Guess what: You can be nice, sensitive and introspective and still be a good boss.
It’s a common misperception — even in HR — that in order to be an effective leader, you need to be aggressive, intimidating and brash. But those characteristics don't necessarily work, says Victor Lipman, author of “The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World.”
“I was a manager at a Fortune 500 company for almost 25 years,” he says, citing a culture that often prized Type A personalities over more empathetic ones. “And one of the many things that I saw over the years was that management was not very effective.”
How ineffective? Lipman sites a Gallup survey that found only 30 percent of employees are engaged in their jobs — which means a whopping 70 percent aren’t. “There’s an enormous cost in productivity there,” says Lipman, “over $400 billion a year.”
“The Type B Manager” hopes to remedy that, debunking oft-held stereotypes about what makes an effective boss. Lipman talks to Metro about what why sensitive souls tend to be good leaders, and gives us some tips about dealing with confrontation, conflict and underperforming employees in a nice way.
Use your niceness to build loyalty
“If you break management down to its essence, it’s all about getting work done,” says Lipman. “And many qualities normally associated with Type Bs — like being more laidback, easy-going, patient, reflective, and being good communicators allow you to build relationships with people, and ultimately gets people to do the kinds of things you want them to do.”
These characteristics also help build loyalty, and engagement among employees. “Most people chafe under too much authority, too much control,” adds Lipman. “If someone is coming down too hard on you, chances are you're not going to relate really well to it — you might do it because you have to for a while, but it's not really the kind of environment that's going to make you want to come back for more on a regular basis.”
Set employee goals at the outset
One way to minimize conflict down the road is to lay out your employees’ objectives clearly so that they understand their goals and responsibilities. “Spend a lot of time on the results that you and the organization expects of them — behaviorally, if that's an issue, in terms of productivity, whatever the metrics are — and make sure that these results are as clear and measurable as they can be,” advises Lipman. “And have the employees agree to them, it should be signed off on.
“What you end up with is this sort of rational standard that you can go back and point to if certain demands aren’t being met,” he adds. “So, when you go to them, it doesn’t make you look like the bad guy.”
Find out what motivates your employees
Not all workers are motivated by the desire to please their bosses, like it or not. But, the good thing about being a communicative and empathetic boss is that you can find out what makes your employees tick — whether that’s flexibility, so that they can take time off to go to a kid’s baseball games or work from home sometimes to care for an elder family member, a bigger office, or, yes, money. “Good managers who take the time to get to understand their employees will start to understand what they really want — and the motivational levers that they can pull to get them to commit to their jobs,” says Lipman.
Know you can’t avoid conflict entirely
Hey, you can be the coolest boss in the world, but you’re still going to be placed in uncomfortable situations. Yes, conflict is scary, but no one likes it — even those who tend to deal with it better than others don’t necessarily enjoy it. “The notion of management without high standards isn't management at all,” Lipman says. “You can be friends with the people you’ve hired, but if they're not delivering the quality of work that you need you're not going to be very successful overall.”
Just remind yourself that confronting someone, or demanding more, or pushing back doesn’t make you a bad person. Says Lipman: “There's nothing that's mutually exclusive between being a decent person and treating people well and also requiring a high quality of work.”