The Girl's Guide to Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch): Valuable Lessons, Smart Suggestions, and True Stories for Succeeding as the Chick-in-Charge
By Caitlin Friedman, Kimberly Yorio
It's not easy for women to become great leaders. Forces actually conspire against them. Since the early 1980s, studies have shown that what works for men doesn't work for women in a leadership context. Those same studies also show that women are not socialized to become leaders and that great leading female role models are few and far between. Sure, there's Eleanor Roosevelt. Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright. Oprah Winfrey, and Maya Angelou. but beyond that, can you name anyone? When searching for Internet sites, the only one that comes up devoted to women leaders throughout history is a personal site called guide2womenleaders, and it's written and maintained by a Danish man !
Whether you've just been promoted or are planning for the future, now is the time to make sure you have the right stuff to be a great boss, not just a good one. But where do you begin?
This is not an easy or quick process. For most, it will take a lifetime of work to become an admired and valuable leader. You must adopt effective strategies and habits now that will set you on the right path. What's most important, though, is to monitor your progress and continue to learn and grow.
Why Being The Boss Doesn't Always Suck:
What's In It For You
Think about how great you feel when you accomplish something, when you get that rush for a job well done. Crossing things off the to-do list has to be one of the most satisfying things in anyone's day. Now, multiply that feeling by five, or ten. or maybe even one hundred-that's the big payoff for bosses and leaders. Your sole job as leader or manager is to facilitate others* accomplishments. Leaders give the direction, support, inspiration, and space for the subordinate to accomplish her goals.
We are led to believe leading is the most natural skill in the world, but we're here to tell you that not only is leading not natural for most, it's damn difficult for everyone. Neither one of us is a shrinking violet, yet we find it challenging to assert our authority without feeling like the world's biggest bitches.
Leadership implies a relationship. Someone leads and someone follows. And as women know better than anyone, relationships are complicated. The other side rarely reacts as you think they wall, and you need to constantly learn from your mistakes. Here's a good example.
Now put it all together. "Direct" the "young and eagers." Tell them in very clear terms what to do, how to do it, and when it needs to be done. Give the "young and eagers" systems-remember many of them have never worked before. Show them how to organize their desk, organize their work, and organize their time. Give them frequent reminders and systems for checking in-a daily to-do list in the morning and an afternoon "what got clone" e-mail are great ways to keep them focused and working. We ask our assistant to do the agenda for our weekly staff meeting and then distribute the minutes. This task helps her learn our business, know what everyone is working on. and take ownership of keeping track of the team-three key pieces to her development.
If you find yourself with some "get rid of 'ems" on your team, and you have the energy to give them a chance, then "coach." Give direction and feedback and support and praise to build their self-esteem. and then involve them in decision-making to restore their commitment. Coaching can be difficult, and at the very least time consuming. You're not just teaching an employee the responsibilities of his job, but trying to reinspire him, too. If you are going to take this on. the first step should be the "come to Jesus" meeting. Sit down with your employee and explain where things are going wrong: be specific and direct. One of our most senior and trusted employees went through a bad time. She started coming in late every day. missing deadlines and meetings, and began acting inappropriately around other members of our team. We sat her down and laid down the law-while we cared about her and respected the work she had done for us in the past, her current performance was unacceptable and it had to change immediately or she would have to find another job. We're happy to report that she completely turned it around and has been a star ever since.
"Support" your "competent but needies." They don't need you to tell them how to do their work: they just need encouragement and recognition for a job well done. Laurice Duffy, president of LDK Cleaning Service, has been running a cleaning business for ten years. In an industry where turnover is extremely high, she has had some of her crew since the day she started. The key to her success is communication. All of her employees can clean well, and she wants them to know how important their work is to the operation. After all, they are the heart of the business and she treats them as such. She spends almost 50 percent of her time communicating with her crew (not always easy because, for most. English is not their first language). She has a morning meeting when they come and pick up their supplies for the day. She reviews their schedule and points out any special instructions for specific clients. She checks in with them during the day and her supervisors call her at the end of each shift, reviewing the day's jobs. Her "girls." as she calls them, are all competent cleaners: however, they need to know that Laurice is paying attention to their work and that she appreciates all of their efforts.
If you're fortunate enough to find any "superstars" on your team, then "delegate" responsibilities and projects to them. They know what to do and how to do it and don't relish you looking over their shoulders. They should be recognized for their accomplishments and promoted through the ranks. The "superstars" are rare and won't stay around unless you make their career development your priority. Engage them in their work process. Do they want a weekly update meeting with you? A daily e-mail? A monthly check-in? A combination of the above? Let them set the schedule and come to you when they need to. Remember that your best people will work through these stages of development, and that if you give someone new responsibilities, they may be working at a different level in those areas while continuing to excel in the parts of their job where they have more experience.