The Shift from Fearing the Boss to Embracing the B.O.S.S.

Shift from fearing the boss

“It’s what the boss wants.” 

“I guess I’m bound to it because the boss requires it.” 

“What the boss says goes.” 

In business, many employees find themselves thinking—or even saying—one of these statements when it comes to their superior. They feel obligated to follow the direction that their leaders provide but blindly following a leader doesn’t create a culture of innovation, open community and empowerment. In fact, challenges occur when employees’ opinions aren’t valued, heard and sought out. 

Being on a team is hard enough; when your leader is family it can be downright challenging. In my humble, family business consulting opinion, when a family business is at hand, a different B.O.S.S. should take the lead.  

Family Businesses Must Satisfy the B.O.S.S.

As you can imagine, what one thinks of as boss and what I am referencing aren’t one in the same. The B.O.S.S. concept was developed by Sherod Miller in a communications and management-of-differences program that assists families in business to create a dialogue that allows their family point of view to emerge. His approach (and the one I support) isn’t built on ensuring a “boss” is satisfied. Instead, it’s built on ensuring the family is. 

B Stands for Business

What does the business need in order to be successful? 

A successful business isn’t derived from a successful leader; it’s from a successful team and business as a whole. And, when talking about family businesses, the family needs to carefully consider the needs of the business and the family to ensure they manage and prevent problems. Family business problems can leak into family time and relationships, so it’s important to keep the two in alignment.

O Stands for Other

What do you want for the Other family members involved in the business regarding what they want?

I believe that the O is the most important part of the B.O.S.S. model for family businesses. It’s not unusual for family members to think that no one cares about what they want. Parents and adult children alike often feel unheard, leading to hidden resentment and misconceptions. Only through a process of discovery, where family members share their personal and business wants, is each family member able to understand what the others want. This reciprocal commitment creates a team committed to one another’s success. 

S Stands for Self

What do you want for your Self?

If you don’t articulate what you want for yourself, no one will and honestly, no one else can. It’s important to share what you want for yourself, but keep in mind that a business can’t survive, and won’t, on self-interest alone. Yes, your wants and needs matter, but the business needs greater context. I am a believer in building a Common Family Vision where the family as a whole makes a promise to contribute to the common good of the family. 

S Stands for Stakeholders

What do you want for the other Stakeholders?

Easy to overlook but important to keep close: stakeholders. When mentioning stakeholders, many think of a handful, but I don’t want you to forget all that are involved including: the family as a whole, employees, customers, vendors, board of directors and even the community at large. Knowing your goals for how your business can serve all stakeholders will ensure you create a solutions-focused approach where everyone succeeds. 

A single boss’ satisfaction shouldn’t be the goal for anyone on a team, family businesses included. Instead, utilizing the B.O.S.S. approach will create win-win solutions that honor every member of the family, all employees and all stakeholders too. This approach leads to different phrases said around the water cooler, such as: 

“How can the business succeed?”

“What do you think about this idea?”

“I’m so glad that we get to serve in this meaningful way.”

What a shift in outcomes when a different B.O.S.S. is prioritized!