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Authenticity, honesty and other keys to becoming a “magnetic leader”

Management expert Roberta Matuson says any company’s success is driven by its employees. To illustrate, she points to this example: Say you go to a restaurant with stunning décor and stellar cuisine, but the service stinks. You won’t go back.

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Matuson argues that management success today is all about attracting people who want to work for you. In her book The Magnetic Leader, she lays out a plan for becoming the type of manager employees want to work for.

In her view, magnetic leaders create companies that thrive. However, “Teflon leaders” – those who repel employees – are destined to struggle.

In an interview with getAbstract, Matuson described her management philosophy.

I’m a manager: What are the most important steps I can take to become the magnetic leader you describe?

Matuson: First of all, you need to be authentic. One of the common mistakes I see is managers try to emulate their boss, who may not be the greatest leader, or they try to somebody they’re not. Employees can see through that, and therefore they don’t trust the leader. Tied to that is being transparent.

Give me some specifics. How do I become authentic as a manager?

Matuson: You are who you are. Trying to be this gentle person when you’re really a bottom-line person is just frustrating. You’re not going to change, so be up front with people. If your focus is the bottom line, say, “Hey, I don’t need the background information. Just give me the end result, and if I need more information, I’ll ask.” I use the dating analogy: You’re not for everyone, but some people will like your style of leadership.

What about transparency?

Matuson: There are no guarantees in life. I’ll give you an example of a woman I know who was about to go under contract on a house. She went to her boss and told him she was buying real estate, and he did nothing to dissuade her. Two weeks later, he laid her off because he didn’t have the funds to make payroll. He could have signaled her and said, “This might not be the might best time.” That’s an example of being anything but transparent.

You write about the tension between the round-the-clock demands of work and employees’ desire to have a life. How does a manager balance those competing demands?

Matuson: One of the things I actually love about millennials is that they want a life, and they’re going to get it. If they can’t have a life working for you, they’re going to get one by going across the street. A manager should be managing people on results and not face time. Start by getting a life yourself. A lot of times we work long hours because we don’t have a life. Sign up for a class after work, or volunteer – something that requires you to leave work.

You mention Disney as one example of magnetic leadership. What other companies stand out as exemplars?

Matuson: There are tons, and some you have never heard of. One of my clients is the Greater Boston Food Bank. The boss is so magnetic. People hear her speak, and then they come up to her with their resume in hand. They want to work for a leader who is committed, who cares about her people, who has a clear purpose. She comes from a humble background, and she’s not afraid to show her vulnerability and bring her whole self to work. She’s not going to ask you to do anything she hasn’t done. She’s a very strong communicator. The Food Bank is a nonprofit, so she can’t just open up her checkbook and say here’s a $10,000 raise. She’s unable to buy talent, so she has to attract it. If you work for a tech company, you call your friend at the headhunting agency, and you pay the 30% fee, and life goes on. She’s not able to do that.

The US unemployment rate stands at 4.1%, nearly full employment. What challenges does that create for managers?

Matuson: In this full-employment environment, people have a choice. Employers are poaching workers left and right. If your employees aren’t fulfilled, they’re going to take that call, and they’re going to go – which means you’ll be the one staying nights and weekends. There was a survey recently that asked what was the No. 1 thing employees wanted from their employers. And the second most common response was that people wished their boss would quit. That goes back to what we know, which is that people work for people, not for companies.

You write about the free agent workforce. With more and more Americans working as independent contractors or gig employees, is the manager’s role becoming less crucial?

Matuson: No, actually it’s more crucial. You’ve got people who are no longer company people. They could get a call for a gig across the street, and they’re not thinking, “I’m almost vested in my 401(k).” I’ve worked with executives across all industries. Many of them are still in the mindset that, “You’re lucky to have a job. You’re lucky to be working here.” You have to stop. It’s not working any more. Employees are exhausted, and they will find the place where they can be fulfilled.

About Roberta Matuson

For more than 25 years, Roberta Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, has helped leaders in highly regarded companies, including General Motors, New Balance and Microsoft, and small to medium-size businesses, achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. She is known globally as “The Talent Maximizer®.

Roberta is the person that top employment site Monster and global retail giant Staples turns to for advice on talent. She is the author of the newly released, The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers and Profits, the international best-seller, Suddenly In Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book For Leaders and Talent Magnetism. She is also an expert blogger for Fast Company, Forbes and Glass Door and a former monthly columnist for The Boston Business Journal.

Roberta is one of a handful of people who have appeared as a guest of Bill O’Reilly’s on Fox’s O’Reilly Factor, and who left the show unscathed.

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