This month marks a milestone in this series, as we are now half-way through the Top 20 Characteristics of a ‘Best Boss.‘ That makes this a great time to remind you where we derived this list and offer a suggestion to help you get the most out of this resource.
We compiled the data for our Top 20 over the last 30 years by asking students in our performance management courses to describe the best boss they ever had. A consistent leadership image emerged with only minor variation from decade to decade or continent to continent. We call this image the “Facilitative-Relational Leader.” If you grow in likeness to this image, this “Best Boss” we have been describing, our experience tells us that you will create an environment that produces deeper employee engagement and predictable attainment of team and personal objectives.
Consider using the topics we have already explored to engage your team in an ongoing discussion about the leadership characteristics they value most. Helping them develop into the kind of leaders they already instinctively admire will demonstrate your interest in their long-term success and go a long way toward developing the leader you will need to replace you when it is time for your next promotion.
Now back to the list. A ‘Best Boss‘ is:
#1 -- is a good communicator
#2 -- holds himself and others accountable for results
#3 -- enables success
#4 -- motivates others
#5 -- cares about the success of others
#6 -- is honest and trustworthy
#7 -- shows trust by delegating effectively and
#8 -- is fair and consistent.
This month we will look at:
#9 -- competent and knowledgeable and
#10 -- rewards / recognizes success.
Competent & Knowledgeable
What does it mean to say that best bosses are competent and knowledgeable? Competent and knowledgeable in what? Does it mean that they are competent in every task under their supervision? Does it mean that they are competent and knowledgeable about how to oversee the actions and results of others? Does it mean that they know enough about the tasks under their purview to assist in setting objectives and evaluating results?
Oversight not Execution
When we challenged our class participants to define competence and knowledge, they consistently said that their best bosses understood the results that were needed, had knowledge of the skills required to achieve those results, and were good at overseeing the execution of those tasks.
Best Bosses are not necessarily those who are the best at execution of each task. As a matter of fact, those who are the best executors are more likely to micromanage because they “know the best way to do it”.
As you move up in supervision/management, the breadth of activities under your control increases. As this happens, your ability to have total competence and knowledge of every activity decreases.
Find the Right Talent
Knowledge of the desired results leads best bosses to locate the talent and competencies needed for success.
Best bosses understand what results must be achieved and what skills are needed to achieve them. They know how to evaluate the skills of their employees so as to match skill sets with objectives and they know how to communicate expectations to others so that employees can achieve results.
Rewards / Recognizes Success
Best Bosses understand the importance of skilled, motivated employees in the quest for great results. They also understand the connection between rewards/recognition and those results.
They understand that rewards, while potentially motivating, are not just to make people “feel good”, but rather are an integral part of the process of strengthening desired action and results.
The Feedback Loop
Decades ago, psychologists scientifically demonstrated what animal trainers and parents have known for centuries, that positive feedback following an action increases the chances that the action will occur again in the future. In other words, the action will become stronger when followed by reward.
Best Bosses understand this principle and look for opportunities to allow employees to be successful. They then follow that success with positive feedback, either in the form of a reward or simply recognition for the success.
The Right Recognition
They also know that the reward should fit the situation. Simple accomplishments such as completing a task successfully and on time might only receive a “good job....thanks!”
Providing a suggestion that saves the company significant amounts of money might require a financial reward to be effective. Best Bosses know the difference and apply the positive consequences effectively.
Five Simple Rules for Effective Use of Reward/Recognition:
Do it publicly when possible, but not in a way that embarrasses the person.
Make it appropriate to the accomplishment.
Focus on the action/result and not the person.
Provide the positive feedback as soon after the completion of the task as possible.
Be genuine and sincere.
Following these five rules can help you create a workplace where employees are learning new, stronger skills and increasing their motivation to use those skills all at the same time.
Best Boss Bottom Line
By all means, strive for competence, but know your role while you are doing it. As a supervisor, the key is not to know how to do it yourself, but instead to know how to get the results that you need from your team. If you understand the role that rewards and recognition play in motivating performance, your “out of the trenches” competence will embolden your team and provide you plenty of opportunities to recognize their performance.
Question: What do you do if during the “Ask” process you find that the unsafe action is due to both knowledge and motivation? How do you “Find a Fix” that addresses both?
SafetyCompass®: The short answer is that you address each reason (knowledge and motivation) separately. Let’s take a hypothetical example to help us examine the process. A warehouse worker needs to move some heavy materials to a storage shelf and a forklift is required to do the job. He finds a vacant forklift and is about to start moving the material when he is stopped by a co-worker (SafetyCompass).
The SafetyCompass begins the “Ask” process and discovers that the worker is not certified to use a forklift. The worker feels like he is completely competent because he had operated a forklift for a previous employer. The SafetyCompass determines that the employee did not understand all of the company policies regarding forklift operation (knowledge) so training is the appropriate Fix for this issue. Also, the employee did not see the need to go through all of that training (motivation) until the SafetyCompass told him about a nearly fatal accident that had happened in the past that could have been avoided if the person had gone through the requisite training. So, if you have both a knowledge and a motivation issue, treat them separately and find the appropriate fix for each.