How to Be a Good Boss
In my past leadership positions, I have been told that I was an excellent boss. I don't think I was always that good. I had to make mistakes and learn from them, as well as learn the good and the bad from my own bosses. Eventually, I got to the point where my team was at their peak performance level, my employee turnover rate was at a standstill, and our teamwork and dedication was at an all time high.
I am going to share many of the behaviors that I established, as a good leader, that anyone can adopt, and watch their team grow into a successful machine!
Why Become a Good Boss?
If you are like most bosses, you struggle with gaining support and getting the most out of your staff. Studies show that 70% of people don't like their bosses! If the staff doesn't like their boss, then they are unlikely to excel in their work. Even the most selfish boss can understand that they will not do well if their team hates them.
Owners of small businesses or managers who got hired or promoted for reasons that have nothing to do with their leadership skills are the worst offenders, making the people that work for them miserable each day. You will know if you are a bad boss if your staff lacks enthusiasm, they are unproductive, unhappy, unmotivated, lack a sense of urgency, don't take ownership, have poor team spirit, and generally avoid you at all costs.
So how do you turn things around to get the most out of your team, so the workday is enjoyable and productive for everyone? Take a few simple steps to become good boss.
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Simple Things You Can Do to Become a Good Boss
CARING FOR PEOPLE
"A good manager is a man who isn't worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him." - H. S. M. Burns
Good bosses care about their teams. If you don't like people, you have no business managing them. A career where you are not ruining other people's lives might be a better option for you. On the flipside, getting to know your team as individuals, putting some effort into helping them reach their goals, and giving out praise or rewards will show that you care.
Good bosses encourage communication and are great communicators. I worked on a team, once, that completely fell apart, causing a mutiny against the management. This happened after months of absolutely no meetings, and therefore little to no sharing of information with the staff, or input from the employees.
Regular meetings where information is shared with the staff and the staff is encouraged to give feedback, answer questions, and offer ideas is the best way to keep everyone on the same page and make employees feel like they are a valuable part of the business. Confidence and articulation is key from the leadership, and so is a good listening ear.
A good boss should be perceived as part of the team and not the enemy. How does this work? The manager must be as hands on as possible in every aspect of the business, not just the parts they enjoy or are comfortable with. People will respect their boss much more when their boss actually tries to understand what they do and can support them when they absolutely need it.
Although it may seem that as the top dog in the business, there is way too much to do to focus on what everyone else is doing, the more people you have under you, the more they will need your time. Try to involve them in some of the tasks you are taking on yourself if you are too pre-occupied to ever leave your office.
"The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." - Theodore Roosevelt
There is often more than one way to get to the same goal. A good boss can allow an employee to choose their own path or style of doing things instead of demanding that something has to be done a certain way. The employee may introduce a better or faster way of doing something or the results could be exactly the same. Regardless, the employee feels empowered without feeling micromanaged.
An excellent boss knows that salary is extremely important to the livelihood of each of their employees. It is not always easy or possible to give everyone a raise or a bonus, but completely ignoring this issue is a mistake as well. If possible, giving merit based raises can mean the world to a good employee. Whatever can be given as a yearly or project based bonus will be appreciated greatly.
If money is too tight or upper management won't approve of raises or bonuses, what kind of perks can you give? Can you trade services with another business for staff freebies or discounts? Can you give a star performer a day off with pay and just pick up the slack? Can you offer your business' goods or services to your team for free or for a discount? Anything that shows you care about your staff's financial well-being scores you points as a boss to be reckoned with. I used to get free gifts from vendors and raffle them at meetings.
The best bosses make work fun. Yes, it's possible to enjoy work and if you accomplish a goal, buy the team a pizza or take them out for drinks. Give everyone a pat on the back and take some time to forget about the day to day grind for a moment when the staff deserves it. A verbal "thanks for a good job" is always appreciated, so don't forget to say it and say it in front of the rest of the team for bonus "good boss" points. However, a "verbal" doesn't always cut it, especially when the staff has truly outdone themselves so recognize the team in a way that has some tangible value as well.
DEAL WITH POOR PERFORMANCE
A good boss doesn't let the poor performers off the hook, BUT, they do give it a shot to turn their employees around. This is probably the most difficult task for a leader, but a good boss enjoys the challenge. Pair up the worst performer with one of the best, give someone measureable goals, or re-focus someone on something they may truly enjoy. It is worth giving everyone a chance or two.
If there is no improvement, make sure the employee knows that a pink slip is on the horizon, and don't be afraid to let someone go. The rest of the team will thank you for keeping the team strong.
"The executive exists to make sensible exceptions to general rules." - Elting E. Morison
I had a teacher once, who was mine and everyone's favorite. His motto was, "fair is not that everyone gets the same, but everyone gets what he or she needs." I wholeheartedly believe in this. Trying to lead everyone by the same rules and standards all the time does not take into consideration that everyone is an individual and has different strengths and weaknesses. Showing a little understanding and learning how to treat different personalities will not only help a good boss grow as a person, but will bring out the best characteristics in each of their staff.
Being understanding does not mean anarchy. You still have the rules to fall back on, but make sure that people are aware of when you are bending the rules for them, why, and always try to get them back on track with everyone else.
Being understanding DOES mean that you will agree to allow someone to be late for work, for example, if they agree to close the shop each night and deal with late customers while others get to leave on time. If negotiations fail and there is no give and take, termination may be in order, but the employee will certainly be aware of why they are being let go. With your prior compassion and understanding, it should be a smooth enough exit.
Empty promises, wrong information, "white lies" to manipulate your staff or try to change their perception of you do quite the opposite. Bosses who are liars lose the trust and faith of their teams and those are probably the most difficult things to get back, Once you lie to someone, they have the option to never believe anything else you ever say.
A good boss lays it on the line and gives out as much truth as she can. It is fine to keep some information classified, but don't craft lies to try to cover things up. Plus, people appreciate and respect honesty, even if it isn't wat they wan to hear.
FAIRNESS and FEEDBACK
Although I advise leaders to treat people as individuals, it is important to maintain a balance of fairness and equality as well. This can become a very delicate balance and may take some trial and error to achieve. Some of the most important factors in fairness is to make sure that everyone is getting feedback. It is easy to overlook the top performers and to be constantly working on the more troublesome employees.
On the other hand, it is easy to spend all your face time on your favorite team members and ignore those that need a little more effort on your part. Be aware of how much time you are spending with individuals and make a concerted effort to get some face time with everyone.
Make sure that there are guidelines for promotions, rewards and punishment, so it is obvious to all what warrants each. You must make sure that any friends or tight bonds you have on the team don't automatically warrant promotions and awards for those individuals. Keep it professional and be impartial and performance based.
Also, make sure that if you are making rules or following company policy to a "T", that it works across the board. If you are being "loose" on certain standards and policies, you cannot single someone out to tighten up on them alone.
Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders. - Tom Peters
This may hurt a bit...
You think you're doing everything right, but there is only one way to tell what is REALLY on people's minds. Get their feedback in a survey.
You can do this in a printout or a Surveymonkey.com poll (accounts are FREE!). The key is that it has to be anonymous, so your staff will tell you what they are really thinking about you, the company and their work for you. You can ask multiple choice, fill in the blank or very open ended questions.
Compile the results and get a picture of where you stand in their world. People will not hold back, so brace yourself and stay strong. Remember, this is going to be an essential learning tool for you to shape your management style.
The Rewards of Being a Good Boss
A good boss is like an organic farmer. There is a lot more care involved in growing the crop without the strong hand of pesticides, but you reap healthier rewards.
When someone is managing people, the people are working for the business, but the manager, in a sense, is spending a good deal of their time working for the staff, creating the teamwork and the safe, productive work environment; making sure that everyone has what they need to succeed, motivating, encouraging, and ensuring that obstacles are removed from the path of success.
Being a good leader can be extremely rewarding. Your employees start to show a tremendous amount of ownership in their work for the business, work is done with pride and relationships are considerate and caring.
Plus, if you make a mistake, or have toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe when you come out of the restroom, someone tells you about it instead of letting it become their only joyful moment in their workday!