As an executive coach with more than 20 years of experience, I am a believer in keeping things simple — and practical. A key to any successful business is keeping talented, motivated employees from leaving. Employee turnover is mentally exhausting, time consuming and expensive (estimates for salaried workers are between 1.5x and 2x their salary; for hourly workers, $1,500 per employee). Your people are your most important asset and revenue generator. Make it your mission to create a workplace culture that fosters employee satisfaction and engagement. As the boss, the most important part of that success formula is you.
According to surveys, the No. 1 reason people leave jobs is a “bad boss.” Being a good boss isn’t rocket science, but it’s far from easy. It requires mindfulness, commitment, skills and focus to bring out the best in your people. The research is clear on what makes a good boss: demonstrating you care about and value your employees.
Here are six tips to become a better boss:
- All eyes are on the boss. Your behavior matters more than the words you use or inspiring wall art. Consider how you “role model” what you want from others. What time you arrive, leave and how you communicate is noticed by staff. You set the bar for excellence with how you demonstrate respect for others and how you provide customer service. The mood with which you walk through the door can easily be caught by others — so consciously show up positively and energetically.
- Find ways to demonstrate appreciation and recognition daily. Someone who feels appreciated will almost always deliver beyond expectations. Be generous with “thank you” and incentives as rewards. Have posted goals for teams with monetary rewards or fun incentives (pizza, ice cream, T-shirts, go-cart parties … there are countless ideas on the internet).
- The best leaders grow, cultivate and develop others. They understand their job is to serve the team, not for the team to serve them. Take a personal interest in the career aspirations of your staff. Ask how they think they can contribute to the business in other ways. You might discover hidden talents like a knack for social media marketing or displays. Find ways to offer feedback, mentoring and training to support their goals. Give opportunities for employees to step up, assume new responsibilities and have more autonomy over their work.
- Address issues quickly. Avoiding performance issues will cause you greater headaches and problems in the future. There is a fine line between being a “friend” and a boss. Don’t confuse them. Feedback is necessary in workplaces, both to reinforce good behavior and to squash profit-killing bad behavior. Do yourself a favor and simply never tolerate disrespectful behavior. Fostering a workplace culture of accountability isn’t easy; it requires courage and respectful, clear, candid communication. Nothing kills the motivations of great employees more than seeing a boss tolerate a bad one. When there are no performance or customer service standards, a culture of mediocrity (or worse) is what you get. And high performers will go elsewhere.
- Create and communicate a vision for the preferred future of the business. Provide clear direction, goals and order. Roles and job task responsibilities should be detailed, specific and provided in writing. Work to define what success looks like and how it is measured. Everyone should have goals that are specific, relevant and meaningful. Processes that support standards, safety and work-flow are important. Involve staff to provide input into building and supporting better processes. They often are closer to the work and customers — and will be more “bought in” if their input has been considered.
- Work on your emotional intelligence. How do you behave under pressure? Leaders who can self-regulate and maintain their composure when stressed instill confidence. We naturally look to our leaders for cues on how we should be responding or reacting to stress. A boss who overreacts with drama or runs around like a “chicken with its head cut off” means staff members don’t feel confident (or safe) that their leader has their act together. The next time you encounter a sticky situation, pause to consider how others will be impacted by your behavior.
Employee satisfaction and engagement are critical to the bottom line. There is no easy button to achieve this. It requires emotional intelligence, team-building and leadership skills, along with focus and commitment. A professional coach can offer an objective, outside perspective while fostering your success on the people side of the business.
Maureen Moriarty has a master’s degree in organizational development and more than 20 years of experience in executive coaching and leadership/team development training. She also facilitates offsite meetings to support high-performing team potential (and dysfunction) and identified challenges. Topics and skill development include the “soft skills,” emotional intelligence, conflict/change management, feedback, fostering accountability, inclusion, trust, alignment and decision making. She can be reached at email@example.com or 425-736-5691.