Which kind of boss are you?

Here I sit, typing awkwardly, nursing a smashed up collarbone held together by a steel bar and 11 pins. (Broken bones hurt a lot, by the way.) Even so, here I sit, doing my work thing.

How many people who work for you carry on, doing their work thing, when they’re uncomfortable, physically or psychologically? Maybe one has a kid at home who is a source of concern, another’s relationship is faltering, one has a cold or ‘flu coming on, another is irritated by colleague but is too polite to confront the problem and one has painful arthritis.

When you’re aware of the ‘whole person’, you can establish a strong and effective working relationship and help them be as productive as they can be. When people are just so many ‘pairs of hands’, it’s a different story.

Ah, but is getting to know the whole person worth the effort, when many employees readily move from one job to another and when others are contract and part-time employees?  Common sense says so, since the way you treat people day-to-day establishes the culture, which sets the pace for productivity.

And it goes deeper than that. How you treat people after they leave is important, too. Some organisations act as if departed employees never existed at all. That sends a strong message.

And then there are the organisations that make sure people leave on good terms. Some even treat former employees like alumni, staying in touch and even inviting them back for part-time or contract work or to mentor current employees. Former employees of organisations like these become ambassadors. They speak highly of their old organisation, building its reputation in the marketplace and strengthening its customer base.

Even when your organisation isn’t that sort of organisation, you can be that sort of boss. The organisation may reap some undeserved benefit, but you’ll reap a lot of deserved benefit: a happier, more productive work team and a strong professional network to stand you in good stead when you need it, to name but two.

Which kind of boss are you?

Breed success with great expectations

Here are two important questions:

  1. Do you expect the best for yourself, from yourself and from everyone around you?
  2. When you have a setback, do you blame yourself and let it ruin the rest of your day, or do you ‘take it on the chin’ and figure it’s only temporary?

You probably know that you generally get what you expect. There are all sorts of reasons for this and most of them are in your subconscious. Your subconscious is great at fining a way to make what you expect to happen, happen. When it can’t, it makes sure that you interpret what does happen in a way that is in line with your expectations. And you’re probably familiar with how your subconscious totally ignores information that doesn’t fit in with your expectations and how it lets in information that does fit and even, appears to fit. The mind does a great job of making sure you’re ‘right’. It’s supposed to.

So if you’re always ‘right’ even when you’re wrong, you may as well set yourself up for success. That’s why Set high standards and expect the best is a great motto to follow.

People who expect the best, from themselves, for themselves and from the people around them, generally get the best. Here is another motto, this one from Henry Cotton, much-loved principal of my high school way back when: Mediocrity is a choice. So is excellence.

Expecting excellence does two other things. It inspires you to achieve your goals. And it helps you deal with disappointments and setbacks. When you expect the best, you can see obstacles and mistakes as abnormal and temporary – no need to blame yourself for them. You can ‘take them on the chin’ and move on.

So the thought for the week (and the rest of your life) is: Set high standards and expect the best. Or: Mediocrity is a choice. So is excellence. Take your pick.

Handbag and briefcase management

It seems I’m developing a bit of a reputation for being super-organised. It’s totally undeserved, to be perfectly honest, but it’s a topic I know a bit about because, being basically disorganised,  I try very hard to be organised. If you follow. Anyway, that explains why, on a recent radio show, I was asked how I organise my handbag and briefcase. And here, basically is my answer.

First, don’t buy heavy bags or briefcases. When you can feel their weight when they’re empty, you’ll be sorry when they’re full. According to the American Chiropractic Association, handbags should weigh no more than 10% of your body weight. So if you’re a dainty 60 kilos, that’s only 6 kilos, which is lighter than my cat. I imagine the weight guideline holds true for briefcases.

(Gentlemen, at this point you may skip down to the Briefcase bit and I won’t be offended.)

Buy a handbag with compartments. Then learn which compartments hold what. No compartments in your handbag? Use little make-up bags or jewellery bags to keep similar items together.

Have a separate card holder for your loyalty shopper cards and all those other seldom-used cards. No more unsightly bulging wallets.

Don’t carry every item you think you may need. You probably won’t need it and if by some miracle you do, you probably wouldn’t be able to find it in amongst the kitchen sink that’s also in there.

Carry shoulder bags cross-wise. If cross-wise sounds too daggy for you, call it ‘New York style’. If that’s still too daggy for you, at least switch shoulders every 10 minutes or so.

‘New York style’ is better, though. You don’t have to worry about it slipping off and you have two completely free hands, which is important for safety as well as for shopping. More importantly, it’s better for your back and shoulders. Years of carrying heavish-ish shoulder bags on only your shoulder, as opposed to cross-wise, really does a number on your back muscles, your spine and your ability to stand straight. Been there, done that. (I’m much better now, thank you.)

Most briefcases have a lot of compartments. Use them to store like items together and get to know what you’ve put where. If you need to, use pencil cases, make up or jewellery bags to stash any smaller items you need to carry.

When you’re meeting about several topics or with several people and you’re not carrying a laptop with the documents you need, coloured heavy paper folders or plastic folders are great. Label each one so you don’t have to over-tax your memory. Anyway, there’s no point in remembering your colour-coding unless you use the same colours all the time for the same subjects or people and even then, it’s a good idea to label them so that others who may help you in the office can locate them if they need to.

There we have it. It may not be rocket science but it’s one more tiny element in a polished professional image.

Two heads are better than one

Whether you’re making decisions, innovating, developing plans or solving problems, the more the merrier is the go. Up to a point of course; too many cooks spoil the broth. But enough of cliches.

There is no doubt that people working together, directing their efforts towards the same endpoint, almost always do better than one lonely brain. Particularly when they are an assorted group, with different backgrounds, experiences, skills sets and all the rest of it. We all know that.

Why is it, then, that we so seldom act on what we know? Well, we’re all under pressure and involving people does take more time. But let’s face it, when you get a better result, that bit of extra time is worth it. Plus, the people you’ve involved have a better understanding of the situation and therefore greater commitment to the decision, innovation, plan or solution. Plus, when it’s your team you’re involving, it’s good for their development, both as individuals and as a team. ‘We’re all in this together’. ‘We the team’, in which there is no ‘I’. That makes your life a lot easier in the long run, too.

Of course, you don’t want to involve people when it’s just to rubber-stamp a decision or plan you’ve already made. Or so you get to lead a meeting that takes up everyone’s time and merely fills the room with warm, moist air. When people don’t care about the decision or plan or won’t be involved in implementing it or when it doesn’t affect them, don’t waste their time. And naturally, when time is really tight, you possibly can’t afford to involve people.

But that leaves a lot of other times when you are well advised to bring in the troops. When you have good people on your team — that is when you’ve recruited well, trained and developed them well, motivated and engaged them well — they probably have the skills and experience to help.

People often want to be involved, too. When you’re lucky, it’s because they care about the team or the organisation or their customers. Maybe it’s for their own personal development. Maybe it’s because they know they can make a positive contribution. Maybe they’d rather sit in with a group than get on with their own job. When that latter reason is the case, leave that person out of the loop, because you want people who can add value to your decision, innovation, plan or solution.

You should almost always include people who are affected by your decision, plan, innovation or solution and people who you need to help you implement it willingly and enthusiastically. When you need people’s acceptance and support, invite them to the party, too.

So there we are. You know it and I know it. Two heads are better than one. Act on what you know.



Do you Love to Learn?

Love, honesty, hope and humour are four important predictors of how happy you are. They all fall into the collection of personality traits called PERMA: Positive emotions, Engagement, positive Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment.

There are two even more reliable PERMA predictors of how happy you are. The first is gratitude, which is pretty obvious when you think about it. When you’re thankful for the good things in your life – your family, your friends, the food you eat, the view outside your window – you’re healthier, happier and better prepared to face the world and whatever it throws at you.

The second may surprise you. It’s love of learning. People who enjoy picking up new skills or knowledge feel fulfilled wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. Whether it’s strolling through a park, sitting in a classroom or getting on with whatever job is at hand, everything presents an opportunity to learn.

Learning keeps you sharp and confident. It keeps your memory working. It helps you lead a more rounded life. Learning gives your brain something it craves – novelty. Learning is necessary because without it, humans would have been extinct long ago.

And that old myth ‘You can’t teach an old dog mew tricks’? That’s just what it is – a myth. However old you are, you can do yourself a real favour by engaging with the world around you and seeing what it has to teach you.

How to breed loyalty

Did you read my post How to Earn Your Team’s Devotion? I’d like to follow up on that today. It’s simple but not simplistic.

  • Be loyal.
  • Think of others as well as yourself.
  • Show you care about people.
  • Be considerate.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Keep your promises.
  • Be discreet.
  • Build people’s self-esteem, self-worth and dignity.
  • Tell people you appreciate them.

That’s all to do with trustworthiness, really, isn’t it. Trust is an absolute; you either trust someone or you don’t. Trust is fragile; it takes time to develop but seconds to destroy and once lost, it’s difficult to earn back.

I had a boss once who talked about trust like money in the bank. When you keep drawing on it without replenishing it, your account quickly empties. You make deposits with generosity, empathy, integrity and so on. When you don’t deposit enough, you can’t draw on it. (Unfortunately, it was just talk. I soon learned he didn’t keep his word and quickly lost trust in him. But that’s a different story and anyway, it’s a good analogy, that trust is like money in the bank.)

And then there’s competence. Can you deliver? You need be both trustworthy and competent to be an effective leader-manager.


The private, public and not-for-profit sectors are having a tough time of it, with layoffs, outsourcing, relentless change — in short, breaking the psychological contract, which looks a lot like not being loyal to employees. Not making enough deposits. Much of that can’t be helped. But the result is a trust account that’s in the red.

Except, that is, when the organisation has enough trustworthy and competent leader-managers. Then its trust account is likely to be in the black.


Got an idea?

Do you have a good idea? It needs to be more than workable, practical and cost effective. Here’s a three-stage process for seeing your idea come to fruition.

Step 1: Think it through. What specific outcomes can your idea bring about? Who stands to benefit and who to lose from your idea, both upstream sand downstream? Who does your idea need to help set it in motion, support it in its implementation stages, and make it work?

Once you’ve explored your idea from various perspectives, you may want to run it by a few people you trust. What are their thoughts?

Step 2: Lay the groundwork. Here is where you cannily build a coalition of supporters. Chat your idea through with them and build in their thoughts and ideas. ‘My idea’ is rapidly becoming ‘our idea’, which is what you want. The more widely supported your idea is, the harder it becomes to reject, particularly when the supporters are the decision-makers’ peers, people they like and respect, people with authority and people with expertise.

When you talk about your idea, present the business benefits. Equally important, describe how the idea benefits the person whose support you’re seeking and ideas and insights you’re looking to incorporate. And talk about how the people most affected by your idea benefit. (No one is really interested in how you benefit, so sit on that one.)

Step 3: Present your idea to the decision maker(s). Present facts and numbers, yes, and remember that people support ideas for emotional and intuitive reasons as much as for logical and rational reasons. Subtly point out how your idea supports what they’re most interested in. And link those benefits and the idea itself to what the decision makers have previously said and done and agreed to, because people want to be consistent.

And don’t forget — it’s now ‘our idea’, the ‘our’ being the influential key players you’ve run your idea by and whose thoughts you’ve incorporated. Mention their names in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due.

As you’re explaining what your idea can do for the organisation and for the decision makers, watch their body language and look for other clues to gauge how they’re receiving your idea. You may need to make adjustments as you go along.

Be ready to explain the next steps, what needs to happen to implement your idea, and what you can do to keep it in place once it’s up and running. If the ‘Let’s wait and see’ horse rears up, be ready to explain the cost of waiting, too.