What Amazing Bosses Do Different
We all know that job satisfaction often hinges on the quality of the relationships we have with our bosses. Yet in today’s rapidly evolving, 24/7 workplaces, it’s not always clear what managers should do to create the most satisfying work experiences and the happiest employees. My research into the world’s most successful bosses has unearthed some common practices that make work much more meaningful and enjoyable. If you supervise others, make sure you do the following:
Manage individuals, not teams. When you’re under pressure, it’s easy to forget that employees are unique individuals, with varying interests, abilities, goals, and styles of learning. But it’s important to customize your interactions with them. Ensure you understand what makes them tick. Be available and accessible for one-on-one conversations. Deliver lessons cued to individual developmental needs. And when it comes to promotion, look past rigid competency models and career ladders for growth opportunities tailored to the ambitions, talents, and capacities of each person.
Go big on meaning. Most employees value jobs that let them contribute and make a difference, and many organizations now emphasize meaning and purpose in the hopes of fostering engagement. But this is also the manager’s responsibility. You can’t rely on incentives like bonuses, stock options, or raises. You’ve got to inspire them with a vision, set challenging goals and pump up their confidence so they believe they can actually win. Articulate a clear purpose that fires your team up, set expectations high, and convey to the group that you think they’re capable of virtually anything.
Focus on feedback. A 2013 Society for Human Resource Management survey of managers in the U.S. found that “only 2% provide ongoing feedback to their employees.” Just 2%! Many bosses limit themselves to the dreaded “performance review” and often mingle developmental feedback with discussions about compensation and promotion, rendering the former much less effective.
Don’t just talk… listen. Employees tend to be happiest when they feel free to contribute new ideas and take initiative, and most managers claim they want people who do just that. So why doesn’t it happen more often? Usually the problem is that bosses promote their own views too strongly. Employees wonder: “Why bother taking risks with new ideas when my boss’s views are already so fixed?”
Be consistent. Who could be happy with a boss who does one thing one day and another thing the next? It’s hard to feel motivated when the bar is always shifting in unpredictable ways and you never know what to expect or how to get ahead. So be consistent in your management style, vision, expectations, feedback and openness to new ideas. If change becomes necessary, acknowledge it openly and quickly.
No behavior a boss adopts will guarantee happy employees, but managers who follow these five key practices will find that they will help improve well-being, engagement, and productivity on any team. The common denominator is attentiveness. Pay close attention to your employees as individuals. Take that extra bit of time to build their confidence and articulate a vision; to provide constant, ongoing, high quality feedback; and to listen to their ideas. And ensure that your own messages are consistent. Is it hard work? Yes. But it’s worth it.