Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, has been researching great bosses for many years. His last book was the New York Times bestseller The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. His work suggests a number of techniques and behaviors that research has shown good bosses demonstrate.
More importantly, he has concluded that all the technique and behavior coaching in the world won’t make a boss great if that boss doesn’t also have a certain mindset. Interestingly, these beliefs are held by the best bosses and rejected, or more often simply never even thought about, by the worst bosses. Here are the key beliefs:
- I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
- My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.
- Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day.
- One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.
- My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my people from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe — and to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well.
- I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.
- I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my people to do the same thing.
- One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is “what happens after people make a mistake?”
- Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too.
- Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.
- How I do things is as important as what I do.
- Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk — and not realizing it.