Posts Tagged ‘Rewards’

Best BossI got my first job at age 16.  I was a clerk at a locally-owned grocery store in my hometown of Winchester, Kentucky, happy with the $1.60 per hour starting salary.  I did my work to the best of my ability.  I was thrilled when I got my first raise of five cents per hour.  I got along with the owners and the extended family that ran the store.  They were each different with their own personalities and ways of doing things.  In that environment, I got my first taste of the differences that bosses can bring to the workplace.

That was 40 years ago.  Over four decades of working, I’ve had experience with a lot of different bosses – some great, some mediocre, some awful.  In this post, I will share with you the characteristics and practices demonstrated by the bosses I consider to be the best that I’ve had the privilege to work with.  My next post will discuss the flip side – those dreadful characteristics and practices that have made working under some bosses a painful time of endurance testing.

The best bosses I’ve ever had:

Are encouragers.  We like to be encouraged with kind words and with recognition of a job well done.  We like to know that others have confidence in us even if we aren’t quite as confident in ourselves at times, especially when tackling something new.  If you tell me you know I can do something, I will do everything in my power not to let you down.

Are approachable.  Whether via an open door policy or by ample other opportunities to engage with employees, bosses must create an environment where their direct reports know that they are welcome and encouraged to approach them any time with questions, concerns, suggestions, complaints, etc.  An unapproachable boss will be detached from the team and woefully unaware of the reality around him/her.

Are organized.  A boss who knows how to set priorities, plan and successfully execute sets a great example for those who report to him/her.  On the contrary, unorganized bosses can leave a whole team disorganized and discouraged by the constant chaos.

Are willing to do grunt work if needed.  I appreciate bosses who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, digging in when necessary to help the team churn out what needs to be done.  This can’t be the primary role of a boss, of course, but in those times when extreme work loads or looming deadlines tax the ability of others to get it all done, this is a great gesture of teamwork that goes a long way in developing good will.

Give me a job to do and turn me loose to do it.  I work best when I’m left alone to get things done without anyone peering over my shoulder or constantly checking up on how things are going.  If I need help or hit a roadblock that will take a boss to overcome, I’ll let the boss know.  Until then, he/she can assume all is well and on schedule – maybe even ahead of schedule and expectations.

Help me understand the big picture.  I don’t want to just know how to do tasks A, B,and C.  I want to know how the work I do fits into the overall purpose of the company and its larger mission.  I don’t want to just be good at tactics; I want to understand strategy.  I am helped by having core values that underlie the business reinforced in word and deed by people at all levels of the org chart.  I want a leader who can help a team take a step back when needed and help us remember why we do what we do.

Exercise fairness in how each employee is treated.  Any hint of favoritism from a boss toward one employee over another creates a very dysfunctional team.  If some employees seem to get away with poor work performance, excessive absences, or inappropriate behavior that is not tolerated in others, fellow workers are potentially demotivated from doing their best because of the disparity.  I don’t expect better treatment than other employees, but I do at least expect equal treatment.

Address personnel issues quickly.  This may be with an under-performing employee or it may mean stepping in to mediate interpersonal tensions between two or more employees.  Regardless, issues cannot fester or they do more damage the longer they are ignored.  Dealing with conflict or difficult situations must surely be among the least favorite roles a boss has to play, but it is an essential one that pays big dividends in the long run.

Tangibly reward top performers.  While recognition and encouragement go a long way toward job satisfaction, it is also true that none of us are employed full-time merely for the fun of it or the kind words that may come our way.  We work to earn a living, and if we go above and beyond what is expected, then we should be compensated accordingly.  Any business that places arbitrary limits on how much people can earn in certain roles or who do not allocate funds for increased salaries and bonuses only demotivate employees who feel like they have maxed out their earning and growth potential in a role.

Expect accountability.  My first boss at my current employer ten years ago was as good at this as any I’ve ever had.  Like clockwork, we had one-on-ones with a common, simple agenda that showed what we had accomplished since the last meeting, what we would do before the next one, and any issues standing in the way that we might need her to run interference regarding.  There’s something about knowing that periodic check-in with the boss is coming up to sometimes light a fire under you to get things done.

Do what they say they’ll do.  Just as I expect to be accountable to my boss, I expect my bosses to follow through and do what they say they’ll do without needing frequent reminders from others.  I know schedules can be crazy and demands from above and below in the org chart can be hard to juggle, but failing to follow through on commitments is discouraging to those impacted.

Challenge me to do better.  Regardless of how well I may perform my duties, I know there is always room for improvement.  When I was a training manager for about two dozen trainers at a previous company, I took seriously sitting in on the classes they taught and meeting with them afterward to discuss what they did well and what they might work to improve.  If someone comes to me and praises me for how I do A, B, and C, but suggests that I might consider some suggested changes to improve how I do D, E, and F, I’m going to value that information and take it to heart, trying to improve in those areas.

Welcome innovation and initiative.  I can’t think of a job I’ve had in 40 years where I did not go above and beyond what was expected, voluntarily taking on new responsibilities and attempting new things that I thought would be beneficial to the business and/or its customers.  That doesn’t mean that I was in a role where such was expected or demanded, however.  Good ideas can come from any level of the org chart at any time.  Good bosses hear those ideas, weigh them, give guidance, and, where appropriate, approval.

Delegate authority – not just responsibility.  There is not much more frustrating in a role than having responsibilities without the accompanying authority.  The power to make decisions and implement them needs to be pushed as far down the org chart as possible instead of being concentrated up the chain.  Work gets done more effectively and efficiently when this is the case.

Have my back.  Nobody likes being thrown under the bus by anyone, but especially by your boss.  I appreciate bosses who have gone to bat for me, defending decisions made and actions taken when challenged by others.  It’s like having an older sibling step up to a playground bully and say, “If you want to get to him, you’ll have to go through me first.”  Of course, it won’t be in those exact words in a business conversation or email (although that would be awesome!), but the positive emotional impact is the same when a boss takes up for you in discussion with others.

Show a sense of humor.  Humor goes such a long way in strengthening relationships, in making an environment fun, and in showing someone’s personal, human side.  Work days can get long and stress can take its toll, but if days are broken up with regular moments of laughter and fun, it makes them seem shorter and the stress more bearable.

So, there you have a number of characteristics or practices that I consider to be among the most admirable I’ve seen in the best bosses I’ve had through the years.  What about you?  Which of the above resonates with your experience?  Do you have additional ones from your work life you could add to the list?  If so, let me know in a comment.

(Side note: Some may question why I use the term “bosses” throughout this post and not something more positive or official sounding like “supervisor,” “manager” or “leader.”  Nothing negative or insulting is intended.  Any of the terms could have been used.  I chose the shortest.  Actually, I like the term and have on many occasions affectionately referred to various managers as “boss man.”)

ElephantintheRoom-Leo_CullumHow many times have you been in a conversation with others and wanted to bring up some obvious topic, but failed to do so?  How many times have you sat in meetings, heard proposals, watched presentations, discussed important matters, or been embarrassed on behalf of someone else, all the while dying to say what is really on your mind, but never mustering the courage to say it?  Why do we hold back and so often fail to acknowledge the elephant in the room?

In the case of meetings at work, perhaps you can’t bring yourself to openly disagree with someone higher up the org chart.  Maybe you are the kind of person who avoids conflict at all cost, both in personal and professional settings.  Maybe you fear the known or unknown consequences of being that person to bring up what you and probably many others wish someone would address.

If you don’t acknowledge obvious issues, it is very possible that the consequences of failing to address them will be worse than doing so.  For example, if you have relationship issues with someone, but try to keep the peace instead of putting matters on the table, aren’t the potential emotional and physical consequences of holding it all inside worse than the temporary awkwardness and unpleasantness of the dreaded conversation?  If you are being pitched a plan of action by a manager or someone higher up than you in an organization, and you know that the suggested path has major flaws, aren’t you complicit in failed and potentially harmful business decisions if you do not raise the concerns you have?  If others are trying to get you to go down some path that could be dangerous or have serious negative consequences personally and/or professionally, don’t you have the responsibility to listen to your intuition and interject a cautionary word into the conversation?  If someone’s dress, hygiene, personal habits or behavior are the subject of much discussion behind his/her back, isn’t the decent thing to do to have that needed and difficult private conversation in order to help the other person?

When it comes to acknowledging elephants in the room, few seem willing to be the one to step up and do so.  Oh, how we need more people willing to take that step!  Doing this doesn’t mean you have to do so in an unkind, harsh, abrasive, offensive way.  Besides, you won’t likely succeed in promoting positive change with that approach, anyway.  Instead, with a genuine heart of compassion, caring, and concern for what is wrong or what might fail, you have an incredible opportunity to change the path of a person, group, or entire company from darkness to light, from failure to success.  Those on the hearing end are usually able to sense genuine concern; they will most likely be able to see the intentions of your heart and hear your message, even if it is one that is difficult for them to hear.

Nobody benefits from having a bunch of “yes” men around.  While I’ll never be in a position of corporate power by virtue of the position held, if I ever was, I would hope to be fortunate enough to surround myself with men and women who always speak the truth, even when it is hard for them to deliver the message and perhaps harder for me to hear.  If it is my thoughts, plans, attitude, behavior or anything else that is ever the elephant in the room, then I desperately need and want someone to tell me that.  Do it gently and kindly and (if possible) privately, but by all means, do it!  I’m a big boy.  I can handle it.

I have no idea what life situations you are in where you feel you need to bring up something “obvious” that nobody else is saying, but I suspect you can think of one or two such situations at this time.  I strongly encourage you, in the interest of doing what is most helpful and kind and beneficial in the long run, acknowledge with whomever else needs to hear that there is an elephant in the room.  The benefit gained from the honest conversation will far outweigh the temporary fear of negative consequences that has held you back so far.

Justice is a good thing.  Most are pleased when we see justice served, when criminals get the deserved punishment for their lawbreaking.  Granted, if we are the ones breaking the law, we’re more interested in seeing mercy than justice, but that’s another discussion.

A couple of phrases or terms come to mind that we hear from time to time that deal in some way with justice.  One is “what goes around, comes around.”  Then there is the whole idea of “karma” that some religions subscribe to which relates to the subject but is open to various interpretations and is not intended to be a synonym for “justice.”

It’s easier when the subject is lawbreaking to get agreement on what justice demands.  It can get a little tougher in other contexts, though.

Take, for example, the consequences of a way of life that in time takes its toll on the person to the detriment of physical, emotional, financial, mental or spiritual health.  The end result is justice in the sense that it is the logical consequence of a series of choices that turn out a certain way eventually.

Or take the example of a leader who makes consistently bad decisions over a long period of time to the detriment of the organization he is charged with leading.  There may be nothing criminal about the acts, but the negative impact on others and on the organization are just as real and result in serious consequences, eventually necessitating a change in leadership for the survival of the organization.  The change is a just consequence of many prior actions.

Justice can, of course, be more positive as well.  We enjoy seeing good things happen to good people.  When acts of kindness are rewarded, when hard-working people get promoted, when those normally quiet on the sidelines are recognized as key partners in success, positive justice puts a smile on our face.

I am not naive enough to think that justice always happens in this life, but I do believe that there is a God who is the ultimate judge and who is supremely fair in His judgments.  That is why I believe in leap year lesson #297 – Sooner or later, justice happens.

Later this morning a man will come to our house and do some minor touch-up work on the recently renovated master bath.  There are a few places where the caulking has cracked around some edges of the shower, so the company that did the work this summer is sending him to fix it.  It isn’t anything major – just a little annoyance that shouldn’t happen this soon after the work was done, so it needs repair.

A few months ago, there was nothing but open space in the gutted upstairs as everything that was there previously for our two boys’ bedrooms and attic space was removed to make room for a new master suite to be constructed from the ground up.  The work ahead of the renovation company at that point was quite a bit different than the little touch-up that awaits them today.

When I consider the changes that have taken place in the past or need to happen in the future for me personally, they can also be grouped into the larger categories of major renovations that take a lot of time to overhaul versus those that are little touch-up jobs along the way.  Deciding to lose 20 pounds this year took several months of more activity and a change of eating habits that has to continue if I want to keep those pounds off (so far, so good).  Getting a better handle on my retirement financial preparation has taken a lot of study and changes in investments over the past 13 months as I put things in place for retiring in another 10-12 years.  Both of the above changes are significant.  They take more time and effort.  Other minor ones along the way have happened with less planning, less time and minimal effort.

Do you have anything that needs a major overhaul in your life – internal or external?  Have you been dissatisfied with some minor things that could use a touch-up job here and there?  If so, make the decision and do something today to move in the right direction.  The major overhauls aren’t easy, but you sure do enjoy them once they’re complete.

Leap year lesson #264 is Tackle that next major renovation or minor touch-up.

Over six months ago, we started some major home renovations.  The first couple of months saw the kitchen completely gutted, the wall removed between the kitchen and dining room, and everything new from the ground up, opening up a significant part of the main floor of the house with the change.

Then after a little break, the same company took what were two old, ugly, cheaply done upstairs bedrooms and attic space our sons used when they were young, and again removed everything – ceiling, walls, flooring – and built from the ground up a nice new master bedroom suite with a great bath, two walk-in closets and storage areas using a floor plan we have had in mind for a decade.

Today the final inspection happened, the last check was written, and all is done but furnishing it.  Nearly seven months after it all began, we won’t have workers strolling in and out of our house randomly most days of the week.  We can take all the furniture and storage items that have cluttered other rooms on the other floors and, after tossing what we can, put things where they belong.  It is an understatement to say that it feels good to finally have that work done.

Could we have lived without the renovations?  Yes.  Was it costly?  Yes.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  We now have a kitchen/dining area that not only is loved by my wife the caterer, but one the neighbors are asking to come see as the word spreads.  One neighbor has already started a similar renovation after seeing ours, claiming we inspired her.

We didn’t do it for the neighbors, of course, or to impress others.  We did it for ourselves and just in case we decide to sell the house down the road.

As I ponder the time, effort and cost involved, I am reminded of what brings satisfaction at work and in other places.  There is great pleasure in reaching the end of something into which you have put great effort, especially when it turns out really well.

You have to look past the inconvenience and frustrations of the moment and remember leap year lesson #211 – Keep the end in view.