I’ve been my own boss for a while now and I thought I was pretty good at it. But I found myself back in a corporate environment a few times over the last few months and it reminded me exactly what makes a great leader: Halving things, animal metaphors and having hard stops.
That’s it really. Everything else is a waste of time. If it was being honest, the Five Minute Manager should really be 2.5 minutes and not a second longer.
Cutting things in half is highly motivating. It will make your employees work quicker, save your department money and increase the speed at which epiphanies occur. If your team needs two weeks, give them one. If they ask for 96 hours, the clock starts counting down at 48. If they need a budget of 50k, they get get 25. Where it get’s tricky is if an employee needs something that’s harder to cut in half. But a great boss can still motivate by halving things. It they need two months, a team of six and access to a pair of identical twins a great boss would give them one month, a team of three and they’ll send over that guy Harry who talks to himself a lot.
When it comes to people, it’s the same thing. If they need 10 people on a team, you give them five. Four. Two. And so on. They may try to outsmart you by asking for an odd number of people. But you’re the boss and you’ve seen this shit before. So if they tell you they need 11 people, you say, “You can have Johnson.” This common maneuver is called giving someone the Johnson. Probably. And, no offense to Johnson, but he’s hardly able to pull the weight of 11 people. And it would be unfair of anyone to ask that of him. But that’s what they get for trying to be clever. They get the Johnson.
It would be easy to think that if a great boss halves everything, a boss that cuts things even more is an even greater boss! Not the case. That guy is just an a-hole bucking for a promotion and you don’t want to be that guy. If someone asks you for something, you given them half. No more. No less.
The second thing a great boss does is use a lot of animal metaphors. You should say things like “eat the frog” or talk about an “ant eating an elephant” or perhaps “the camel’s nose under the tent.” It’s best to use at least four different animal metaphors per meeting, so throw away Sun Tzu and pick up your Aesop’s if you’re trying to climb the corporate ladder.
There is a trick with animal metaphors. You have to use them wrong. You have to act like the camel’s nose under the tent isn’t an idiom for impending doom, but a sneak peek as if camels have eyes on their noses or something. Say it wrong and then dare the room to call you on it.
It’s the same with big words. Use them wrong as well. If anyone calls you on it, fire that person. You don’t need that kind of negativity dragging down morale.
But what do you do if someone you can’t fire calls you on it? Easy. You have a hard stop. Normal people “have another meeting” or “need to get going.” Great leaders have hard stops. And there’s no arguing with it because it’s hard. It’s the best way to stop any conversation, argument or performance review cold.
And the best news is that this isn’t just middle management stuff. This works for VPs, SVPs, EVPs, straight up Ps, C-level officers, editors, Bond villains and police chiefs. Especially bond villains because they can always just feed someone to the sharks. And that’s also basically like halving things.