10 Tips for Becoming a Great Boss
by Wally Bock
Here are ten tips that tell you what to do if you want to become a great boss. I've added a couple of bonus tips, as well.
Manage behavior and performance. Behavior is what people say and do. Performance is the measurable result of work. Forget about managing attitude. Forget about motivating others. Instead, use what you say and do to influence the behavior and performance of the people who work for you.
Set clear expectations. Your people can't do what you want if they're not clear about what you want. Learn to give good directions. Check for understanding.
Set reasonable expectations. Ideally, you want to set goals that force people to stretch just a little bit, but that are still within their grasp. Try to help your people grow through a series of small wins.
Check on performance regularly. That's the only way you'll know how people are doing. Check more frequently on people who are learning a task or who are doing it again after a long layoff. Check less frequently on people who have demonstrated their competence in a task.
Give helpful feedback. Do this in four steps. Describe the behavior in non-judgmental terms. Describe the outcome of the behavior. Pause and allow for subordinate reaction and comment. Then determine how things will be different the next time.
Keep things interesting. Workers won't stay engaged unless they find their work interesting. Sometimes the work itself has intrinsic interest. But, more often, the way to keep people interested is to help them keep learning and developing.
Tell people why their work is important. People want to be part of something that is bigger than they are. Tell them how their work contributes to the team and to team success. Tell them how the performance of the team contributes to the success of the company or how it helps achieve a big goal.
Describe and deliver the consequences of performance. Consequences are what happens to people because of their behavior or performance.
Positive consequences (like praise) encourage people to continue something new or difficult. Most managers don't use positive consequences enough. Positive consequences should be delivered frequently, but inconsistently. In other words, look for opportunities to praise behavior or performance, but don't praise every good thing you see.
Negative consequences (like punishment) encourage people to stop or avoid doing something. Negative consequences should be delivered consistently. In other words, if you tell a subordinate that a certain behavior or performance level will result in a negative consequence, make sure you deliver the consequence if it's justified.
Be fair. People perceive a workplace to be fair when consequences and performance match up. A trainee of mine once put this is quasi-Biblical terms: "The just should be rewarded and the unjust should be punished in accordance with their deeds."
Give your people the maximum control possible over their work life. Let them make as many basic decisions about their work life as is reasonable and possible. So, what's reasonable?
A worker who has the skill to do the job and who regularly pitches in to help (what we call an engaged worker) can be trusted to make more work decisions than a less experienced or less engaged worker. Match your willingness to grant freedom to the worker's ability and willingness to do the job.
Bonus Tip: Show up a lot. This is the single defining behavior of great supervisors. When you show up a lot you get to know your people and they get to know you. And every contact is an opportunity for you to coach, counsel, encourage, and correct.
Bonus Tip: Play the odds. You can't win them all in management or in life. But you can follow this advice from the American writer Ring Lardner. "The race may not always be to the swift, nor victory to the strong, but that's the way to bet."
There's good news and bad news here. Let's do the bad news first.
You can't win them all. No matter how good a job you do, there will be people who won't do what they're supposed to. There will be situations that don't work out well.
Now for the good news. If you do the basics consistently and well, over time you'll be the person with the greatest impact on a work team's productivity and morale. And that's something to feel really good about.
About the Author
Wally Bock is an author, speaker, consultant and coach who helps leaders improve the performance and morale of their teams. This material is adapted from Wally's latest book, Performance Talk: The One-on-One Part of Leadership (http://www.performancetalk.com). He also writes the Three Star Leadership Blog (http://blog.threestarleadership.com/).