Who’s the Boss?

Recently a friend at work shared a meme that said “Build a team so strong that anyone who sees it doesn’t know who the boss is.” That same day, in the Wall Street Journal, there was a cartoon depicting a person seated behind a desk wearing a crown. Across the desk was another person saying “don’t be silly, everyone knows you’re the boss!”  Same day, two takes on a similar message…it had to be a sign!

In the first meme, to an outsider, the boss is indistinguishable from the team.  In the cartoon, the boss is wondering if the team knows his role.  How is this relevant to managing an O&P practice? It’s leadership!  I wish I could share the images with you, but I don’t think the copyright police would appreciate it.  In the cartoon, the boss is pictured a little sheepish (no offence to any sheep intended).  You get the distinct impression that he is weak and probably ineffective.  In the meme, the boss and the team are all pictured in a strong way.  It is clear that they are a force to be reckoned with. They present a united front, so the implication is that if you ask any one of them a question, you are going to get the same response.  If you asked random people at your company what a policy is on something, or how you handle an issue, would you get the same response from multiple people?

In the cartoon, I see a system where people have an idea of what they are supposed to do, but there is, perhaps, not a lot of clarity.  So they “figure it out” on their own.  Fantastic, you say!  I have created a team of problem solvers! In this situation though, there is not a lot of clarity. The staff may have tried to get that clarity, but the boss has been unwilling or unable to provide it.  The boss has ceded the leadership role and one or more informal leaders have emerged in the company. The job will get done, but there will be a lot of floundering and messiness. This becomes apparent when we look at workflow consistency.

The point of the first meme is that effective leadership builds a team of people who all understand what the goals are, what the rules of the game are, and what the boundaries are.  You can bet your bottom dollar that everyone in that company knows exactly who the boss is.  But because there is so much clarity around the mission, vision and values of the company, there is no question about what we are doing and what the acceptable parameters are.  When that culture is fostered and developed, and the boss has successfully transferred that knowledge to the staff, it is much easier to allow the staff the freedom to do their jobs.  The boss can be confident that the job will get done and the outcome will be as expected.

And please don’t read what I am not writing…I am not advocating for micro-management.  Far from it.  I am advocating for a hand’s off approach to leading.  Micromanagement is about as inefficient as you can be.  There is no way one person can be the expert in all things related to running a successful business.  But you cannot have a “free range farm” either.  It is imperative that structure is in place to allow the freedom to perform. Sounds incongruent, right? Reach out.  Let’s talk about it.

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