3 Ways to Be a Better Boss

Research from Gallup has found that only 18% of those with people responsibility in this country actually possess a high level of competence for managing people. This is why decades of polls have shown that people tend to quit their bosses as opposed to their jobs. The fact is we don’t do enough in American business to train managers on the fundamentals of managing people, which creates inefficient and often negative work environments.

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The root of the problem is the fact that most people get promoted into management because they are good at their job, not because they have potential for effectively managing others. Not everyone wants to be the boss, but in most companies upward mobility means taking on people responsibility. To make matters worse, very few companies spend the necessary time or money to provide the kind of training new bosses need to actually succeed. In other words, we reward our star players by setting them up for failure.

Whether you are a line supervisor, middle manager, or executive, as the boss you are responsible for setting the tone and creating a positive and productive work environment. When bosses fail to do this, turnover increases, morale drops and hiring expenses skyrocket.  

One way to avoid sliding into this trap is to take responsibility into your own hands. Regardless of how successful you believe you are as a boss, you can always do better. We all have blind spots and if we ignore them they will ultimately get the better of us. Here are three tips for bolstering those boss skills: 

Take a Hard Look in the Mirror. All-too-often I come across managers who haven’t fully dealt with the past negative experiences and failures that have not only left them scarred, but have also become an integral part of how they view and manage others. Dealing with the past isn’t always easy, but it’s a critical life skill. 

The fact is, you have to know yourself before you can effectively work through others. The way you manage is a reflection of your personality, values and upbringing. Take the time to think about how your life journey has shaped the way you manage and make decisions. The idea is to put your best foot forward and do it in a deliberate way. When taking that look in the mirror consider the following:    

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  • Face Three Mistakes: Reflect on three major people management mistakes or bad people decisions you made in 2015. Assess what went wrong and identify any common themes. Consider why they seem to reoccur and your part in perpetuating this recurrence. Take responsibility for your part and commit to making a change that will help ensure they don’t happen again.          
  • Get Real Feedback: Seek out feedback from bosses, colleagues, mentors and key employees about your management style. We all have blind spots and you may not be handling tough situations as well as you think. Ask for and invite constructive criticism and be willing to hear the good and bad. Don’t respond or defend yourself, just listen. Commit to at least one action based on this feedback.

Listen First, Shoot Questions Later. Good bosses are good listeners. Being a good boss isn’t about barking orders, it’s about influencing others to take action. Learn how to actively listen to those who actually do the work because they are your experts and they need to know you hear them.

  • Ask, Don’t Tell: Resist the temptation to tell your employees what to do. Instead, try asking them what they would do to solve the problem. Remember, successful managers don’t hand their people fish on a platter, they teach them how to fish for themselves and let them loose.
  • Find Teachable Moments: Life is about learning, so be sure to use every interaction as an opportunity to teach, not just talk. Use the mistakes of your employees as opportunities to grow. We all make mistakes, it’s how you respond that shapes your future.

Encourage More, Punish Less. Anyone who has taken Psychology 101 knows that punishment stops bad behavior, but it doesn't produce positive new behavior. Learn to reinforce the good and please remember not everything is about money. In fact, it's rarely about money. People just want their good work recognized. Consider the following:

  • Reward One Positive Act Each Day: Take time every day to catch your people doing something right and recognize them for it! It can be as simple as a brief note, a quite mention in a meeting, or a gift card. Every employee does good work, so be sure to notice it in a way that will make them feel good about it.
  • Be Fair, but Not Equal: Don’t ever treat people the same. Everyone is different. We all have different needs and operate at different speeds. That which motivates one person may not motivate another. Take the time to learn what motivates your individual players and use that knowledge to incentivize with them.

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