It’s no surprise that the difference between liking and loving your job depends on your boss. If you search on the internet “Why Employees Quit?” you will see over 10,000 articles devoted to the topic. Most articles point to the boss as the primary culprit, which seems to have some anecdotal merit. For example, how many happy hours have you attended where co-workers gripe about their bosses?
Bad bosses are so prevalent that the likes of fictional bosses such as Pointy-haired Boss, Michael Scott, Jack Donaghy, Dr. Julia Harris, and Bill Lumbergh have made their way into pop culture. We laugh and tune in to see their shocking and absurd conduct that inspires memes and quotes, yet we see elements of truth that are all too relatable.
Throughout my career in human resources, I’ve coached countless managers on how to be a good boss after hearing many employees emotionally portray encounters with their bosses that, while not quite as exaggerated as the scenarios depicted in movies such as Office Space or Horrible Bosses, motivated me to make certain I did whatever possible to prevent people from feeling this way.
We all have experienced or heard a bad boss story. Some stories are about bosses who degrade their employees by making inappropriate statements or talking to them in a condescending manner. Maybe your story involves the “micromanager” who authoritatively placed unreasonable demands on you to account for every moment of time spent at work.
Perhaps you’ve experienced a boss who took personal credit for your hard work, or one who just got too personal at work. Regardless of the situation, I am confident no business owner or manager wants to be the star of someone’s bad boss story. So, how do you ensure you are not the cause for your employee’s dissatisfaction day in and day out? How can you flip the tables and be an incredible boss that inspires people to accomplish more than they believed they could? Here are 3 surprising truths that can make you an incredible boss.
- YOU need to LOVE what you do.
Incredible bosses are passionate about their work and their intense devotion motivates people to join the cause. Incredible bosses genuinely believe in what they are trying to accomplish, and delight in making it happen. If your flame has dwindled, you can get it back with one simple exercise.
First, draw three columns on a sheet of paper. Then reflect back to that moment when you made the decision to start your business or join your company. What was the reason you made that decision? Which excited you about your future at that moment? What were you hoping to accomplish? List the answers to those questions in statement form inside the left column. In the center column, next to each statement, write down the words that describe how you felt at that moment in time. Finally, in the right column, write down the things you are doing today that invoke those same feelings.
For example, let’s say you started a home remodeling business and you wrote down in the left column your passion for designing and building spaces that enhance the way families live. As you move to the second column you recall the sentiments of appreciation and admiration you received from families when they saw the finished product. You start writing down words that describe the immense satisfaction you felt as the designs you created became the background for a lifetime of memories for your client’s family, and suddenly your flame brightens.
The everyday routine of life can easily distract us from keeping our core purpose in the spotlight. Sometimes all it takes is remembering how you felt when you first started down the career journey to reignite your flame.
- You treat your employees like they are as valuable as your customers.
Incredible bosses take a page out of the customer experience playbook and apply it to their employees. Incredible bosses accept that their success is dependent on others.They keenly observe to understand what matters most to their employees and use this information to shape an incredible employee experience. Treating employees like they are customers is the root of servant leadership. It seems so simple, yet so many bosses fail to leap into the humbling pond of servant leadership. Some may have been taught that a directive management style was the best way to ensure everyone was “kept in line.”
Perhaps they were told asking for help is a sign of weakness because strong leaders are independent and self-sufficient. Whatever the reason, they are missing out on an essential approach to leadership. The best example of servant leadership I encountered was a business owner who had just started a construction business. He hired one employee the day he signed his first client for a kitchen remodel.
While they worked on the project together the employee carefully studied his boss, trying to learn how to anticipate what he needed before asked. The owner also studied his new protégé, engaging in conversations about his three young kids, his passion for learning the trade, and his love for his wife, who just quit her job to go back to school to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
As with most home projects, they encountered some unexpected expenses along the way. When payday arrived, three days before completion, the owner did not have the money to pay his employee. The owner depleted his own personal savings account and wrote a personal check to pay his employee.
When I asked him why he didn’t just ask the homeowner for an advance for the cost of the extra materials or ask the employee to wait a few extra days, the owner said to me, “Two weeks ago this employee and this homeowner were strangers. I promised them both an experience and they trusted me to follow through. Any other option would have implied one was more valuable than the other and that would have failed them both.”
- You are a chameleon
Contrary to popular belief, when a chameleon changes color, it is not always because of danger. Chameleons more often change their color in order to communicate with other chameleons. The color and patterns they use depend on what they trying to communicate and to which chameleon. Like chameleons, incredible bosses have the ability to adapt to each individual employee. Each person is unique and has different expectations of their boss. There are people who desire a boss who is authentic and cares about them. others want an advocate or champion. And some people just want to be empowered to figure things out on their own.
One thing is for certain, incredible bosses know exactly how to communicate with each individual team member. So they can integrate as a team AND give each employee a sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment. This is because they listen to each employee and tailor their communication.
The best example I have come across was a story about a 68-year-old employee, “Clara”. Who worked for a small law firm for 47 years. She was the first employee the owner hired and as the firm grew, Clara’s reputation for exemplary customer service grew. She treated every client like they were important. And made it a point to make a personal connection with each client. It was not unusual for Clara to send notes to clients on their birthdays. Hand deliver documents to clients, or personally handle court filings.
This was significant because Clara did not drive and rode the bus every day. Clara’s boss did what he could to recognize Clara’s contributions. However he knew Clara’s impact was more often subtlety recognized in the form of repeat business and referrals.
When she decided it was time to retire, her boss knew he needed to somehow communicate to Clara. The impact she had over the years. On Clara’s last day, she had a lovely send off and boarded the bus home for last time. The first stop a young woman boarded the bus with a bouquet of flowers, sat beside Clara. And told her how much she learned from Clara when she had worked with her as an intern at the firm.
The next stop an older couple got on the bus with balloons and told Clara how their experience with her. As a client inspired them to open up their own family business. At each stop former and existing clients and co-workers boarded the bus and told Clara their stories. Until the bus was almost full. Clara was so overwhelmed and touched by what her boss had done to show her her value. She stayed on at that law firm until she turned 82.
As a manager or business owner, experimenting with, and incorporating these three concepts into your management style will grant you membership to an elite club of incredible bosses. These members develop trusting and loyal relationships with employees. And achieve higher levels of success. Being a member of incredible boss club not only is personally and professionally gratifying.But it gives others hope that incredible bosses do, in fact, exist and can lead people toward the path of fulfilling and rewarding careers. If you would like to discover more truths about being an incredible boss, inquire about leadership training offerings at Simplex HR.
Shannon Stickney is a life and executive coach and the founder of Simplex HR, a coaching and human resources consulting firm offering leadership training for small businesses.