I’m still learning how to be a better boss, and can’t say that I’ve always handled things perfectly, but some of the techniques I use stem from my own experiences with bosses who handled things badly.
And boy, have my bosses brought on the massive fail whale* when it comes to technology. Nothing makes your staff lose respect for you faster than demonstrating your ineptitude with everyday office tools. So, suck it up and master the technology your staff uses.
Learn basic word processing.
One boss constantly interrupted my work to ask me to show her what command to use to get Word (it might have been Word Perfect – it was that long ago) to create an envelope automatically from a letter file. I actually wrote down the instructions, which amounted to CTRL+E or something like that, but she continued in her willful ignorance.
Nothing screams I’m old & in the way like an unformatted document. At a minimum, learn CTRL+B so that your agenda can say agenda at the top of the page. If you truly struggle with formatting, have your assistant set up templates for the documents you create most often.
Then, of course, learn to open and use templates.
You may not like email, but get over it, because email is your friend in the workplace.
Interim CEO who could read emails but did not understand the reply or forward features, and anyone who cannot open an attached document, I’m talking to you.
Learn to use the copier and fax.
You need to know the basics, because some day, you’ll be on a deadline and no one else will be there.
Make an effort to at least TRY to clear a paper jam before calling someone else. And under no circumstances should you simply slink away and hope someone else will figure it out. Remember, whatever jammed in the machine will still be there when the next person does clear it, and you’ll be implicated. And it really sucks when what you left jammed in the copier is confidential.
I have learned so much by leafing through things left on the copier!
Have an explicit policy about cell phones.
First, a threshold issue. If you do not pay for your staff members’ cell phones, or at least provide some sort of allowance, it is not fair to require staff to use them for work purposes, or to include staff cell phone numbers on any sort of non-emergency work contact list.
Respect the power of the tool and set some basic parameters for how you expect people to use it. Just because you can call at any hour doesn’t mean you should. Calling at 7 a.m. when office hours don’t begin until 9 isn’t cool.
And, while you might be willing to dive across the car to dig your phone out of your purse to answer a call during rush hour traffic, don’t expect your staff to endanger themselves or break any laws by talking while driving.
If you leave voice mail messages, be sure your staff understands you expect them to listen to voice messages before returning calls, if that’s what you expect. Conversely, if you expect them to always return a call just because your number shows up as the most recent call, make that clear.
You’ll need to learn to text, too. If you don’t understand (or want to use) standard texting abbreviations, be clear about that fact.
If you have a database, use the database.
Powerful databases make business easier. If you use them. So use them!
If you use constituent relationship management software, then you must enter data about those relationships. Don’t meet with a client to answer a question or resolve an issue, then get mad at your staff person for trying to do the same thing a week later because you neglected to track that contact in the system.
If you truly are too busy, lazy, or clueless to learn how to enter the data, create a paper form you can fill out and give to someone else so it can be entered by that person.
A corollary—do not call your staff member to ask for a phone number, email, or other piece of information stored in the database unless you have looked up that record and the information is not in the database.
Most have pre-programmed reports. Please do not require your staff to create labor-intensive reports in Excel or Word when a pre-programmed report will do. If you don’t like the reports your database generates, spend the money to have the company that supports the system create the report you do want.
At least be familiar with the lingo. And those gosh-darned internets.
Not sure what a fail whale is? You may never need to use Twitter for work, or whatever the next new technology is, but your staff may find a way to use it, so you’ll at least need to know the basics.
Wonder why your IT guy has a coffee mug that says RTFM? Well, if you have always suspected that the IT guy is laughing at you, not with you, and he has an RTFM coffee mug, then your suspicion is correct.
*The fail whale, by the way, is explained here. I found this information by googling “what is the fail whale.”
If the paragraph on RTFM didn’t clear anything up for you, google RTFM. The acronym even has its own web page. Depending upon your workplace policy, that link may be NSFW.
NSFW? Just google.
If you don’t use google as a verb, retire.