How To Be A Great Boss; a Book Review

How To Be A Great Boss; a Book Review

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There are hundreds of studies about how to be a great boss — honestly, there might be close to millions of said studies — and that makes perfect sense. A lot of us become bosses in our careers, and it’s one of the more challenging aspects of a business. How To Be a Great Boss by Gino Wickman and René Boer share valuable insights into being a great boss.    

Now, in addition to worrying about our targets and scorecards, we’re also responsible for worrying about people, their development, issues that might arise outside of work, and their scorecards and targets as well. It becomes a complex picture, and not many excel at it — Gallup has done research showing 82% of managers end up being the wrong hire. That’s a staggering failure rate.

You may have heard of Google’s “Project Aristotle” in this space, which was their quest to figure out what made good bosses and good teams. A major takeaway there was the presence of “psychological safety” on teams, meaning bosses and team members feel everyone has each other’s backs on various projects.

Gino Wickman, a visionary behind EOS®, has framed it up this way: as frustrated as you might get with your people, they are always going to be your No. 1 competitive advantage. (At least until automation gets to full scale, and that might take several more generations.) Wickman and Rene Boer, then, wrote a book called How To Be A Great Boss. Wickman acknowledges in the very early stages of the book that many of the ideas are simple in nature, but simple is different than easy.

You will have probably run into a lot of these ideas before, such as the five management practices:

  1. Keep expectations clear (i.e. measurables)
  2. Communicate well
  3. Maintaining the right meeting pulse
  4. Quarterly conversations
  5. Rewarding and recognizing

None of these things are new inventions, and any of us who have been a boss know the importance of them. One difference in the EOS® model is around meetings. Many bosses abhor meetings, and with good measure. Bosses have a lot of stuff on their plate, and meetings are often meandering wastes of time. That’s why you see a lot of companies move to a monthly system, meaning there are 12 big check-ins a year.

Wickman and the EOS® model actually suggests weekly check-ins, seeing the value of a 52 times/year “pulse” for alignment between execution-level employee and decision-maker. If the meetings are organized well or around singular purposes, the 52 model pulse works.

To broadly illustrate the role of a boss, Wickman and Boer discuss the 1936 Olympics and the University of Washington rowing team. Despite being in the worst lane — high winds, choppy waves — they won the gold medal, and are the subject of the book The Boys in the Boat. Al Ulbrickson was their coach. While quiet — which goes against the model of modern bosses needing to be everywhere and commenting on everything — Ulbrickson put his rowers in optimal spots within the boat to succeed with their strengths. He also spoke with each one about what the race, and the Olympics, meant to them in general. He had them ready and unified. They defied the odds and won the gold.

Being a boss is about getting it (why it matters), wanting it (success), and having the capacity to succeed. This book walks through concrete examples of how exactly to do that with direct reports, and thus it’s highly valuable, especially for first-time bosses.

One final thing I found valuable in here was a discussion, near the end, of “good turnover vs. bad turnover.” So many examples of business journalism these days just universally assign turnover as a bad thing, but oftentimes turnover is great — you need to get the wrong people out of your business too, or at least into different roles. Many miss this now, and seeing Wickman and Boer point it out was valuable.  

Have you read How to Be a Great Boss? What was your key takeaway? Leave us a comment or email us info@gcestrategicconsulting.com