Being a good boss--someone who motivates team members to do their best work--involves behaviors that don't come naturally for everyone. Take it from Lynn LeBlanc, co-founder and CEO of HotLink, a Santa Clara, California-based hybrid IT management company. As someone who has founded and helped manage multiple startups that have had successful exits, she says she's been around long enough to know what makes a good boss. Here are the kinds of things the best people managers consistently do, she says.
1. They exude confidence.
Not only can they communicate effectively with every function within a company, they do so concisely and with purpose. "Nobody is going to follow a leader that they don't have confidence in," she says.
2. They help people understand they're doing work that matters.
Especially as the workforce makes room for Millennials who need purpose in their work, people need to feel as if they're doing something awesome. "If they think they're doing mundane things that are good for the company but don't really motivate their technical interests then they they're not going to stick with you," she says.
3. They focus on only a few reachable goals.
You can't achieve everything as a company so the best bosses delineate the most vital things that need to be achieved every quarter and promote them with conviction. "Many leaders will throw everything including the kitchen sink into what they want to accomplish," she says. "Keep the plan simple and clear, and be willing to say, 'We are not going to do certain things because we just don't have the time and the bandwidth.'"
4. They commit to understanding what each employee wants out of his or her career.
She doesn't mean the typical HR career planning goals that might be on file somewhere, but rather how you as a leader can help people get what they need and want for themselves and their families. "Sometimes a person will have unrealistic goals, at least within some time frame, and I've found it's best to be quite direct about that, and maybe provide some alternatives," she says.
5. They help team members play to their strengths.
Success is unlikely if an employee isn't using his or her natural talents. "Every single one of us has strengths and weaknesses, and the better we understand them the better we can utilize them to our own benefit," she says. LeBlanc helps with this by spending ample time with her team to help them identify their top two or three natural strengths. "Then they'll get a lot more respect in the organization."
6. They give honest feedback.
Whether good or bad, employees appreciate knowing how they are being perceived, but many companies lack direct and honest communication about successes and failures. "Nobody wants to hear they're doing a bad job," she says. "But if they're doing a bad job, it's not going to turn out well in the long run."
7. They avoid false praise for trivial accomplishments.
What qualifies as a real achievement when everyone expects to be recognized for everything they do? "I think that diminishes the truly exceptional things that happen in a company," she says. "And so once those exceptional things happen, my policy is to tell everybody up and down the food chain."