Thursday, August 2, 2007

Three Steps to Being a Better Boss

There's an old joke that goes something like this: The boss is finally old enough to retire from the company. On his last day of work, he ordered a farewell party for himself. The boss wanted everyone to express their good feeling about him by writing on the farewell card, so later he could remember how his staff "miss" him. Most people are writing standard phrases like, "Without you, the company will never be the same," "We will always remember you," etc.

Obviously the boss was not satisfied. "I need something from the bottom of your heart, something really touching, you know. Okay, John, you have been working with me for the last 20 years. You are my best staff. I am retiring now. What do you have to say?"

Slowly but firmly, John wrote, "The best news in 20 years."

Are you this kind of boss?? When you leave, will your employees breathe a sigh of relief?? The company suffers from a manager like this.? High employee turnover raises costs with paperwork, drug tests and advertising for new employees.? Production suffers because morale is low, which affects energy and quality of work.? Money is lost hand over fist when unethical procedures are discovered and fines are levied.

Analyze Your?Method?

If you're a manager or otherwise have the title of "Boss" you need to take a very close look at how you manage your work and your employees.? What will they say about you when you leave?? Will you even have someone there that's worked for you for 20 years??

Take stock of your team.? High turnover is a glaring red flag that something's wrong.? Survey your workers - do they feel valued and appreciated?? Do they sigh when you say you need to talk to them?? When an issue arises, how do you act?? Do your employees have to endure a diatribe for every mistake?? Is profanity used in the workplace?? Are your team members reluctant to come to you when something happens or they need advice?

Look at your bottom line.? Have revenues been dropping?? Are you losing clients or customers?? Bonuses can be an often-overlooked indicator.? If employees are unhappy, they won't work as hard to make bonuses.? Lower bonus payouts can be a helpful clue.? Work-related injuries can also point to a lower sense of satisfaction among the workers.? Have you noticed an increase in sick time used?? It's not necessarily the weather, boss.

The First Step

So you've asked the questions, and the answers were less than satisfactory.? How do you reverse the trend?? First off, you must decide if you truly will change your methods.? Do not proceed unless you plan to see your plan through to completion.? It is worse to begin to improve and then revert than to never have started.? It will harm you even more.? Your employees will get their hopes up when they see you start to do better.?It is a crushing blow not only to your workers, but to your business if you go back to your old ways once you set off on the trail of good management.

The Hardest Step?

Once you've decided to embark on the path of the better boss, have a couple of meetings.? The first will be with your supervisors or management team, then you'll meet with everyone.? This will be the hardest step for you: apologize.? Smooth the way by letting your employees know that you've realized the error of your ways.? You will gain credibility and respect, and morale and cooperation will be increased tenfold with that one simple (but difficult) step.? Be warned, however, that a false apology will garner you more trouble than it's worth, and don't think you're that good of an actor.? If you were, you'd be in Hollywood.? Make sure you mean it.

Continue the meeting by laying out the game plan.? Tell them specifically how you're going to improve, and set up a system of checks and balances.? Find some way to make yourself accountable to your team.? Code words or signals can be helpful.

Now go out and be a good boss!

Almost There

You may think you're now the world's best boss.? Don't let your ego get in the way of true improvement.? While a system of checks and balances is good, you must follow up.? Check in with your team and ask them how you're doing.? Review is good for the soul.? Don't discredit the value of analysis.? Plan for a meeting every six months or after a particularly hard or stressful project.? Time and stress can weaken the greatest efforts without our even realizing it.? Be honest and encourage the same in the people with whom you're meeting.? If you've messed up, admit it, apologize for it, and move on.

Enjoy Your Success

With a tougher job market, higher employee turnover, and career-hopping running rampant in today's workforce, a great boss is an invaluable asset to any company.? The skills to keep morale and production high and turnover low will garner great bonuses, a higher salary, and improve your chances for promotion.? Higher ups look for managers that can handle people well, and in today's drive-through society, you'll stand out as a rare commodity.? Follow these steps and watch everything improve, from your bottom line to the production line.? And avoid getting told that your leaving is the "best news in 20 years!"

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