Today’s guest post is from Sharlyn Lauby, The HR Bartender. Sharlyn is one of the most respected HR Bloggers there is and is frequently found on those lists that say “you should follow.” She can be found at The HR Bartender. She is also a well-respected consultant, speaker and advisor.
I’ve seen a lot of blog posts recently on the subject of common interview questions. You can find a few of them here, here, and here. It made me start thinking of classic interview questions like, “Tell me about the best boss you’ve ever had. And, why they were so great.”
Recently, I asked that best manager question to someone who used to work for General Electric during the Jack Welch era. They said that working at GE was the best job they’ve ever had. Not because things were “nice” but because “the management team pushed you to be the ‘best’ you could be.”
My answer to the best manager question is similar. My best boss wasn’t always the nicest person to work with. She was the one that pushed me to be better. When I made the decision to leave, we laughed about her being exasperating at times…but I give her a tremendous amount of credit for pushing me into areas of human resources that I wouldn’t have gone otherwise.
On the other hand, the nicest boss I ever worked with was also the one I worked with the shortest amount of time. After not delivering profits three months in a row, he was gone.
What I learned from both experiences is that being a manager means having to sometimes make tough decisions and communicate difficult messages. It means making decisions in the best interest of the organization. And, sometimes no matter how hard you try…employees will not always perceive your actions and decisions as nice.
Does this mean that managers can’t be both nice and best? Of course not. But in order to be perceived as both, you need to:
- Set levels of expectation on the front end.
- Reward and recognize results and behaviors that align with your company culture.
- Encourage your top performers to take on new and additional responsibilities.
- Coach employees who are struggling with performance.
Communicating with honesty and empathy can soften those difficult conversations. The important thing is to still have the conversation.