Uncategorized February 10, 2016

Being A Better Boss In The Age of Memes

Being A Better Boss In The Age of Memes

What does it mean to be a great boss and team leader today? For many, even the word boss is cringe-worthy, evoking old-school styles of management that smart businesses are leaving behind.

Expectations of the GenXers and Millennials have clearly impacted how the best managers today behave, but the gold standard and collective consciousness for excellence in leadership has been raised by the most unlikely of heroes – the Internet meme.

Inspirational posts and leadership training were once solely the domain of the HR team, but in today’s sharing-fueled social media world, workers at all levels can state their preferences and share their insights and stories, simultaneously inspiring and shaming their leaders into submission, er, leadership.

These memes tell a compelling story. Even while they reveal a yearning for better treatment, they’re a celebration of best practices. They show us how far we’ve come, and how much work we have yet to do.

To illustrate the burning collective desire at all levels for better management skills, I culled the above 12 graphic meme posts from a 10-minute scan of consecutive LinkedIn posts. People care about this deeply. Original sources not cited.

While leadership and effectiveness trends come and go with the authors and the decades – Peter Drucker’s principles, Edwards Deming’s process optimization, Six Sigma, Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – some new trends for the modern manager are hopefully here to stay.

The Citizen Six – Style Tips for Successful Supervisors

  1. Trust
  2. Coaching/Teamwork
  3. Flexibility
  4. Efficiency
  5. Appreciation
  6. Emotional Intelligence


I don’t believe too many things effectively are driven from the top. But I do believe it’s the CEO’s job to lead, to lead by example, and to set a vision-and-values-led standard of behavior for her or his staff.

Let’s take each of these Citizen Six elements … one at a time. The concepts are so naturally intuitive that they may seem obvious. But the real work is internalizing them so they become a natural behavior.

At the top of the list is Trust. If you have hired well, the best thing you can do is inspire your team by trusting them. Human nature has shown – and proven by management gurus Deming and Drucker and many others – that employees truly want to do their best. Your role of leader then – if you’ve hired well – is to trust, empower and support by removing barriers from their success. PRO TIP: Ask not, “what are you working on today?” but “how can I help you make your work as amazing as I know you can deliver?”

If you’ve never been the Coach of, or even participated on a winning Team you may find the second concept more challenging. It’s not a secret that for decades some of the best organizations in the world hired not just the smartest intellects, but they looked for proven athletes who excelled in sport or other group setting. Those folks know that the best performances come with hard work, diligent training and an eye on incremental improvement—and above all, solid interpersonal dynamics. Today’s boss takes the long view, looking for ways to provide new training and new tools to help their team excel. They also look for ways to drive people together instead of creating unhealthy competition. PRO TIP: Give teams a team goal rather than pitting them against one another. Rarely do individual incentives drive a greater good.

Today’s workplace demands nuances and Flexibility. Rigid hours, schedules and micro-managed or artificial deadlines do not promote productivity; they impede it. Employees who are trusted and respected to meet deadlines on their own terms will often deliver better, more compelling results. PRO TIP: Remote working and flexible hours policies can free your teams to be more effective and more productive. Providing increased flexibility is one of the best ways to show trust.

Every organization today benefits from employees and supervisors who are creative in finding Efficiencies. Marathon conference calls and back-to-back meetings aren’t badges of honor or necessary evils anymore, we now know them to be ineffective and wasteful. PRO TIP:  Take an extra five minutes each day to evaluate whether the content of a meeting could be as effective if shared in an e-mail. Then for those must-have meetings, set formal content agendas and rigid time limits. Take advantage of every minute shared face-to-face and end early if possible.

Volumes of social-psychology research today center on the notion of Appreciation. Appreciation can take a team member’s performance from good to great, simply by boosting their confidence and morale via management of your and their positive mental attitudes. We all thrive on feedback, and there is still a place for constructive feedback as well as applause. PRO TIP:  Structure improvement areas by building upon strengths and supportive with appreciation, e.g. “You’re a tremendous presenter when you’re highly comfortable with the material. Let’s spend 20 minutes together before tomorrow’s presentation so you can be extra secure and as great as you can be.”

Lastly, and perhaps the one trait that is most innate and not easily groomed is Emotional Intelligence. Often described as professional maturity, E.I. is even more subtle because it typically transcends professional and personal style. Those managers and supervisors with high E.I. are typically calm under pressure, are intuitive and have strong instincts on when to lean in to support and when to step back and provide autonomy. A recent INC article shared 10 qualities of high E.I.   PRO TIP: Coaching yourself on E.I. behaviors can help you be a better boss and better person at home, as well. Emotional intelligence is something we can practice in any moment, in any situation, and will serve us well every time.

Many other sound concepts didn’t make my Citizen Six list. As Citizen CEO, I believe participatory culture, led and supported by the values of fairness and openness are table stakes to the management game. I also believe in innovation and happiness as cultural touchstones to aspire to. But personal responsibility in management starts with one’s own behaviors and the management style that must start at the top, whether one’s own top is the actual head of the organization, the head of a team, or the head of the fun committee.

Now quickly, before your team turns to posting Internet memes to send you a message, take a look in the management mirror. How will you continue to grow in your quest to be a modern and hopefully more effective boss?

Written by Daryl McCullough, Chief Executive Officer & Global Chairman, Citizen Relations

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