Top Dog On A Tight Rope

November 16, 2012

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Bob Sutton is a renowned Professor of Management Science at the Stanford Engineering School. I recently listened to podcast Sutton did at the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series, in which he was talking about his recent book Good Boss, Bad Boss.

In his talk he outlined, backed by empirical evidence, that when people get into a management position over other people three things happen:

1.)They pay more attention to their own needs.

2.)They pay less attention to others needs.

3.)They start to act as if the rules no longer apply to them.

Based on the above he outlined several areas that will help define a Good Boss as opposed to a Bad Boss. Following are five highlights that jumped out.

1.) Being aware is key, Sutton explains this as knowing when to push and when to back off. Good Bosses are defined by their ability to be aware of their impact and blend it in with the energy or momentum of the team.

2.) Attitude of Wisdom; which he characterizes as courage, confidence and humility. Courage to admit to not knowing the answer, confidence to try anyway and the humility to be wrong and correct the course as necessary.

3.) Brainstorm without judgment. This means include others in solutions and when brainstorming, ensure there is no wrong answer, in other words, don't shoot others down.

4.) Small Wins keep the big goal in mind but create and allow for lots of small milestones and wins. This improves engagement and creates momentum.

5.) Protect your people from whomever you have to, in particular your boss or your bosses boss and customers. Your people are your business – do right by them and they will do right by you and your business.

The reason this post is called Top Dog On A Tight Rope was that in Sutton’s talk he explained that this name, at one point, was a consideration for the name of his book as it aptly describes the job of being a Good Boss.