If I Were a Boss…


Many of us have goals and dreams of leading and managing our own teams someday. While some of us are closer than others in achieving that goal, it is never too early to begin identifying and developing the right skills and mindset required for those responsibilities.

So, if you were in charge,  if you called the shots at a multi national, multi billion dollar organization,  what would you do? What kind of environment would you foster?  It is so easy to point fingers at our managers, but what would you do differently?

I, for one, would require healthy food options during working lunches or dinners. Pizza and donuts are often the default at most companies. Eech!
On a more serious note, here are a few other things that would define my leadership style.

I don’t care what you wear.

One of the ways the current corporate culture stifles creativity and fosters a robot-like atmosphere is through dress codes. I have a friend who works at a company that monitors the number of visible toes… i.e. no more than 2 toes are allowed to be seen. Who cares? What is the logic here?  The exposure of that third toe will cause me to catch a cold which will affect my ability to do my job? Or maybe the company is worried about the potential liability that could arise if that toe is severed while doing the very dangerous job of…err…sitting at my computer for 10 hours and crunching through Excel spreadsheets. Unless you work in an environment where steel-toe boots are required, this is overkill.

While I understand the fear of having someone potentially show up to work naked, I do believe most corporate citizens know where the line is and do not need their wardrobes micromanaged.

Lately I’ve also noticed cases where a woman’s size and skin color also determines how others perceive what she is wearing. I recall an experience I had where we had just hired an intern who was a plus-size, Black woman. Her manager was a colleague and friend of mine, a White male. He came to me complaining about her outfits and wanted me to speak to her privately to convince her to “cover up more”. This woman was dressed no differently from any of the other interns! On this particular day she was wearing a knee-length skirt with grey opaque tights and a button down shirt. She looked fine to me. No inappropriate body parts were exposed. Somehow though, she looked different in his eyes.

When I am boss, I plan to foster an environment that allows people to dress comfortably. That goes for your hair too. Oh, and no such thing as casual Fridays, where grown-ass men and women get excited to wear…wait for it…jeans! Of all things. Makes no damn sense.

Depending on your role, I don’t have to see you to trust that you are working. 

Even with many tech firms embracing the virtual workplace mentality, I am amazed at how many large, global environments I have encountered that are still stuck in the Stone Age on this topic.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, approximately 50% of the workforce do jobs that is compatible with telecommuting some of the time. However, only 20% – 25% actually telecommute.

It is also important to note that there is a huge difference between a company’s stated position on the topic and its unwritten rules. I was at a training for managers recently where a co-manager was complaining about hiring “these millennials” who want to work from home all the time. Although he is a Sales Manager and literally is never in the office,  it bothers him that his people want to work from home 1 or 2 days a week. His thoughts are that there are distractions at home. “I know it’s hard for me to work with my wife and kids there”, he retorts. I won’t even waste blog space addressing that misogynistic argument!

Know that everyone has a unique voice. Volume should not determine value.

Many times in my career, I have come across instances where the louder voice, usually male, tends to forcibly drown out the quieter voices. Just the other day in a team meeting setting, we were supposed to be brainstorming. One of my colleagues, a soft spoken woman had a great idea was in the process of articulating, when a male, senior manager literally cut her off mid-word to mention his own idea. I had to jump in to say, “I really like what Melanie was just saying, perhaps we should let her finish.” She later thanked me in private.

As a boss, I would create an environment that allows everyone to speak…if that is what they want.

There are times however,  where people are not comfortable speaking. I’ll give an example. When I first moved to the US, and even sometimes till this day, I get slightly nervous when I am forced to do one of those ice breaker, introduction things. You know what I mean? The one that says, state your name, where you’re from and your first concert or your favorite water sport, or favorite animal. How do I tell these people that my first concert was Ludacris, don’t swim and am not an animal-lover, without further exacerbating our differences? What was supposed to be a relaxing, icebreaking moment has only served to make me more nervous, my heart speeding up the closer it gets to my turn. Maybe this isn’t a common issue for most people but it is for me.

So when I am in charge,  I plan to leave those questions wide open – tell us something about yourself if you’d like. If not, that’s ok, we’ll get to know each other in due course.

Stop comparing team members…well, at least not openly.

I’ve had bosses who did this. “Why haven’t you gotten me this report? Sam has already completed his and you haven’t.” If a team member is falling behind, call him or her out without bringing someone else into it.  Each person is different. Maybe Sam had nothing else on his plate that week. Maybe Sam got the report on time but everything else, even more important things suffered.

I have had to let one of my previous managers know that statements and comparisons like that do not motivate me. It may actually create a contentious vibe. In my case, Sam had no life outside of work and didn’t mind working every single weekend. I had another Sam who had young kids at home and actually admitted to me that he didn’t mind coming in to the office on weekends to get away from them sometimes. No, I am not trying to be like Sam.

What are some things that currently bother you about your company’s culture that you’d change if you called the shots? Please share.

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