Anyone who has worked in enough companies knows good and bad bosses. Tough Things First guest host Rob Artigo, talks with Ray Zinn and Ray’s former employee, Paul Moore, about what makes a good boss.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo. I’m a writer and business owner in California and guest host for this edition of Tough Things First. Hi Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey, Hey, How ya’ doing Rob?
Rob Artigo: Hey we’ve got on with us, here for Tough Things First, Paul Moore. A former employee of yours. Did about 16 years of work with you at Micrel. So it’s good to have both of you on the show. And what I want to talk about … this is an interesting perspective here because I have an employee and a boss and an employee who was a boss himself. So I want to talk about making yourself a better boss. How to be a better boss.
Paul Moore: I don’t think there’s much room for me.
Rob Artigo: For you.
Paul Moore: Oh yeah. I’m the best boss. Okay, good. I’m glad you laughed because you know I’m kidding.
Rob Artigo: Being realistic about your own abilities to lead is probably an important attribute if you want to be a good boss.
Ray Zinn: Absolutely. So, if you think back … Paul you know, you can respond there/here too … Is to what do you think makes a good boss. So Paul, I’m going to throw it to you.
Paul Moore: I think really getting to know the individual. I decided that I can’t be the same boss, so to speak, to everyone. I have to understand the individual. How they hear things. I had people that were very touchy with real direct instructions. It would bother than immensely. They felt like I was bullying them. But I did listen, so I got that feedback.
So what I took away from that is when you’re addressing the whole organization under you, you deliver a message a certain way and that’s more public speaking. But in the one on one you got to build relationships with them. So I always had a weekly meeting just to get to know them. And I try to go down to their desk to see what their problem was and how I could help them. So I try to be a helper in getting things out of their way. Helping them get skills that they needed so they could accomplish the tasks that I gave them. And try to maybe even take tasks off of them that they couldn’t do. I –
Ray Zinn: Paul, but I remember you telling me, and also hearing input that that was considered a little bit micromanaging. In other words they looked at you as kind of telling them what to do rather than showing them what to do.
Paul Moore: Oh yeah. I definitely had to back off of that. You’re right.
Ray Zinn: Okay. So let’s talk about the attributes of what makes a good boss. So Rob, I mean you’ve worked for different companies too, so let’s talk about what makes a good boss?
Rob Artigo: I think – Paul mentioned something that I think is really important and that’s that the boss understands his assets. Meaning that the employees are individuals and they are assets in his purview or his control. And know what they’re all about, doing due diligence, and getting an idea of what that person’s all about so that they know how to deal with them and work with them. A good boss is somebody that the employees are familiar enough with that they know that they’re engaged. That’s been my experience. When I find –
Ray Zinn: Are they good listeners?
Rob Artigo: They’re very good listeners. What I find breaks down that relationship is when the boss comes in, maybe he’s new to the department, but he’s taking over because it happens all the time. Obviously, people move around, shuffle around. Over the course of ten years working at a company you might have several bosses who take one particular role. Come in, come out, and one in, one out sort of thing. But if the boss comes in and is introduced, this is Steve he’s taking over the office blah blah blah and then Steve goes over to his door closes it and disappears, sits behind a desk behind a closed door and that’s where he works. And, never engages the other employees, other than to send emails out that are edicts. Do this, do that.
So I think the communication has to be there because I’ve experienced both. If you sit behind a door and you’re not visible and you’re not engaged, and you can also go to the other extreme where the boss becomes so familiar to the employees that they lose respect for him.
Does that makes sense?
Ray Zinn: Okay, but what makes a good listener? How do you know a person’s a good listener? Tell us that.
Rob Artigo: Well let’s ask Paul, what does Paul think?
Paul Moore: Way back when, when I was in college I took a class called Interpersonal Communication. And one of the skills they taught us was have the ability to paraphrase what the person is saying to you. It’s a persuasion process. I’m going to paraphrase what you’re saying so you know I’m really listening to you. So it’s not just the act of receiving input through your ear canal. It’s also letting somebody know that you can take their ideas and express them in your own words. And that really makes a person walk away and feel like, “Hey, what I had to say was absorbed by that person.” And I’ve gotten feedback actually on my skill at doing that, I’m not trying to prop myself up as a great boss, but I’ve had people tell me you know I really appreciate that. That you take the time to express that you’ve heard me so express …
Ray Zinn: How many bosses have you had Paul that you’ve thought were good listeners? Direct bosses, people that you’ve reported directly to.
Paul Moore: I think I’ve been very lucky. You know I really, I can’t say that I’ve liked 100% of every boss I’ve every had 100% of the time. Some of it being my own fault. But, I think I’ve had some really good listeners. Very few bosses that were poor listeners.
I think that’s one that you did very well Ray. You know, I don’t know what the public sees of you, but you’re definitely a strong character and I’ve always been surprised in how you can click on that listening mode. You know, we’re having a conversation and BOOM you just change over to, okay, he’s letting me have my time to express myself.
Rob Artigo: Ray is not the kind of person who starts talking before you’re done in your sentence. He listens and then sometimes it’s like you pause second thinking did the line go dead? Is he still there? Because he’s listening, absorbing the information and that’s one thing that I appreciate about Ray Zinn is his ability to listen completely through to your point before he responds. Go ahead Ray.
Ray Zinn: Well I was waiting, so anyway thank you. Well, I appreciate those comments.
So I think we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. And we ought to use them proportionally. So, if you have a boss that’s a good listener meaning that they smile, they’re listening intently, they’re not smirking. By the way, smirking is not smiling. If they’re not sitting back in their chair if they’re forward is a good sign. If they have a calm, a steady voice. If they repeat back what you said so that you know that they understood what you’re saying. Those are good indicators that this is a good listener.
And so that’s the things we want to get across here is that being a good listener is more than just having somebody come in and talk, because you know they want to know that you’re hearing them. And so I think one of the most positive attributes that a good boss can have is be a good listener. And being a willing listener. Somebody who really wants to know and lets you know how much you appreciate their time.
For example, when I’m talking with somebody and they’re coming in to talk to me, I always express appreciation. Thanks for coming today. Thanks for being here. And then when I end, when the conversation is over I say, “Thanks for taking your time, I know your day is full and you’re very busy, but thanks for taking the time with me today.” They appreciate that.
Rob Artigo: You mentioned body language. That’s good. I’ve seen in some scenarios, often times in kind of a comedic scenario, where you walk into the boss’s office (and it’s a big office and there’s a big oak desk), and the boss is kind of elevated in a big chair behind the desk, and it’s as if the chair that he’s asking you to sit in has the legs cut down a couple of inches so you’re even lower than that. He’s looking down the desk, or across this big desk at you, and down at you at the same time.
I have found situations where a boss calls you into the office, and you’re going up there, it can be intimidating. But, having a sitting area that’s not at the desk but off to the side of the desk where it’s a nice sort of more comfortable environment, and less formal. So that you can have a conversation with the boss, without feeling like you’re in that little chair and they’re sitting on a phone book, you know, behind the desk and looking down at you. Is that fair?
Ray Zinn: That’s right. Yeah. Those are good suggestions. Sure.
Rob Artigo: Better boss, Paul. How can you be a better boss in the modern American workforce?
Paul Moore: Better. Boy I just go back to listening Rob.
It’s just … for me it’s about making sure I form that relationship. So there’s a trust built. So, if on a day that I’m not in such a great mood, and I don’t have the perfect body language. I’ve had a history of building trust.
One of the management guides I’ve listened to over the years is called, “Management Tools” … I believe it’s called. It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to them. But, they’re really good guides. And they have a critique system, they call it feedback, and they start that whole system with only positive feedback. That’s it. So what they’re trying to do is build the trust say, “Hey I know you’re a good guy.”
And so if you spend your whole day just putting out fires, people are going to think that you don’t like them. And they’ll starting worrying about their value in the organization. So what I want to do is make sure people understand that I really value them. And build that trust first. And it allows for the relationship to be a little more than having to be a perfect person or a perfect boss. So I can be a little more human and they can be a little more forgiving on those days where I’m not a perfect listener, or I’m not delivering my message in the best way I can. So build trust with your employees by making sure they understand that they have value to you.
Ray Zinn: Just love your employees. That’s the bottom line. Truly love them. They will feel it. If you truly love them they will feel it.
Rob Artigo: Let me ask you one last question and we’ll wrap it up. And I think either one of you can answer this and maybe both of you will have some input here.
But Paul was an employee of yours who was also a boss. And so in that position he was an employee and a boss. When you have that person in between upper management and whatever the project happens to be. How it worked out with Paul’s position I’m not exactly sure. But, when you’re an employee of a boss who has a boss. This dividing line between the higher ups and the lower people and you got that boss that’s in between. I don’t want to call him middle management in some kind of negative way, but you want to be the good communicator. You want to be a successful manager of those people. But at the same time you also have a master that you have to serve. And you have to be a go between if the employees aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing in the eyes of the boss boss. You have to have an important relationship where you deal with the people you work for, and the people who work for you. Correct?
Paul Moore: Yeah, yes. And that is very tricky at times. And then even think of four level Rob. You’re kind of describing three levels, but think of four levels. So I have a boss between Ray and I. There were many times … Ray ran a very transparent organization so reach up and down the organization was very open door policy if you will. Everybody talked to everybody and that would cause consternation between me and my boss and Ray. And there would be times where it would feel like a vice but through it all if you just had good communication and were honest about what you’re trying to achieve. Those ripples and waves that you describe they would just work themselves out. You just had to be patient for people again, go back to my trust thing. Hey look Ray’s trying to understand what I’m doing, he’s not trying to usurp your power or anything like that. So, again I’ll go back to trust. As long as they know that I’m fulfilling my role to get a project done and I’m not organizing around them, or with somebody else above them, managing those kinds of things.
The other thing is again Ray’s a very powerful guy. And some of the people that I had reporting to me didn’t understand that Ray was also very approachable. So what I would do is I would encourage them. I’d say, “Hey you know what, Ray’s the kind of guy who when he gives out bonuses he likes to know, did my bonus have any impact?” Well I encourage you to tell him, “Hey Ray, thanks a bunch.” And it took a lot of convincing and persuasion to say hey thanks Ray. But once they did I’ll tell you what they were just clicking their heels and they were very happy because Ray was receptive to their thank you.
And then I basically taught them that even though you’re below me in a hierarchal sense, you’re not below me and you’re not below Ray. We’re all people here and communicating and trusting one another is an important thing.
Ray Zinn: You know bottom line is the way you should look at, whether you’re an employee or whether you’re a boss, is treat others like you would be treated. Like you would want to be treated. The old saying, do onto others as you would have they do onto you. So, that’s really the key. The key is treat others like you’d like to be treated.
Rob Artigo: Thanks a lot Ray, we appreciate it. I’m Rob Artigo guest host today. And we’ve had Paul Moore with us here today.
Ray Zinn: Thanks a lot.