Open communication and reasonable expectations are some of the attributes of any admirable leader.
7 min read
The opinions expressed by collaborators are personal.
I've been in managerial positions for over a decade, and while it's been an incredibly satisfying experience, I can't say that I've always been the CEO that I am today. In fact, I had a pretty bad start: the first person I hired ended up stealing from my company .
All leaders will make mistakes along the way. Leading a company is something that is done by trial and error, and you simply have to reflect and learn from your mistakes while you keep going. With that on the table, it's worth creating some rules to guide you through tough decisions. I have had many ups and downs throughout these 10 years, and I have learned a lot, both from the ups and downs. Here are the five rules that I try to apply every day with the idea of being the most effective director that I can be.
1. Avoid porn from the hustle
In the last decade, the content that I call “hustle porn” (motivational videos on YouTube and Instagram) have become extremely popular. The people featured in these videos often advise young entrepreneurs and managers to work 14 hours a day and to “take advantage” of every minute of every hour. That is probably the worst advice you can give someone in a leadership position.
Working too much all the time, without breaks, is not a recipe for success, it is a recipe for ending up exhausted. And yes, there have been times when I have had to work all night for a few days, but because I was a young executive with few options, not because doing so would make me more valuable.
When you are in a leadership position, you have to give yourself time to relax and recharge. Focus on the quality and care of your work, not the number of hours you spend in the office. I promise you that you will do more things so if you spend seven days “busy”.
2. Treat your team as you would like to be treated
The other night I was in a restaurant that seemed understaffed, but I noticed that the managers were not standing at the kitchen door, yelling at the waiters, but instead they were active, cleaning tables, folding napkins and doing all the small tasks that other people usually do on a normal day.
This is just how it should be in any business. Leaders need to cultivate a positive work environment, especially when activities are manual or difficult. A complicated job presents its own problems for workers, why would you aggravate those problems with negativity and mistreating people?
I will always remember what my father, who was always a director, told me: “Just because you are the boss doesn't mean you have to be an asshole.” Yes, you are in charge, but you can still treat people the way you would like them to treat you.
3. Choose your people intelligently
Being a great director who treats everyone well is useless if you don't instill those values in the bosses of your company. There is nothing more toxic than an inefficient middle control.
Good or bad middle management is usually due to the way you promote your people. Many people think that going up to someone's position is natural, that is, that if you stay long enough you will be promoted, regardless of whether you have the ability to be a leader or not. The reality is that there are people who are very good in specific roles, but that their space to grow is less because they are not good leaders.
Since you are the person making the decisions, you have to be aware of that difference. A good way to know if someone will be a good leader is to put small tests on them. Let them lead projects or take on more responsibilities from time to time and see how they do it. There will be people who flourish, and others who do not respond well. You must recognize this and act accordingly.
4. Align your expectations with reality
To be a good leader and boss you have to understand the work your team does. The restaurant managers knew what the waiters did every night, so much so that they could even help at any time.
Of course, you can't understand each person's roles in depth if you have a company of 5,000 employees, but a good director knows what his employees do every day. They recognize the limits of their team's work, what you can and what you can't. Not everything can be done right away, so it is important to have reasonable expectations.
If you don't think you have a solid idea about what your employees do, start learning. Part of being an efficient leader is always looking for something new to learn.
5. Open communication channels between everyone
Many businesses fail in internal communication, and that can devastate efficiency and collaboration. For example, when I ran a call center, the industry standard was to use mail only to communicate things to the entire company. If someone had a question, they had to send an email copying everyone and wait for someone to answer them.
But in our call center, the agents had access to a chat. That way, someone could ask a quick question, and anyone who was online could answer. This way there were fewer delays, and it promoted a sense of camaraderie among the group, some fundamental considering that working in a customer service center is one of the least desired and most stressful jobs.
If you want your business to operate efficiently, you have to provide your people with communication channels, either between a team or between groups.
All these rules are summed up in one thing: Being a boss is very different from being a leader. The title may make you the boss, but to be a leader you have to take away the attention you have on you and be able to empathize with the people who work for you.