Take a minute to think about the managers you’ve had through the years. If you are like most of us in the workforce today, you have plenty of experiences at quite a few different companies…and you have more than your share of managerial experiences that stand out…for both good and bad reasons! Maybe today you are in the position of being “the boss,” though, and your goal is to be “the best boss my employees ever had!” How can you do that?
What NOT To Do
Maybe the first thing to consider is just how bad some of those “worst bosses” have been. Then you can use those examples as cautionary tales for how not to be. Who hasn’t had a boss that tried to micromanage everything you did? That doesn’t necessarily mean they hung over your shoulder while you worked…although it might! It could just be those who told you every detail they wanted done, then double-checked every aspect after you were done to make sure you did it the way they wanted. They obviously didn’t trust you to be able to do the job you were hired to do in the way you could best accomplish it.
Some of the other common signs and symptoms of bad management are bullying and belittling of employees, playing favorites, and taking credit for the hard work that others do. I think one of the worst traits someone can exhibit as a boss, though, is to not lead by example. It’s basically the attitude of “Do as I say, not as I do!” If you’re not willing to do something, employees are much more likely to resent being told to do so.
The bottom line is that if you’re trying to lead and no one follows, you’re just out for a walk.
Do Things Right…And Do The Right Things
The good managers you had through the years probably had a few things in common. First and foremost, the opposite of the above, they tend to be leaders by example. That’s just something you can’t replace. You should also work to focus on overall performance and outcomes rather than spend time on unimportant minutia. Don’t worry about exactly how or when a job gets done (assuming the when meets the deadline, of course)…instead focus on the fact that the job gets done well. Every employee will have a different style. Learn those and try to encourage them to work within their strengths.
Successful managers will be empathetic and supportive, too. You can make yourself available to listen to concern, help troubleshoot pain points, and offer solutions based on your experience.
It’s impossible to overstate the value of good communication in your role as a manager. You have to set clear expectations for your team…and then you have to make sure they understand those expectations. If they don’t “get it,” maybe the problem is your communication style more than their lack of understanding. Never forget that communication is a two-way street: while you are telling them what you expect, you need to be ready to listen to what they need in order to accomplish it.
Getting Better All The Time
Being a better manager doesn’t happen all at once and there is always room to grow and really be “The Best Boss Ever.” Here are a few things you can do to become better.
Management Training When Promoted. If you’ve been in your position for a while, it may be too late to go back for managerial training, but think of how much more successful you might have been at the beginning if your company had taken some time to get you better training when you initially got promoted. It can help to take some of the surprise out of situations you are most likely to encounter. Since every company is different, the training should be tailored to your specific industry AND your specific situation.
Be A Mentor. This goes hand-in-hand with the first suggestion. If you have someone on your team that you think would make a good manager someday, work with them to foster and improve those qualities that can take them beyond “good” to “great.” Odds are you won’t be in your position forever…work to leave that job in a better place than you found it. One of the best ways to do that is to find your successor and make sure they know what you wish you did when you started.
Practice Being Present. You can’t be there to hold employees’ hands every minute of every day…and you shouldn’t be! What you should do, though, is make sure they know that you are there and that you care about the job they are doing. Take some time every day to talk with each person on the team, take an appropriate interest in their personal lives, and find out if they need anything from you in order to accomplish the tasks you’ve set out for them.
Teamwork Among Managers. Too many times the management in different departments take adversarial roles toward each other. While there is some room for healthy competition in some cases, working as a team with other managers in your company is more likely than not to advance the goals of the company. You may be able to learn things about the other teams that will help your team do their jobs better, which will make for a more positive work environment for everyone.
Learn to Learn from Mistakes. It’s natural to mess up. I’ve done it more times than I can count on both hands AND both feet. What you have to do is take a look at your missteps and try to land your feet in different places when you walk the same path again. Additionally, look at the unfortunately foot placements of others and try to find a better way.
Be a Visionary. Maybe you aren’t going to be the one to cast the vision for your company as a whole…that’s the job of the CEO and other executives. What you can do, though, is that that company vision and make it your own! Find a way to be the visionary for your team, inspiring them to excel at what they do.
Be Consistent. No one…and I repeat NO ONE…likes working for someone who is inconsistent. Whether it takes the form of asking for more of some people than others, having different standards from day to day, or excusing the behavior of some while punishing others who do the same thing, it ends up being detrimental to morale. It’s far better to establish your standard of excellence, then work to live up to it every day. Treat everyone as a valued member of the team without playing favorites. Do your best to not be a hypocrite.
Build Community. This is a multi-pronged suggestion. Begin with building the camaraderie of your team and get them to work better together. Branch out by encouraging your team to work with other teams within the company (see #4 above). Finally, make your team and company a part of the greater community you exist within. Get to know your business’ neighbors, frequent their establishments for team lunches, set aside work times for your team to go into the community and be good stewards…help out in a shelter, pick up trash, or just be kind to people in need.
Get Your Hands Dirty. I’m repeating myself, but it really does all come back to this. Being a “Leader,” not just a “Manager,” means being willing to do everything you ask your employees to do. Whether that’s cleaning the company bathroom simply because it needs to be done or making a hard phone call to an unhappy client. You need to show the way, blaze the trail, carve the path. Lead and they will follow.
I hope these suggestions help you on your path to being a better manager…the best boss…a true leader.