Today is National Boss Day. It prompted us to think about various bosses we’ve had in our careers and what separated the good ones from the bad.
As coaches we’re even more aware of the impact a good boss can have on both a person’s life and how they approach their job on a daily basis. It’s fun to go to work when you have a boss who treats you well, rewards your efforts and helps you grow your career.
Here’s our “Take Five” on what makes for a great boss:
Communication – Everyone benefits from knowing the big picture and their role in achieving the goal. When you ask someone to take on a project, give them the context for it. This will help them be more effective, as they are more likely to come up with creative solutions when they fully understand the overall objective. Give them the right information upfront – what your expectations are, what authority they will have and the deadline. Part of being a good communicator is checking in to see how things are going and how you might be able to help them with any hurdles. Keep your team informed by letting them know how the company is doing and what challenges it faces. This brings people together and creates a team spirit. One-on-ones are essential and the more frequent the better. Use that time to praise their efforts as well as getting project updates. We recommend having monthly “check ins” – a 10-15 minute meeting for you to listen to how the person is feeling about their job, the company and their career path. This will keep the lines of communication open and reduce the risk of being surprised – a resignation letter on your desk.
Leading By Example – Don’t ask people to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. People take their cues from their boss. It doesn’t work to say “do as I say, not as I do”. How you treat other people and how you handle difficult situations, will be how they learn. Obviously, there’s a difference in your responsibilities, but you can set the tone by how you perform your own job.
Your Approach – We’ve all had difficult bosses and know how hard it is to work in that environment. A great boss will treat people with the same respect they want people to accord them. Being nice makes all the difference in the world – 99% of people respond to the “carrot” rather than the “stick”. It’s also better for your health if you can deal with your stress in the most positive way. Along those lines, it’s important to apply fairness equally to all members of your team. Even people who may be underperforming should be treated with the same fairness as the top performer. I had a boss years ago who would always ask me if it was a good time to discuss such and such. Obviously, I always said “yes” but it was the fact that she gave me the choice that made all the difference.
Mentoring/Coaching – One of the signs of a great boss is someone who actively coaches their direct reports to help them grow their careers. This could take many forms: allow them to sit in on an important meeting; send them to a seminar; give them a stretch assignment or rotation; help them get on a board; give them exposure to senior management. Any investment you make in helping them in their career will pay dividends for you and the company. From your perspective, it’s good for your career to be known as someone who can grow people. My example of this is when I worked for JWT and got to be part of the new business team. It gave me more exposure to other businesses which helped my career.
Motivating – Different things motivate different people. Some are driven by compensation, others by flexible schedules, and others by the opportunity to work on certain projects within the company. The key is to know your people well enough to understand what each one is motivated by. There are some universal things that motivate everyone: praise for a job well done – publically, if you can; credit for an idea they brought to the table; rewards in the form of money or some other perk (e.g. dinner, gift certificate, etc.) A highly motivated team will produce the highest results in the best possible way.
By being a good boss, you are grooming other people to become good bosses. The greatest legacy you can create is a new crop of up and coming leaders.