Leadership

7 skills that separate the good, the bad and the ugly bosses

Don't be the manager pushing employees out the door.

All bosses — the good, the bad and the ugly, have unique opportunities to impact the lives and careers of employees. This can be positive or negative. On the positive side, bosses can enhance skills, make daily work more pleasurable and may even find themselves the boss all future bosses are compared to. Who doesn't want to be the boss described as "the best person I've ever worked for?"

The bad and the ugly? Their opportunity is to push good talent out the door or to change and become a good boss.

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As careers evolve people work in different jobs for various companies. Teenagers start with paper routes or babysitting, then move on to the front line in fast food restaurants or retail stores. As skills and preferences grow, the ultimate goal is getting to the most enjoyed or suitable job with the preferred opportunities. With the right leadership, career choices and the desire for advanced education grow, meaning every boss at every level plays a part in an employee's future.

This growth and diversity exposes individuals to different workplace cultures and supervisory styles. It only takes two jobs/employment opportunities to create a comparison between cultures and leadership. Unfortunately too many of those comparisons include experiences with a bad boss.

Bosses have so many opportunities to act, lead and communicate well while retaining and growing good employees. Unfortunately, many don't capitalize on these situations; so before fed up employees leave, here are seven key skills to learn and implement now and instantly become a better manager.

1. Make the Tough Decisions

Too often a challenge spins out of control because a leader won't make a decision. Teams need leaders not fence sitters. Weigh the pros and cons of the options, pick one and act on it.

2. Get Good at Cheerleading

Employees can't master what they don't know and often need opportunities to learn and try new things. Encourage and build their confidence by letting them know that a "try" is valued (without reprisal). Help unleash their undiscovered talents.

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3. Finesse Your Flexibility

There is something to be said for structure and routine but don't be that boss who is unapproachable and close-minded. Leaders need to relax and allow opportunities for change and creativity. When employees make suggestions or requests, they should be welcomed, considered and capitalized on.

4. Get Good at Goals

The primary focus for a team is the target numbers of widgets made, sold or acquired. A poorly led team will miss the mark; a well lead team will meet and exceed targets. The secondary focus should be the creation of employees' goals for personal and professional improvement – not just "here and now" but also for "what's next" to optimize both the workplace and the individual.

5. I Got Your Back

When bosses throw others under the bus and blame them for bad outcomes, people leave. A good leader should accept and pass on team accolades as well as take responsibility for team misses. Their role is to have employees' backs and focus on problem-solving. When people know bosses celebrate the good and absorb the bad they will go the extra mile.

6. Be an Open Book

It is not unusual for bosses to hoard information in the name of power. They only tell staff the bare minimum or share on a need to know basis. This lack of transparency fosters mistrust. Good leaders share information, details and rationales with staff to create effectiveness and efficiency. They also explain and describe the "why" so staff can maximize the "how" successfully.

7. Fix or Fire

There is a saying that a team is only as strong as their weakest link. If team members aren't performing at 100 percent accountability and responsibility, then Houston, we have a problem! People will not tolerate a leader who shows favoritism to allow bad behavior, excessive absenteeism or unproductive presenteeism. Bosses need to step up to the plate and manage the bad performers. Either fix or fire bad employees so equality, fairness and unilateral treatment exists amongst all team members.

If any of these seven skills jumped out at you, or a previous scenario when one of these skills should have been implemented comes to mind, then it is time to work on that skill. Don't bury your head in the sand and be the reason staff leave the company. Now that you have awareness of a skill deficit step up to the plate and create change.

One of the easiest actions to move supervisor skill building forward is to ask staff to rate bosses on these key skills using a scaling question like:

On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = poor; 10 = excellent) rate your supervisor on his/her ability to be transparent by communicating and offering full and detailed information on a regular basis.

Of course, anonymity will produce the best results so make this assessment confidential.

The second easiest action to enhance supervisory skill-building in these seven areas is simply to adjust communication styles. How?

Ask more questions of team members.

  • Any ideas on how we can be more efficient?
  • What are your plans for the year?
  • Are there any tasks you would like to try?
  • What can we start, stop or adjust to improve our team?

Continue along that path by asking staff about themselves and their work, get curious about their interests, inquire about future goals or new ideas, request innovation and so forth. It doesn't need to be about their personal lives, but about them personally. This will achieve information and insight that inevitably improves leadership.

Don't be afraid to be a supervisory "student" and let staff teach what is important to them and what areas need work or improvement.

Don't be the boss that says everyone else needs fixing. Work on these seven skills and be open to increased self-awareness and strategies to enhance leadership, communication and ultimately followership.

Pam Paquet is a TEDx Speaker and the Chief Change Officer at Pam Paquet & Associates, a performance management company.

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