Author interview
5:00 am
Mon August 6, 2012

5 things great bosses know

Jill Geisler became a TV news director at the age of 27. She didn't know a whole lot about managing people, and she had to learn by trial and error. Now, Geisler is a leadership trainer with a new book out on how to inspire and motivate staff. It's called “Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know.”

In her interview with KPLU, Geisler put forth five strategies for becoming a better boss:

1. Don’t be too nice.

"When I was a baby manager, I thought I could compliment everyone into high performance. And it really was about wanting people to like me. … So when I had to sit down with people about under-performance, they didn't know why this suddenly came out of the blue when all they'd been hearing about was how well they had done.

"I know nice bosses who aren't effective, because they're too nice. You have to know how to have a baseline of social capital with people so that when you do have to put the hammer down, they'll understand it's for their own good and for the good of the organization."

2. Don’t be a fixer.

“I was an inveterate fixer. I thought the best thing I could do was to take people’s work and rewrite it for them to improve it. I could show them how it could be better by doing it, and frankly I could show off a little. And what I realized was that I was never teaching. I was fixing, and I had to learn to be a coach.

 And that takes many more skills then just doing your old job for other people who now do that job. It really takes being able to pass on an understanding of what makes good writing or good IT or good banking or good medicine and to do it in a way that the other person discovers it.”

3. Figure out who your evil twin is.

“Each boss has an evil twin. It’s the person that their employees and their colleagues are seeing unbeknownst to them, because they haven’t adequately expressed their own good intentions or they’re poorly executing something they are trying to do.

 That was my problem when I was perceived to be, for example, micromanaging. And it happens, for example, when someone says, ‘I’m a person with high standards.’ Your evil twin is impossible to please, because you really haven’t executed well when you’re telling people how to reach those high standards. You’re just seen as relentlessly negative. So, your evil twin is the wrong side of the good thing you’re trying to accomplish.”

4. Don’t ask others to sanction your neglect.

“ ‘If you don’t hear from me, assume you’re doing a good job.’ … There are so many bosses who say that. Well, what are they really saying? They’re saying, ‘I would like you to sanction my neglect. I won’t tell you what you’re doing well, but if you see me coming, it’s not a good sign.’

“Autonomy, the idea of being given a long leash and the ability to execute one’s own ideas, that’s actually very motivating. But being told, ‘I’m going to have nothing to do with you’ is different from a boss saying, ‘Tell me what you’re working on. Wow, that sounds good’ and giving you feedback. That’s still giving people autonomy, but it’s also staying in touch.”

5. Learn ‘social intelligence.’

"There's a lot of literature now about the neuroplasticity of our brains. … You can practice to become better at listening, for example. It takes a conscious effort to put your desire to speak in pause mode, and let some things hang in the air, for example, without finishing a sentence for someone or interrupting or correcting them."

Learn more from Geisler at Poynter: