A recent McKinsey Quarterly article laments that the traits that will get someone promoted aren’t necessarily the ones that make for great leaders. In this video, I’ll talk about how the best leaders are able to bring BOTH to the table.
This week we’re taking a look at a recent article in McKinsey Quarterly, “The Boss Factor: Making the world a better place through workplace relationships.”  In that piece, Terry Allison and Bill Schaninger link employee satisfaction with the relationships people have with their bosses.

No surprise, the authors find that having a good relationship with the boss does contribute to higher employee satisfaction.  There are two main contributions that managers make to employee workplace happiness:

  1. Good work organization: providing context, guidance, tools, and the direction people need to get their work done; along with the autonomy to make it their own.
  2. Psychological safety: which the authors define as “an absence of interpersonal fear as a driver of employment behavior.” Much has been written about creating psychological safety, so for now, we’ll leave it at this..

The authors then show a correlation to the shareholder value and the company’s bottom line.  A study of the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” compared a portfolio of companies named to that list from 1998 – 2009 compared to a portfolio of similar companies.  The “100 Best Companies…” had an equity bump of 2.1% over the comparison set.  There really is a bottom-line shareholder impact from being a great place to work.  They cite other studies that correlate employee satisfaction to customer satisfaction, lower employee turnover, profitability and employee productivity.  This is not surprising to me.  We know that good leadership matters.

Then Allison and Schaninger describe one of the biggest challenges that organizations face, in light of this information:  The behaviors that make someone a good manager are not necessarily correlated to what gets people promoted.

To get promoted, you need to have really strong technical skills in their field. That’s what makes it possible to turn out great performance consistently. You also have to have a really strong personal drive, self-confidence, a sense of personal power, and toughness to go after what you want.  In other words, what gets rewarded through promotions are person-oriented or self-oriented traits.

What it takes to have great boss-employee relationships, on the other hand, are more other-oriented traits: The ability to see what someone needs from their point of view, so you can provide clarity. Leading by creating psychological safety and trust.  Transparency, encouragement, good communication and empathy.

The authors go on to offer tips for companies about how to shift their promotion practices to make more room for other-oriented leaders.

Even if your company doesn’t make that shift, however, there’s still hope for you.  While these two styles (self-oriented and other-oriented) may seem like they’re polar opposites, the truth is that you can have both.  These are not mutually-exclusive ways of working.  It is absolutely possible to develop both ways of working and both ways of looking at the world.  I would venture to say that the best leaders actually do that.

There are good reasons to have both of these styles available to you, as a leader.

If you’re naturally “other-oriented,” you may see being “self-oriented” as selfish.  But it doesn’t have to be.  That same drive and confidence that serves your career can also make you a more powerful advocate for the benefit of others.  Having strong personal power makes it more likely that you’ll win support for your ideas and initiatives.  As long as the initiatives you’re leading serve broader needs than just your own, you’ll be putting your skills to use for good.  You’ll leverage them to move the whole organization forward.

At the same time, being “other-oriented” not only makes you a great boss, but also opens you up to personal growth and improved decision-making.  You become more aware of how others’ experiences may be different from yours.  You see their world view, their values, and their perspectives. And by truly opening up to those, you expand your capacity to see things in new ways. That contributes to your creativity and innovation, and makes you a better decision-maker.

So there are very compelling reasons to develop your capacity both to be “self-oriented” and to be “other-oriented.”  Generally, most people are naturally good at one or the other.  They’re either naturally good at being self-driven —  strong, confident and able to driving things forward — or they excel at looking out for the team, and being more focused on trust and transparency.  Whichever is your starting point, it’s 100% possible to develop both sets of skills and the very best leaders do it.

What it takes is a decision – to focus on building your capacity to grow as a leader in both dimensions. Then it takes being in an environment that fosters your growth in these dimensions. The best environment for this will help you expand your perspectives, build your skills, and deepen your capacity. Through that decision, you create your own leadership style that brings in the best of both worlds:

  • Strong and powerful AND focused on the best interests of your team;
  • Decisive AND open;
  • Reassuringly strong AND transparent;
  • Tough AND encouraging;
  • The caring and supportive leader people want to work with AND the results-driven employee that gets the promotion.

Developing yourself in BOTH of these areas is what will set you up for long-term career success.  Whatever your starting point, you can ultimately bring the whole package to your leadership.

If you’d liked to know more about how to do that, book a call with me and let’s talk about it.  We’ll get on the phone for about 45 minutes, and we’ll unpack where you think your strengths are and where you want to develop.  We’ll talk about your current work situation and where you want to go with that.  And if I can help you get from here to there, we’ll talk about what that could look like.  If I’m not the right coach for you, I’ll point you to other resources. I know a lot of great coaches I’ll be happy to point you to whoever would be the best fit for you.  You can book your call at zmcoach.net/call.  I look forward to talking to you.

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