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OWNER'S MANUAL

5 Reasons You Aren't a Great Boss

These common blind spots could be preventing you from being the manager you need to be.
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You want to be a great boss. You need to be a great boss.

But unless you overcome these five barriers, according to Edwin Miller, CEO of the cloud-based strategy automation software company 9Lenses and author of Insight to Action: A Social Approach to Business Automation, you never will be:

1. You only stick to what you know.

It's natural: If you're a programmer at heart you'll spend most of your time on technical issues and product development and little on sales. If you're into numbers you'll spend tons of time with cash flow and little with operations.

When that happens, though, you only view your business through the lens of what you know--which means you'll tend to ignore other areas critical to success, and often over-manage your area of expertise. No matter how great your product, it still must be sold; no matter how much strategic sense an expansion into new territories makes, it still must be financed.

We all have a primary skill or interest; indulge yours, but when you find yourself having too much fun, that probably means other aspects of your business are left wanting.

2. You only act on what you observe.

Of course you don't see what you can't see. But you can make choices that ensure you don't see what you could see--like if you stick too closely to only what you know.

Stretch yourself. Peek into uncomfortable places. Focus on areas where you have less experience or less natural aptitude. Go on sales calls. Work in the warehouse for a few hours. Sit with your accountant and--gasp!--ask for a thorough analysis of your financial situation.

You'll see a lot more than you normally see... and then you'll be able to act on what you see.

3. You don't know what you don't know.

You also can't know what you don't know. But you can accept that you don't know everything.

All that stands in your way is a little (or a lot of) pride.

When you're unsure, don't get defensive. Model the behavior you want your employees to display. Admit you don't have all the answers. Ask questions. Say you were wrong.

Actively seek experiences that humble you--that's the best way to learn.

4. You value your work more than the work of others.

Most of all us fall prey to this barrier. (I know I do.) Salespeople think marketing is easy; the marketing team simply creates materials and gathers leads. Your marketing team thinks the sales team has it made; all they have to do is close the leads they worked so hard to find. Operations thinks accounting has it made; all they do is count beans. Manufacturing actually makes beans.

Like sticking with what you know, it's a natural tendency: We know every decision, every detail, every step, and every ounce of effort that goes into our roles. We know it's hard.

We forget it's just as hard for everyone else.

5. You nod when you don't understand.

Do you admit when you don't "get" something? It's not always easy. Sometime it's even embarrassing, especially if everyone else appears to be in the know.

Asking questions because you don't understand may be embarrassing for you, but it's even more embarrassing for your employees, especially if they're afraid to look back in front of you. ("If I ask a question, the boss will think I don't know my job...")

Never try to save face; you lose a lot more than you save. If you don't understand, admit it.

You'll get the answers you need... and you'll signal to your employees that making great decisions based on great information is all that matters.

Last updated: Jun 5, 2012

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

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



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