Today is National Bosses Day and what better way to celebrate it than to tell bosses everywhere what skills they need if they want to be seen as a good boss. It beats giving them a "World's Best Boss" mug, or at least it's more productive. So how can we give our poor bosses a break and at least take a data-based approach to this?

LinkedIn can help via results they released today from a 3,000 employee and hiring manager survey they ran. The researchers were seeking to understand what were the skills employees most wanted their boss to have. What follows are the top five desired skills they uncovered and perspective on each one.

1. Problem solving (68 percent).

This is the number one skill employees want their bosses to have. But be careful here, you need to make an important distinction. If you're a boss reading this, know that employees want you to be good at solving problems so you can help them. To do that, the most important thing I can tell you to get better at solving problems is to first define the problem clearly. By far, the best problem solvers I ever worked with in my business career were skilled at clear problem definition. And they simplified the problem as well, boiling it down to its core essence without overcomplicating things.

But if you're an employee, remember that it's fine for you to want that of your boss, but it's also a big part of your job. Your job isn't to bring your boss problems and wait for him or her to solve them. You have to help them identify problems they didn't know they had, then bring them solutions or at least options to the best of your ability. Then and only then should you rely on the boss's problem-solving prowess to help you move the puck forward.

2. Time management (44 percent).

Employees want their bosses to be good at time management so they can learn by example, but also so the boss doesn't waste the employees time. I've seen many a boss that were world-class at not respecting their people's time. Very few things are more frustrating in a boss.

So if you carry on conversations too long, run over scheduled meeting times without thinking or if you ask employees to do a lot of "just in case" analysis to cover all the bases, it's not a good thing.

3. Decisiveness (40 percent).

I'm surprised this wasn't number one. Time and again I've seen how empowering it is when the boss just makes the call (even if the decision wasn't a popular one). Far too many times I've seen the opposite.

Your people want, no, need you to decide. Not doing so can paralyze your employees, create doubt, uncertainty, frustration, lack of focus, and resentment. Multiple options can linger sapping their energy and killing their sense of completion while costs can skyrocket and competitors gain advantage by lapping you.

The single biggest thing you can do to improve here is to step back and evaluate the true impact of a wrong decision (which is almost never as bad as you think) while also considering the risks or costs of not making a decision (which are likely greater than you realize).

4. Empathy (38 percent).

Your employees want you to understand how they're feeling (and why), what they're going through, and that you care. Research published in the Journal of Patient Experience from 2017 shows that leaders who display empathy enable shared experiences and communication of needs and desires--all of which leads to strong interpersonal bonds.

I've developed empathy over the years by focusing on four things; listening, being present, suspending judgment, and taking a genuine personal interest. You can do all these things too.

5. Compassion (36 percent).

This isn't the same thing as empathy. Employees want you to be compassionate because they want you to better associate with them-- to be able to feel for them, to feel their pain, to connect at the most fundamental human level. It's a deeper version of empathy because it's one thing to recognize how someone else is feeling, but it's another to actually feel those same things along with them. When you do, it influences how you behave as a leader. You do so with a gentler, more self-aware touch that visibly shows the other person you're literally feeling their pain.

Published on: Oct 16, 2019
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