Unless you are a trust-fund baby living off a huge inheritance, you have a boss. Even corporate titans and business owners have bosses in the way of shareholders and customers.
So wouldn’t it be great if everyone who worked for a living had a boss who was results-oriented while also being caring, compassionate and, well, likable? I had the privilege to work for such a boss. If you are a boss, see how you compare to the person I describe. Ask yourself, “How can I become this kind of leader?” Here’s how you, as the boss, can help me, the employee:
1. Empower me.
Terms like “empowerment” and “earned autonomy” are just buzzwords when spouted by a boss who micromanages. My boss believed that “…the best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” A great boss hires talented people, and then gets out of their way.
2. Talk about me behind my back.
During the 10 plus years I worked with my best boss, several people told me that he talked about me behind my back. Do you know what he said? “Go to Scott. He’s the expert on this.” Or “I might not always understand Scott’s process, but I love his results.”
A great boss says and does things both directly and indirectly to build up employees.
3. Speak the truth with love.
A great boss accepts that “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” Making mistakes is inevitable, but the best boss knows that when using correction, the end result should be to make us thirsty to learn from our errors so we can be successful the next time out.
4. Accept responsibility; expect me to do the same.
How many of us have done something amazing only to have another jump in to claim responsibility? Everyone wants to take credit for a success, but no one wants to be close to a failure.My boss understood that “If you could kickthe person in the pants responsible for mostof your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”A boss who is willing to accept responsibilitywhen things went awryfosters an environmentwhere othersaccept responsibility, too.
5. Demonstrate care.
Marriage coaches suggest that couples plan a “date night” to keep communication flowing. At work, a great boss knows that spending time with employees is one of the greatest ways to show care. The reality is that “nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Imagine trying to grow a relationship without committing time to it. It would atrophy, drift, and eventually dry up. In the workplace, meeting with your employees and taking time to know them as individuals shows care.
6. Recognize, reward, and reinforce me.
Some companies have splashy rewards programs where employees can earn money, gift certificates or prizes for stellar performance. Sadly, those programs can become a substitute for doing things that truly reinforce positive behavior and loyalty. As Gallup research shows, people don’t quit companies, they quit bosses. A great leader understands that what drives most work behavior is the reward of being trusted with even more. “Big jobs usually go to [those] who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.”
7. Role Model.
If everyone at work behaved exactly like you, would it make for a better workplace, or would someone have to call in the National Guard? A great boss knows that there is little value in words except when they are backed up with consistent actions.
The title “Best ‘Boss’ Ever” is actually an oxymoron, like telling a “serious joke.” If you are acting as a boss, it just means you hire/fire, sign paychecks, conduct performance reviews, approve time off, etc., and it connotes an old fashioned boss as dictator in charge of riding people hard to get results. Who would want to become an expert in that aspect of the management role?
The true “Best ‘Boss’ Ever” is a leader. “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.”
The best boss I ever had was a leader.
And if you enjoyed the quotes in this article, you probably know that I reported to someone who was a big fan of the leadership philosophy of Theodore Roosevelt.
Oh, and if you have a boss who does NOT fit this description, you might leave a copy of this on his desk when he’s not around!
* Originally published as “Are You The Best ‘Boss’ Ever? 7 Tips for Getting There….” Attitude Digest, 2010, Winter, pp. 14-17.