Few people become effective managers by simply following their gut. Thus, you will need not just self- awareness but self-control, personal discipline, determination and resilience.” - Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader
After 12 years working on the staff of a state REALTOR® association, I made the leap in 2016 to become a local AE. Although my experience working at the state association prepared me for many aspects of my new position, I was feeling less prepared to be “the boss.” The saying “It’s lonely at the top” resonated deeply with me during my first few months.
I, like many of you, started reading every book recommended at AEI sessions and conferences to develop my management skills. My shelves became crowded with books such as Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success; Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less; The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything; and The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence With Everyday Courage (with the accompanying journal, of course).
Then, while attending the NAR Leadership Conference, I had a 30-minute consultation with Carole Kaptur, NAR’s director of strategic association management, where she recommended the book Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader by Linda Annette Hill and Kent Lineback. This guide is not only for those who are new to management, but also for those who have been in management positions and want to continue to develop and improve their skills.
The authors use a fictional company to illustrate the three imperatives, and each chapter opens with a scene from a new manager’s first week on the job. These case studies helped me follow how these imperatives can be implemented. At the end of each section, the authors provide a series of questions for you to assess where you are in your own management journey.
Being the Boss is divided into three sections that mirror your responsibility as an AE: “Manage Yourself,” “Manage Your Network” (leadership and members), and “Manage Your Team” (staff).
The first imperative, “Manage Yourself,” focuses on your relationship with the people you manage and the connection between influence and trust. I am the AE of a 2,000-member association and I supervise three full-time staff people. There are challenges to managing a small staff and drawing the line between being friendly and being a friend. Hill and Lineback state, “Management begins with who you are and how people perceive you. Don’t focus your relationships around either authority or friendship. Build them on trust in your competence and character.” This has helped me in my daily interactions with not only my staff but also my board members.
The second imperative, “Manage Your Network,” may resonate more with those who are managers in a larger organization, so I viewed my networks to be my fellow AEs and the members of my association. The best takeaway from this section was on building and sustaining key relationships. I am an introvert and networking is a challenge for me, which is why I appreciated that the authors outlined specific steps for building a network, such as, “Set your mind to engaging others, approach it with the right attitude, use any social tools available, find a style you’re comfortable with, and then work it systematically and diligently.” Basically, force yourself to network until it becomes second nature.
The third imperative, “Manage Your Team,” is the section that really hit home for me. It is also the most heavily highlighted, starred, and marked section of my book. As a new AE, I “inherited” three staff members who were not functioning as a team. My goal was to change that dynamic, but I was met with resistance because I was attempting to make changes without a clear plan and common goals. Hill and Lineback define a team as “. . . a group of people who do collective work and are mutually committed to a common team purpose and challenging goals related to that purpose.” I needed to slow down, develop a plan, and then work to create buy-in from staff. The chapter “Be Clear About How Your Team Works” is the one I refer to the most because it covers how to clarify specific roles of your team and also how the team makes decisions, how to shape team culture, and, most importantly, how to coach and evaluate your team.
There is a sign in my office that defines a boss as a person who exercises strength, authority, and understanding for the greater good. If only it were that easy. Being the boss has great rewards, but it is by far the most challenging role I have undertaken (outside of raising two boys). Having this book in my proverbial toolbox has helped me grow as an AE and a leader.