Productivity Lie #4: great bosses are always available

Think of it as having your door open part of the day and closed the rest of the time. You need both to boost your productivity and effectiveness

While I’d read The 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell some time back, it was only while listening to productivity specialist Kirstie Sprowson, explain the key elements of the book to a team of senior managers at a delegation training session last month, that I really got to thinking what makes a great boss.

Simply put, Maxwell explains that there are five levels of leadership:

Level 1:

The entry-level leader is the boss you follow because you have to. They have done nothing yet to earn your following other than wear the boss’s badge. They are your boss and you have to listen: nothing more, nothing less.

Level 2:

Climbing up the great boss ranks you’ll find relationships form and your staff follow because they want to. This is good, but not for too long. You need to keep climbing to prevent them from becoming restless.

Level 3:

Progress is a fine thing. You’ve proved that you are more than your position. Your team like you and respect you for what you are doing for the company.

Level 4:

Leadership that empowers others is the crux of this level. Building on what has come before, this level of leadership is about people development and you’re doing it well. I see this as a shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’ – building community; a place where the employee feels nurtured and appreciated.

Level 5:

Queue: Harps/bells/whistles. At this level of leadership people follow you because of who you are, what you’ve done and what you represent. It’s a ‘top of the pops’ type of leadership that takes years to achieve.

With this in mind it becomes easier to understand that being a great boss doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be available 24/7. Heck, when you read through the suggested actions, you’ll see you don’t even need to be in the same office as your team to get them on the right track.

What productivity lies are you telling yourself?

PRODUCTIVITY LIE #4: To be a great boss, you always need to be available

So, if leadership greatness is not dependant on always being available, how do you account for what a great boss should do to be, well, er, great? Assuming you as the boss feel you are doing a fine job of it already, what should you be working on to climb Maxwell’s leadership ladder so that you don’t become the spanner in someone else’s works and the reason for your company’s attrition.

The three things you can do right now


Sure, there’s a fine line between telling your team too much, too soon (read: freaking them out with the details that might or might not come into play) or alternatively, too little, but it’s worth understanding that communication is about keeping everyone informed about what they need to know in order to deliver their greatest work. Providing context increases the chance of meaningful engagement, which pretty much means that you’ll be getting more output, of a higher quality, in less time, from your team when you tell them the ‘what’ and the ‘why’. Add on-going feedback and appropriate recognition to the mix, and you’ll experience even higher levels of engagement. In a nutshell, I see communication as building a community. Those warm and sometimes fuzzy emotions that come from feeling like you belong, extend way beyond the monthly pay cheque.

Note: Communication is a two- way street. Encourage open discussion, trouble shooting and idea sharing as a workplace constant.

Share the vision:

Undoubtedly closely linked to point 1, point 2 refers more to the big picture. Where your company is going and how you plan to get there…together.

For your team to perform optimally they like to know what direction they are travelling towards. Sharing vision with your team means you are likely to be travelling in the same direction, towards a common goal.

Add an element of corporate responsibility to your vision and you’re onto a winner. According to Dale Carnegie’s survey of over 1500 workers across the USA, 54% of employees who are proud of their company’s contribution to society are engaged. Engaged employees are enthusiastic, inspired, empowered and confident. Leadership plays a vital role in this engagement.

P.S. Continually reinforce the vision. Initial hype tends to fade fast so make it an intrinsic part of your daily communication.

Find the balance: micro-management vs. macro-management

The boss that holds on too tightly risks losing it all. Leadership can’t exist without delegation and engagement relies heavily on feeling like a contributor. On many levels, though sometimes necessary, micro-management leads to failure.

Think about it from both sides of the coin:

As the boss you can’t possibly focus your attention and energy on growing the business unit and team if you retain responsibility for everything. You just won’t have the time.
As the employee, you are not given the opportunity to push yourself or prove your worth. Without opportunity for validation, you feel worthless and disengage.
Macro-managing could be equally hazardous. Giving too much freedom without sharing unified goals leaves your employees feeling vulnerable and your role largely insignificant. Just like the child without any enforced rules, staff will under-perform, play-up or seek attention.

So, as leaders you are striving for a balance between the two, think of it as having your door open part of the day where you are fully available for impromptu discussion, and closed the rest of the time for ‘Do not disturb or else’. You need both to be effective.

One last factor that’s worth mentioning… For the above three points to be of value, you need to engender trust. Trust your employees to make wise decisions, deliver on time and trouble-shoot where necessary. You can build this trust by detailing the decisions they can’t make without your input so that they know the limitations, while still having th freedom to create. And finally, and likely most importantly, lead so that they trust you too.

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