How do you know if you are a good boss or a bad boss? If you are the latter, your team is not going to tell you, they will just be talking about it behind your back. That negatively affects productivity, team morale and ultimately, business performance.
Being a great boss and getting your employees excited about working for you often comes back to how much you inspire them to perform well and be their best. Aiming to be an inspiring boss will bring out the best in your team, making you look your best along the way.
Here are nine ways to help you become an inspiring boss:
1. Be genuine
It is tempting to think that once you are in a position of power, you have to project a faultless image that is not necessarily legitimate. By staying true to who you are and letting your team see glimpses of that – be it your penchant for bad rap music, or your love of cat memorabilia – you allow yourself to be human, and therefore more relatable. You don’t need to break out into song, just be your authentic self; it’s the only way to make real, personal connections.
2. Listen and learn
Make sure you take the time to connect with your team. Make the effort to ask each individual how they are doing on a regular basis and really listen to the answers, as they will speak volumes about the team as well as the individual. People like to think that the person they are working for cares; it makes them feel valued and spurs them on to do better work.
Remove yourself from technology to learn and guide in real time. Talk to your staff and encourage them to talk to you – hiding behind emails giving directions doesn’t build relationships. Your team has valuable insights to offer.
3. Continual feedback
This is one of the most important factors – without continual feedback you will experience a communication breakdown. Let your team members know how they are doing in an honest and constructive way. If the people you manage see that you are noticing the work that they are producing, they will naturally take greater care over their projects and deliverables.
People are generally willing to accept and act on constructive feedback, so keep it coming on a regular basis, don’t wait for yearly appraisals to keep your team continually improving. Also ask for feedback on what else you can do to support them. This will not only endear you to your team, who will see practical evidence of you being invested in their success, but also to senior management who will notice the increase in productivity and engagement from your team.
4. Admit your failings
Recognise where, as a boss, you have weaknesses. Search out ways to improve those. Often it is tempting to push our limitations to the side, or not even admit them to ourselves for fear of being judged negatively. Find a mentor or two, senior people you respect in your company or industry, and ask them for feedback about your performance. Then make a plan for your personal development around weak spots. If you have particular issues with individuals you manage, discuss those situations with your trusted advisors. Be self-aware and acknowledge where you need to work on yourself.
5. Care and care alike
Make sure you keep your treatment of your team members on an even keel. Everyone naturally has people that they gravitate towards, and as a manager you won’t be any different. But be careful of favouritism as it can breed resentment among those who perceive they are not part of your inner circle. As a leader it is important you make sure everyone has opportunities to shine. Being inclusive strengthens team bonds and optimises team performance.
6. Take the time to socialise
This doesn’t mean you have to be out partying with your team every night (and if you do go out partying, that's when it's important to remember you're the boss), but make some time each week, at a minimum, to connect with people on a personal level. This can be asking them about their upcoming trip, suggesting a coffee – where you can give and receive feedback – or just spending five minutes chatting about their plans for the weekend. Having a social connection which goes deeper than just passing chit-chat builds relationships that foster positive behaviours.
7. Be positive
On that note, positive behaviours are highly contagious, as are negative ones. Prowling around the office with a face like thunder isn’t conducive to a happy working environment for your team. Making sure your attitude stays, where possible, optimistic and upbeat will reflect well on you and keep the people you manage happy. Similarly, it is your responsibility to stamp out any negativity you see in your team. If you see discontent, go straight to the source and address it. Enthusiasm is contagious, so reflect what you want to see in your people.
8. Take one for your team
Don’t throw your employees under the bus. If you lead a team, then you are ultimately responsible for their successes and their mistakes. Great bosses don’t pass the buck back down to their team members; they step in and take accountability. Of course individuals need to be answerable for their actions, but if you lead by example and help solve problems rather than pass blame, you will find your whole team becomes more accountable and more confident taking calculated risks – which is where the greatest victories lie.
Never make the mistake of thinking that blaming your team will get you off the hook with your superiors when something goes wrong - it's more likely that they will question your managerial skills for allowing this to happen.
9. Be flexible
These days hardly any employees work a standard 37.5 hour week. Contactable via email and phone 24/7, some workers never switch off, which can cause resentment and burnout.
That being said, most employees recognise that this is just part and parcel of the current working landscape. So how do you make sure you keep your team happy? Recognise their extra effort and offer a trade-off. A longer lunchtime to go to the gym, a lie in after a late night at the office, time out to attend an appointment or a school play all go a long way to generating good feelings and actually increase productivity in the workforce.
Now go forth and inspire!