"This is my employee, Arianna," crowed my boss as she introduced me to her colleague. I clenched my jaw, forced a smile, and thought about the nice glass of wine I'd have later to forget about how much I disliked the way she constantly tried to display her superiority over me. I refrained from reacting, but made a mental note to never do that to anyone I worked with in the future.
From micromanaging sociopaths to managers screaming at the team in the boardroom, I've worked for some really bad bosses. But my pain is your gain, because by learning what not do, I've stumbled into some valuable lessons about leading teams.
Here are the three most important ones:
1. People don't work for you--they work with you.
When I hear managers refer to someone on their team as "my employee" or "my direct report" it always comes across as dictatorial. Anyone working at the company is there by choice and you do not own them.
Every person at the company has skills that are contributing to the overall success or failure of the company. Just because they may not hold as much tenure as you or their name is under yours on the organizational chart, it doesn't mean they aren't just as valuable. You can't earn respect if you're not respectful to those around you.
When you're referring to someone you're working together with, avoid possessives like "my designer" or "my content writer." If you must distinguish them as employees of your company, say "our designer." This subtle change in your language shows you respect their independence and autonomy.
2. Keep your cool, even when the situation isn't cool.
It was my first job and I had just made a text error on a social media account for a big client. I was upset with myself and worried what my boss would say when I told him about the problem.
After stressing about it for an hour, I went to him and explained the flub. He reassured me that mistakes happen.
I breathed a sigh of relief. His calm demeanor helped me de-stress and refocus on resolving the problem in a productive manner. Any time an issue arose at the company, he was cool and collected, solving problems while putting both the team and the clients at ease.
My first boss taught me that kindness in the face of challenges is the fastest to fixing an issue. Now, when someone I'm working with makes a mistake, I take a deep breath and remind myself that most mistakes are not intentional or done with malice.
Strong relationships are important to growing a business. You can easily tarnish them with a few stinging words in a moment of weakness.
3. Encourage creativity, don't crush it.
During my time in-house, my co-workers and I brimmed with exciting new ideas for our manager. Over time, he shot down all our new ideas.
We slowly stopped sharing our thoughts and opinions. For a creative, not having the space at work to, well, create can be soul crushing.
Now when I'm working on a creative project, I always try to encourage a free flowing exchange of ideas and opinions. Simply asking, "Do you have any ideas to make the project better?" can get the creativity ball rolling for better project success. Building a culture of creativity is essential to keep new ideas flowing and keeping everyone on the team excited.
Though it's impossible to be a perfect boss, by showing your team that they are respected and valued, you'll definitely outrank Michael Scott for World's Best Boss.