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What Truly Great Bosses Believe

The very best managers think differently about the nature of the workplace, company, and team dynamics.
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My new book, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know, is being published this week, so my posts are condensed excerpts from it.

The most successful bosses--and the ones employees respect and follow most easily, and who are most likely to be promoted--tend to share the following eight core beliefs:

1. Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield. 

Average bosses see business as a conflict among companies, departments, and groups. They build armies of troops to order about, demonize competitors as "enemies," and treat customers as territory to be conquered.

Great bosses see business as a symbiosis through which the most diverse company is most likely to survive and thrive. They create teams that adapt easily to new markets and can quickly form partnerships with other companies, customers, and even competitors.

2. A company is a community, not a machine.

Average bosses consider their companies machines with employees as cogs. They create rigid structures with rigid rules and then try to maintain control by pulling levers and steering the ship.

Great bosses see their companies as collections of individual hopes and dreams, all connected to a higher purpose. They inspire employees to dedicate themselves to the success of their peers and therefore to the community--and company--at large.

3. Management is service, not control.

Average bosses want employees to do exactly what they're told. They're hyper-​aware of anything that smacks of insubordination and create environments in which individual initiative is squelched by the "wait and see what the boss says" mentality.

Great bosses set a general direction and then commit to obtaining the resources their employees need to get the job done. They push decision-​making downward, allowing teams to form their own rules, and intervene only in emergencies.

4. Employees are peers, not children. 

Average bosses see employees as inferior, immature beings who simply can't be trusted if not overseen by a patriarchal management. Employees take their cues from this attitude and expend energy on looking busy and covering their behinds.

Great bosses treat every employee as if he or she were the most important person in the firm. Excellence is expected everywhere, from the loading dock to the boardroom, and as a result, employees do their best work for themselves, the boss, and the company.

5. Motivation comes from vision, not fear. 

Average bosses see fear--of getting fired, of ridicule, of loss of privilege--as a crucial means of motivating people. As a result, employees and managers alike become paralyzed and unable to make risky decisions, even when those decisions are crucial to the survival of the firm.

Great bosses inspire people to see a better future and how they'll be a part of it. Employees work harder when they believe in the organization's goals, truly enjoy what they're doing, and (of course) know they'll share in the rewards.

6. Change equals growth, not pain. 

Average bosses see change as both complicated and threatening, something to be endured only when a firm is in desperate shape. They subconsciously torpedo change until it's too late.

Great bosses see change as an inevitable part of life. Though they don't value change for its own sake, they know that success is possible only if employees and organizations embrace new ideas and new ways of doing business.

7. Technology offers empowerment, not automation. 

Average bosses adhere to the old IT-centric view that technology is primarily a means of strengthening management control and increasing predictability. They install centralized computer systems that remove decision-​making power from the employees.

Great bosses see technology as a means of freeing people to be more creative and to build better and stronger relationships. When working with the IT group, they adapt back-​office systems to the tools, such as smartphones and tablets, that people actually want to use.

8. Work should be fun, not mere toil. 

Average bosses buy into the notion that work is, at best, a necessary evil. They fully expect employees to resent having to work, and therefore tend to subconsciously define themselves as oppressors and their employees as victims. Everyone then behaves accordingly.

Great bosses see work as something that should be inherently enjoyable, and therefore believe one of the most important jobs of a manager is to, as far as possible, put people in jobs that make them happy, so more work gets done.

Shortcut: Believing as great managers do

  • BUSINESS is an ecosystem, so cooperate, don't fight.
  • COMPANIES are communities, so treat people as individuals.
  • MANAGEMENT is service, so make others successful first.
  • EMPLOYEES are your peers, so treat them like adults.
  • MOTIVATE with vision, because fear only paralyzes.
  • CHANGE is growth, so welcome rather than shun it.
  • TECHNOLOGY eliminates busywork and frees creativity.
  • WORK is fun, so don't turn it into a chore.

Excerpted from the book BUSINESS WITHOUT THE BULLSH*T, by Geoffrey James.  © 2014 by Geoffrey James.  Reprinted by permission of Business Plus.  All rights reserved.

IMAGE: Youngna Park / Flickr.com
Last updated: May 13, 2014

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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