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Top 7 Ways to be the Best Boss Ever

By Andy O'Bryan

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In this age of increased turnover, skyrocketing recruiting costs and plummeting employee morale, it's time to get back to basics and start looking inward to re-energize your workplace. Here are 7 ways to be the best boss your employees have ever seen.

  1. Look Within Yourself

    Question: Whoís the real boss?
    A. You
    B. The employee
    C. The customer

    Answer: All of the above

    So how can there be three bosses? Wouldnít there be chaos? Donít too many cooks spoil the soup? Letís review these one by one. You are the boss itís true. You enforce the rules, motivate and direct your staff. The employee must also be the boss, but in a different way. They must rule their own environment. They need to feel empowered to make the right decisions at the right time. When youíre not around, the employee must be self-motivated enough to get the job done, in essence, to be their own boss. So where does that leave the customer? Well thatís what the business is all about. Without customers your business is irrelevant. This group is just as much the boss as anyone else in this trio.

    Now, you are the one who must keep this symbiotic relationship all working properly. It is up to you, as The Boss, to realize how you, the employee and the customer are dependent upon one another. You must be true to the employee by respecting them professionally and personally. You must be true to the customer by practicing ethical business standards. And you must be true to yourself by being honest, forthright, fair and above board in all aspects of your job. The sooner you realize that there are actually three bosses in your organization, and that they all need unique types of ongoing attention, the closer you are to being the Best Boss Ever.

  2. No Hidden Agendas, No Closed Doors, No Chambers of Secrets

    It never fails. The day seems to be going along smoothly. Everyoneís in a good mood and getting along fine. Then, all of a sudden, the boss closes their door. Then the questions and assumptions begin:

    Whatís going on?
    Do you think theyíre talking about me in there?
    It must be their boss on the phone.
    Someoneís in trouble.
    Itís probably another personal call.
    Theyíre getting ready to lay off people I just know it.

    Sure, maybe you just want some privacy and thatís fine once in a while. But Iíve known bosses who keep their doors shut more often than open. Whatís really funny is when a boss says they have an open door policy and proceed to shut the door all day long. You may think this is trivial, but it isnít. Your door should be open at least 90% of the time. This shows to your employees that you are accessible, that they shouldnít be intimidated by you, and that they can come to you anytime. Most importantly, it shows them that there are no secrets. Why do supervisors and managers really have to have closed door meetings anyway? I can think of three reasons:

    -conducting a job interview

    -having a disciplinary, dismissal or personal issue meeting with an employee

    -meeting about specific human resources issues with an employee or their supervisor

    Thatís it. If youíre on the phone with your boss you donít need to shut the door. If youíre on the phone with your spouse you donít need to shut the door. If you want to be the Best Boss Ever, what you do need is an open communication, and an open door, with your employees all the time.

  3. Be Nice

    Nice is defined as pleasing, agreeable, polite or kind in the dictionary. This seems easy doesnít it. And perhaps it is for some types of personalities. If it is for you then congratulations. You are well on your way to being a great boss. Hereís the difference between trying to be nice and being genuinely nice: your employees can tell the difference! If youíre trying to be nice because you feel you have to, youíll be seen as a phony. Itís not a quick fix. Being nice and cordial to people in your employ takes time, energy, and TLC, but it can be done. Try to focus on what youíre saying to people all the time. Donít ďthink with your mouth open.Ē Avoid sarcasm. Be patient. Smile.

    If youíre already genuinely nice to people both inside and outside the office, then youíre ahead of the curve. Just continue this consistently. If you donít know if youíre being genuine or not, then ask a colleague you can trust to give it to you straight.
    Bottom line: you owe it to your employees to be pleasant to them at all times. Being nice is a simple concept, but can be difficult for many when they attempt to put it into practice.

  4. Get Involved, Get Off the Sidelines, Get Your Hands Dirty

    Are you a boss who stays in your office, behind your desk, on the phone and generally inaccessible? Or, are you someone who jumps into the fray, walks around constantly, gets involved with customers, makes sales, and is a role model for proper customer service? One of the main characteristics of the Best Boss Ever is someone whoís not afraid to help out on busy days. Someone who routinely goes down to the front lines and works at the same level as the employees for a while.

    This practice speaks volumes about your commitment to the job, and to them. Never pass up the opportunity to help out. Take complaints and irate calls or walk-ins from customers. Always keep your eyes and ears open for the chance to rescue an employee from a challenging customer service situation. Just one instance of you even appearing to avoid a sensitive customer situation by hiding out in your office will taint your reputation, which will be very hard to repair. Donít let it get that far. Get out of your comfort zone and in front of the day to day issues whenever possible. A courageous, proactive boss is well respected and appreciated.

  5. No "Us vs. Them" Mentality

    If your workplace currently has an us against them tone, pitting the supervisors and managers against the employees, you have a recipe for trouble. This may come in the form of turnover, animosity toward customers, insubordination, and an overall feeling of mistrust. They may also want to form a union, which from a managerial standpoint has many negative connotations.

    So how do you avoid the us and them environment, or how do you fix it if it already exists? Begin by taking the pulse of your workplace. Ask probing questions about their job attitude every week or so. Get a sense for how they feel about their immediate supervisor, and listen for any anti-company sentiment milling about the office through phone conversations of face-to-face contact. Donít eavesdrop, just present yourself to the employees often and make yourself available to address any concerns. Negative company comments can spill over to the customers very easily, which can devastate your business via word of mouth in the community.

    Get to the root of the problems by having regular employee meetings where they can air their concerns in a non-threatening environment. The employees need to feel they can speak their minds without repercussions. Invite a few employees into your manager meetings every month so they can hear whatís going on behind the scenes and express any issues that have come up. There should always be an air of mutual respect and cooperation between management and employee, working toward one common goal.

  6. Ownership: Give It and Take It

    Give ownership by giving your employees the power to make on the spot decisions for customers so they donít have to wait to speak to a manager. This pleases the customer because they feel that their needs have been met and they are not getting the runaround. This also pleases the employee because they have received a vote of confidence from you. Their self-esteem is increased, as well as their job satisfaction. When the right decision was made by the employee, praise it. When the wrong decision was made, work with them to correct it and explain how it could have been resolved differently. But donít remove that ownership away after one wrong decision.

    Take ownership when something goes wrong. Regardless of whoís fault it may be, it is ultimately your responsibility, and you should accept it, take the blame, and move on. A true leader does not place the blame for anything on their subordinates. This is Leadership 101, and itís one more step on the road to being the Best Boss Ever.

  7. Treat Everyone Equally

    This is a broad statement on purpose, because I want to keep the concept as simple as possible. Like some others in this list, treating everyone fairly seems easy to accomplish. But it may be one of the most difficult. After all, everyone is different in their own ways. Different degrees of talent level, attitude, title, responsibility and salary can all make for a complicated existence.

    You can overcome these differences by simply practicing The Golden Rule. Treat everyone the way you would want to be treated. Do you want to be treated with the same degree of professionalism and respect by everyone in your organization, irrespective of their many differences? Then you need to do the same with them. It doesnít matter if one person treats you like gold and another like dirt. Eventually, if you show a consistent, fair degree of treatment by not playing favorites; not allowing one person to bend the rules but saying itís OK to someone else; giving equal empowerment across the board; encouraging feedback from everyone equally, and on and on, then you are playing fair. Employees will respect you and will be happy to come to work for you every day.

Andy O'Bryan is author of Incentive Toolkit 2005, which gives managers cost effective and creative ways to increase productivity, sales and morale. Incentive Toolkit 2005 is available at

Article Submitted On: November 26, 2004