There’s more to being a good boss than just doing high-quality work. Bosses should be able to inspire their employees, create a productive and efficient workplace and encourage new thoughts and ideas. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.
According to the 2012 Attraction and Retention Survey conducted by Mercer, nearly twice as many organizations are reporting reduced levels of employee engagement compared today compared to two years ago (24% versus 13%, respectively). Most of the blame for this waning engagement falls squarely on the shoulders of bosses.
Let’s face it, most people get promoted into management roles because they were good at their job, not because they possess any real management potential. I often refer to this as the great American business tragedy. It is a tragedy because we reward workplace success by putting people in a position they don’t necessarily want and often aren’t well suited for the added responsibilities. Not everyone wants to be the boss, but in most companies upward mobility means taking on people responsibility. To make matters worse, many companies don’t spend the time or money to provide the requisite training for new bosses to actually succeed in their new role. In other words, we reward success by setting people up for failure, creating a lose-lose proposition.
One way to avoid falling into the “bad boss” trap this year is to take responsibility into your own hands. Regardless of how successful you are as a boss, you can always do better. Here are three tips to get any boss off to the right start in 2013.
Look in the Mirror. You have to know yourself before you can effectively manage others. The way you manage is a reflection of your personality, culture and upbringing. Take the time to think about how your life journey has shaped the way you manage and make decisions and consider the following:
- Face Three Mistakes: Reflect on three major mistakes or bad decisions from 2012. Assess what went wrong and why and identify any commonalities. Take responsibility for your part and make sure they don’t happen again.
- Get Feedback: Seek out feedback from bosses, colleagues, mentors and key employees about your management style. Ask for 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. Learn how to actively listen to those who get the job done 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 problems. Remember, successful managers don’t hand their people fish on a platter, they teach them how to fish for themselves.
- 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.
Encourage More, Punish Less. Anyone who has taken Psychology 101 knows that punishment stops bad behavior, but it doesn't produce new good 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: Always take time to seek out the positive and recognize it. Every employee does good work, so be sure to notice it.
- Be Fair, but Not Equal: Don’t treat people the same. Everyone is different and has different needs, which means that which is motivating for one person may not be motivating for another. Know what motivates your individual players and use that knowledge.
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.
Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and the new on-line course The YOU Plan for Career Change on Udemy. Dr. Woody is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership. Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook.