The unemployment rate is historically low, which is a good thing, but it does mean extra challenges if you're hiring and trying to retain top talent.
That''s why it's the perfect time to double down on your development as a boss, and make sure you're offering the kind of leadership that makes the best employees want to stick around.
A few years ago, I wrote a sort of "best boss behaviors" checklist. More than 1 million people have read it, and it's spawned more than a few imitators. (I'm flattered.) But enough time has passed, conditions have changed a bit, and it's time for an updated list.
So without further delay, here are 17 key things that the best employees secret wish their bosses would do.
1. They want you to articulate worthwhile goals.
This is Rule No. 1. Employees have lots of options. If you're paying market rate, that means they can do just as well from a financial perspective somewhere else. The single most important thing you can give them is a sense of purpose they can believe in.
2. They want you to know what the heck you're talking about.
You don't need to be the subject matter expert on everything. In fact, you shouldn't be; you should be recruiting the best people in each specialty. However, you do need to have a certain level of competency in everything -- enough to let your employees know you're trying to understand their needs, and you have enough respect to make the effort.
3. They want you to respect their time.
You can and should ask for big things. It's your job to motivate people toward that bigger goal we talked about in Rule No. 1. But at the same time: People have lives. They need work schedules that work for them, and they need bosses who display empathy and respect their time.
4. They want you to set priorities.
When everything is a priority, nothing is. Your best employees want to know what you think is most important -- so they know what to make a priority as well. Related: They want you to make decisions and stick with them.
5. They want you to tell them the truth.
Have you ever worked somewhere that the people in charge hoarded information like it was a state secret, and parceled it out on their schedule? In almost every case, that's the wrong tactic. It can only engender mistrust, and leave your employees wondering what else you're not telling them.
6. They want to hear what you think.
When they do things that are praiseworthy, they need to hear it. And when they fall short, they need to hear that as well -- so they're not in the dark about how they're doing. However, six words: Praise in public, correct in private.
7. They want you to say please and thank you.
Politeness is the magic elixir. Even when you're telling employees to do something and there's no room for debate, it costs you nothing to say "please." Likewise, one of your goals as a leader is to build a culture of gratitude, and that starts as you. So say "thank you," often. Bonus points for also making it a habit to say, "You're welcome."
8. They want you to ask good questions.
If you ask your employees smart questions in a non-annoying way, it tells them two things: One, you're engaged and you care. And second, you're on top of things. The message they want to take away is that they don't have to worry that they'll give their all to a project only to have it fall apart because you, as the boss, weren't effectively motivating the other people on their team.
9. They want you to hire the best.
Hiring and retention are likely the two most important things you do as a boss. Your employees want to know that you're always looking to improve the team, and they also want to take pride in knowing that the fact that they're there, in and of itself, means that somebody thinks they're amazing.
10 They want you to take the blame.
As the boss, you're the leader. You're the captain of the ship. And that means that while people might fail at their individual areas of contribution, if the team fails it's on you. Your employees need to know that you'll take the blame for the team if it ever comes to that, rather than throwing your people under the bus.
11. They want you to have a sense of humor and proportion.
They don't want a comedian, necessarily, but they do want a boss who can laugh and who can make light of bad situations. And even when humor isn't really appropriate -- for In almost every business, there are times when it feels like the wheels are going to fall off -- your team needs a leader who can keep his or her head,
12. They want you to communicate effectively.
Say what you mean, clearly and convincingly. Know what you're talking about. And back it up with action.
13. They want you to be a model of ethics.
Be aggressive. Move forward. Don't get caught up in bureaucratic trivia. But at the same time, there are rules of society we all have to follow. By the leader by your example.
14. They want you to celebrate wins.
Anything worth doing involves a series of smaller milestones. When you hit them, your team wants you to acknowledge them. Even if they sometimes suggest humbly that they don't think it's a big deal that they hit Milestone #4 out of 400 -- do it. They appreciate it, even if they don't feel like they can show it.
15. They want you to strive for excellence.
This harkens back to Rule No. 1. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
16. They want you to pull the team together.
Truly, you're the only person in a position to do this; everyone else should be focused largely on his or her individual role. So do it, and do it well.
17. They want you to make more leaders.
Having an eager and motivated team is great. But in the long run, the degree to which your team incorporates the lessons you teach them, and takes over leadership positions of their own, is a huge part of your legacy as a leader.