Being a decent boss isn’t too tricky, but being a great leader takes a bit more time and effort. There are some big differences between someone who has a key on their belt and a private office, and someone who’ll sit in the canteen with staff at lunchtime and share jokes.
It takes more than paying a salary on time to become truly respected and seen as a leader. Bring out the best in your team by learning these habits…
1. You Pay Attention To Detail
You might be in charge of a huge company, but take the time to get to know your team. Start by remembering one fact about everyone who works with you. It might sound simple, but being able to have a conversation that goes beyond “Hi, how are you? Yep, good thanks” will make a big difference. Try and keep track of who’s just got married, who’s had a baby, and any birthdays within the office.
Paying attention to detail shows that you care, and will make staff see you in a much better light. You don’t have to remember everyone’s great-Grandmother’s name, but remembering that they recently went on holiday to Greece is a good start.
Learning small things about each individual will make conversation flow, and will put them at ease around you. They’ll see you in a different light – aim to be approachable and friendly, as well as professional.
2. You’re Human
Some bosses seem to think that they have to be in total control at all times. If they ever make a small mistake or slip up, they worry that they won’t be taken seriously. Actually, most members of staff appreciate knowing that their boss is human!
You don’t have to start telling them about your childhood trauma, but try going with something small. Admitting to being nervous about a client meeting or a big event won’t make them think you’re weak, and they’ll respect you for your honesty.
Average bosses tend to act as though they can never do anything wrong. Being a great leader means owning up to your mistakes, admitting when you are in the wrong, and doing your best to move forward. Stay positive, but reveal a softer side to yourself. You’ll notice that people become less shy or nervous around you, and their performance will improve as a result.
There is nothing better than a boss who reshuffles the work schedule for you last minute. Be willing to accept that things change, and do your best to be compassionate. It can be frustrating to have to re-do your work, but try and be rational. Sometimes, people do just need a day off and forget to tell you. Take a step back, be flexible, and do your best to help out.
Try and make your staff’s lives as easy as possible when it comes to work. Help them find cover if they need it, be flexible with hours, and be reasonable with deadlines. Listen to any issues that staff have and then actively try and improve things for them.
Make it clear that you value their opinions and are taking steps to make staff happier and more comfortable in the workplace. This will earn you a lot of respect, and you’ll be doing them a huge favor by helping out.
Take your receptionist a cup of coffee, bring donuts to work on a Monday, and be as empathetic as possible when someone appears to be having a hard time. Remember that these people are the company’s life-force and you’d be nothing without them.
Yep, you’re technically in charge, but remember that you’re all working toward the same goal. Don’t micro-manage, as this will make people less willing to help you and may cause friction. Assign specific tasks to individuals, and find ways to make this positive.
Praise someone’s fantastic spreadsheet formulas and they’ll be way happier to be given a new task to crack on with. Feeling reassured and complimented means a lot to everyone, so find ways to do this… often. Just be sincere with it; people can spot fakery a mile off.
5. You Have Their Backs
Make sure you use the word ‘we’ – you’re all part of the same company, and you shouldn’t put yourself on a pedestal or act superior around colleagues. This applies to all situations.
Too many bosses are quick to blame a mistake or failure on members of staff. Sometimes, a lack of success can be down to an individual, but you should never point this out in public. If someone isn’t working efficiently, have a private chat with them. One of the worst things you can ever do is point out someone’s flaw or error in front of their colleagues. Not only is it unprofessional, it’s incredibly mean and hurtful.
As a leader, you accept that you’re part of a team – you celebrate together, you comfort each other, and you all try again. It can be embarrassing when someone makes a complaint about something that your company has, admittedly, done badly. This doesn’t allow you to blame an individual or go against something a member of staff has said.
When you’re in front of a client, customer, or guest, stick to your guns and back up your staff. If they say “no,” you say “no,” even if you want to say “yes.” It can be tricky, but staff will really appreciate knowing that you’re on their side, and that you have their back.
6. You See People, Not Cogs
There’s the old idea that people working for a company are essentially cogs in a big machine. While this may hold some accuracy in certain situations, staff shouldn’t feel this way. Each individual contributes something unique to the company, and you’re all aiming for the same end result. Members of staff should feel as though there is balance in the workplace, not a strict and steep hierarchy.
Seeing members of staff as individuals might take extra time and effort, but it is well worth it. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, check in with them and find out why they’re having a hard time. Treat each person as an irreplaceable individual – something may be going on in their home life, or they may have a lot on their plate. Instead of just getting angry at their work, take the time to find out what’s upsetting them. They’re only human, after all.
7. You Give Credit
It can be easy to see success and forget that it comes down to the whole team. Some bosses take all the credit and believe that it is they who have made everything work. Sure, they’ll have put in hard work, but they forget to honor the rest of the company.
Make sure you celebrate each success, and congratulate individuals on their hard work. You didn’t get to the top on your own, and your company would be nothing without these people.
Find small ways to compliment members of staff, and praise them when it’s due. It can be over anything, just make sure you do it. This will give them a huge morale boost, improve performance and show that you pay attention and actually care.
Many members of staff feel overlooked and dismissed – make it your mission to seek people out, thank them for their hard work and encourage them to keep going.
When it comes to being an average boss versus a great leader, know that it takes practice and patience to hone the skills above. Eventually, however, they will be second nature to you, and your staff will thank you for the effort you’ve put in.
Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.