What really makes a good boss? Is it one that constantly praises you, or opts to hang out with you after work over a couple of drinks? Is it one that gives you less work and more time off? The ideals vary, so we sought the opinion of a man who wears many hats – Azran Osman-Rani. He is the ex-CEO of iflix and AirAsia X, and now the founder and CEO of the health/tech start-up Naluri. That aside, Azran is also an Ironman athlete set to compete on November 11th (we speak to him about this in our November 2017 print issue, so check that out!). But drawing from so much experience throughout his illustrious career, as he puts it, “If you look at my resume, you’ll just think ‘Wow, what a random collection of things!’”, we ask him to break down 7 essential approaches to becoming a good boss.
Chart a clear and compelling vision
“You’ve got to know where you’re heading and the purpose behind it. Business for the sake of making revenue is not exciting – I think people today want to have an impact on society or on the world. So it’s how you shape that strong sense of purpose.”
Be very clear about who you want to bring on the team
“Focus on the set of values, and the leaders that you bring in – because they are the ones who really set the culture, not just the CEO of the board. It’s the immediate team leaders that you have to deal with. A lot of people focus so much on the experience, but to me, getting an alignment of values is even more important.”
“The only thing you’ve got going for you is speed – how fast you can get things done, and how fast you learn from doing things that worked and didn’t work. For that to happen, that will require something else, which leads us to my next point …”
Practice a two-way communication system
“Most organisations are pretty good at top-down one-way communications, but my philosophy when it comes to leaders is that: “We need to earn the right to hear from your employees.”
“If you simply say that you have an open-door policy and a ‘Come and see me if you’ve got a problem or an idea’ exclamation, virtually nobody takes that up. Or if you do this big town hall meeting and tell them your strategy and direction and say, ‘Ask me anything’, how many people are willing to raise their hands? You can’t assume that you’ve done your part.
“It is about gaining the trust of the employees so that they feel safe and comfortable enough to speak up about their struggles, such as lack of information, lack of clarity, dealing with bad bosses or colleagues. There are also good ideas that are always kept behind and so, good leaders need to earn the trust of his or her team, and create proactive measures to reign this bottom-up information and of course, act on it.
“Also, do not put up with jerks or toxic work environments or team cultures.”
Look up to people who work for you, too
“I hesitate to put one person on a pedestal because it’s less about individuals. It’s more about specific values or traits and at the same time, I also think if you focus on the values and traits that you want to emulate, it doesn’t have to necessarily be from people at the top. They could also be from people under you.
“Sports for example, you don’t look at people who are at the top but you can be just as amazed at the people who are doing a marathon or triathlon for the first time, finishing it more than double the time for a pro to have done it – but that’s grit, that’s tenacity, that’s an ‘I won’t give up attitude’, and I think that’s equally remarkable.”
“I am a huge believer in daily communications, I like daily stand ups – 10 minutes where you just update everyone on what you’re working on, what you’re going to need help with. Everybody just gets a sense of what’s going on, and you can start your day. Issues get flagged sooner and ideas would come faster instead of waiting. So that practice of communicating is key.”
“First of all, I’m not much of a rules person. ‘Must’ and ‘ban’ are very extreme words, because you never know if there are extenuating circumstances for other people. I really don’t like rigidity, such as annual performance reviews, the number of things you’re allowed or not allowed to do, and micromanagement. If you’re on the go or if something comes up, just dropping a quick text to your team, alerting them as to where you are or what you’re up to would do.
“I hate back and forth email conversations, especially if you’re in the same office. Stand up and have a conversation already! Email for me is a good tool to recap, but otherwise, it wouldn’t hurt just to have a casual conversation.”