Nuts and Bolts Leadership: Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut

By Barry Pruitt

As a leader, I’ve sometimes felt like a nut – nutty ideas, feedback that indicates I’m crazy, looks from others that could … well, you get the point. And just like a nut without a bolt, a leader who isn’t growing his/her skills is a leader falling short of his or her potential. It’s a good time to take stock of your professional role, priorities and influence. What has worked well for you so far this year? What changes have you made in your leadership style that made you more effective? What have you tried for the first time? 

We all want to be in the "good boss" category, but what can you do to get there? And, how do you use your "good boss" status to strengthen and grow your organization?

Here are five ways to be a better boss that I’ve seen successfully put in action:

  1. Practice being happy to see people at work. Greet your subordinates and other team members by name, and make sure they know you’re glad to see them, even as you pass them in the hallway. Consistently taking this one step will round the edges off of the next situation you need to address. The people you don't directly manage, work with, or work for are often the most critical in solving a cross-departmental situation or in bringing your name up in a positive light. If team members are remote, you can accomplish the same with a Facetime call, text, or phone call. 

Tip: Are there any employees you walk by or interact with, whose name escapes you? Discover their names, and begin to use them each time you pass.

  1. Manage Your (Over) Reactions. When a team member shares a situation with you, don't make the assumption that your input or help is needed. Make a point of asking if they would like you to take action or if they are just seeking your empathy. If empathy is called for, listen actively and give them the encouragement they seek. 

Tip: The next time someone approaches you with a situation, what steps can you take to make conscious inquiry into whether you should even be involved?

  1. IF action is being requested, make a conscious decision whether you want to get involved, or if your time is better spent counseling the individual and sending them on their way to give it a try on their own. In short, resist the urge to get involved in everything. Sometimes holding back will give you the time and space you need, and will help your employees grow in new ways.

Tip: What are typical empathetic phrases or sentiments you can use to show encouragement while staying out of a situation? Brainstorm some phrases that help direct an employee to begin problem solving on their own.

  1. Get buy-in where possible, but sometimes you need to make the call. It is common management knowledge that your results will be better if your team buys into the plan, project or decision. Authentic collaboration is priceless, but the fact is, you don’t always have the time and energy it might take to debate the decision needed, and that’s ok. But when this happens, it’s important to spend the necessary time on the back end explaining the decision and the logic that went into it.
  2. Give team members an opportunity to get involved with a solution, but don't over discuss the topic. If the team can’t come to a conclusion, you may need to put it to rest. You are the boss, and sometimes it makes the most sense to get the team moving on a plan or solution, rather than beating a dead horse.

As entrepreneurs and leaders in small to medium companies, sometimes it’s important to revamp how you interact with others, spend your time, and determine your team's priorities. Implement the above 5 steps to become a better boss. Sometimes you feel like a nut – but practicing these steps will have you singing – “sometimes you don’t!"

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Barry Pruitt


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