Reflecting back on my best bosses over the years I realized they all had a common trait. As one said, his job was to be an umbrella for his team. I loved the image then and kept it in mind as I moved into supervision. So how is a boss an umbrella for those below him?
First the intent is to shield the team from the storms that run down from above. This means as a supervisor you need to deal with the organizational issues and pass on what your team needs. Protecting the team from the whims of bosses is a critical element of creating effective teams. It also means exposing them to what they need to know. Just like an umbrella you can’t shelter them from everything, just the worst of it all.
Next the umbrella allows the user to get out and about no matter what the weather. Likewise, a boss that enables their team to act independently creates an environment conducive to individual growth. Some exposure to the overall organization allows people to be seen by those above and to see the broader organizational picture.
The final characteristic of an effective umbrella is that the user has the option of using it or being exposed to the elements. As a boss, giving your people appropriate levels of autonomy to make decisions and live with the consequences is a key to being an effective leader. As individuals gain competence and skills they need to be able to make decisions and act independently. If they know their boss has their back and will help them when things get ugly they will make better decisions.
As a supervisor if you take on the persona of an umbrella it will help you create a more effective and independent team which will allow you to focus on the higher level issues. This then leads to your growth and development. As your team becomes effective at working on their own with guidance and shielding from you more gets done by everyone.
Keys to being an umbrella boss are:
- Shield the Team: Filter what you pass on to the team members. Sometimes things don’t need to be passed on as they will cause confusion and / or stress.
- Allow Mobility: Let your team get out and interact with other parts of the organization.
- User Control: Allow individuals to act independently as appropriate. Be there for them if they need help, but let them decide when to call in for help.
My best bosses had all of these characteristics and gave me room to grow and develop my own skills. How did your favorite boss help you grow?