Women In Business

4 Steps to becoming a better boss

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Women are inundated with advice concerning how to advance into managerial and leadership positions within the workplace. But what happens when you get there? How do you keep improving when you have a team beneath you to manage? Every successful woman knows that a plateau can be death for a burgeoning career.

Don’t let it happen to you. Here are 4 steps to improving your ability to lead your team and be the best boss you can be.

Keep your image professional

Sometimes it pays to have a great degree of professional distance between yourself and your subordinates. Women are often caught between a rock and a hard place: if you’re too friendly, you’re called flirtatious; if you’re not friendly enough, you’re an ice queen. The world is changing for the better in this regard, but you’re bound to meet some old-fashioned knuckleheads at some point in your career.

The best thing you can do for yourself and your other subordinates is to behave naturally and professionally in the workplace. Know that your subordinates will sometimes vent about you, and they will have inside jokes and camaraderie that you just can’t engage in as their boss. That’s O.K. Make peace with it, and still find the joy in working with them, because if you can’t they will be able to read you like a book.

If you’re worried about your image in the workplace, make visible efforts to improve yourself. Attend seminars, read all the works you can by your leadership role models, and integrate the lessons learned this way into your leadership style. When your subordinates see that you are constantly improving yourself, they will feel inclined to do the same.

Delegate more often and better

Women in leadership roles often feel pressure to bite off more work than is their fair share. It is easy for a man to be perceived as powerful in the workplace, thanks to societal images of the boss as hypermasculine, but when a woman passes off some responsibilities, she is seen as weak, lazy, or overwhelmed.

Don’t fall into that trap. When you’re delegating tasks, be frank about the reasons why you are delegating. Make your expectations clear from the offset to the employee without seeming desperate or like you feel the need to justify your behavior.

And don’t be afraid to outsource: when it comes to event planning or meeting management, there are so many resources available that it would be silly to overburden yourself just for the fear of looking weak. Strong managers know what can (and should) be delegated; a wise manager knows where to delegate.

Learn how to negotiate (as a boss)

You’ve probably studied the art of negotiation from the perspective of an employee, but have you carefully considered the strategy you’ll take in negotiating as a manager? Negotiating extends beyond just salaries and numbers: it encompasses the smaller things, like vacation days and department budgets.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that bosses intrinsically have the upper hand and therefore don’t need to prep for negotiations. This just isn’t true. If you’re approaching discussions with the idea of just taking an opposite approach from that you used when you were a subordinate, you’re putting yourself at risk of being blindsided by your employees.

Enter negotiations with clear boundaries of what you’re willing to give (and take). Know what the other party, usually a subordinate, is looking for, and set both upper and lower limits on what you can offer at the table. Be honest with yourself about the value of this employee, and have an answer ready when the employee inevitably asks what their worth to you is at the company.

…and then teach your subordinates

Just like you ask your employees and job applicants to prove their value to you, you need to provide value to the subordinates you manage. One of the ways to do this is to diligently pass on all that you have learned as a manager and what you’ve learned over the course of your career.

Great managers differentiate themselves by not only leading by example but by taking on a mentorship type role in their interactions with subordinates. This isn’t to say that you need to expend most of your energy nursing the careers of others. That would be ludicrous! But you need to show that you have a vested interest in the success of those people who work hard beneath you, or else they won’t care.

There is a way to do this without being condescending or overly preachy in the course of teaching. When you dole out advice, you want to be receptive to taking it in turn, too. Show your employees that you can take as good as you give, and you will cultivate an active and thoughtful team. Otherwise, you could end up with a group of disgruntled, overworked employees out for your head.

About Susan Alvarado

susana@thebusinesswomanmedia.com'

Susan Alvarado is a business trainer and advisor specializing in HR and communications strategies

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