Enterprise Software

10 things that good bosses do

Eliminating bad behaviors from your management repertoire is a step in the right direction. But to truly excel as a boss, you must learn how to motivate, inspire, and challenge your staff.

As we discovered in 7 Signs You May Be a Bad Manager, bosses aren't usually aware that they are bad bosses. The fact is that nobody wants to believe they're the problem. Nevertheless, there's a bell curve for all things involving people, which means there are few really bad bosses, few really good bosses, and most of you fall somewhere in the middle.

To me that says, for the vast majority of you, there's lots of room for improvement.

So if you're not exhibiting any of the 7 Signs, that's great; pat yourself on the back. Still, if you really want to up your management game, maybe even vault into the executive or ownership ranks someday, you'd better start doing at least a few of these 10 Things That Good Bosses Do.

Incidentally, this isn't from some academic study. These are real attributes of real bosses, culled from decades of observation, which motivate and inspire employees to perform at their best.

Note: This article originally appeared in an entry in BNET's The Corner Office blog. It's also available as a PDF download.

1: Pay people what they're worth, not what you can get away with

What you lose in expense you gain back several fold in performance.

2: Take the time to share your experiences and insights

Labels like mentor and coach are overused. Let's be specific here. Employees learn from those generous enough to share their experiences and insights. They don't need a best friend or a shoulder to cry on.

3: Tell it to employees straight, even when it's bad news

To me, the single most important thing any boss can do is to man up and tell it to people straight. No BS, no sugarcoating, especially when it's bad news or corrective feedback.

4: Manage up... effectively

Good bosses keep management off employee's backs. Most people don't get this, but the most important aspect of that is giving management what they need to do their jobs. That's what keeps management away.

5: Take the heat and share the praise

It takes courage to take the heat and humility to share the praise. That comes naturally to great bosses; the rest of us have to pick it up as we go.

6: Delegate responsibility, not tasks

Every boss delegates, but the crappy ones think that means dumping tasks they hate on workers -- i.e., s**t rolls downhill. Good bosses delegate responsibility and hold people accountable. That's fulfilling and fosters professional growth.

7: Encourage employees to hone their natural abilities and challenge them to overcome their issues

That's called getting people to perform at their best.

8: Build team spirit

As we learned before, great groups outperform great individuals. And great leaders build great teams.

9: Treat employees the way they deserve to be treated

You always hear people say they deserve respect and to be treated as equals. Well, some may not want to hear this, but a) respect must be earned and b) most workers are not their boss's equals.

10: Inspire your people

All the above motivate people, but few bosses have the ability to truly inspire their employees. How? By sharing their passion for the business. By knowing just what to say and do at just the right time to take the edge off or turn a tough situation around. Genuine anecdotes help a lot. So does a good sense of humor.

How do you rate?

All this adds up to an environment where people feel appreciated, recognized, challenged, and appropriately compensated. So what do you think? How do you measure up on the good boss scale?


38 comments
szwdv
szwdv

They do supers when you let your guard down, but the supers are blockable.

kiroboy
kiroboy

as a leader in the workplace I believe that bosses should treat everyone with respect, regardless of whether they deserve it or not. it seems like the professional thing to do. if anything the boss needs to be the glue that holds the workplace together emotionally.

SDishon
SDishon

Correction to #3: Man or Woman up. Not all bosses are men.

KNOWLEDGE464
KNOWLEDGE464

Did you know JD Rockefeller actually went to his employees funerals and Paid for them too. This is a man who appreciated his employees and treated the respectfully. This article so touched a lot of what my book is going to be about. The psychology of good and bad bosses. We all think we know what a bad boss is till we had one and know one thing and it runs deep that we all hate our bosses deep inside because you are good at what you do for the company but your boss is not so good. But what we don't look at is that the boss hired you because of course he cant do what you do that's why your there if he did he would be doing it himself. Now, what we all disagree on is that the boss gets paid more for delegation and you get less for doing. This is totally ass backwards. If you look at infrastructure of business you have the old style pyramid the top gets paid the top but for what keeping the rest in line, I think that this should be the least paid and the worker ant's below should be paid the most even though there are more of them there should be a higher production pay scale than a management scale. We also don't understand that the boss makes all the reports that you don't know how to do. We need to come to an understanding that without the worker the manager or boss is no longer needed so where do you draw the line who is more important your report or the product? Most would be saying the product because it generates the revenue for a company where this is my point the manager or boss does not make the product the quote "great teams beat great individuals" add a boss in there you have no team because you are adding an I in that where the "I" is the boss but instead of being a natural leader who knows how to follow when they need to. Companies actually think that management keeps the company in line but what happens when they don't have the control and employee walk out? Nothing happens they make an offer and then they fire someone. Wrong this is not the fix. your employees have already picked their leader why not let that person lead and monitor, react, be proactive. Management should follow and lead when they need to not delegate or manage they should be watching not pointing but diligence will help the boss who is paying attention and finds a fault and makes suggestions and lets the team collaborate on the idea and I guarantee your Idea will be revamped into a greater one. Think of it the business world as a team concept instead of a pyramid. Imagine what can be accomplished. Like the tower of babel without the destruction but the building blocks of what we can accomplish as a team instead of players instead of a team of players lead by a leader who never even played in the game.

bloodrose903
bloodrose903

I had many a-bosses who didn't tick many of the 7 signs, but their self awareness was so low, they were convinced they were ticking all ten of good management practice listed here. (when they weren't) I think a good manager must also be able to objectively review what others think of them and develop themselves accordingly. Very few do....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You can delegate authority, delegating responsibility is passing the buck.

jkameleon
jkameleon

... and replace them regularly.

DRMoon
DRMoon

I have one to add: Years ago I took a job which required me to manage a small staff, something I'd never done before. Before I began, I asked my mother, a veteran manager of 25+ years, for her advice on how to be a good boss. She told me this: "Praise your staff in public, correct them in private. If someone does something well, say so freely and recognize them for their efforts. People need to know when they are doing well and that they are appreciated. However, if someone is not doing so well, speak to them privately. Calling someone out in front of a group will only make everyone hostile and angry, regardless of the correction you are trying to make."

seanferd
seanferd

If you don't mind. I'm not able to parse any of it.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I've been paid more than my boss before, but that's a market value, not an indicator of how valuable I am to the business compared to my boss. Most organisations are pyramids, a policy of paying people at the base more than those at the apex, will by definition make your salary costs spiral and put you out of business. Now if you reversed things co-op style you'd cut out a lot of abuses, but it will be a cold day in hell before the establishment lets that happen, they believe in, and need fuedalism. Teams in corporateville, now there I agree with you, in general it just doesn't get the concept at all. There again in the feudalistic model they are very hard to set up, seen it work once, in near thirty years. I once told a bunch of MBA types that teams didn't need managers and should manage themselves. They were all horrified. :p

jim359
jim359

We've talked about doing them - 360 degree reviews. We all need objective feedback. A single source of feedback is not objective - it's opinion, isn't it? It could be a good opinion. And it could be good but delivered poorly - ie you have to reach the recipient. You have to meet them where they are if you want to influence them, seed their thoughts and engage them.

vzjp
vzjp

When I delegate, I keep ownership of the fact that I delegated, to WHOM and WHY, and HOW. The HOW includes, primarily, buy-in, i.e. transferring understanding of the purpose of the task, its context, importance, benefit. Then comes the authority, the means, the time to deliver. And of course, on request, some guidance as to how to do it, training, coaching even. If the result is not good, which can occasionally happen, then it is my fault. If, as is often the case, all goes well, it is primarily the delegate's success (and mine too, a little bit, for having delegated effectively). The WHY of delegation is simple. If you don't delegate, adding people to your team is, at best, just addition. If you delegate well, it is multiplication of results and future capability (through division of task responsibility :) ) Making people achieve is a function of making achievement possible for them - you provide the situation that they MAY, together with them you make sure they CAN, and they alone bring to the table their WILL. You cannot delegate effectively to someone who does not want to do the given task. That is the clue regarding to WHOM best to delegate. Ability and opportunity being equal, I always prefer to delegate to motivated volunteers. Those who want more, get more, and rise faster.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

The word has two entirely different meanings. A person can proudly say "I'm responsible for ensuring that the municipal drinking water supply isn't contaminated - It's an important job." It's not the same as saying "The responsibility for the lethal arsenic leak was put on a worker at the municipal water processing plant."

dallas_dc
dallas_dc

It is a matter of semantics on the responsibility/authority thing. However, the point is by assigning responsibility, you empower the person to take ownership of the process, job, project, whatever. They can then grow by using their brain to come up with the best to way to handle it. You as a manager must decide how much input to provide, given the maturity level of the person. More times than not, they will discover a way of accomplishing the goal that is equal to or better than the way you would have told them to do it, or the tasks you would have assigned for them to execute. To address the pass the buck point - If have ultimate responsibility for a project, and I delegate responsibility for a portion of the project to a member of my staff and hold them accountable, that does not alleviate me from the accountability to my superiors. See #5 - Take the Heat and Share the Praise.

lyford
lyford

I agree that is what can happen. If you are given responsibility for something without given the authority to influence outcomes, then all that does is paint a target on your back when something out of your control goes wrong. I think the spirit of #6 is to not micromanage tasks but rather to organize the work into nested, modular roles if possible. This presumes more than a checklist understanding of the project and that the team shares more than a "make it go away" attitude towards the work. Each member takes ownership for their particular zone of responsibility.

jim359
jim359

In my view, and I think this is a matter of the human spirit... I don't want to be micro managed. I don't want to be judged on how I work, or how and what I do to accomplish a task. So don't delegate tasks. Challenge me, empower me, and delegate the authority to me to accomplish an objective. That gives me the freedom to unleash my skills my way. And who's to say your way is better than mine? I'll need leadership skills to bring people together to accomplish my objectives. Coach me, collaborate with me, and hold me accountable to the objective(s). Let me know clearly what the objectives are so I know what I'm shooting for. This is where you deal differently with individuals - meet them where they are so you can help guide them, and engage them based on their current thinking and values and judgments. Don't slap a bunch of tasks on my to do list in the belief that you've unleashed my passion on getting those done. You've just made me a slave to the job, and who aspires to be a slave to their job? A list of tasks handed to me dashes my spirit. It doesn't require thinking on my part because someone else told me what to do. People hate when someone else does their thinking - ie tells them what to do. The spirit is unleashed, and my aspirations are energized when I get to problem solve, and find my way through the challenges of meeting an objective. The book Servant Leadership deals with this distinction in a marvelous way.

alistair.k
alistair.k

Accountability cannot... I *think* thats the correct use of the terms I have a task, I can make you responsible for completing it, but I am still accountable should you not do so. In order to perform a delegated task the delegatee needs the authority to complete it. Some hairs splitting going on - but I appreciate the point. I worked for another company once where I had many tasks delegated onto me which I had no authority to complete. So when I went to do them I got fobbed off. Usually because it meant getting more senior folks than I in another department or team to do something. Which they would not, and I could not compel them to. So I failed in my task and I got bollocked. Not great.

timku
timku

Authority is a curious thing in that it can be given and never be recognized--sometimes titular but practically nonexistent. On the other hand, responsibility is by definition a delegation because to be responsible for anything means literally "to be able to respond." This implies both the power to act in a situation and the diligence to be able to give account of actions taken. I think the point was being made that good managers do not make people regularly responsible to carry out random, individual tasks, but rather delegate a responsibility over a manageable part of the overall effort--in your words, an authority. To delegate a responsibility doesn't necessarily mean you pass on the accountability. It means that you are partnering with an employee to grow a part of your business. If anything the manager is held even more accountable because the manager made a judgment call entrusting an employee with responsibility/authority. (Shareholders usually start at the top when looking for someone to blame for a companies woes.) Anyway, I agree with #6. I think poor managers give overwhelming lists of tasks hindering subordinates from developing the skills to identify tasks that need to be carried out, which in turn forces the manager to spoon-feed and track individual tasks.

billquilten
billquilten

I'm thinking of getting a boss gt 10 but i tried a boss ds 1 today and it had one of the best sweet child o' mine sounds i've ever heard. Acai max cleanse

szwdv
szwdv

There you go. Your brain cell count is high, keep it up!:)

dallas_dc
dallas_dc

If a team has a leader, then it is possible that they might not need a manager. (Good bosses should be leaders, so a good manager would be a leader.) Some groups of peers have leaders among them, and although they have the same rank and responsibility, one person will step up and provide the guidance necessary for the team to function. In that case, you may not have a manager, but you definitely have a leader. If you have a team with no leader, you no longer have a team, you have a group of people pulling a rope. Some may pull against another, or some may even have a different piece of rope. Who decides? How do you determine value? Is the person doing the work worth more than the person deciding what to do, how to do it, when to do it? In the Revolutionary War, the Colonial sharpshooters targeted the officers, not the front line foot soldier. Why would they target a "doer" ahead of a leader?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

In fact any appraisal is. Expecting to divorce what you think of him or her from your feelings about them is futile. In fact that's true of any opinion about someone else. You just got a kicking you still feel is unjustified then you get to comment anonymously on your boss. Oh they are great, is not happening is it? If you get nine or ten that say you don't communicate well, then may be just maybe, you don't.... There again maybe you communicated too well, and they didn't like the content. There's no way to effectively manage and have everybody 'like' you all the time, look for trends but keep them in context. If you were the vehicle for a compulsory redundnacy round, and now everybody is burried in strange work, your review will be crap. Human nature.

lesam
lesam

you are the sum of the value of the people you manage. Tony was also correct in that the principle of delegation is a military maxim and that maxim clearly is that while ultimate responsibility cannot be relinquished, delegation of authority carries with it the imposition of a measure of responsibility. In all cases the extent of the authority delegated must be clearly stated. It is difficult to apply directly to business this essential military maxim, but it is moot that the universally accepted "good " Leader / Manager in business invariably has all the traits of the " Good " military commander

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

which one open to interpretation... I wish I had gun. Warning scapegoat, armed and f'ing dangerous. :D

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Far too often delegation is buck passing. Oh I gave Tony that responsibility, now if I fail, doesn't matter why, if you can divert your bosses rage on to me, that means you and your boss are crap managers and even worse leaders. You getting a good kicking and then giving me one is just primate dominance dynamics. :p I'm a good worker, if I see the wheels coming off I'll make sure you know. If I was the sort of tosser who didn't do that, sack me I deserve it. In fact you can rely on me to tell you the wheels will come off because your plan sucks. :D I'll even rely on your judgement as to whether we need to flag it to your boss, hold our hands up and pull out all the stops, or go into self preservation CYA mode because your boss is a major pointy head. Don't come whining to me about with you didn't understand though, if I say I can't do it, and your response is a few stanzas of La La La La, while skipping round your desk with your fingers in your ears, you just undelegated the responsibility. "You" and "I" are have a collective responsibility to achieve something neither of us can do by ourselves. If we aren't working togther, if it happens it's more luck than judgement. Number six was just a bit too ambiguous for me, almost as if it was constructed that way....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

from your people and those who manage them. Cheap jobsworths aren't going to cut it, and as a manager you have let your people do it, you have to become the sum of the value of the people you manage, instead of trying to make out, without you they would be nothing. A leadership skill, sadly lackng in corporateville, from the top down, not the bottom up.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Refusal to delegate your responsibilities doesn't mean micro management is a given. That's refusal to delegate anything. Looked at a certain way, you can't make someone resposnsible for anything. Well you can, but that's abrogation if you know of any reason why the person you are giving it to won't/can't take it. If your book doesn't make that point as well, use it for toilet paper. It's post self justification from a book passer. :D Quantity of tasks on the worload is not the issue, quality is. If every time I need to get something done to get something done, I need to go back to my boss and get him to get someone to get something done, that's worse than micro-management, because accountability/resposnibility is diffused across everybody involved. Yes being micro-managed is awful, it's also self defeating and stupid, but there's only one person to point at when the "who needs to change to make this work" question gets asked.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

use what words you like. It's just engineering failure.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

that one is a military maxim. There's no point in making someone responsible for something if you don't give them the authority to meet it out. t works better in the militray because that's far more hierarchical. Lines of accountablity are known and firm, well in a well run one anyway. It's precisely that big list of things to get done that indicate responsibility without authority. If we don't have the power to say no, we fail.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

professional than watching someone screw the job up. Aside from knowing it's going to be you picking up the pieces, that the resource to do that will come from what you wanted to do, like maybe refactoring or documentation, or researching more options, it's just bleedin' irritating. Personally I think much of it is down to musical chairs, if they stayed in one place for a bit, some of their screw ups would haunt them as well. Still that's game, all we can do is sacrifice that time we should have spent saluting the logo and practicing convincingly bad golf shots, to keep the job going.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I may have projected there, too used to MBAs with delusions telling me without them telling me what to do the whole place would grind to a halt. :D Their response is always "oh no teams must have a manager". They don't mean the role though they mean give me a job, I've got a degree you know. Then they start with football analogies, and then I have to leave before I start slapping them.

dallas_dc
dallas_dc

You said the same thing I did with a few different words. Teams need leaders. If they have a leader, they can achieve progress, whether the person has a title of "Manager" or "Supervisor" or "Team member" does not matter. In the absence of leadership, progress can continue, but the odds of success are lessened. You could be very lucky and everything go great, you could have one person essentially carry the load himself with others marginally participating, or you could have chaos. This gets back to the authors original point, which you reinforced ("...they don't need someone telling them what to do..."), Good Managers delegate responsibility and not tasks. I think although you disagree with the words that were chosen, the author was trying to make the same point as you. "Provide direction and get the heck out of the way." FYI - I appreciate your "Devil's Advocate" responses.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Leadership in a team is a function, a role not a position. There were five of us in the only team I've ever worked in, as opposed to mobs called teams. All of us lead it at one time or another, depended on who had the clearest vision of where to go next and how to get there. Our manager who was most definitley not part of the team, left us to it, as long as we performed. The real trick was they spent a lot of thought on how to make it work, and what sort of people it would need. Your way is necessary if you just get a mob and call it a team. But that is just playing lip service to the entire concept. So yes teams need leaders, yes they need to manage, they donlt need someone to tell them what to do though. And that's what frightens traditional management, they see not being needed as a threat and putting teams together as a challenge they can't cope with.