One of my favorite SNL digital shorts is one titled “Like a Boss” which starts out with Seth Rogen giving Adam Samberg’s “boss” character a performance review.
Rogen: “Mr. Samberg Thanks for coming to your performance review”
Samberg: “No problem”
Rogen: “So you’re in charge around here, is that fair to say?”
Samberg: “Absolutely, I’m the boss “
Rogen: “Okay, so take us through a day in the life of the boss
Samberg: “Well the first thing I do is…”
Then Adam kicks into a long string of things that are boss like, and some that are not remotely boss like or otherwise. Every time I watch this short I think of my own boss list. One of the items that is always at the top of my boss list is supervision of my staff, or as Adam puts it in the short, “direct work flow”. We can agree that although a core function of most jobs, direct supervision and mentorship of our supervisees is something that we don’t spend as much time on as we would like. Yes we have one on ones, guide progress and help to extinguish fires but we don’t often set up our supervisees with a plan and help them create a clear vision of their development and what they want to accomplish under our supervision. Even in longstanding supervision relationships ease of communication and dialogue can take a backseat to actual structured development.
The book “It’s OK To Be The Boss” by Bruce Tulgan explores the topic of under management and how it impacts functionality, production and overall process in an organization.
Everyone knows what a micromanager is, but do you know what an under manager is? According to Tulgan, an undermanaging boss is someone who, “ doesn’t set expectations, doesn’t monitor and measure performance constantly, is quick to correct failure and slow to give praise”. In this type of managing there is little trust and the supervisor and the supervisee are both feeling lost in the relationship. Those that are in the management positions are often afraid to be labeled a micromanager so they back off actions that they perceived to be under this umbrella. However, providing feedback, guidance, direction and communicating a clear outcome are not unto themselves micromanaging, as with everything it’s the style in which something is delivered that makes the distinction. We as mangers control the delivery of the message even if we ourselves didn’t write the speech. When we build supervisory relationships where there is open dialogue and a bridge towards trust, it makes those speeches that we didn’t write easier to deliver and easier for our supervisees to hear and understand.
Building good supervision relationships often take time, more time than many busy schedules allow. There is the process of building trust between two people but it’s also a process of shared power and influence. Some might think that the power is mostly in the hands of the supervisor. I would say that the power dynamic in how a supervisee/supervisor relationship progresses can and should be one of an equal power exchange. The ideal process is that each person would bring in knowledge and are open to being developed by each other; -Tulgan calls this dynamic, a dyad. He states that a dyad is two individuals or units regarded as a pair being impacted by personality, style, identity and communication skills. To accomplish a successful dyad the following things must happen: there has to be transparency of expectations and boundaries, the dyad must be productive and evolving, supervisors need an awareness and acknowledgment of areas of growth and training, and feedback and motivation are both encouraged.
As we approach the end of the year we often use the time to both reflect and rationalize how well we supervised and how we were supervised ourselves. Sometimes the best thing to do is follow the advice of the lyrical genius of John Mayer “It’s better to say too much then never say what you need to say again. Even if your hands are shaking, and your faith is broken, even as the eyes are closing, do it with a heart wide open, say what you need to say” Don’t be afraid to be the boss-someone’s gotta do it!