Sunday, October 9, 2011

"What Makes a Great Boss, 'Great'?"

We all know bad bosses. What makes them bad? I think it is something like comparing lies to the truth. There is always only one truth. There are many lies. So, there are many reasons a bad boss is bad. 

Bad bosses are never cute... Excepting in Japanese anime.

What makes a good boss? Being a nice person? Perhaps. But what makes a great boss? I mean a really great boss?

Actually, this post is about a TV producer but it is interchangeable with any boss at any occupation. So, instead of just referring to a "producer," a title that doesn't strike a chord with most people, let me refer to this person as a "boss" 

There are a lot of bad, stupid bosses.


But first, let me tell you what a producer does. A TV producer is a person who coordinates everything concerning the production of a TV program or movie. Many people confuse "TV Producer" with "Director" but they are two distinctly different things. In many cases a producer lines up sponsors and stars to appear on shows and also hires directors and staff. They are the people who set up the over all view of how a program is to be run. The director, on the other hand, is the person who is actually in-charge of the shooting and is the boss at the set.

The producer has a lot of say in what goes on and can give his opinion to the director in how s/he thinks the production and editing should be done, but the final say goes to the director. If the producer, or producers, don't like what they see in the director, they can fire that director and hire another one. 

Producers of TV shows are much like people on the Board of Directors at a company; they can advise on policy and choose a CEO but the actual daily running of the company is left up to the CEO. If the Board of Directors doesn't like the direction in which the company is going, they can remove the CEO and get another one.

I have been a producer of programs many times. I have only been a director a few times. Being a director is a tough job. Being a producer is an easier job, I think. Why? Because a good producer doesn't really have to do much excepting make sure that there is an atmosphere whereby everyone, including the director, can be and do their best.

In other words, in many cases, producers are glorified "coffee boys." 

As a producer (and I think I am a good one) I make sure that everyone is happy and is enjoying their work. I try to prevent tensions and disagreements. I always try to make sure that there are enough refreshments and coffee back stage for everyone. I try to make sure the "talent" or sponsors and staff of the program know that they are well respected and cared for.

Of course, though, there are times when I must put my foot down; but I like to think that when I do, it is for what is best for the show or the people who appear on the show. It is never for what is best for me.

The great producers are humble and are, like I said, de facto servants to the staff and talent. Everyone needs to know that they are needed and everyone needs to know that their opinion's are heard. Everyone needs to like the producer and want to work hard for him because he is such a good person and an inspirational leader.

That's the key here: The great producer's make everyone want to work hard and do their best. The great producers are able to make an atmosphere whereby everyone feels important and everyone feels that they are respected and they know that they can blossom and bloom to be their very best.

If you, as a producer or boss, can create the atmosphere where everyone knows they are respected, where their opinion counts, where they are somebody important, where they can be their absolute "best" then you have real power.

Once again, the truly great producers (and directors) are able to create an atmosphere whereby everyone can be their best. That is the key to success. They are also the ones that, when praise does come, the first thing out of their mouth's is something like, 

"Well. I have a great team!" 

Great producers never take credit for themselves. They always thank the team first... Bad producers suck up praise like Spongebob sucks up water. (I like Spongebob!)

Alas, there are far too many bad producers (bosses) who get confused and start to think of themselves as superior to their staff. They take all the credit for success and blame others for failures. They talk down to their staff and belittle them. They start to believe that all the success that has been gained so far is 100% due to themselves and not to the hard efforts of those around them.

Those are the bad producers. 

The bad producer yells at people in a disrespectful manner. The bad producer treats people with little respect. The bad producer will belittle people in front of others. The bad producer will not motivate people to be their best.

The bad producer is his own worst enemy. The bad producer is a fool.

There are a very many bad producers and bosses in this world.

Think about it; which is better? Motivating people to do their best and to grow and achieve or to disrespect them and demotivate them to do the minimum required? When the staff are not doing their best, who suffers? Of course, as workers, the staff do, but also the producer does.

Who loses money when the staff don't perform up to the best of their abilities? The producer (boss) does. So why does the bad producer continue with these bad habits? Isn't it self-defeating? It sure is.

Long ago, I had a boss who was an excellent producer. His name was Kiyoshi Mizuno. He produced many films in Japan and has won famous awards. One day he was talking to me when I was a 25 some year old. He was talking to me about what a good producer was. He told me a story that I realized was a sort of parable. He pointed to an old dirty ashtray and he said to me, 

"Mike. Imagine you were a famous and wealthy producer and you wanted this ashtray from me. You came and asked me for it and I said I would give it to you if you got on your knees and kissed my feet. Would you do it?"

"Of course not!" I replied.

"Well, then, you will never become a good producer." He replied, "A good producer will be humble and lower his head and do whatever is necessary to get the job done. All you would need to do is to get on your knees and kiss my feet. That would take just ten seconds of your time. But for that ten seconds, you'd have this ashtray forever. That's the difference between a great producer and a bad one. The bad producer has too much pride."

He was right. The bad producer (boss) has too much pride. He is arrogant and talk down to people and belittles his staff in front of others. He doesn't make an atmosphere whereby everyone can do and become their best.

Only a fool is a bad producer. Don't be a fool.

Any intelligent person can become a great producer (boss)... 


For more on becoming a great boss or producer, I recommend reading:

The Road Less Traveled by F. Scott Peck

Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus by Michael A. Roberto

Good to Great by Jim Collins 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To me, for an American audience, you could substitute the word producer with the word supervisor.

Everything made sense and flowed pretty well until you got to the feet kissing part,... not so sure about that, jmho.

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