What Great Bosses Know about Success

As we prepare to welcome a big group to our Leadership for Today’s New Managers seminar next month, I’m thinking about one of the biggest transitions these newsroom leaders will make: the way in which they will define success for themselves.

Before becoming managers, employees have pretty clear measures of success — and they’re all understandably self-centered. They may include some or all of these:

  • My supervisors view me as a high performer.
  • I’ve been trusted with increasingly challenging assignments.
  • I’m a go-to person when the work is important and the stakes are high.
  • I’m sought out by colleagues to work on their teams.
  • I win awards.

When staffers move into management, they learn that their past personal accomplishments are merely the prelude to a wholly new and daunting responsibility and identity. As managers, their job isn’t simply to get the work done the way the organization wants it; the most important thing bosses do is help others grow.

Permit me to repeat that: The most important thing bosses do is help others grow.

Ask great bosses to share how they arrived at that understanding. They’re likely to tell you it was a learning process, one in which they moved from focusing on their past glories to seeing themselves as agents of their staff’s future success. They’ll tell you how they moved from the initial fear and frustration of dealing with the demands and expectations of their employees, to the genuine enjoyment of constructive interactions with them.

Great bosses come to measure their success by these types of metrics:

  • People on my team are doing outstanding work.
  • I’ve helped underperformers raise their game, including some whom other managers gave up on.
  • I’m honored when former employees who have moved on to bigger and better things say I helped them get there.
  • My staff doesn’t feel the need to run every decision past me; we’re on the same page about our values and priorities.
  • When people on my team win awards, I’m right there in the audience applauding them. It’s a great feeling.

So here’s my advice to you: Remember that arriving at this point as a manager will take the same dedication you put into being a star performer, only now you are a teacher, coach, mentor and occasional butt-kicker. You know when to slip into and out of those roles for individual employees, doing so at the same time you are tending to a mountain of other management responsibilities.

Success through others. It’s the ultimate responsibility and joy of being a manager.

Now, a little candid talk is also in order. Are you worried that the whole idea of “success through others” means you could end up as simply the undervalued caretaker of your team? How do you make certain your own light still shines? I’ll tell you how in today’s podcast, “What Great Bosses Know about Success.”

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and everywhere.

You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or to any of our podcasts on iTunes U.

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