One of the biggest challenges of owning a business is managing people. Some business owners
seem to be natural relators; they were born with the gift of hiring good people and achieving great results through them. For others, it is not so easy. Being a boss that employees respect and enjoy entails many talents. You have to be good at accountability, communication, training, and empowerment. Being a good boss involves being genuinely interested in the well-being of the people and the families of the people who work with you.
I’ve worked with some wonderful bosses in my career. Here are eight lessons I learned from my best bosses.
People want to feel valued and treated with respect. Yet some bosses are afraid to show empathy because they feel it will erode their authority. It won’t. Conversely holding the threat of firing over their heads only causes fear and resentment. Instead my best bosses:
- Said please and thank you. They knew I had to do as I was told. They said please and thank you anyway.
- Had our backs. They understood that they were ultimately responsible for the results of their team. They did their best to ensure we were well trained for the positions we held and understood expectations. If we messed up in a way that affected another department they answered for it. To say we were loyal would have been an understatement.
- Praised in public, criticized in private. This may seem like Human Relations 101, but you wouldn’t believe how effective it was and how often I saw it violated.
They took time to listen
Even when they were having a busy day, they’d stop what they were doing when someone walked into their office and wanted to talk. They allowed people to finish talking before they spoke. They were fully engaged in the conversation and didn’t seem to be forming objections or rebuttals while the individual was speaking.
My best boss, Don, acknowledged what I said and told me “I appreciate you telling me this.” Even though he took no action, I needed to hear that to feel heard and respected.
They took people with them
Several times in my career I had the opportunity to visit a customer or tour a job site with my boss. It was a terrific growth opportunity being able to watch my boss in action and I learned a lot. After a while I was even allowed to go on calls alone. What an opportunity!
Took care of their people
That didn’t mean they were close friends with their employees or involved in their personal lives. It did mean that if one of their employees or spouse or child developed a life-threatening disease or was in a serious accident, they showed up. They expressed concern. They demonstrated they cared and tried to do everything possible to accommodate their employee’s needs during that difficult period. That concern and compassion was worth more than gold and bought years of loyalty and dedication.
Knew their employees’ strengths
The cream always rises to the top, and my bosses knew that. They figured out which employees did what was “required” and which ones did “all they could” in their jobs. There was a huge distinction. My best bosses got to know their staff as individuals, understanding their goals, talents and abilities. That allowed them to align skills and abilities with the company’s goals.
It’s been said that managers delegate tasks, leaders delegate results. Once I was trained to handle a task, my boss allowed me to handle it without interference. If I achieved the desired results, it didn’t matter if I did the job exactly the way he would have done it. Constantly correcting people undercuts confidence and stunts their growth.
One of the best bosses I ever had was an over-communicator. He shared sensitive and sometimes confidential information with his managers with the understanding that we would honor his trust and not share what we knew. In the five years I worked with Don, not one person ever betrayed that trust. People live up to (or down to) your expectations of them.
They realized that their company was successful because of the efforts of employees. They knew that being in charge didn’t mean they deserved credit for getting the work done. They patted us on the back and complimented us for the work we did. Best of all, they often did it in front of customers and co-workers.
On this Bosses Day, think about your best bosses and honor them by paying it forward.