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The qualities of a good boss: how staff perceive their employers

There are a number of publications out there that discuss the markings of a great boss. But can you ever know what your staff REALLY think of you? Boss Benchmark expert, Allison O’Neill takes a look and what qualities staff love and loathe in a boss, along with tips on how employers can improve their people management skills.

Staff Love…

Craziness (the good kind)
Be fun and flexible. Remember your team are humans first workers second. Do impulsive coffee runs for the team; remember to put fun into the working day. Don’t be strict, boring and stern. Be playful, happy and understanding.

High energy thinking
I don’t mean the kind coffee gives you, I mean a mental and spiritual energy. You should know that your thoughts create your reality through the law of attraction. If your thinking is unhealthy then so to will your results be. Instead think big, think positive and think with high energy. Make sure you have high levels of self awareness. Learn all you can about yourself, your habits (good and bad), your downfalls and what you need for your mental and spiritual wellbeing. Use empowering language and always see the bright side – think solutions not problems.

Focus on results not hours
Give your staff trust and freedom. Don’t micromanage – checking they adhere to break times, monitoring the number and duration of personal calls. When staff have control over their work circumstances they become engaged. The authors of the book “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It” educate businesses about ‘Results Only Work Environments’ (ROWE). Their systems are based on “the radical idea that staff are adults”. It is a shame the majority of businesses don’t already realise this!

Self discipline
A boss that has strong self discipline is more likeable and effective than one that is lazy and full of excuses. Self discipline shows in your attitudes to work but also in things like what you eat and if you exercise. If your staff see you stuffing a donut in your face every morning tea, KFC at every lunch and 16 coffees during the other working hours they probably won’t think you are a genius. Geniuses don’t feed themselves like that. People that are full of energy adore the feeling of blood surging, muscles being pushed and lungs begging for mercy! Exercise and diet say a lot about a person. What you do (or don’t do) in your personal life has an affect on your working life.

Big Ears

Bosses need seriously big ears. There was once a politician that had really big ears, so he decided to use it in his campaigning. He had billboards with his hands behind his ears and the caption “I’m all ears” – priceless! Great bosses listen to their staff publicly, privately and officially (through staff surveys).

Authentic authority

I once met a boss who when he wanted to be taken seriously would raise his voice and yell at his staff. He thought this showed authority and ‘who was boss’. He didn’t realise however that this behaviour made staff lose the little respect they had left for him. They thought it was pathetic and a terrible tactic. On the other end of the scale, a boss from another department whom the team had a lot of respect for would speak with lowered volume when he wanted attention. He didn’t need to use scare or stand over tactics. He didn’t need volume to assert his authority. Staff can see right through ‘power seeking’ behaviours. You need to earn staff respect before they will take what you say seriously. If you are a yeller, maybe your self esteem needs attention.

Learning addiction
With all the crazy new technologies like Twitter, blogging, YouTube etc it is important to have a very open mind. There are also a gazillion management books around all promising something fabulous. Just like trees, we humans are either growing or dieing. Get yourself a healthy addiction to learning, it will be inspiring, keep you on the edge and give you a wide perspective. Maybe your team could try to learn something new each week – with a different person ‘coaching’ each time.

Staff Loathe…

Hierarchy
Hierarchy is old fashioned and based on fear. It doesn’t serve people, the business or profits. Weak leaders hide in hierarchies. Just like the yelling example above, if you rely on hierarchy to make yourself feel good, take a look at your self esteem. If it’s low you won’t be capable of inspiring your team.

Power trips
Similar to hierarchy some weak bosses get off on assigning gross tasks to staff – just to remind them who ‘holds the power’. If there is a blocked toilet in your workplace are you humble enough to don the rubber gloves, grab the plunger and get to work? Or would you much rather take pleasure in asking a ‘jerk from accounting’ to attend to the loo problems? Don’t think the whole team doesn’t notice you not being willing to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Bosses are there to serve the staff NOT vice versa remember.

Secrets
I know of a business that listed itself for sale without telling its staff. A couple of workers were having a cuppa relaxing with the Saturday paper and read the listing. Instead of enjoying their weekend they were wondering if their job would still exist on Monday. The boss was embarrassed about selling the business, so didn’t tell them anything. The lost trust and anger from staff on Monday was a lot worse than a tiny dose of embarrassment. Secrets that management know and workers don’t are energy drainers. Team means team. Put all cards on the table – you can trust your workers with ‘inside’ info. Do a secrets audit in your business to see what you keep from staff and why – at what cost?

Bullying

Bullying can take many forms – even a dirty look or being intentionally left out of a meeting can be a form of bullying. It doesn’t just affect the person being picked on, but also anyone who witnesses the cruelness. Even small bullying behaviours can drag the whole workplace culture down a mile. If it is the boss using bully tactics it is a hundred times worse. The boss is supposed to be the one protecting and nurturing the workplace culture. There are loads of resources on the internet for people suffering bullying.

Low energy thinking
The opposite of the high energy staff love is low energy thinking. If you get hit with a problem and you go into ‘high stress’ mode staff will not be impressed. If you frequently utter words such as “why does this always happen to me” “it’s not my fault” or “we’ll never be able to…” these are powerless statements. They show weakness and peg you as a ‘victim’. If you were thinking at a higher level you would handle any issues in an upbeat way, be strong and find a clever solution (instead of being blinded only by the problem).

As a boss, do what the staff love and avoid what staff loathe. If you don’t know what that is in your workplace – get busy asking.

What do you think makes a good boss?

Allison O’Neill is an expert on bosses. She is the New Zealand based author of The Boss Benchmark – a book about how to be an amazing boss. It has been endorsed by high profile and worldwide CEO’s. For more information, please visit www.thebossbenchmark.com

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