How to Be a Great Boss

Now that you’ve been promoted into a management position, you are determined to not only avoid being like many of the crappy managers you’ve had, but you want to be a great boss. 

The thing is, you’re trying hard to figure out what really distinguishes a good one from a bad one.  You might think it’s like art: you know it when you see it, but it really isn’t that subjective. 

There are several things you can do that will pull you out of the ranks of bad and well on your way to great.

Know your job.  Sounds simple, but many people go into a management position not really understanding that they are there to provide direction and guidance to their group.

Know the output for your group.  Each group is responsible for producing some work.  Learn what yours is and then learn how well you do it.  If no one has bothered to measure in both qualitative and quantitative terms what you are to produce, you can change that.  It will also translate to your group at an individual level, because now they will know what specifically is expected of them.  Without a yardstick, it’s hard to know how well you’re doing.

Learn what each person does, as well as their skills.  Spend time with each person to get familiar with the work they do.  They will respect you if they think you have a clue about what their work entails.  By understanding each person’s skills you will be able to make better decisions about how to deploy your people resources.

Make a plan with your group.  Don’t dictate a plan, as that will go over like a lead balloon.  People become much more invested in something if they have a chance to become personally invested in it.  They will only become more invested in it if some of it has their finger print.  Of course, they will think you’re brilliant because you solicited their ideas.

Communicate frequently.  The biggest flaw most managers have is not communicating enough, or fully when they do.  It can be formal and informal discussions in the hallways at work.  Look for opportunities to give people feedback about your expectations and how well they are doing. Discuss progress to your plans with your boss and group.

Kick your ego out the door.  One of the biggest bad-boss characteristics is that their ego gets in the way of making good decisions, learning the work of the group, asking questions or soliciting ideas from their group.  They either feel like they would expose their weakness or think they know the best.  Both things are untrue.  You aren’t weak by asking questions or asking for ideas. Make business decisions, not ego-based decisions.

Strike a balance between professionally aloof and friendly.  You aren’t in your position to be friends with people in your group, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be warm and friendly.  It’s good to know the boss is a real human.  At the same time, you will be making a big mistake to turn anyone into a BFF.  You are the person who has to maintain a professional relationship with each person, which means you’re clear you’re the boss, in charge, setting direction AND a real person.

It’s not hard to be a great boss with some thought put into what you’re doing.  The good news is that if you are deliberately giving this issue serious thought, you’re well on your way to greatness.

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a certified life and career coach. She works with aspiring professionals who are looking for career growth, advancement and entry into the “C” suite. As well, she works with people to overcome the sometimes daunting task of changing careers. With over 21 years in management, Dorothy has coached, trained and guided other professionals who have gone on to impressive and fulfilling careers. Her personal philosophy about careers is: “It’s not JUST a job; it’s half your life – so love your career”. You can check out her resources, blog and services at Next Chapter New Life and MBA Highway.

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