July 21, 2021

How To Be an Awesome Boss

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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You know that your boss makes a big difference in how happy you are at work.

If you have a great boss, it makes life way easier than when you have a micromanager, toxic, or even abusive boss.  Believe me, I hear all the stories.

Your company knows that management impacts engagement and whether you stay or leave.

So why do 98% of managers think their company can improve on management training?

Why in a recent study did half of managers feel they weren’t prepared to take on their role?

If you are a people manager reading this, I know you want to be the best leader for your team.

What You’ll Learn

The lessons learned and common pitfalls when it comes to effective people management

How to set yourself and your team up for success from day 1

3 specific ways you can be an awesome boss right now, even without management training.

When you apply these 3 things, you will see immediate results in your effectiveness and the engagement of your team.

Whether you are a people manager, want to be one, or just want to help your boss be an awesome one, this episode is for you.

Featured in This Episode

Apply for 1-1 coaching at www.melissamlawrence.com/apply

Take the free quiz: Are you in the right career? and get a free bonus guide by going to www.melissamlawrence.com/quiz.

Previous podcast episodes:

Episode 8 – Entry Level to Senior Leader

Episode 42 – The Perfect 1-1 Framework

Online resources:

Learn more about Situational Leadership

Harvard Business School – Business Research for Business Leaders

Journal of Management

Academy of Management Journals

TED talks on Management


Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute

Leaders Eat Last:  Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth by Amy C. Edmondson

The First-Time Manager by Loren Belker, Jim McCormick and Gary Topchik

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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence.

Let’s get started.

Hello, everyone! How are you? I hope you have been enjoying boss month so far. If you didn’t know, all month long on the podcast and on social media, my company is talking about management strategies, pitfalls, lessons, tips and guidance for being the best boss, for advocating for yourself with your boss, managing up, dealing with difficult situations with management, all of the management things. It is so important to our career success and satisfaction.

So you are getting practical strategies to use just about every day on this topic. Now. on this episode, I am going to share with you some lessons I’ve learned about people management and how to be an awesome boss. These lessons come from my experience as a people manager, my education and expertise in development of people leaders and some stories I’ve heard from my clients. I think being a people manager is one of the most difficult jobs you can have.

You have to be connected to the strategy of the company, deal with multiple stakeholders, often have a workload of your own while also managing a team of direct reports. All of them all have their own personalities and needs, right? So you can’t effectively use a one size fits all approach to managing a team well, where each individual is productive, challenged and engaged. And the team all works together, you have to have an individualized custom strategy. Managers are responsible also for the group’s deliverables for each individual and has to manage performance issues and all of the little nuances that can come up. And I want to tell you about a recent study that I read. The study found that 44 percent of managers didn’t feel prepared to take on their role and 87 percent wish they had more training before becoming a manager.

Even more startling, 98 percent of managers think that their company can improve at offering specific training on responsibilities like managing performance issues, budgeting, leading people and all of those things that you don’t really start doing until you’re already responsible for doing them. 98 percent. That means only two percent of managers feel that their company is offering them enough training to be successful as a manager. That’s insane.

And I’m hearing time and time again from managers and leadership that management training is lacking. And from individual contributors, I hear that their managers don’t seem to know how to run a team or lead them. They’re often subject matter experts that were promoted to manage people without ever really having any experience to do so, or they find their manager to be just a really strong micromanager, too controlling, really having a gap when it comes to understanding the human psychology and the people aspect of management.

So there has been some growth in this area. There has been growth in providing more robust learning and on the job training for leadership and supervisors, especially in the pharma biotech industry. But it is still lacking when it comes to accessibility and real work practicality.

I’ve seen some really great leadership development programs, but you’re often put in a cohort months or years. It becomes required after you’ve already been a leader or it is corporate implemented. And so it’s not really applicable to your specific area of the business and it doesn’t kind of get in the weeds enough to really be practical. So I wanted to talk today about some lessons learned that you can apply now without a formal training program and whether you’re a manager now, want to be one later or even want to manage up and help your manager be a better leader, to be seen as an awesome boss. Because who doesn’t want to be an awesome boss?

And I might do multiple episodes on this topic down the road, because there is so much to say about the competencies needed for effective leadership. I actually wrote my whole thesis on just one part of leadership effectiveness. So we’re going to keep this episode more digestible and actionable for you today. So if you find yourself either looking to become a leader, maybe you just became a people manager and now have a new team. Maybe you’ve been a leader for a long time and you’ve kind of just learned as you went along, you’re going to be able to take something away from this episode, regardless of how much education or training or experience you have.

And truth be told, that when I first led a team and subsequently went on to manage multiple offices across an entire state, back in my days of living in Wisconsin, I didn’t have formal training. I did, however, get my first degree and people management and have since earned a master’s in organizational psychology, which includes leadership. But at the time, I didn’t have any of that. I didn’t have the education around people management specifically. And if we’re really being honest about it, education is often different from real world learning and experience anyway.

And I find this type of situation to be true of a lot of people.

One of my earlier episodes of the show, “Entry Level to Senior Leader in Pharma Biotech”, I had my wife, Ellen, on who has a double masters and an MBA.

And truth is, she is considered one of the best leaders at her company. She has people that want to work in her team because it is known for being such a high, productive, positive, engaged group.

But even she learned by doing and applying some of these lessons.

So it doesn’t matter where you come from or how you got into this role, chances are you probably aren’t going to get the perfect learning experience to line up before you actually take on leadership or management responsibilities.

So colleagues of mine and even my clients who are leaders, they didn’t go through a formal three, six, nine, 12 month program to be a leader before they were one. It just isn’t practical from a business perspective. Many organizations don’t invest in employees like that to put several months of training for a role that they don’t have yet as a priority and preparation for a role. So you tend to learn while you’re already in it. And then once you are a leader, once you do get that promotion or you enter into a company as a leader, then you get training at whatever the next cycle is, if there is any.

So your direct reports are kind of just along for the ride while you figure all of this out. So let’s get to it. Here are some lessons learned from what it’s really like to move into management and some things you can do to be successful with or without formal training. Number one, take the role seriously and understand the responsibility that you have to your team. A pitfall I see some managers make is to rely on their company to train them or to wait for the leadership training program.

And although this can seem logical, this isn’t fair to your new team or to you. When you accepted the promotion or new job, you decided that you were going to be the advocate and best manager for your people, that you were going to lead your area of responsibility effectively and be a role model for your company. These items may not have been in the job description, so you might be thinking, “Wait a minute, that is not what I signed up for.”

But if you want to be an awesome boss, then this is what you signed up for. If at all possible, before taking the role think about what gaps you may have because we all have them. How can you fill them on your own? There are a ton of management books and resources out there and you can even work with a coach, use your resources to make sure that you are getting clear on what kind of manager you want to be and how you can be the best dang one for your team and your company and then get to work. Your company training program, as great as it can be, isn’t going to be the one and only thing that you need.

Now, on the flip side, if you’ve been a manager before, it doesn’t mean you already know everything that there is to know. Management, psychology and best practices change with time. So it’s very possible that there are some tweaks you could be making to be a more effective leader. I’ve seen many well intended leaders bypass required trainings, gloss over any development areas, assuming that they are for newbies and that they know better. But those are the leaders that often have disengaged employees and don’t even know it.

Remember, you are a role model. If you are skipping steps and not trying to be your best, your employee shouldn’t be expected to either. How you behave and treat people, the hours you put in are all a message to your team. If you are telling your team that they don’t need to work overtime, but you’re seen online all hours of the day and night, your employees are going to think that that’s what they need to do to get ahead, and then they will decide if they want to do that or not.

You could inadvertently be losing people. So take this role seriously. What would make you even better than you already are? How can you build a reputation of the boss people want to work for? I’m going to share some resources at the end of this episode if you want to dig in to some reading right now. Number two, your direct reports are the indicator of your success, not your title.

It’s human nature to chase the title, chase the status. And when you achieve a big goal like manager, director, vice president, you can relish in that. And you can, but not too long, because your success at work is not defined by your title. It’s by the success of your team. Some questions you can think about are ,how are the individuals on your team performing?

How engaged are they?

Do they all have development plans that they are excited about? Do they like coming to work? Do they want all of their friends to work there? Do they try to recruit other talented people into your organization to work for you because you are that awesome? Do they work well by themselves and together? Do they have a great work life balance that they love? Do you empower them to do things and make decisions independently?

These are all indicators of your effectiveness as a leader. They can be hard to reach and it could be easy to say, “Well, I’m not responsible for all of this.” Some of it is the company or your boss or them. And there is a little truth to that. But how is it serving you to blame others for things that could be in your control to create? If you are always striving to make these questions a yes or have a positive response, you’ll always be growing and building a positive and cohesive team that performs well and is happy.

When you have a high performing and happy team, guess what Your leaders will notice. Other leaders will notice. You’ll get even more success. Your promotions and how well you sleep at night will be a ripple effect to you prioritizing your team over yourself. But if you’re listening to this, I’m betting you already think about some of these things, so ask yourself, how can you advocate for your team and help them have what they need so that they can do what they need to do?

How can you enable them to do their job to the best of their ability to enjoy doing it, to like coming to work, all of those things that I’m sure you want for yourself? How can you help your team have those things? Number three, each person needs something different. OK, so with this one, this is a mistake I see and even one I have made in the past and that is trying to be a certain kind of leader and then applying it to everyone.

For example, servant leadership is a great leadership style that I highly suggest learning about and applying as an overall management philosophy. But what can end up happening is you get stuck in applying what is considered a best leadership style and then you build blind spots to the individual needs of the employee.

So, for example, you could have a preference to lead collaboratively and get feedback from each employee on decisions before making them, especially when they impact the individual or the team. This seems like a great idea, but you could have an employee who finds this style wishy washy or stressful. They may respond better to a direct leadership style. They may not care to offer their opinion, and they may just want you to tell them what to do. Or perhaps you have an employee who is amazing and you give them a new project and expect that they won’t need a lot of help because they’re so great at what they do.

But for this specific task or project, they haven’t done it before and they need some help, but they don’t want to disappoint you and leave an impression that they can’t do it.

So they don’t ask and then they get frustrated or they make needless mistakes. In this situation, you could flex your leadership approach with the new task and check in more, see what they need help with and what they need, because it’s something new. And this is an approach from Situational Leadership, which is a popular leadership development program. Now, the same goes for recognition, you may want to recognize everyone, because we all know that recognition or lack thereof is a big reason why employees leave, because they are not feeling valued.

But not all recognition is equal. Some employees like public recognition, some do not. Some like gifts, some do not. So you may be hearing this and thinking, OK, well, what am I supposed to do? Because how am I supposed to meet the needs of each individual person? I only have so much time in the day and there’s a really simple solution. You ask them. That’s all you have to do is ask them. I always suggest in your initial one-on-one meetings and if you haven’t done this yet, you can start doing it now, talk about your leadership style, what they need, what you need, how they like to be recognized, what keeps them motivated, what their communication preferences are, what your communication preferences are. I talk about this in detail in the podcast, “The Perfect 1-1 Framework”. So if you haven’t listened to that episode, you may want to listen to that after this one.

So once you know your employees’ individual and unique style, needs, preferences, you can adapt your style to each of them. Yes, you should definitely do that.

You are the role model and an awesome boss. All right. I’m going to end it right there with these three lessons learned and ways to be an awesome boss. Number one, take the role seriously and understand the responsibility that you have to your team. Number two, your direct reports are the indicator of your success, not your title. And number three, each person needs something different. Now, here are some resources that I recommend for those of you that are looking to check out a new book or article to improve your management skills or learn about some different leadership strategies.

And I will include a link in the show notes to each of these references. So first up is journal articles. The Harvard Business School website has a section, Business Research for Business Leaders, where they have a ton of different articles that you can check out for all different industries and different management styles and approaches and how they’ve studied different real world scenarios, like the cruise industry when coronavirus broke out and how management responded to that. All sorts of different interesting topics you can dig into to look at how management and leadership play a role in all of these different current topics.

So that is a great resource. Then there are a couple of journals you can look at. There’s the Journal of Management and the Academy of Management Journals, which has current research and studies around management and leadership practices.

And again, all of these links will be in the show, notes.

Books, so some books that I recommend there are a ton. I am a book nerd. If you know anything about me other than that I am a coach, it’s that I read a lot of books and these books I think have some really great takeaways that you can, they’re quick reads and you can apply things right away that make a really big impact. So the first is Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute, which is really all about getting the most from your people and understanding how your best intentions could be perceived, how their behavior could be perceived, and kind of how to bridge that gap.

Another one is Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek. This is a very popular book. It’s really tied to that servant leadership style that I spoke about. There’s also a TED talk on that, if you want to look that. Up next is The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth by Amy C. Edmondson. Now, this one is a favorite, I have to say.

I studied Amy extensively when I was in graduate school and she really made psychological safety what it is today in corporate environments and is really breaking ground and getting companies to really look at why that’s important and how it impacts team performance and individual performance and why it’s really the key to a lot of the cultural and behavioral issues that we see in organizations. So, very good read if you want to check that out. And then the last book that I’ll offer is The First-Time Manager by Loren Belker, Jim McCormick and Gary Topchik.

And this is for really if you haven’t had any management training or if you’re new to management, think you want to go into management. There are some great resources to just hit the ground running and apply some basic fundamentals to being a good manager and doing so successfully, right when you move into that role and if you like videos, the TED talk website has a playlist just on leadership principles and stories from thought leaders around the world, which is so cool, so you can just curate the TED talk to a ton of episodes just on leadership and management.

So you can do that by going to TED.com and going to /playlist, Again, I will put that link in the show notes. All right. That is all for this week’s episode. I will talk to you next week. Coaching with me is the best way to guarantee you get happy at work and achieve your career and life goals. Getting started is easy. Head over to www.melissamlawrence.com to learn more and apply. It is the first step to get you from feeling stuck to knowing exactly what you want and have the tools to make it a reality.

I will be by your side the entire way.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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