Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on April 29, 2019
Performance goes beyond the achievement of financial or other goals to which leaders are held accountable. I frequently hear complaints by employees, including those employees who report to CEOs, that their bosses lack fundamental leadership skills. Ensure you don’t lose your good employees because of the lack of leadership skills of the individual they report to.
I offer the following advice to all leaders to improve their leadership style:
A frequent complaint is that bosses micro-manage and tell direct reports how to accomplish a task, rather than state expectations, ensure the resources are available to get the job done, and cut the direct report lose to achieve results.
Steve Jobs, the former chairman and CEO of Apple once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Lee Iacocca, former automobile industry executive once said, “I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.” Why don’t all leaders have the same philosophy as Jobs and Iacocca?
Acknowledge the work of a direct report
A number of individuals have shared with me that their work is not acknowledged when passed up through the organization. I personally experienced this when I was told that all work leaving our department had to have the name of the department’s manager on it, rather than a cover letter transmitting the work of a direct report. I knew that this was not the kind of manager I wanted to work for.
In another instance, I was told by the creator of an advertising campaign of an experience she had after she presented her work during a meeting with a client. The client loved the campaign. After the presentation, she was not invited to join her boss and the client at a lunch celebrating the campaign’s creation. Why was her boss tone-deaf and insensitive to how that made her feel? This is not the way to inspire and motivate direct reports.
Respect female colleagues as you would respect male colleagues
I have heard from many women that they are not as respected as men within the workplace. Many feel that this is not purposeful, but part of an ingrained cultural norm.
A company with an organizational culture that tolerates a hostile work environment or doesn’t respect both men and women sends signals to some current and potential employees that they are not welcome and valued. The recent #MeToo movement has shined a light on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace and it hopefully signals the start of a cultural change.
All organizations should create a respectful environment and provide advancement opportunities regardless of gender to all employees based upon their skills and track record of accomplishments.
Don’t tolerate a direct report who is a tyrant to his or her direct reports
I used to work for a tyrant who did significant damage to morale. I nearly left the company but was promoted around him and became his peer within the company. I was promoted again and became his boss. I fired him. Had I left, the company would have been deprived of a future CEO.
I still wonder why the CEO of the company tolerated the tyrant. Don’t make this mistake if you have a tyrant working in your organization.
Perform 360-degree reviews of your direct reports
What is the best way to obtain a full picture of the effectiveness of a direct report? Obtain 360-degree feedback on their performance. Done properly in organizations where this process has become a cultural norm, this performance tool provides feedback to direct reports to help them be more effective.
Obtain input about your direct reports from people reporting to them, from peers and from senior individuals within the organization. This information can be used in the direct report’s performance review. In many cases, it is the best way to identify and communicate to the direct report their strengths and areas for improvement.
At my company, I introduced a 360-degree feedback system while president of our world-wide chemicals business. Not only did I receive and communicate 360-degree feedback to my direct reports, but I subjected myself to the same process, conducted by our company’s CEO.
When I became the CEO of the company, I continued this process, with the chairman of our board who obtained 360-degree input on me from my direct reports. I found it to be one of the most valuable feedback mechanisms to help me improve my performance as a CEO. To undergo 360-degree reviews was my decision. It should not be mandated by the board but be a decision for the CEO.
It is said that people quit bosses, not companies. Boards, ensure your CEO is an effective leader. CEOs and other leaders within the organization, ensure the leaders below you are effective. If they are not effective, you are apt to lose your high performing employees, perhaps to a competitor. In today’s tough business environment, you can ill afford to lose them.
Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.