How to Become the Boss You Wish You’d Had

People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses — or so goes the cliché. In reality, people leave companies for many different reasons, but poor management is still a major contributor. If you’ve ever had a less than stellar boss, you know the impact management has on job satisfaction and productivity.

In today’s job market, which still strongly favors workers, attracting and retaining top talent is harder than ever. Solid leadership is just as important as competitive wages and robust benefits if you hope to employ the best people. Being a great boss doesn’t always come naturally, but everyone can learn to improve. Try these tips to better manage those who report to you and become the boss you wish you’d had.

Take Time to Connect

Strong relationships with your employees are at the heart of good management. Prioritize setting aside dedicated time and space to connect with your direct reports for weekly or monthly one-on-one meetings. These 30- to 60-minute huddles can be used for checking in, benchmarking goals, planning professional development, and building deeper relationships. Since there is no one-size-fits-all management style, you must understand the individuals you manage. One-on-one time lets you get to know the people you support — and how best to support them.

Creating an agenda or using a one-on-one meeting template will help you to make the most of your meeting time. It ensures you are hitting all the important topics while remaining consistent with the format across your team. Be sure to include the subjects that are relevant to you and your employees. These templates also track and record meetings so you can keep your employees’ wants, needs, and challenges top of mind.  

Communicate Freely and Openly

Great communication is not only essential for maintaining strong work relationships, but also for effectively completing the work itself. Make sure you communicate directly and simply, especially when conversations are difficult or delicate. Sugarcoating or avoiding conflict altogether is a recipe for lost time and larger problems down the road. Be mindful not to take on a boss persona, and instead, be authentic with the people you manage. Give ample and regular feedback so employees continuously know where they stand.

It is equally important to make sure the lines of communication are flowing both ways. Seeking feedback and suggestions from your direct reports sends the message that you value their input and experiences. Be willing to hear criticism without getting punitive or defensive. Develop an environment where your employees feel safe being honest and open. This can create a firm foundation of trust and loyalty on which to build secure and effective teams.  

Stand Up for Your Team

It’s easy to take credit or feel responsible for your team’s successes and accomplishments. But where do you land when the going gets tough? Can you defend your team when errors are made while still ensuring they learn from their mistakes? Do you push for competitive compensation for employees who meet performance expectations? Even securing the resources and tools your team needs to be successful helps to foster trust and grow morale.

When you go to bat for your team, for issues large or small, they will know you’re on their side. Keep a firm grasp on your values and apply them consistently at the organizational, team, and individual levels. Be equally adept at challenging any one of the three when something threatens the integrity of the others. When you can give this sort of loyalty from the top down, those you support will reciprocate.

Give More Praise Than Criticism

While giving frequent feedback is beneficial, it turns out the type of feedback you give also makes a difference. Both positive and negative feedback have their place, and each is necessary for smooth operations and individual improvement. However, a study found that the most effective teams are over 5:1 in favor of positive comments.

Small amounts of negative feedback go far in impacting employees. Use this type of criticism only when it is most needed, and be sure it’s balanced with abundant praise. Take time to show gratitude for jobs well done and any individual or team accomplishments. When employees feel their work is genuinely appreciated, they are happier and invest themselves more in their work.

Stay Out of the Way

It’s easy to get over-involved in your employees’ work given that, as the manager, you’re ultimately held accountable for outcomes. While keeping communication fluid for questions and guidance is beneficial, micromanagement is not. If you’ve filled your team with qualified professionals, give them the space to manage their own time and workflows.

Just as detrimental is hoarding tasks under the belief that it’s easier to do them yourself. Don’t bog yourself down with responsibilities that could be better handed off to others. This cheats your team of new growth opportunities and decreases the time you can dedicate to supporting your staff. It does take extra time and effort to begin delegating some of your workload. But you and your team will be more efficient and effective in the long run.

There are as many different ways to manage as there are managers. Micromanagement, being overly critical, and a lack of communication are some of the biggest pitfalls to avoid. Counter these with a genuine interest in your direct reports, an atmosphere of openness and trust, and generous acknowledgment and praise. Only you can decide what works best for you and your employees. With these strategies, you’re sure to see improvements in your performance as well as your relationships with your team.