Published on September 25th, 2012 | by Orion Partners


Super boss

 Unsung heroes and why super powers are critical for engagement.

Super boss doesn’t wear his underpants over his trousers.  He doesn’t have a big iron suit, get changed in phone booths (not enough around now everyone’s got smartphones anyway) or become huge and green when you make him angry.  Super boss is a new breed of hero.  He’s already in your business, you just need to work out how to help him use his powers.

 Super boss’ super powers

1.Mind reading

He can’t read minds like a book, but he uses his powers of observation to stay attuned to what is going on for the people in his team.  Super boss is good at reading cues on what motivates people and in particular how the way he chooses to interact with his team can either cause them to feel threatened or rewarded.  He knows that he needs the brain of each person in his team to be in ‘reward’ mode for them to be able to access their creativity, decision making and problem solving skills and for them to be able to manage their own state each day.  He knows when they are in ‘threat’ mode that they will find it harder to manage their emotions and he runs the risk of having a team that starts to unravel very fast.

2. Invisibility (no really)

When her team is really successful she disappears.  Because as super boss says “when my team do well it reflects well on me” so she can stay in the background and let them reap the rewards of all their hard work.  Mind you, this invisibility doesn’t work when things are tough, then she stands with the team, helping them work out solutions.

3. Super strength

Ok so this isn’t the kind of strength that lifts buildings or diverts missiles, but what super boss is really strong at is managing himself, his emotions in particular.  He knows when his temperature is rising because of the traffic on the way to work, and how to make sure by the time he gets in he is ready to meet his team and is calm.  He knows that he needs to take a break if he’s had a stressful meeting with his own boss before he talks to his team, because otherwise he’ll pass on his own stress to them and they’ll all be right back in threat mode.

When they can use these powers, your super bosses empower their teams, who feel respected, engaged and therefore inclined to be more productive.  Bottom line – they perform better, so your business does better.

Sound like something out of science fiction?  Or just a wish list that your managers will never achieve no matter what training you throw at them?  Well, your business has got super bosses.  You might not know they are there but there are some clues as to where you will find them and why they are so important.

  • Those pockets of the business that have really amazing scores when you do your engagement surveys?  They contain a super boss or two.
  • The sales team that is doing really well and isn’t riven by internal competition?  Probably a super boss in there too.
  • The business unit that keeps finding different ways to innovate, save cost or improve products?  There’s a super boss hanging around in there.

What’s so super about super boss is that her powers mean the team she manages are highly engaged, and we know that a business of engaged teams has better financial results, better overall performance, better retention.  Basically a whole load of business super powers.

(Oh, and super boss can fly too – check out his cape.)

At Orion we believe that creating a high engagement culture is the most important thing in delivering brilliant business performance, and that getting more super bosses in your business will have the biggest impact on engagement.  Everything else flows from that.  We also believe there are practical things you can do to create it that go far beyond the engagement survey approach.

So how do you improve engagement through your super bosses, and why do you care?

Most organisations do care, or at least they say they do.  I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t think creating better levels of engagement in their business would be a bad thing.  After all most businesses regularly track engagement levels precisely because they do care.

You care

  • You run a regular engagement survey, so you know what the temperature is across your business.
  • You develop action plans based on the survey results and use these to direct communication and development budgets year to year.
  • You have clear competencies and performance standards for managers, and develop them so they learn how best to manage their teams.

But many businesses don’t really care about engagement, because they don’t do much about it

  • They run a regular engagement survey, which many people don’t believe leads to any changes and sometimes don’t even trust to be confidential
  • They develop action plans based on the survey results, but given that the survey runs every year no one ever really sees much change in how things are done between one survey and the next.
  • They have clear competencies and performance standards, but these haven’t helped managers really connect with what they need to do differently so they don’t build the habits or understand what good really looks like.
  • Engagement has become yet another business process, rather than an outcome of great business practice.

So why don’t you really care?  You know engagement isn’t a fluffy nice to have, it’s business critical.  But having a survey that tells you what is going on doesn’t go nearly far enough in helping your business perform at its best.  In many cases we have found it is because it is difficult to get a handle on what actually helps create engagement that people haven’t gone beyond the survey.  After all, if it was easy you’d have done it already.  So getting to a place where you have lots of super bosses in your business is where we suggest you start.

Our success profile process helps you to get under the skin of what makes these guys so super, to get to their Hero qualities as it were.  This also gets you to the hooks, the emotionally engaging reasons that will help other managers make the change to super boss status.  Your existing management development may teach them many of the skills they need.  Our Success Profile gives them the reason to build the habit of using those skills.

The environment of your business overall will also be a factor.  Super boss may get higher engagement scores than his peers, but he will only ever be able to go so far if your business culture is disengaging overall.  The Success Profile helps us to establish what else helps and hinders engagement.  So you can make simple practical changes, for instance to performance rating categories, if you find these are getting in the way.

Most importantly, we back up the Success Profile with our knowledge of how to work in a brain friendly way.  So we’ll help you use the neuroscience to make any changes in a way that maximises the opportunities for change adoption, rewards people for making the shift to a new way of doing things and minimises the threat we all naturally feel when asked to change.

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About the Author

Orion Partners is a Talent, Leadership and HR consultancy who believe every organisation has the talent they need. The organisation just needs to identify and develop that talent and because this involves change we also believe it is essential that our clients can deliver transformational change in their leaders, HR and employees. Orion helps organisations create and deliver leadership and talent solutions aligned with their business strategy and ensure their HR teams have the right process, capability and technology to deliver on it.

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