Last week’s post about subpar employees certainly got a spirited response. Not surprisingly, some people wanted to vent about subpar bosses. Fair enough. Let’s give that a look.
I recently asked a struggling business owner how he thought he rated as a boss. He responded by asking, How do you know if you’re a good boss? What defines a good boss? No doubt, bosses and employees have different perspectives and can see things differently. To me, a good boss is someone who runs a good company and treats people well. Here are some questions that I think can help assess a boss’s performance:
1. Are you a screamer? A little? Only in private at someone you think can take it (and has the ability to yell back) and has done something or said something that is infuriating? At an underling who makes $10 an hour and is already petrified of the boss? All the time, because you are “passionate” — a common excuse, uh, I mean explanation, I hear. Some of the most successful bosses of all time have been screamers — as have many others who are just abusive jerks without the impressive results. Personally, I’m going to assume that successful screamers make it in spite of the screaming, not because of it. (It’s my list.)
2. Do you provide a respectful environment? That means that not only are you respectful but you require everyone else to be respectful to each other, as well. I have had talks with numerous people over the years who think it is O.K. to dump on other employees because they are a “star” or because they are having a bad day or because they just know better than everyone else. Sometimes the “counseling” works, and sometimes it doesn’t. At some point their apologizing is no longer the solution. Their working somewhere else is.
3. Do you provide adequate training and tools so everyone is able to do a good job? If you don’t, you are designing the organization to fail both customers and employees.
4. Do you provide positive reinforcement for jobs well done? Different companies have different expectations woven into their corporate culture. I’m not necessarily talking about employee-of-the-month awards or anything elaborate. But some form of positive feedback is essential.
5. Do you have pay scales and raise reviews? Is there a fair and objective guideline for how much everyone makes, or is it only a reflection of an individual employee’s negotiating skills? Do your employees know when their raise reviews are, and do you adhere to the schedule? It is easy to lose track or to become too busy to stay on top of it.
6. Are you good at motivation? This may be the hardest one to answer, including for me. I often find that the real issue is inadvertently demotivating people by doing the wrong things. I have come to believe that if I hire the right people, they will be naturally motivated to do a good job. I am no expert in this area, and I know that companies have been successful with all kinds of motivational techniques from scoreboards to company chants to whatever. As they say, whatever floats your boat.
7. Do you offer support during a difficult time? This can be business or personal. And the support can be emotional, financial, or otherwise.
8. Do you provide opportunity for people who have accepted responsibility, have done an excellent job and have shown the desire to move up? Or are the people who get promoted the ones who are better at kissing up to you? Sometimes it is much easier to see it from the outside than from the boss’s view. It is lonely at the top.
9. Do you offer leadership? This one can be hard to gauge. When a company is smaller, the boss has to be both the manager and the leader. It gets easier when you have a layer of effective managers. Do you communicate the company’s mission? Do you show calm when the waters get rough? Do you set a good example of how to operate at work? I am not talking about being the first to come in and the last to leave. That has little to do with leadership. Have you heard the term “fearless leader”? That is what most people want and need. There is a difference between being open with your staff and panicking the troops.
10. Last but not least, are you effective? Do you hold people responsible without micromanaging? Is your company as successful as it should be? Do you make the difficult choices that sometimes have to be made? Plenty of companies have gone broke or have had to lay off good people because they did not do what was necessary to keep the company healthy. Business is not easy. Being a good boss is certainly not easy. Being a bad boss? Now that is easy.
February 15, 2011,