There's no magic formula for being a great boss. It's a confusing mixture of providing both constructive criticism and praise, overseeing performance without micromanaging, and hoping your employees like you--and respect you, too. Plus, every team is different in size, personalities, responsibilities, and skill level--so if you’re looking to become a better manager, there’s probably no one-size-fits-all approach.
In my experience, figuring out the right balance came down to trial and error, as well as learning from bosses I liked and respected--and a few I swore I wouldn't ever emulate. And while I may not be able to teach you the perfect method to coach your team, I have come across a few strategies that definitely don't maximize your employees’ potential.
As you work toward figuring out your sweet spot, make sure to avoid these extreme management strategies.
1. The Best Friend Boss
When you assume responsibility for a group of people, generally, you want them to like you. You want them to feel comfortable coming to you with questions, to enjoy spending eight hours a day with you, and--let's be honest--to think you're the coolest boss they've ever had.
At the beginning of my management career, I went the friend route. I joked around with my employees, sat with them at lunch, and asked about their weekends. And while great bosses can definitely do all of those things, the test is when the tough situations come up--when you're required to give feedback, discipline, or bad news. Despite your friendship with your employees, are you still able to deliver the news or criticism appropriately?
If you can't, this management style backfires quickly. Sure, your employees may like you--but if you can't provide guidance and authority when needed, the effectiveness of your leadership goes down the drain.
2. The Bad News Boss
Of course, the opposite is just as bad. To make sure they're respected, some managers will rule with an iron fist, making sure their employees know exactly what they do wrong--every time they do something wrong. They constantly harp on the negative and rely on criticism over praise.
But while constructive feedback is often necessary, research shows that to promote the highest level of performance, it's best to give your team six positive comments to each negative one. Plus, recognition has been shown to be a key motivator for employees.
Bottom line: If you tend to take every opportunity to disagree with your employees' suggestions or point out what they didn't do right, you might actually be sinking performance--and your employees' perception of you as a leader.
3. The Ignorant Boss
Once, I had a boss resign, and the company decided to merge my team under another manager within the company. The problem was, she didn't understand what my team did--nor did she show the slightest interest in finding out. More than a year after she'd assumed leadership of our team, she still asked questions about our very basic functions. Even worse, she never remembered the answers she got, so she ended up asking the same questions over and over.
Her clear lack of effort made our team quickly lose respect for her as a leader and doubt the decisions she made. After all, if she didn’t have a clue what we did, how could she know what was best for us?
Trust me--as a tech manager, I know the value of hiring people who know more or different things than you do. But if you don't even attempt to understand what they do (or remember it even after they tell you half a dozen times), why would they trust the decisions you make or goals you set for the team?
Your employees shouldn't expect you to know everything about their job functions--but they do expect you to be invested enough to provide strong, reliable leadership.
4. The Absent Boss
Being in management keeps you busy. Your calendar is filled with meetings and lunches, and you're always rushing from one place to the next. But if you let that busyness take over your day-to-day life and use it as an excuse to not manage your employees (e.g., "I probably won't be in my office all week, so you'll have to come back next week" or "You're going to have to get someone else to look at your report; I have meetings all day”), your employees will notice that they're not a priority.
As a manager, you have to be available for your employees to give them the opportunity to ask questions, present ideas, and benefit from your guidance and leadership. Sure, you have other responsibilities--meetings and appointments included.
But as a manager, you should know that your most important job is to manage your employees.
5. The Hands Off Boss
One of the most tempting management strategies I discovered was the hands-off approach. I had a team who, I will happily admit, was self-sufficient. They knew their jobs, they stayed on task, and they performed well--all without any intervention from me. So, I focused my attention on other managerial duties, while they carried out their responsibilities. Sounds great, right?
But without your coaching or feedback, your employees completely miss out on any opportunities to grow or expand their skill sets--they can't pinpoint ways they can improve, enjoy any sort of recognition, or get the chance to tackle new challenges.
Even great employees deserve attention. No matter how self-sufficient your team may seem, your involved leadership is important to maximizing your employees' potential.
There may not be a magic formula for doing everything right--but there are definitely concrete ways to do things wrong. As you figure out how to best lead your team, stay away from these extreme strategies and you'll be well on your way to becoming a well-liked and well-respected leader.