3 Ways to Be the Boss We All Want

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1.  "What can I do to help you today?"

This is the first question Rinda Green asks each of her employees and contractors as she walks into work each morning, still laden with her briefcase and tote bag.

When she asks that question, she means it. When I tell her a task I need help with, she does that first – before she checks her own messages. Most of the time, what I need from her is information or a decision. But sometimes it’s to make copies or unlock the doors to greet arriving meeting attendees. She does the tasks I request and then moves to the next person.

You may be thinking, "If I did that with my staff or co-workers, that’s what I’d be doing all day – my work would never get done." Rinda seems to hit that sweet spot of performing quick actions and then moving along, taking 10 minutes or less to cover our whole group.

Since we all see and appreciate what she’s doing (and know how busy she is), we’re very selective about asking. Often we say, "Nothing right now, but you’re thoughtful to ask."

2.   Other times, she’ll casually ask, "What are your priorities today?"

This is a triple-duty question. It can be a way for her to keep informed, a gentle nudge to keep me focused, or to help me feel that my work is important. Any or all of these reasons are good ones, and I like giving her my answer.

3.   During project planning or problem-solving, Rinda’s frequent question is "How do you want to do this?"

Then she shuts up and listens to my ideas. Eighty percent of the time, she agrees with what I suggest and wraps up with the discussion with, "What can I do to help you as you get started?" I take that as a signal that she needs to move on to another task, and I make a quick exit. But I appreciate the gentleness of her signal, which is genuinely an offer to spend more time with me if I need it.

These three methods of managing are a model for me. I find myself going to co-workers or to Rinda to ask, "What can I do to help you today?" It’s contagious.

 

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