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Becoming the Best Boss Ever

What would it take to make you the best boss ever? If you get promoted into a supervisory or management role, you might be asking this question. That is if you get past the “Oh snap, what do I do now” stage.

But seriously, wouldn’t it be better if you really could be the best boss ever to your team? It is said people join companies but quit bosses. How can you avoid being ‘that guy?’

The best place to start is to think about the good bosses you have known. Certainly, you knew some. Maybe it was a coach in school or maybe your first boss who took you under his/her wing. For me, the idea of the best boss ever is more of a collage of many; a patchwork quilt of skills and abilities demonstrated in the trenches by bosses I have had.

As I work with my coaching clients, I often ask them to do this same exercise. Think about leaders you have known or know about. What attributes make them good leaders? I have the client write out the list they identify.

Key Themes

In no particular order, here are the common themes I get.

Interpersonal skill – having the ability to connect with employees. The time we spend at work should not be ‘all work’. There has to be some connection that happens. Otherwise, people lose interest.

I was told about a senior leader at a company who had the uncanny ability to recall names and details about workers’ family matters. It was not uncommon for him to see someone in the hall and ask “How did Jimmy’s project go at school?” He was following up on a small detail shared with him in a prior meeting.

Being able to relate to your people is not simply calling them by their names. It’s about getting down to earth with matters that mean something to them.

Integrity – This theme comes up a lot. People simply trust a person of integrity more than they trust anyone else.

Integrity has many layers. It starts with doing what you say you’re going to do. It also means staying away from the petty politics that can happen at work.

In addition, it means not cutting corners or making shady deals to get ahead, win the bid, or get your way.

Being decisive – This one has power. If you want to be a great boss, you have to make decisions, then stick by them. When you take on management of a team, the people need a leader who can make the call. When things happen, decisions must be made.

If you want to earn the respect of your people, you cannot shy away from making the decision when the time comes for one to be made.

Still More

Know Your Stuff – easier said than done. Good bosses contribute by knowing something about what they are leading. On occasion, you may be asked to move into an area you know very little about. When that happens, you should make every effort to learn about the critical aspects of the work being done there. Get coaching, mentoring or other advice from the senior experts on the team.

Don’t fake it. A false effort will be sniffed out. You’ll lose all credibility. But people can accept the new manager who is showing effort to properly learn the scope.

In my banking days, I was recruited to join our real estate lending group to build a team of administrators and take over some operations functions. I told the department head I had a little experience in home building but had no idea what commercial real estate lending was about. He said “No worries.” Then he called our lead counsel at the law firm that supported the bank. He asked for what eventually became my tutoring.

For about three months I had regular weekly sessions with the attorney. I got a first-hand look at all aspects of proper lending and governance of loan agreements. With that learning, I was comfortable leading my team, working with bank executives, and even negotiating with customers. To this day, I value that opportunity. (In subsequent negotiations I’ve even been asked where I got my law degree.)

Process and People

Create the Process – scalable, sustainable work requires a reliable process. This doesn’t matter whether you are building cars, drilling for oil, or pushing paper. A solid process gives you the ability to train, equip, and prepare your people for success.

If you ask your team to do things differently every day, they will get very frustrated. You won’t be able to build accountability. Nor will you be able to build reliable output.

Deal with People – as Jim Collins put it, having the right people on the bus is critical to success. Work on your hiring process and build a solid evaluation system for maintaining accountability. Be clear in setting expectations for the team. Then inspect what you expect.

As potential performance issues arise, deal with them swiftly. A languishing problem employee sucks the life out of your team. Plus if you delay in making the right moves to resolve the problem, the good performers you have will lose respect for YOU.

For those on the team who perform at high levels, celebrate the wins. Give recognition where and when it is deserved.

Summary

There are dozens more to list, but these are the common ones I hear within my own coaching practice. They make sense. Take these ideas to heart and you just might be on your way to being called, the Best Boss Ever.

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