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8 Ways to Become a Better Boss

No one intends to be a bad boss. Some just don't know any better. Here are 10 tips that will help any boss improve.
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Some get to be boss by luck and others earn their way into the driver's seat.  Unfortunately, many people become a boss without getting proper training to manage. There is no sinister conspiracy at work--sometimes entrepreneurs focused on taking a product to market or heirs to family businesses find themselves in charge without knowing how to effectively manage people. Even great performers who rise to leadership positions may not have been trained to manage others.

Being a boss isn't complicated, but it does require some focused thought and attention to be amazing. And since many people are putting their faith in you, don't you owe it to them to be your best for their sake?  Well, here are 8 tips to help you reach your full boss potential.

1. Set reasonable objectives. Every boss has a lot to accomplish. Often the load is heavier than humanly possible to carry alone. But transferring the work arbitrarily down the line won't help the overload. More likely it will just create chaos and frustration. You were made the boss so you could manage the flow, so do just that. Assess your team and mete out the workload that is manageable. Establish a reasonable number of specifically articulated goals and drive the team to complete them so they can obtain victory and confidence.  Then you can raise the bar for next year.

2. Lead instead of dictate. Just because you are the boss doesn't mean people will do what you say. If they don't respect your authority, they will perform at a minimum level to retain their own security. Leaders must inspire their followers to greatness. Help everyone connect with the objectives so they take ownership. Then they will do their work with pride and care and be grateful for the empowerment.

3. Accentuate the positive. So many bosses spend a great deal of time correcting subordinates for every little thing they do wrong in hopes they'll eliminate errors and increase efficiency. Unfortunately people don't thrive well in an environment of constant criticism. The great motivator Tom Hopkins says it best:"Keep your eyes open and try to catch people in your company doing something right, then praise them for it."

4. Scrutinize your own performance. Becoming the boss is truly the beginning of your journey. You now have more autonomy, but that comes with responsibility. Your biggest task is to grow thyself.  Nothing will inspire those who work for you more than seeing you identify your weaknesses and consciously and publicly make the necessary adjustment. The great part is that every time you succeed then entire team benefits.

5. Invite others to solve problems. Ok, so as the boss, you are now accountable for everything that goes wrong. That doesn't mean you have to do everything necessary to fix it. Your team wants to help. They want to work together to solve problems for the benefit of all involved.  If someone isn't interested in helping for the greater good, then by all means, be a good boss and either motivate or remove him or her from the team. Either way you and the team can move forward with strength and pride.

6. Listen more than you talk. Yes, you have lots of experience and advice to share with those working for you. But that doesn't mean you have to share it all the time. Don't be so quick to shut down the thinking process with your direction. Otherwise your team will think less for themselves and become solely dependent on your brain. Let them explore the problems and find their own great solutions. Listen to make sure they don't get too far off track. Who knows, you might learn something new yourself.

7. Pick your battles. You can't and shouldn't fight every issue. You don't want your team to feel battle weary.  Direct your own attention and efforts only to where you will have most impact. Otherwise, install critical stopgaps and give the team the ability and the power to make most of their own decisions and fight their own battles. The process may take a little longer and they may fail, but they will learn more and gain proficiency after every win or loss.

8. Make it personal. For many people work is a means to an end. Chances are your team members have a life outside the office and their work supports that life. The people who work hard for you do so with dedication and responsibility to the company, in order to support their own need for pride and self respect. Be generous with gratitude, praise and concern for their individual wellbeing. Otherwise you may not have many amazing employees around to call you boss.

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Last updated: Nov 15, 2013

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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