Management guru and professor Robert Sutton’s famous piece “12 Things Good Bosses Believe” has influenced my work as a team architect. So here’s part four in a blog series exploring how each thing good bosses believe can impact your team and your workplace. Today’s post: The best bosses believe: “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.”
One thing I tell my clients over and over and over again: YOU are the boss — so YOU get to make choices. Your key to doing this well? Being assertive. Sometimes, people think of assertive as aggressive — and that’s a big misconception.
Being assertive doesn’t mean being a pushy, overbearing jerk. But being assertive does mean being decisive and providing your team with structure. Yes, it is a delicate balance . . . but you’ve earned the right to be assertive. You also have an obligation to do so.
Being assertive means giving your team the structure they need to thrive. So what should that structure look like? It comes in the form of setting clear expectations for your team and holding them accountable for behavior. Give timely feedback. Make meeting agendas and stick to them. Be fair and consistent with your team. All of these actions allow you to be assertive and provide structure for your team. You know the kind of structure your team needs, and by being assertive, you get to provide that structure.
Set smart rules. One rule I had as a manager for my team focused on their ideas and my decisions. My team members could come to me with any idea they had, and I promised to listen with an open mind. But if I made a decision the employee didn’t support, or if I kept things the way they were? My decision to make, I’ve earned the right to make it . . . and its my final choice.
Have the courage to set non-negotiables. It’s good for your employees and good for you to sometimes say, This is what’s best for business and this is what really matters to me, so it’s a non-negotiable. Having a few non-negotiable items act as your accountability pieces. Once you have those down and define them, it’s so much easier to pick our battles.
Finally, remember that key word in what I always tell my clients . . . you are the boss, so you GET to make choices. Making choices and acting assertively is a privilege…and a necessity. It’s a responsibility you earned, a responsibility you’re capable of handling. It’s not a have to . . . it’s a get to. And that little shift in mindset can make all the difference.