to one another:
#5 -- cares about the success of others, and
#6 -- is honest and trustworthy.
Supervisors are paid to get results through the efforts of other people so it seems obvious that a supervisor would care about the success of others. The fact that this is so obvious is why it is also so critical that we examine success and trust together.
Plenty of the supervisors that wouldn’t be described as “best bosses” think they care about the success of their employees. The problem is that they care about the success for all the wrong reasons -- and for the benefit of the wrong person -- themselves.
In order to fully understand this month’s characteristics, we will first need to examine what we mean by the success of others and then look closely at how honesty and trust in the process distinguish a boss from a “Best Boss”.
Cares About the Success of Others
In our April newsletter we discussed how best bosses “enable success” by leveraging their understanding of how Motivation and Ability create successful performance.
Caring about the success of others is an all together different issue than purposefully creating the conditions for successful performance of specific tasks.
Obviously career success is related to daily performance, but the “Best Boss” characteristic we are describing this month is best understood in the broader context of an employee’s long term career growth --something that requires a plan and effective execution of that plan.
This requires that the supervisor serve as a “coach” rather than as a “boss”, so let’s look at the role of a coach in career planning.
The Role of Coach in Career Planning
Coaching is a relationship in which one person directs the personal/professional development of another by providing instruction and ensuring that the other effectively follows that instruction.
Coaches are responsible for:
- Helping the other person identify areas to develop
- Discovering barriers to the other person’s personal/professional development
- Providing instructions for the other person that lead to progressive development
- Holding the other person accountable to following those instructions
In other words, in career planning the coach helps the person identify career goals, identify areas that must be developed to realize those goals, identify barriers to those goals and helps develop plans to overcome those barriers, and then holds the other person accountable for the accomplishment of those plans.
In order to meaningfully execute these activities, the coach must be:
- a skilled communicator (February newsletter)
- a skilled enabler (April newsletter)
- a motivator (May newsletter)
- effective at holding the other person accountable (March newsletter)
While all of these skills are important to successful coaching, the one factor that is absolutely required is “Trust”. This leads us to the second Best Boss characteristic that we will discuss this month.
Is Honest and Trustworthy
The person being coached in the development and execution of a career plan bears responsibility as well. They must:
- Explain personal/professional challenges and aspirations to the coach
- Genuinely entertain the coach’s suggestions about ways to improve professionally
- Follow the coach’s instructions
The potential improvement derived from the coaching relationship is directly related to the degree to which the person being coached fully gives themselves to this process. Here is where trust comes in.
To see this more clearly, ask a few questions from the perspective of the one being coached.
- How can I allow myself to be vulnerable enough to share my aspirations?
- How can I expose my professional weakness without tarnishing my image?
- How can I know that this energy and time I am expending is truly for my benefit?
The answer to all of these questions is clearly trust. As a boss or as a coach, it is something that is earned over time and is based on three critical factors.
Both parties must be interested in achieving the same thing in the relationship, and believe that the other person shares that same purpose. This is true whether you are talking about a supervisor/employee relationship or a coach/coachee relationship. If either party thinks that the other is not interested in or actively helping with the achievement of a common purpose then trust is diminished.
Each person must respect, and believe he/she is respected by, the other person. One of the primary ways that respect is demonstrated is by taking the time to listen to each other in an attempt to completely understand before giving advice.
Additionally, any perception of condescension from the coach will drastically undermine the willingness of the coachee to be vulnerable and share the existence of shortcomings or obstacles that reside below the surface.
Confidence and Confidentiality
This is the willingness and ability to confide in each other and depend on the candid, truthful feedback from the other. Failure to maintain confidentiality is a sure way to diminish confidence and trust in a relationship and is very difficult to overcome.
Best Boss Bottom Line
Best Bosses understand the critical need for employee trust as a basis for maintaining a position of influence in both supervisory and coaching relationships. Unfortunately for some, trust cannot be purchased and the factors that lead to trust cannot be faked. In order to impact long-term employee performance, the way only a Best Boss can, you must genuinely care about the success of others -- for the sake of others. Only then will employees see that it is safe to open up to the process of being coached and allow you both to reap the rewards of their efforts.