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It’s Hard to be the Boss and a Coach Too

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International    8-8-2011

Takeaways: Sometimes, it’s hard to be the boss. There are certain things a boss should never say. You can’t share everything, even with family and friends. It can cause confusion or jeopardize your reputation in your staff’s eyes.

Sometimes it’s hard to be the boss. The axiom “It’s Hard to be the bosslonely at the top” is often very true. As the boss, there may be things you are privy to that you might want to share with your staff, but you know you shouldn’t or can’t.  You have to walk the fine line of being friendly and supportive as a mentor and coach, without being too chummy. In the case of a small business owner or entrepreneur, this can be challenging, especially if your co-workers are family and friends.

So what do you share and how much?

Best practices show that the more your staff understands about the business – including the revenue and expenses – the more likely they are to feel that they have a role to play in its success. “People support what they help create” is a key premise we share with our clients.  It helps them take ownership of the actions they are responsible for executing. But how much is enough?

In privately held companies frequently the actual revenue and expense numbers aren’t shared, just percentages in the form of graphs. This at least lets the staff understand how their department is performing this year vs. last year or last month, and whether or not revenues and expenses are up or down. It’s up to you, the boss, or financial manager, to explain how they can make adjustments individually and within departments to help improve the bottom line.

Beyond that, other things you should not share with your employees include:

  • Never share how much each person is making – it’s no one’s business except that of the employee and the boss, and legally needs to be kept confidential between the boss and the employee anyway.
  • Don’t share anything really personal about your life and family – your employees are not your friends and confidants; they work with and for you. It’s necessary to maintain a fine line between being friendly and being the boss. Crossing that line jeopardizes your reputation as a leader in your staff’s eyes and can cause confusion among employees who begin to feel everyone’s on equal turf and there is no ultimate decision-maker. The higher you go in an organization, the lonelier it gets, because as a boss you have access to more confidential information that often can’t or shouldn’t be shared with all your staff equally.
  • Never share anything told to you in confidence by one employee with any others. To do so destroys trust, is disrespectful of that trust, and ruins your ability to mentor and coach your staff.
  • Don’t spread rumors about other staff members, other departments, or even your competitors. It’s your job to set the example of a wise and considerate leader. Your employees look up to you. While it might be tempting to feed the rumor mill, especially if the tidbit is about a colleague or competitor you personally don’t respect, it demeans your reputation, not only in the eyes of your employees, but that of your other colleagues.
  • Don’t say or do anything that you wouldn’t want to see in print or on the internet. That’s always a good rule of thumb not only for you, the boss, but for your staff as well. Once it’s out there, it’s very difficult to make it disappear, especially from the internet.

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