We’ve all had them: bosses and managers who make our work lives terrible and couldn’t manage a stack of paper clips, let alone a team of employees. I’ve written about the traits that make for bad bosses before, and in that article, a thoughtful commenter came up with his own list of what makes a good boss.
I loved his list (hat tip to him), but I thought I’d elaborate on what I believe makes for an effective boss or manager.
Having worked with many corporations and companies — large and small — I’ve seen time and time again what works, and what doesn’t.
Effective bosses and managers tend to:
- Provide strong leadership and a clear vision
The captain must steer the ship. If leadership doesn’t know where a project or company is headed, how can the company know? This isn’t just about steps or deliverables, either, but a clear vision of the department or company’s future that he or she can communicate to the employees.
- Hold themselves and others accountable
Many bosses hold their staff accountable, but the best show that they hold themselves accountable as well. This means adhering to the same guidelines they set for their employees and taking responsibility for both team successes and failures.
- Good problem solver
One key thing the best bosses seem to have in common is that they are all consummate problem solvers. They can not only spot them, but brainstorm successful and innovative ways to fix them.
- Avoid micromanaging
The best bosses understand the art of delegation. My commenter said something along the lines of, “They’ve fired themselves from their previous job,” meaning that they don’t interfere in the day-to-day and minute-to-minute workflow or processes. In essence, learning to delegate instead of micromanage is about trust.
- Effective decision makers
Effective bosses must be effective decision makers. He or she cannot vacillate over every tiny decision. Being able to make decisions quickly and decisively — and then take responsibility for the outcome (see number 2) — is an important business skill, especially when managing others.
- Put people first
The best bosses understand that there must be a balance between the company or client’s needs and the needs of his or her employees. The best bosses are willing to listen and talk about any issues an employee may be having because they understand that a happy employee is a more productive employee.
- Manage up, down, and sideways
Managers are expected to manage the people below them on the corporate hierarchy, but the best managers also have ways of managing their superiors and coworkers on behalf of their team. Many times this means effective communication, managing expectations, and requesting help in a timely manner.
- Show Appreciation
Every employee wants a pat on the back once in a while, and the best bosses understand the importance of recognizing and appreciating employee contributions. This doesn’t have to mean bonuses or fancy corporate awards, but regular and meaningful expressions of appreciation.
- Be Honest
There’s nothing worse than a boss who says one thing and does another, and nothing better than one who keeps his word. Just as managers must trust their team, employees must trust their boss to have their best interests at heart.
- Be Dedicated and balanced
The very best bosses I’ve seen are passionate about their work; they live and breathe their jobs and strive to do the best work possible. Yet at the same time, they have lives outside of work. They understand the need to balance family and work or play and work. And they set a good example of how to do that for their employees.