How to Be a Better Boss

Three Parts:Being a Good ManagerMaking Employees Feel ValuedLeading by Example

Being a good boss is never easy. To succeed at your job, you have to make sure that your company is running smoothly and that your employees are happy. Unfortunately, these two goals can sometimes be in conflict. To be a better boss, you have to work on making your employees feel valued and give them meaningful goals to motivate them to work more efficiently than ever before. To do the best that you can at your job, you should work on leading by example while setting reasonable expectations.

Part 1
Being a Good Manager

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    Have clear expectations. If you want your employees to do as well as they can, then your main goal should be to make your expectations very clear. If you value numbers and production over customer service or time spent on other tasks, make this very clear so your employees don’t go above and beyond on the wrong tasks and then are confused when you’re disappointed. If there’s something you want or expect, then be very clear about it instead of sugar-coating your real expectations, even if they’re lofty.
    • If you want your employees to produce five reports per week, for example, make it clear that this is what you expect instead of just telling them to keep up the hard work and that they’re doing a great job, and then later giving them poor performance reviews.
    • One important thing is to actually know what you want before you address your employees so that you don’t end up changing your thoughts in the middle of a conversation.
    • Sometimes, your expectations do change, based on where the company is headed and other internal changes. If this does happen, be open about it instead of letting your employees figure it out on their own.
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    Explain the reasoning behind your decisions. If a change has happened at the company, employees really appreciate knowing why. If an important person in the company was fired, employees may want to know the reason (even if they don’t get the nitty gritty) just so they don’t feel threatened about their own jobs. If you’ve decided one employee isn’t a great fit for a certain project, be honest about your rationale instead of leaving him in the dark. Your employees like to be a part of things and would really appreciate being in the know instead of being left in the dark.
    • You don’t want your employees to see everything you do or say as a mandate handed down from the Gods; add a human touch to your decisions and show your employees why doing something a certain way is the best for the company instead of just telling them what to do.
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    Communicate with your employees about the progress of the company. It’s important to keep your employees up-to-date with the progress that the company is making, whether it’s good or bad. Don’t just tell them that things are getting better week after week; show them specific numbers, data, or feedback to prove it. If the company has started managing accounts differently, if a new person has been hired, or if any other changes had been made, then it’s best to let your employees know about it instead of leaving them in the dark. This will help them feel like they’re a part of things and they’ll think more highly of you as a leader in the process.
    • You can even hold meetings where people who work for different departments of the company come in to talk to your employees to give them a sense of how the entire company is running. Your employees will be more connected to their own projects once they see the big picture.
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    Ask for feedback for how you can do your job better. Though you may not want to hear about how you can do your job better, asking for feedback can actually help you be a better boss and learn what your employees really need. You can tell them, “I’d like to know how to do my job better” and really mean it. They may be shy about telling you what you could really do better, but you can send out monthly anonymous surveys, ask them in individual meetings, or even shoot them quick emails asking how they think certain projects went. They’ll respect you for having asked for feedback, and their responses will make you better at your job.
    • When you get the feedback, even if it’s harsh, thank your employees for their honesty. If you make them feel like they’re being punished for being up-front with you, then they’ll never tell you the truth or trust you again.
    • If you hear the same feedback from many employees, such as the fact that they deserve much higher pay for the work they’re doing, or that they feel like they don’t have any tangible goals, then it’s important to address that. If you just ignore something that is clearly not working in your company, then your employees will think that you’re pretending to care without really caring.
    • Of course, you can’t address all the feedback and make every employee perfectly happy, especially if you’re getting conflicting messages. If there’s something that they’re complaining about that you absolutely can’t fix, let them know why it has to be a certain way.
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    Delegate responsibility. You may think that taking all the responsibility upon yourself will make you the best boss possible. You may think it’ll show how smart, capable, and hardworking you are. However, taking all the responsibility on yourself will not only overwhelm you and stress you out, but it will give your employees the idea that you don’t really value or trust them. When you are faced with a task that you think another employee can do, you should delegate it to the employee, even if it means a bit of training and micromanaging are required, at first. This will make your job much easier and will show your employees that you know what they’re capable of.
    • Of course, delegating responsibilities may seem like more effort, at first, because you’ll have to transition your employees to doing new tasks. But in the long run, you’ll be saving a lot of time — and you can spend this time on making your employees feel more valued.
    • That said, if times are tough and your employees are not doing well with the extra responsibilities, step up and be accountable for it. Talk to them about how you can help them succeed instead of blaming them.
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    Manage individuals instead of numbers. It can be hard not to obsess over numbers as a boss, whether you’re trying to write hundreds of blog posts or selling shoes. While numbers are important, they are not the only key to your success; you should focus on each individual employee and their own work style and personal goals and try to make that fit in to your production goals. When it comes to being a boss, you have to remember that “one size fits all” is almost never the case, and that you have to look at each employee individually to see how he or she can help you reach your number goals.[1]
    • If you’re the head of a major corporation, of course, it can be tricky to look at each and every employee as more than just a number. Still, if you can’t do this yourself, you should have a manager below you who is responsible for the human element in how you treat your employees.

Part 2
Making Employees Feel Valued

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    Give rewards for work that goes above and beyond. If one of your employees has gone above and beyond, then you should make sure to acknowledge the hard work he or she has put in to his work. You can send around an email, make an announcement, give a monetary reward, or even give the employee a card and flowers. This should be meant to motivate other employees to succeed, not make them jealous. If your employee has worked extra hard, rewarding his actions will have a big impact on his happiness in the workplace and his idea of you as a boss.[2]
    • Of course, money is a great motivator, and sometimes no reward can be better than a cash bonus. However, money can’t be the only thing that motivates your employees, or they will be so focused on getting more bonuses that they will overlook the methodical, careful work that needs to be put into their job.
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    Give your employees tangible goals. Tangible goals are often more of a motivator than cash rewards, and you don’t have to spend any extra money to give them to your employees, either. Your employees should have goals to work toward, whether it’s reaching out to X amount of clients by the end of the year, making Y amount of sales, or having Z amount of revenue from their latest project. Give them their goals, talk about how they can meet them, and even discuss any rewards they’ll receive for going above and beyond. If your employees feel like they have something to work toward, then they will be much more motivated when they come to work every morning.
    • Tangible goals should be based on achievements, not on amount of hours worked. If you give your employees the goal of working a certain amount of hours per week, they may technically put in the time, but they may not use it wisely.
    • Each of your employees has a different work style and they may not be motivated by the same goals. One may be motivated by producing as many reports as possible, while another may be motivated by being told that he should produce the most thorough or comprehensive report he can on a given subject. Some people actually get stifled or discouraged if their only goals are time or numbers based, instead of based on the quality of their work.
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    Schedule individual meetings with your employees. Though you may feel like you really don’t have the bandwidth, if you want to be a better boss, then you should schedule individual meetings with your employees to better understand their work style and to show that you care. Try to schedule these at least monthly, if you can, and they’ll appreciate the fact that you took the time to chat with them individually. Even if you only meet with each employee for fifteen minutes, this will be a sign that you’re a caring boss.[3]
    • Show a personal interest in your employees when you meet with them. Though your meetings can focus on asking how they’re doing at the company and asking for any feedback on current projects, you should also ask a bit about how they’re doing outside of work.
    • You don’t need to pry into your employees’ personal lives, but if you know they are married or have kids, ask about how their family is doing, whether their kids have started school, if they have any family vacations coming up, or anything else that shows you care without seeming too personal.
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    Don’t play favorites. Of course, everyone has favorites, but if you want to do the best you can at your job, then you have to be able to hide your preferences. Remember that everyone at your company is contributing something, and that if you clearly favor some employees over others, then your preferences will be known and your less-favored employees will resent the people you favor and will feel like they can’t win. Though you may clash personalities with some employees, you should try to be equally kind to everyone, and offer the same rewards to employees for doing the same thing.[4]
    • Don’t let one employee you like take a longer lunch break while chastising another for being out for too long. Don’t set different expectations or timelines for two employees who have to get the same job done. This is unprofessional and will make your employees trust you less.
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    Organize social events for your employees. Though you don’t have to do all of this yourself, having someone in charge of a social committee can help your employees feel more like they’re part of a team. You don’t have to go to work happy hours or out to lunch with your employees if that feels weird, but attending a yearly Christmas party, having a work softball league, or being part of a volunteering work organization can help you get to know your employees and can make them feel happier in the workplace, too.[5]
    • Social events can help your employees get to know each other better and to also work together in a new way, whether they’re figuring out how many appetizers to order for the table or how to paint the side of a house.
    • Your employees will feel happier for getting to know each other better and they’ll also be more grateful to you for caring that they get along with each other. A good boss cares about his or her employees building strong relationships with each other.
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    Acknowledge your employees’ birthdays or milestones. Though it may sound kind of silly, sending around an email, bringing a birthday cake, or writing a card can really make a difference in whether or not an employee feels valued at a company. These little acknowledgements will show your employees that you see them as people and that you care about their lives and accomplishments. It also shows them that you see them as people, not just machines, and makes them feel cared for and valued.
    • You can even send around a card for all your employees to sign for a special occasion for one employee, to show that not just you, but the entire company, recognizes this employee.

Part 3
Leading by Example

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    Get in 15 minutes earlier. You may not think that getting in to the office 15 minutes earlier will have an impact on how your employees view you, but in fact, this can change the course of your entire day. Getting in earlier will give you time to get settled, will keep you from forgetting an important appointments or meetings, and it will make you feel less stressed and overworked when your employees want to talk to you. This will help you be on top of your game and will make you look more approachable to your employees; they’ll be more excited to talk to you if they don’t feel like you’re going to say that that things are “super busy” all the time.[6]
    • Getting in earlier also sets a good example for your employees, who will see that you must really care if you get in to work so early. You shouldn’t, however, pressure them to get in even earlier, or you’ll be back where you started.
    • The truth is, the morning can be the busiest time, because that’s when you’ll have to check your email, make your calls, and have to talk to 20 employees who all want to meet with you. You may find that, if you get in earlier, you can even wrap up your work earlier.
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    Don’t lose your temper. Of course, we all lose our tempers and it happens to the best of us. If you’re in charge of a company, then there are plenty of reasons for you to lose your cool once in a while. Still, if you feel yourself getting heated, then you should excuse yourself and return when you feel more calm. You may even need to shut yourself up in your room and take a few deep breaths before you can return to what you’re doing. And if you lost your temper in front of employees, do the mature thing and apologize.[7]
    • This happens to the best of us, and you don’t need to feel like a complete failure if it happens. That said, learn to recognize the signs that you’re about to go off the deep end so that you can excuse yourself before it happens in the future.
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    Be accountable for your mistakes. If you’re the boss, then everything that goes wrong at the company is your fault to a degree. If an employee is underperforming, then it may be because you hired someone who wasn’t a good fit for the job, or because you weren’t clear about the expectations you had for a certain project. You should make it clear that you could have done your job better whenever the moment arises, and if you’ve flat-out made any mistakes, like insulting an employee, missing a meeting, or being late, then apologize for that as well.[8]
    • Even if your schedule is packed, you should still apologize if you miss a meeting with an employee. Don’t just say, “I had too much going on,” but, “I’m sorry that I didn’t give you the time you deserved.” Don’t make the employee feel bad about how busy you were.
    • Deal with problems quickly. If you see that something has gone wrong, address the problem head-on before it gets worse instead of putting a band-aid over it. If you see a failed report, an upset employee, or a new program that’s just not working, don’t wait a month for it to get even worse, hoping that it will blow over. Instead, find a way to address the problem so your company continues to run smoothly — your employees will be impressed by your hard work.
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    Be consistent. Another thing you can do to be a better boss is to be more consistent about your expectations. If you want employees to focus on customer service, don’t get angry with an employee for spending a long time with a customer who didn’t buy anything. Make your priorities and expectations clear, so that your employees know what you want. Don’t praise them for something one week and then ask them to do it differently the next. If they feel like you’re not consistent, they’ll get the sense that they can never win.
    • If you’ve changed your priorities or expectations in some way, you should tell your employees about it up-front instead of letting them figure it out. It’s okay to change focus, but important for your employees to know about it right away so they can adjust their style accordingly.
    • Along with being consistent, it’s important to follow through on the goals you set and the promises you make. If your employees think all you do is make empty promises, then they won’t trust you.
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    Listen more than you talk. You may think that being a boss is all about giving out mandates, telling your employees exactly what to do, and spouting off numbers, but in fact, it’s far more important to listen to employees so you can have a better sense of how to run your workplace. If you take the time to hear them out during meetings, ask them lots of questions, and ask for ample feedback, then you’ll be getting a lot of ideas for how you can run your workplace more smoothly. What’s more, your employees won’t see you as a talking head, but as a person who really cares about what they have to say.
    • When your employees are trying to tell you something, don’t scarf down your lunch, check your Blackberry, or read over reports right in front of them. Give them your full attention to show that you care. Even if you can only give them 5 minutes of your time, that’s far better than giving them 15 minutes that you spend mostly multi-tasking.
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    Be friendly without trying to be best friends with your employees. You don’t have to try to be BFF with your employees — and in fact, you don’t want to be that boss who hangs out with his employees all the time, because that can send mixed messages in the workplace. Still, nothing is stopping you from saying hi to your employees, stopping to chat if you have a minute, or just having a smile on your face if you walk by them. If you storm by them without even looking in their direction, they may not think that you care.
    • It goes without saying that dating your employees or making romantic advances at them is completely unprofessional and should be avoided in almost all cases.
    • Give your employees compliments and make them feel welcome in your office. Have them see that you’re happy to be there, and that you’re more than just the average boss.

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Categories: Workplace Management Skills