When it comes to leaving a job, most workers are really quitting a boss, not their position.

Losing an employee is never good for an employer: it can disrupt productivity, dent office morale and cost money. But bosses face a tall challenge in the current economic climate. Consider the following:

  • 70% of American workers are disengaged from their work, according to a recent Gallup poll;
  • That disengagement costs companies $370 billion annually;
  • 32% - 74% of Americans would prefer to take another job, according to a poll from Mercer and Harris Interactive.

Office disenchantment often stems from people being in the wrong role. Too often, workers get promoted into management roles because they were good at their job, not because they are good at managing others. I often refer to this as the “Great American Business Tragedy.”  We should not reward workplace success by putting people in a position they don’t necessarily want and often aren’t well suited to succeed in.

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 believe you are as a leader, 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 that I have found helpful for getting bosses off to the right start. 

Take a Hard Look in the Mirror. All-too-often I come across managers who haven’t fully dealt with 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. 

You have to know yourself before you can effectively manage 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. When taking that look in the mirror consider the following:    

  • Face Three Mistakes: Reflect on three major people management mistakes or bad people decisions you made last year. Assess what went wrong and identify any common themes. Consider why they seem to reoccur and how you perpetuated the recurrence. Take responsibility for your part and commit to making a change that will help ensure the mistakes don’t happen again.          
  • Get 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 welcome 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 action. 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 problem.
  • 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.

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 good work performance and 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. It can be as simple as a brief note, a quick 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. Every worker is different, has different needs and operates at different speeds. That which is motivating for one person may not be motivating for another. Take the time to learn what motivates your individual players and use that knowledge to connect with them.

Whether you are a line supervisor, middle manager or a top executive, as a leader, 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. Take responsibility and make 2014 the year of the great boss!

 

 

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.