Employees don’t leave companies; they leave bosses. You may have heard this old business adage before. But what types of bosses do people leave? And, more importantly, are you one of them?
I once (very, very briefly) worked for a company where my department vice president didn’t allow employees to speak to him –or even make eye contact with him – without first setting up a meeting with his assistant. Then he would be hours late for the meeting because he went to lunch (not caring about the employee waiting for him in an empty conference room with her own stomach rumbling).
Since this work stint happened firmly in the era of executives wearing torn jeans and hoodies to work and not in a 17th century royal palace, I found the practice somewhere between hilarious and soul-crushingly offensive. I made it three whole months in this position, which was, not surprisingly, about the average duration that most people worked for him.
Better boss basics: Take off your crown, step off your throne and get to know your employees as fellow human beings, not subjects of your royal court. A true leader works next to their team, not above them.
The missing person
We’re all busy people but part of the job of a manager is to guide your team. You can’t do this if you’re not around. While it’s important to hire professionals who are resourceful and skilled enough to do their job without much hand-holding, there are times when they will need you to point them in the right direction.
Being a manager is hard work and not everyone has the aptitude – or desire -- to do the job. If you take on the role of a boss, you must be ready to invest time for your team into your busy schedule, especially with a newer employee. Time management, organization and patience are immensely helpful skills for any boss.
Better boss basics: Schedule weekly one-on-one time with each of your direct reports – and stick to it! A regular half-hour meeting to touch base, brainstorm and answer questions can go a long way toward keeping your team on track.
The “do as I say, not as I do” manager
You ever hear anybody say that it’s best to lead by example? That’s because it’s true. If you want your customer service team to consistently provide an exemplary customer experience, you must be the example of stellar service. If you want high-end products from your software development employees, then you must display your own commitment to quality and craftsmanship. If you cut corners, have a bad attitude or get lazy in your job duties, you can expect the same from your employees.
A true leader would never ask anything from their employees that they aren’t willing to do themselves. But it’s about more than being willing to do those things you ask – it’s about actually doing them. Long-term, you can expect even your most dedicated employees to be about 3/4 as committed to the task as you are. This means that if you want 100 percent from your employees, you should be giving at least 130 percent.
Better boss basics: Setting an example is one of the harder skills for many managers to master. It’s a lot of work to constantly be “on.” This is where open, honest communication with your employees can be helpful. Make it a point to regularly ask them for feedback about areas where you may need to improve or ways you could do a better job – both as a manager and as an employee of the company.
This two-way-street method of communicating with your direct reports not only helps you improve in your own performance – it then re-inspires your staff to step up their own game.
The unwelcome BFF
You know that person at the office who is always TMI with her personal life or who spends at least an hour on Monday mornings standing over your desk telling you every last detail about her weekend?
Make sure this person isn’t you.
While it’s important to have a warm, cordial relationship with your employees, that relationship should also be professional. A professional relationship steers away from any topic that is usually deemed “private.” Even if you are more open to sharing the nitty gritty details of your personal life, your employees might not be.
Being inappropriate with personal conversations could put you at risk for HR compliance issues. At best, wasting time gabbing about matters outside of work sets a bad example for how you want your employees to behave on the job.
Better boss basics: Stick to only discussing with your employees aspects of either of your lives that are obvious and publicly shared – and keep each of these conversations as short as possible. Asking an employee how his kids are doing or what he thinks of the book he’s reading is fine. Details of your divorce proceedings or your impending bankruptcy are probably best left to conversations with your non-work friends. This rule of thumb applies also outside the office, such as when traveling or at a work-related event.
The fear monger
You run your team with an iron fist. You see yourself not just as a manager but as a drill sergeant who commands an army of underlings and demands perfection at all times. Whether an employee is five minutes late to work, forgets a bullet point on a 50-slide PowerPoint presentation or doesn’t word an email to your exact preferences, you make sure he knows that you aren’t happy with it. When you do give your employees “feedback,” which is several times per day, you are direct and “tell it like it is.” You just don’t get why it’s so hard to find experienced professionals to do things exactly as you want them done.
You also don’t understand why you’ve had to hire five different people for the same position in the last year or why your assistant always spends her lunch hour crying in her car.
Better boss basics: Being an effective manager is hard work. Undoing a pattern of micro-managing is even harder. If you, deep down, know that you are using fear tactics to control your team (and, if you are, you know deep down that it’s true), it is important to your own career and the success of your business that you undo your current management style, go back to the beginning and really invest in some leadership training and development.
This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.