Any boss needs to know the laws governing his trade and, what the hell, the laws of common sense and decency, as well. But there are other important guidelines you need to follow: the interpersonal rules that affect the people you work with. We’re not talking about sexual harassment and brazen insensitivity here; successful guys have too much respect for their coworkers to fall into those traps. But if you were interrogated for offenses like failure to motivate, insufficient coaching, or piss-poor feedback, how would you stand up under questioning?
Great leadership is not about great strategy, oratory, heroism, or charisma. It’s about managing relationships, says Michael Feiner, the former chief people officer for Pepsi-Cola Worldwide, former professor of management at the Columbia Business School in New York City, and founder and president of Michael C. Feiner Consulting. He’s also the author of The Feiner Points of Leadership: The 50 Basic Laws That Will Make People Want to Perform Better for You.
Best Life asked Feiner for a handful of self-test questions that’ll reveal how well you lead. Take the test, answer honestly, and mend your ways. Your employees, and your business, will be all the better for it.
I call this the Law of Expectations: People respond to the level of confidence you show in them… If your boss believes you will succeed, you usually do.
This is the Law of Intimacy. In other words, do you have an intimate sense of the circumstances under which you’ll get the best out of your staff? I don’t mean you have to be their shrink or their best friend. But do you know their hot buttons: their hopes, fears, and aspirations? Do you know whether they like a lot of feedback or only a little? How about whether they like a lot of independence or constant short-interval scheduling? Most bosses don’t know their people at all. When I ask my MBA students, many of whom have worked at premier companies, “Did your bosses know you?” The answer is almost always, “No, they didn’t want to know me.” How can you get the best out of someone if you don’t know him?
It’s fine if bosses are committed to their own success; in fact, people want their bosses to succeed because it makes them look good, and they’ll be part of a winning team. But the real questions are, Do your people know that you are committed not only to your own success but also to theirs? Do you show that you are concerned about their growth and development within the company? Bosses can be remarkably narcissistic, selfish, and self-absorbed. It’s all about promoting their persona, and the people who work for them simply become factors of production. But here’s the secret most bosses miss: When people know you are committed to their success and not just your own, they’ll kill for you.
And by feedback, I mean do you tell them what they need to do more of, what they need to do less of, and what they need to do differently to enhance their performance? Everybody likes their back scratched, but I’m not just talking about “Attaboy!” and “Attagirl!”
Rather, I’m talking about telling them, “That was a great job, and here’s why.” Also, feedback needs to be “camera-lensed.” By that I mean you should be able to tell people what you saw, as if you were watching a video, and be able to replay what they did or didn’t do that resulted in that performance. People take enormous pride in the quality of their work, and under the right circumstances, they can.
Leadership is part teaching. All too often, bosses say, “I don’t have the time to train my people. I’ve got customers, investors, my own bosses to worry about.” As a result, subordinates often end up at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to face-time with the supervisor. But you are only hurting yourself. High-performing bosses understand the Law of Competency-Based Coaching: the idea that the lower a staffer’s skill, experience, and seasoning, the more coaching they need. Successful bosses make that a priority.
Fred Smith, chairman, president, and CEO of FedEx, claims that he tells his drivers over and over again, “You are involved in the most important commerce in the history of the world. You are not delivering sand and gravel; you are delivering someone’s pacemaker, someone’s chemotherapy treatment, the part that may keep the F-18 flying, or the legal brief that may decide the case.” And when you talk to FedEx drivers, they don’t think they are just delivering packages. Whatever the task—working in a factory, a call center, or an executive office—people need to think that they are doing something important, that they are part of a larger mission. That’s why I call this idea the Law of Building a Cathedral: When people don’t think they’re building a cathedral, they think they’re chopping stone, and no one likes to think they are chopping stone.