He was called “The Boss”. He was born to lead and achieve. He was driven to succeed. People only had two reactions to him – they either liked him or disliked him. There was no middle ground. Say what you want, even if you disliked him and disagreed with his approach, one thing was always perfectly clear – you always knew where he stood on an issue (by the way, in my mind this is key for any effective leader). He was George Steinbrenner.
To describe his management style as unique and colorful, would be an understatement. His style worked for him. It may not work for you. Regardless, every “Boss” has a unique style – some work and some don’t. However, Steinbrenner did get results (and made many players very wealthy in the process) by winning 11 penants and 7 championships after he bought the team in 1973. At the end of the day, business results do matter.
Not everyone wants to be a boss or should be a boss. There is no shame in being the best you can be at what you feel you do best. However, if you do aspire to be a business leader then, the title alone will not make it happen nor will waiting for the leadership genie to appear and sprinkle you with “leadership dust”. So, if you have decided to be a boss (leader) what are you doing to find your style, develop it and make it work for you and your team?
Steve Tobak in his July 14, 2010 blog post described the key aspects of Steinbrenner’s mangement style. I have summarized some of them as follows:
1.He made sure his players knew who was The Boss.
2.He was demanding. He said that he learned from his father that “I can’t” was never an acceptable answer.
3.He hired the best, and kept them.
4.Failure was never an option. He paid the best and expected his team to win.
5.He had a singlular focus – win – he once said “Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next.”
6.He instilled that winning focus within his organization.
Let’s review some of these in a bit more detail and draw some comparisons to you, your business and your professional growth.
First, if you don’t have a vision for your company; your team, etc – you are not a leader and clearly will never be “The Boss” (Duh? Think about it… if you have no vision of where you want to go how do people know when and where to follow you?). Don’t think for a second that Steinbrenner built his shipping business or the Yankees by “making it up as he went”. He had a plan; a vision that he constantly adjusted as he collected more knowledge and experience. He learned from the good times as well as the bad times – that’s what leaders do – they learn and apply that knowledge to their present situation to create the future they want and boost their companies performance.
Second, with a vision, a leader is able (he or she better if they expect to keep their leaders job!) to set expectations and standards for the team. Steinbrenner set high standards for his team and held them accountable to meet these expectations. On this point alone, he was the most consistent (for you leader want-a-be’s out there, remember that consistency builds trust and trust is what leaders use with their followers). Far too often, business leaders (including business owners) are way too tolerant in accepting mediocre levels of performance. Some of you don’t even have expectations and then you get angry when your team doesn’t perform up to your “non-stated” standards – get your head out of that dark spot! If you don’t have standards; then you have nothing to communicate and guess what – your team has no guidance and your business flounders. It’s your fault!
Throughout my career, I was always in a leadership position. The following info was developed from my succcesses and, my mistakes (in all honesty, more was learned from the mistakes and boy, did I make mistakes! Some really big ones…). Hopefully, you might find my experiences helpful to you as you think about boosting your team’s performance through standards and expectations:
1. set some level of minimum performance below which you are not willing to accept
2. spend the time training your team so they understand what needs to be done and the standards that determine satisfactory performance
3. make sure that your team understands the consequences of performance that either meet or exceed your standards as well as when the standards are not met
4. act quickly to recognize good performance as well as performance that does not meet the standards
5. every chance you get reinforce the right actions on the part of your team – when they get that type of feedback, they will repeat their actions and encourage others to do the same.
Third, before you can set expectations for your team, you have to have a team – made up with the right people. Many do not have a clear cut description of who they want to hire; the skills they need to have and how they should perform. I learned a long time ago that we “tend to hire” our own problems. Some of you even go into an interview without any idea of the questions you need to ask or how to evaluate the responses you get to them from the candidate – yet, if they “look good” or have a neat resume you hire them. Then, and here’s the best part, 90 or so days after they are on your team, they are “not the same person” or they “don’t seem to get it”. Who hired them? You did and you made a costly mistake. How costly? Well, if you make a mistake and hire the wrong person in a $50,000 mid-level professional position, the cost to your company – after 90 to 120 days – would be approximately $20,000. Remember to have an effective team, you need to have the right people; with the right skills; in the right roles at the right time. You have to set this standard and demand accountability to it. No exceptions.
Steinbrenner once said “if you can’t make tough decisions, then you can’t be the boss”. Leaders (Bosses) know they have to make tough decisions. In most cases, they thrive on making tough decisions. These decisions are often made quickly and based on less than perfect data. They know that hesitation can be deadly. I wrote about this in a prior post (actually one of my Coach’s Rants) entitled “How do you cut the tail off of a dog”? It might be a good time to go back and re-read it because how you make decisions is critical to the progress you make going forward.
Leaders have a vision or a plan. They are able to communicate that plan to their team and show them where each of them fit in. A leader sets the standard and holds the team accountable to meet those standards. A leader never offers or accepts excuses. They look for solutions and a way around problems. They do not shrink in the face of having to make a tough decision. When a leader does all of these things consistently and persistently then and only then can they be called “The Boss.”