How to be a Great Boss
Most of us tend to learn a skill early in our careers—accounting, or marketing, for example. Then, when we find ourselves managing people, we discover we know more about accounting or marketing then we do about how to be a boss. It’s not long before we also learn that no amount of accounting knowledge will help us build and maintain a productive department or business. You have to learn how to “boss.” Here are a few tips that will help you get started:
Work for your employees.
Being a boss is like being a coach: you can’t win unless your team wins for you. The only way to build a winning team is to get the most from your players. Making sure your employees get the training, mentoring, direction and encouragement they need to excel is your primary responsibility as a boss. You can’t excel unless you do those things well. And you owe it to your employees.
Jump on problems.
Interpersonal squabbles, performance issues, inter-departmental feuds—they will play havoc with your department’s performance. Even if they seem like small problems to you, they may not be so small for the people who work for you. And they almost never go away by themselves; they only grow. When you see an issue, tackle it. Immediately if possible. If not, sooner.
When an employee is in trouble, throw the life preserver.
Every employee can’t be a star. Occasionally employees—even pretty good ones—fail to complete a task, blow up in a meeting, or just seem to get into a slump. If you notice it, you can be sure the employee’s peers do, too. When that happens, even smart, capable people can find it difficult to turn the corner. It’s your job to help them. In fact, how you go about it will communicate as much about you as a boss as anything else you do.
Your full effort has to go into rehabilitating that employee, first by encouragement (“I know this is tough, but I know you can do this.”), next by coaching (“Here’s exactly what you need to do. I’ll be with you whenever you need me.”), and finally by honest evaluation. You don’t have to relax your standards, but you do have to be clear about them. However it turns out, you’ll find taking the next steps will be easier for both of you. And you will have given the right lesson to the rest of your employees.
Give your employees all the credit.
Let’s face it, your employees do most of the work; they deserve most of the credit when things go well. Give them the credit they deserve and avoid patting yourself on the back. Consistently act as if you are less important than your employees and everyone will know how important you really are.
People notice the little slights: not returning a phone call; not following up on a question; or just plain not listening. Those are the signs of someone who believes he is more important than someone else and that his time is much more valuable. You’ll find employees pick up on this quickly and will soon avoid contact with you and probably won’t care about pleasing you. People tend to work harder for people they believe care. You don’t have to lead from above them. It can be more powerful if you lead from beside them.