At best, following conventional wisdom results in mediocrity. Truly great bosses don't just march to the beat of a different drummer, they convince everyone else to march along with them. Here's how:

1. They put the customer second.

When managers preach and practice the longstanding axiom to put the customer first, they overlook their employees, who are the people actually responsible for creating and nurturing the customer experience.

Customers can immediately sense when the employees of the firms from which they buy are miserable, overworked, or under trained. Truly great bosses concentrate on making certain that their employees are happy, healthy and can do the work required.

2. They don't manage the bottom line.

The "bottom line"--your quarterly or yearly numbers--only represents the history of what's happened, so focusing on it is like trying to drive a car while looking in the rear-view mirror.

Truly great bosses know that the only way to get good numbers in the future is to keep your attention on what's going on right now in your market and industry and the activities that your employees are undertaking to take advantage of the present reality.

3. They celebrate the tough times.

It's easy to have great morale when a company is successful, but when times are tough, not so much. Worst case, you can get a "chicken or egg" situation where everyone is waiting for things to improve, with decreasing hope that they actually will.

Ironically, it's when things are difficult that you're most likely to have breakthroughs--but only if people keep their spirits up. That's when truly great bosses figure out how to make work fun and keep their people happy.

4. They have more questions than answers.

Many managers think that their job is to know all the answers--and provide them to their employees as frequently as possible. However, when managers provide all the answers, they rob their employees of the opportunity to think and grow.

While experience has value, people can't learn when that wisdom is presented on a platter or forced down their throat. That's why great bosses ask questions that will spark, in the employee's own mind, the thought processes that will make that employee successful.

5. They measure themselves by their worst employees.

Managers like to point to their top performers as an indicator of how successful they are as managers. However, the success of a top performer is more likely to reflect that person's drive and ability, rather than anything the manager brought to the table.

Great bosses know that the real measure of a manager's skill is how he or she handles the poor performers. Because they remain employed, your worst performers illustrate exactly what you, as a manager, are willing to tolerate.

6. They mistrust their common sense.

When managers depend upon their "common sense" to solve problems, they seldom assess whether their hunches actually paid off. As a result, the same problems keep cropping up month after month, year after year.

Great bosses know their employees and their employee's interests, and manage according to those interests. In other words, getting the best from your team requires applied psychology rather than common sense.

Note: This post is very loosely based on a document sent me many years ago by veteran executive and corporate chairman Ray Williams.

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