Over many years of work in the corporate arena, most of us can recount in detail the pain and suffering of working for a terrible boss – outbursts, taking credit for others’ work, micromanaging, playing favorites… the list goes on. But what about your favorite boss? How was it to work for someone who made it pleasant to wake up in the morning and head to work? My favorite boss was one of the first people I worked for not long after college, and here’s five things I learned from him about being a great boss:
1. Be tough but fair –
Set clear standards for performance and expect the best from the people who work for you. If you have a poor performer, address the situation right away by having a two-way conversation. Revisit your expectations for performance, share what you are observing about their work, ask questions to learn more about their perspective on the situation, and agree on a plan for improvement.
2. Create an atmosphere of hard work and fun –
Take opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, wins, personal achievements, and team results. Allow time for working hard – and playing hard to ease pressure and create a team spirit. My favorite boss was great at finding ways to bring everyone into the fray. Whether you were extroverted or introverted, single or married with kids, he created opportunities to bring everyone together to learn a little more about each other and enjoy time together.
3. Instill self-confidence–
My favorite boss was a great teacher and a great cheerleader. He freely shared his knowledge and experience and took time each day to focus on developing his employees. I could always count on ten or fifteen minutes with him to show me a better way to do something or to fill me in on information he received at a directors’ meeting. A caring approach, shared knowledge and information, and lots of positive feedback helped all of us on the team to feel good about the work we were doing and to feel confident in our abilities. We knew we were good – even when we made mistakes!
4. Open your door and really listen –
An “open door” policy is more than just keeping your door open and hoping that no one comes in to bug you. Be accessible to your team by keeping your door open, getting up and walking around, and truly listening when someone is speaking to you. If you really are too busy or preoccupied to pay attention, then take a moment to let the person know that and say when you will be free to speak with him or her.
5. Focus more on the “what” not the “how” –
Be clear on goals and objectives for everyone on your team. Make sure that they understand what they are expected to do, what results they are expected to achieve, and what deliverables they are expected to produce. Once they know that, give them room to exceed those expectations in the way that works best for them. There’s no bigger confidence killer, creativity blocker and motivation crusher than a boss who tells you what they want, and then proceeds to tell you exactly how they want it done. My favorite boss was great at focusing on the “what” and letting us determine “how” to get it done. In fact, if you came to him with an issue, you’d better also come with a creative solution to solve it. He knew that the best way for people to grow is to have plenty of opportunities to try new approaches and come up with new ideas. That makes you look forward to another day in the office.
What did you learn from your favorite boss?