Nov 10, 2007

What Your Leader Expects of You

The relationship between boss and subordinate figures largely in any team's success. Communication is key to maintaining the harmony of the boss/employee relationship.

Relationships between bosses and their subordinates figure strongly in any team’s success. When those bonds are working as they should, they drive performance and growth over the long haul. Yet while the leadership literature specifies actions bosses should take, it says little about the actions leaders should expect from their followers.

How to promote effective leader-follower relationships in your team? Former AlliedSignal CEO Bossidy advises forging a boss-subordinate compact that defines a mutual set of crystal-clear expectations.

For example, as a direct report, you’re expected to offer your creative ideas. Your boss wants to hear them, because even seemingly crazy ideas can spark spectacular successes. As the boss, you’re expected to tell your people where the business is going, why, and how they’ll benefit if they accomplish key goals. This clarity helps people see how their jobs contribute to the enterprise overall.

When each side fulfills its part of the boss-subordinate compact, your team and company benefit.

The boss-subordinate compact spells out additional expectations for both parties:

As a Subordinate…

  • Get involved. If you’re a manager, step in the moment someone falls behind with his commitments, when an interpersonal conflict crops up, and when a crisis erupts. And deliver bad news to your boss yourself.
  • Collaborate. Overcome differences between you and others so you work together effectively—even if you don’t like each other.
  • Lead initiatives. Don’t be reluctant to associate yourself with unproven ideas, especially those that cross functional or unit boundaries. Raise your hand, and you’ll climb the ladder faster than those who don’t.
  • Develop your own people. Take as active an interest in your employees’ development as you do in your own—if not more. Go out of your way to criticize and praise your people when they need it. And get directly involved in performance reviews, supplying people with specific, candid, and useful feedback.
  • Stay current. Regularly read and watch the news. What happens in the world affects what happens with your team, your marketplace, and your competition. Also know what’s going on with your customers—how they’re changing, how their competition is changing, and how technology and world events are affecting their strategies. Your customer relationships are key assets: bring them to the table.
  • Drive your own growth. Seek perpetual education and development—not necessarily by going to school but by finding exposure to new people and ideas. Seek feedback from your boss, and accept demanding assignments.
  • Be a player for all seasons. Demonstrate positive behaviors even during hard times. You’ll sustain your ability to motivate and inspire your own people no matter what’s going on around you.

As a Leader…

  • Define specific goals for your people. Specify the achievements you expect from your employees as a team and as individuals, as well as what they are going to be measured on over a given period. You’ll help them decide where to invest their energy and time.
  • Be available. If you expect your people to stay up to date and keep you informed about what’s going on, be accessible when they need to see you. And don’t come down on them if they bring you bad news.
  • Compensate employees fairly. Ensure that people understand how the compensation system works, and that they’re rewarded for specific contributions to goals you’ve laid out.-(hbr)

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