Resolving to Be a Better Boss in 2012

By ColumnsFOXBusiness

Even in the face of a feeble labor market and uncertain economic environment, American workers are fedup enough with their work situation and looking to make a change.

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According to the 2011 What’s Working survey from Mercer, nearly one in three employees polled was “seriously considering” leaving their job. What’s more, most of these respondents cited their sour rela tionships with their bosses as a main reason for looking for employment elsewhere.

Whether you are a line supervisor, middle manager, or executive, you, as the boss, 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.

Here’s the problem:  Too many bosses enter into their leadership roles with little experience and support. Many bosses were likely promoted because they were good at their job or had peaked out in their role. I call this a great American business tragedy because we reward workplace success by putting people in a position they don’t necessarily want and often aren’t well suited for.

Not everyone’s goal is 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.

Both as a former employee at a major consulting firm and as an executive coach, I’ve had to deal with my share of bosses, particularly new bosses. As much as I disagree with the typical premise for corporate promotions, I do believe there are ways to help inexperienced bosses become successful. Here are three tips to get any bosses  off to the right start in 2012.

1) Look in the Mirror . It always starts with you. You have to know how to manage yourself before you can manage others. Get to know your personality and your management style before you take on the burden of managing others.

  • Face three mistakes: Reflect on three major mistakes or bad decisions from 2011. Assess what went wrong and why. Take responsibility for your part and make sure they don’t happen again.          
  • Get feedback: Seek out feedback from colleagues, mentors, and key employees. Ask for constructive criticism and be willing to hear the good and bad.
  • Self assess: Take self-assessments such as personality and management style inventories (often your HR folks have access to these tools) to get a somewhat objective view of how you operate.

2) Listen First, Shoot Questions Later. Good bosses are good listeners first. 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 they bring to you. 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.

3) Encourage More, Punish Less . Punishment stops bad behavior, but it doesn't produce new good behavior. Learn to reinforce the good! And please remember, it's not all about money. In fact, it's rarely about money. People just want their good work recognized.

  • 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 genuine: Make sure to be genuine in your recognition. Don’t just give a pat on the back for the sake of 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.

Good luck and happy new year!

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 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 

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