Last week, I described the 7 traits of extraordinary bosses. While that list has proven popular with readers, it doesn't contain any practical advice for bosses who want to improve their own performance.
Over the years, I've read dozens, maybe hundreds, of emails from employees who either complain about their bosses, or offer fulsome praises. Here are six suggestions that have emerged from this dialog:
1. Manage your people not your numbers.
Conventional business thinking is that numbers are all important. As a result, many managers spend an great deal of time looking at the numbers, slicing and dicing the numbers, putting numbers into graphs, and talking about where the numbers are and where they ought to be.
However, all number in every business are the RESULT of how well you manage people not how well you manage numbers. The only way to get better numbers (regardless of your measurements scheme) is to improve the performance of the people who work for you. A good coach always trumps a good Powerpoint.
2. Have relevant and simple measurements.
While your main focus needs to be your employees rather than your numbers, you still need a way to measure how well those employees are doing. Ideally, your metrics should relate as closely as possible to the behaviors that you're trying to encourage and be simple enough for every employee to understand at a glance.
By contrast, complex measurement schemes, with multiple metrics, inevitably create confusion among employees and managers alike. And if nothing that the employee does seems to affect those metrics, they're just creating mental overhead.
3. Have one priority per employee.
I recently received an email from a person whose boss assigned multiple tasks and insisted that every was a "huge priority." That boss, of course, was an idiot, because if everything is priority then nothing is a priority.
The entire concept of a "priority" means that there is ONE thing that's more important than everything else. Giving your employees "multiple priorities" is foisting on them the responsibility to decide what's really important. That's YOUR job.
4. Never vent emotions on an employee.
Employees understand that managers are human, under pressure, and pressed for time. They know that bosses get frustrated and angry, especially when confronted with bad news, mistakes that could have been avoided, and so forth.
Even so, when you blow your stack at an employee, or make a cutting or hurtful remark, it creates a wound that never heals completely and festers with secret resentment. You don't have to be perfect, but your employees are emphatically NOT your punching bags.
5. Measure yourself by your worst employee.
Managers use their top performers as measure of how successful they are as managers. However, while you may have hired a top performer or grown him or her into that role, that success is more likely to reflect his or her drive and ability rather than anything that you brought to the table.
Instead, you should measure your management ability based on how you handle your worst performers. It is those people who define the lowest level of performance that you're willing to tolerate as well, and how much you expect the other employees to compensate for your low standards.
6. Compensate higher than average.
There's a tendency among managers to think of wages, perks and commissions as expenses that should be minimized in order to increase profit. However, if there's anything that's true in the business world it that if you pay average wages, you end up with average employees.
This is simple cause and effect not brain surgery. Maybe back before the Internet it was possible to get top people to work for less than they were worth. Today, however, employees who possess even a modicum of common sense know exactly how much they more money could get elsewhere.
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