Message for the boss

Please take in the spirit intended. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

Are you a boss? Hey, that’s fantastic. Please scroll down to where it says: "Now, for the bosses."

OK, everyone else—especially those of you who might know a boss who could stand for a little improvement—today’s newsletter is for you.

Below, I’ve listed 17 key “good boss behaviors,” which I’ve culled from a decade of writing about this stuff. It’s a nice listicle, right? But more than that, it’s a tool to help you offer constructive feedback to bosses who need it.

The idea is simple. Forward this email (or else, forward this link on Understandably.com, where this newsletter will live in perpetuity) to the boss in question.

Maybe create a burner email for the occasion if you feel more comfortable, and annotate it with a quick note. Example:

“Boss, we love you, and do a great job on most of these. But your employees wish you’d show a bit more effort on numbers 6, 16, and 17. "

Then, sit back, and watch your life improve. Or not. Either way, let me know what happens.

Now, for the bosses.

OK, bosses. Even though I told you to skip down here, I’m sure you’ve read every line above already. So, let’s get started.

Almost every boss and business owner I’ve talked with recently says that recruiting and retention are big issues right now. So, if I were a boss, and someone had forwarded this link to me—especially if they highlighted any of the tips below—I might try to read it with an open mind.

Here are the 17 “good boss behaviors.” Let me know what you think, and if you think there’s anything worth working on.

Behavior #1. Identify worthy goals.

It’s number-1 for a reason: Great bosses identify specific goals that are worthy of their team’s time and effort, and they make sure they communicate the goals well.

Behavior #2. Don’t inadvertently distract from those goals.

Rule No. 1 sounds easy, but the trick is that you only get a limited number of priorities. Don't tell everyone that Objective A is prime, and comment about how you wish people would focus on Objective B, instead.

Behavior #3. Remember names.

Obviously, remember your team members' names. But also: Try to remember their families' names, their birthdays, their life circumstances. If you have to take notes, take notes.

Behavior #4. Respect others and expect respect in return.

Respect is a two-way street. Don't confuse being respected with being liked or feared. They're not the same things.

Behavior #5. Celebrate wins.

Nobody wants to be on a team where the only reward for good work is more work. Celebrate wins, and mark milestones, big and small.

Behavior #6. Share information.

The more transparent a leader can be, and the more he or she can share information, the better.

Behavior #7. Show respect and make decisions.

Respect for people's time, especially. Be decisive. Don't leave people hanging around, waiting for your direction.

Behavior #8. Fix bad decisions.

Remember Rule No. 1 about priorities? Stick with them—unless it becomes clear that they're mistakes. In most cases, bad decisions don't improve with age.

Behavior #9. Act ethically.

As the boss, you set the tone. Demonstrate that behaving ethically is something you care about.

Behavior #10. Create the right culture.

As an organization grows, culture-shaping becomes one of a leader’s key tools. So, develop culture with your key team members, and refer back to it often.

Behavior #11. Ask good questions.

Besides gathering information, asking questions shows respect and engagement. Even when you think you know the answers—especially if it affects your employees’ lives—ask questions.

Behavior #12. Know when to push, and when to back off.

Sometimes a boss can motivate people with kind but firm criticism: "I know you can do better." (In fact, that's why someone on your team sent you this article.) But it's a fine line. Smart leaders know when to back off, too.

Behavior #13. Write things down.

Why? So that you and your team can refer back to decisions and experiences, and because the act of writing helps you think things through more effectively.

Behavior #14. Create routines.

Routines and processes can be fantastic tools, because they free your mind to focus on more creative endeavors.

Behavior #15. Focus on results.

But, while processes are important, don’t follow routines for their own sake. In the end, focus on results (as long as they're achieved ethically and productively).

Behavior #16. Share credit; take blame.

People need to know that their contributions are valued. So seek out opportunities to give credit to others. But when things go wrong, remember: The leader has to shoulder the consequences.

Behavior #17. Express gratitude.

If you're the leader, you have a lot to be grateful for. Maybe start by thanking whoever sent you this link. They want you to succeed, and the fact that you've read this far tells me you want to succeed too.

What do you think? Have I missed some good boss behaviors? Would you edit what I’ve come up with? And how about the whole idea of using this as a way for employees to communicate things they might not otherwise feel comfortable communicating? Let us know in the comments.

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7 other things worth your time


Thanks for reading, as always. Photo credit: Pixabay. I wrote about some of this at Inc. before. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.