There are a lot of bad bosses out there—that’s no surprise. In fact, 65% of Americans would choose to fire their boss over getting a pay raise.
But what gets lost in the midst of trying to stop an awful lot of bad behaviors is the fact that there are a fair number of good bosses out there as well. These are bosses who genuinely care for their team members and want to do the right thing by them. Bosses in the “good” category are already doing a lot of things right, but still have room to move from “good” to “great,” and drive engagement and team productivity on a whole new level.
Want to make the leap to being a great boss? Here are five things to consider.
Great bosses listen.
Good bosses focus a lot of energy on communication, as they should! They transparently communicate with their team members individually and together as a collective unit to make sure everyone has the information they need. Perhaps they even regularly open the floor for questions and collaboration to bring the team along and get their buy-in. But what you say is only half the battle. Listening is a trait that 88% of employees value in a boss. However, only 60% of employees say their managers listen to them.
The difference between waiting to talk and truly listening is deeply misunderstood in the professional world, even by bosses with the best intentions. Great bosses put in that extra effort to make sure they’re making eye contact and have open body language that articulates they are open to what employees have to say. They put away their computer, knowing that if they’re taking notes on it the person talking to them will think they are checking their email. They repeat back what’s said to them to make sure their team member knows they heard it. And when they hear valid points or interesting perspectives, they keep an open mind and find ways to do things with it.
Giving someone your full attention is a gift that is easy to give and doesn’t cost a thing. Great bosses make listening one of their most important habits.
Great bosses adapt to the needs of their individual team members.
Every single one of us brings a unique set of preferences and tendencies to work with us every day – that’s your work style. There’s no such thing as a good or bad work style, and no work style is any better or worse than any other. Each has its own set of strengths and a set of things that are a bit more challenging. For example, someone can have what many consider to be a natural leadership ability…but they leave a trail of bodies in their wake because they’re so focused on achieving their goal. And some people are extraordinary collaborators, but they can also be hesitant to call out the problems for the sake of team harmony.
Good bosses have made an effort to master their own work style. They’ve developed self-awareness of the things they’re really great at, and also know that they’re not perfect. Great bosses take it a step further – they’ve not only mastered their work style but also the work style of the people reporting to them, understanding where there’s overlap and where there are differences. They use that mastery to adapt their management style and approach to every person reporting to them, understanding that just because an approach works for one person does not mean that it will work for another.
If you’re not sure how to do this, it could start with a simple conversation with your team members. Ask them what you do that they like, what you do that they don’t like, and what they want you to start doing that you’re not doing already. Then, listen thoughtfully do their answers without pushing back and see how you can integrate their needs into your process.
Great bosses cultivate an ecosystem of positive feedback.
Good bosses know that positive feedback is one of the key drivers of a top-performing team, and go out of their way to make sure they’re giving it out liberally. Great bosses know that positive feedback doesn’t always have to come from the boss. Yes, they give it out themselves, but they also cultivate an environment on their team that makes positive feedback an everyday act, encouraging team members to give positive feedback to each other.
It doesn’t take much to get the ball rolling. In fact, you can really have fun with this! I once worked with a VP of Sales who brought in a big bag of Mardi Gras beads and left them in a bowl on his desk. Anytime you wanted to give a team member with kudos, you just went into his office, grabbed some beads, and gave them to the person you wanted to recognize (along with a thank you!). Then you sent out an email to the whole office letting them know that person had been rewarded with beads. People displayed their beads proudly at their desk like a badge of honor!
It could be a regular informal gathering in which you encourage people to give shout-outs or a wall where people hang their kudos on all sorts of colorful sticky notes. A great boss might even bring their team together to brainstorm ideas. Whichever route you go, make it fun! Because making someone’s day with a compliment should be fun.
Great bosses promote conflict.
Good bosses create cultures of collaboration, taking advantage of all the diverse perspectives on their team to come up with a better approach than they could have achieved on an individual level. They go out of their way to make sure everyone feels included in the process, has a chance to express their opinions and have their voice be heard. Great bosses do all those things, while also cultivating an environment that supports and encourages productive conflict.
On the face of it, conflict might not seem like something a great boss would want! But remember that not all types of conflict are created equal.
Destructive conflict is based on ego, politics, and competition.
Productive conflict is unfiltered, a passionate debate around issues that are important to the success of a team.
One form of conflict is competitive, inherently pitting team members against one another. The other form does just the opposite. It brings the team together because they trust each other enough to know that everyone is contributing in support of the team goal, rather than out for their personal interests. If team members have concerns or think things could be approached in a different way, they are expected to bring those concerns forward to each other directly, rather than gossiping or creating angst behind closed doors. And if things get heated in the process (which can happen when people bring passion to work!) a great boss is there to step in and facilitate, reminding everyone that they are all moving towards the same end result.
Great bosses don’t mind failure.
Good bosses set their employees up for success, taking responsibility for jumping in and helping when obstacles need to be moved out of the way. They know that when their employees succeed, that is a feather in the boss’s cap. But great bosses know that exploring creative solutions or thinking outside the box inherently involves one key thing that most professionals fear: The possibility of failure. If you’re trying things you’ve never done before, it’s simply unrealistic to expect it all to go perfectly the first time! Or the second time, or the third time.
Great bosses create an atmosphere of learning in which their team members feel psychologically safe enough to take risks, learn what they can and make tweaks to the strategy for the next time. In that environment, failure becomes far less scary because employees see it as just one step on their way to success.
Being a great boss may seem like a lot of work on the face of it, but it really doesn’t require a lot of extra time. However, it does require looking at things differently and being very mindful of the impact of your actions. Any manager can do it – it simply requires the will to make it happen.
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Written By: Karlyn Borysenko