Over the last 13 years that I've led my email marketing company, VerticalResponse, and even far before, I've seen great managers and crappy managers. What I've found is that being a great manager doesn't really take that much. It just takes time, patience, and understanding.
Good managers motivate their employees properly and make them feel like a meaningful part of the company. Poor managers keep information to themselves, don't pay proper attention, and micromanage.
Here are five things you can probably do right now to be a better boss.
1. Take a break.
Everyone needs a recharge; some, more than others. When you take a vacation, do just that--take a vacation! Go ahead and check your email, but don't respond just for the sake of responding. Jump in if you think there's an emergency, but in the end it's better for you and better for your people if you just relax.
If you've got the right team in place, you shouldn't have to worry. Plus, it forces them to make the decisions you would have otherwise made.
2. Give up a piece of the pie.
Does your company have profit-sharing? Do you give your employees stock in your business? You might find that if you do, they care more about the things you care about: cost structure, hiring, and spending. You'll be surprised at the questions they start asking if they have more of a stake in the company than a paycheck.
Tech companies have 15 percent or more carved out of the stock for employee stock option pools. Then allocations are made based on tenure of the employee, position in the company, and responsibilities. Plus, all startups give stock options so it's a point of competition. Every employee here at VerticalResponse had stock options, and when the company was sold to Deluxe last year, everyone got cash in hand.
3. Open the kimono.
The old saying, "knowledge is power," is the way successful companies are run. I've seen upper management hire managers with no input from the team this person would be managing. I've seen management micromanage the communications to the company. I've been in meetings to talk about the meeting for the company meeting.
It doesn't have to be that complicated; just talk to people and let them know what's going on in the company. Let them know if revenue is down and ask for their help in how to increase it. Involving them in the problem might result in a solution you might not have thought about. They'll respect you for it.
4. Show that you're interested.
Even if you've got the greatest team in the world, all of the team members want to know that you care about what they do and how they do it. If you don't meet with your team members regularly and you don't engage with them, they'll feel that what they do just isn't important enough for you to be interested.
Sure, your thinking might be, "Hey, Joe's got it; he doesn't need me breathing down his neck. I've got other fires to put out." But the reality is yes, Joe might be doing a great job, but if you don't tell him that and understand how he gets results from his work, he'll think you just don't really care.
5. Treat them as people.
People want to be cared about. Some want to know who you are and they want you to know who they are as individuals. They're not just cogs in a wheel; they're people who, together, make your business go. They have families. They do fun things on the weekends. They coach soccer. They need to know you care about them outside of work.
In my career I've invited many of my bosses to dinner and many of them are still great friends of mine; one is even my neighbor. I love having these people in my life and it was all because of one thing: They cared.
At the end of the day, being a better boss makes work more meaningful for you and your employees. It ain't that hard.