Do you work for a busy boss? One who is too busy most of the time? Your boss may be so focused on goal achievement that conversations become hurried. People problems distract him/her from paperwork and “results.”

Many managers excel at getting things done, rather than nurturing relationships. Busy bosses tend to be organized task-masters. In many workplaces, achievement of goals is highly valued and determines who gets promoted to upper management.

The problem is that leadership is essentially a people business. This requires a boss to mature with time. With more leadership responsibility, the mature boss learns to focus on people, rather than paperwork.

Effective bosses spend most of their time being with people and solving people problems. In fact, leadership surveys reveal that:

“…the higher the rank, the more interpersonal and human the undertaking. Our top executives spend roughly 90 percent of their time concerned with the messiness of people problems.” (Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders)

In a previous post, I spoke about difficult people at work. Sometimes, the people we have the most trouble getting along with aren’t difficult so much as different from us. They value different things and prioritize work in ways that are foreign to our own thinking. The same goes for managers.

With a very broad brush, you can see two kinds of bosses:

  1. Those who are focused on people
  2. Those who focus on tasks

Managers rise to the top of organizations by virtue of the large volume of tasks they have been able to accomplish well. In other words, they are rewarded for tasks, not for the quality of their relationships with people.

I see this when I go into organizations to work with managers. With a boss who places paperwork over people-work, here’s what happens:

  • Observed behaviors take priority over unseen relationships
  • Paperwork pushes aside small talk
  • Tangible results are the focus of work, people problems are distractions
  • The boss judges others by what they do, not by who they are
  • Relationships and conversations don’t fit into a deadline mentality

Task-oriented leadership can get a boss into big trouble. If the boss isn’t paying enough attention to people, it’s easy to alienate them. People need the boss to appreciate them, not for “doing,” but for “being.”

Organizations always become more complex as they grow, and every boss is bombarded with an increasing amount of data. But, more importantly, there’s an increased need to manage people better. The most effective bosses learn to improve their people skills as they mature into leadership roles.