3 Things That Set Leaders Apart from Bosses

Being a good boss is a bit of an oxymoron. After all, a boss is someone who dictates what is to be done. When you think of the word “boss” you probably think of an unreasonable, individual who is red in the face from too much yelling. The words associated with ‘The Boss’ reiterated over generations of sit coms are something like: “The Boss wants me to stay late. I know you are in labour dear, but The Boss really needs this report done.” or “The Boss was breathing down my neck at work today.” If you are fortunate enough to have had a good boss — a really good boss — you will have noticed that they were never your boss. They didn’t make unreasonable demands, they planned ahead, and gave you and your coworkers the right tools to complete your tasks. They empowered you and led the team.

For better or for worse, the word “boss” has already been poisoned. It is a mental and verbal short cut that we use to refer to bureaucratic management. It would be weird to say “My leader was breathing down my neck at work today”, because we all know that is not what a leader does. But a boss? Completely expected. So what sets the a leader apart from a boss?

1. Understand The Value of Good Document Management

Samsung wrote an excellent article on this here. Generally speaking, the advice of any company so large it has its own military department is worth reading.

Improper document management leads to duplications, reworks, and lost data. This unnecessary cost can be measured in both money and time. The Wall Street Journal reports that the average US executive wastes six weeks a year because of bad document management. For a company with a hundred executives, the value of the time lost is almost a million dollars in productivity.

A lot of this problem stems from the fact that 80% of filed documents are never looked at again. And there are as many as 19 copies of each document. Even if you do find the document you are looking for, you may not have found the document that you need.

Disorganization leads to breakdowns in communication, and the problem of poor document management compounds itself. As a leader, it is your job to set your employees up for success. If the company has problems communicating with itself then it is definitely having problems communicating with clients. The good news is that this problem is easily fixable. There is no reason for people to be unable to find the copy of the document that they are working on.

2. Make Sure Everyone Has The Right Tools

Whether you are looking at buying new wrenches or a new document server, it is important to make sure that your company has the right tools. However, finding the right tools is a fine art. And you aren’t going to be able to find the right tools without understanding the needs and wants of the people who need to use the tool. Being a good leader means that you set your employees up for success.

On the one hand, good tools are expensive, and not all expensive tools are good. On the other hand, bad tools are also expensive. If a tool is ineffective then it ends up costing the company in productive hours, quality, and can negatively impact work culture. There are also other factors to consider, such as, how long will a tool last? How much is the initial investment? How much does it cost to repair? Does it have all the features we need? What about the features we will need in the future? This intersects nicely with the fact that management only wants to spend one amount: less.

When companies decide to allocate a good part of the budget for new tools or systems, there is often a tendency to purchase the tools that are best in class. However, working hours end up being lost to overly complicated tools that are difficult to train employees on. This problem is accentuated when coupled with the employee turnover rate. The worst part about these complicated, shiny, tools is that there are features you are paying for, but you never use.

The key to finding the best tool for you company is in finding the intersection between complexity, time, money, and productivity. Tools should add measurable value to your company.

3. Focus on Your Strengths

Pareto’s 80/20 rule dictates that 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of your inputs. Sometimes this ratio is skewed in a 99/1 or 60/40, but either way you can isolate the minority that generates the majority of your profits or headaches. Another way to think about this is, what is the simple thing that we do that does the most good for the company?

If you want to be a better leader you should isolate the minority input that leads to the majority of your outcomes. Focusing on your strengths is a great way to get more mileage out of what your company does well. But the most important conclusion that you can come to from an 80/20 analysis is what exactly is the 80% of your work that only contributes 20% of your outcomes. That 80% of the work is essentially unimportant busy work that can either be eliminated or delegated. This will make you a much more efficient leader.

You can also apply Pareto’s to your own employees. What is the 80% of their work that leads to 20% of their outcomes? This is where their headaches are going to be. As their leader, if you can find ways to eliminate your employees’ headaches you will be a better leader. Applying Pareto’s rule will make you better liked, your employees happy, and keep the company running in top shape — the ideal outcome of being a leader, and not a boss.

BONUS: Your Employees Love Being Productive

Another way to be a great boss is to help make your employees love coming into work. Being a good manager is about more than being efficient and making good choices, it is also about tapping into the emotional, human relations element of management. One of the best ways to do this is to implement a R.O.W.E. — a Results-Oriented Work Environment. This will make your employees more productive and happier. If you are interested in seeing how, check out this article here.