10 Things Great Bosses Give to Their Employees

Good bosses care about getting important things done. Exceptional bosses care about their people.

Good bosses have strong organizational skills. Good bosses have solid decision-making skills. Good bosses get important things done.

Exceptional bosses do all of the above–and more. Sure, they care about their company and customers, their vendors and suppliers. But most importantly, they care to an exceptional degree about the people who work for them.
That’s why extraordinary bosses give every employee:

 1. Autonomy and independence.
Great organizations are built on optimizing processes and procedures. Still, every task doesn’t deserve a best practice or a micro-managed approach. (I’m looking at you, manufacturing.)
Engagement and satisfaction are largely based on autonomy and independence. I care when it’s “mine.” I care when I’m in charge and feel empowered to do what’s right.
Plus, freedom breeds innovation: Even heavily process-oriented positions have room for different approaches. (Still looking at you, manufacturing.)
Whenever possible, give your employees the autonomy and independence to work the way they work best. When you do, they almost always find ways to do their jobs better than you imagined possible.

 2. Clear expectations.
While every job should include some degree of independence, every job does also need basic expectations for how specific situations should be handled.
Criticize an employee for offering a discount to an irate customer today even though yesterday that was standard practice and you make that employee’s job impossible. Few things are more stressful than not knowing what is expected from one day to the next.
When an exceptional boss changes a standard or guideline, she communicates those changes first–and when that is not possible, she takes the time to explain why she made the decision she made, and what she expects in the future.

 3. Meaningful objectives.
Almost everyone is competitive; often the best employees are extremely competitive–especially with themselves. Meaningful targets can create a sense of purpose and add a little meaning to even the most repetitive tasks.
Plus, goals are fun. Without a meaningful goal to shoot for, work is just work.
No one likes work.

 4. A true sense of purpose.
Everyone likes to feel a part of something bigger. Everyone loves to feel that sense of teamwork and esprit de corps that turns a group of individuals into a real team.
The best missions involve making a real impact on the lives of the customers you serve. Let employees know what you want to achieve for your business, for your customers, and even your community. And if you can, let them create a few missions of their own.
Feeling a true purpose starts with knowing what to care about and, more importantly, why to care.

 5. Opportunities to provide significant input.
Engaged employees have ideas; take away opportunities for them to make suggestions, or instantly disregard their ideas without consideration, and they immediately disengage.
That’s why exceptional bosses make it incredibly easy for employees to offer suggestions. They ask leading questions. They probe gently. They help employees feel comfortable proposing new ways to get things done. When an idea isn’t feasible, they always take the time to explain why.
Great bosses know that employees who make suggestions care about the company, so they ensure those employees know their input is valued–and appreciated.

 6. A real sense of connection.
Every employee works for a paycheck (otherwise they would do volunteer work), but every employee wants to work for more than a paycheck: They want to work with and for people they respect and admire–and with and for people who respect and admire them.
That’s why a kind word, a quick discussion about family, an informal conversation to ask if an employee needs any help–those moments are much more important than group meetings or formal evaluations.
A true sense of connection is personal. That’s why exceptional bosses show they see and appreciate the person, not just the worker.

7. Reliable consistency.
Most people don’t mind a boss who is strict, demanding, and quick to offer (not always positive) feedback, as long as he or she treats every employee fairly.
(Great bosses treat each employee differently but they also treat every employee fairly. There’s a big difference.)
Exceptional bosses know the key to showing employees they are consistent and fair is communication: The more employees understand why a decision was made, the less likely they are to assume unfair treatment or favoritism.

 8. Private criticism.
No employee is perfect. Every employee needs constructive feedback. Every employee deserves constructive feedback. Good bosses give that feedback.
Great bosses always do it in private.

 9. Public praise.
Every employee–even a relatively poor performer–does something well. Every employee deserves praise and appreciation. It’s easy to recognize some of your best employees because they’re consistently doing awesome things. (Maybe consistent recognition is a reason they’re your best employees? Something to think about.)
You might have to work hard to find reasons to recognize an employee who simply meets standards, but that’s okay: A few words of recognition–especially public recognition–may be the nudge an average performer needs to start becoming a great performer.

 10. A chance for a meaningful future.
Every job should have the potential to lead to greater things. Exceptional bosses take the time to develop employees for the job they someday hope to land, even if that job is with another company.
How can you know what an employee hopes to do someday? Ask.
Employees will only care about your business after you first show you care about them. One of the best ways is to show that while you certainly have hopes for your company’s future, you also have hopes for your employees’ futures.

The Future of Work?

Cubicles with low walls, open collaboration areas, desks and computers assigned as you show up for work. If you need to hold a private meeting or make a personal phone call, you reserve a conference room in advance. This is what the offices of some companies are like today—and what most companies will be like in the future. But that’s nothing. There is much more change to come.

The nature of work itself is changing for knowledge workers. During this decade, location will cease to be a barrier; many types of work will done as micro-tasks; and we will be collaborating in new ways. Not only will our employers take our offices away, but they will also expect us to be at their beck and call—and live balanced and healthy lives according to corporate standards.

I know this isn’t all great, but that is the future we are headed into—whether we like it or not.

Note how much has already changed. We check email as soon as we reach home, and sneak a peek at our inboxes along the way. We respond to calls, texts, and messages even while on vacation. At work, we use Cisco Telepresence or Skype to confer with colleagues all over the world. Some companies let employees work from home for one or two days a week; some let them live in remote locations.

A decade ago, we could not have imagined being always on, always connected, with work following us wherever we go.

For our grandparents, “work” was almost always in a factory or on a farm. Today, the farm and factory jobs are performed by a shrinking minority. There are still many jobs in the services sector that require physical work. But increasingly our workforce is performing tasks that are done with the mind—that require knowledge and skill. These knowledge jobs can be assisted by technology.

Accounting firms routinely outsource grunt work, as do lawyers, and as do doctors, for tasks such as medical transcription. Not long ago, small and midsized projects were outsourced through websites such as oDesk, Freelancer, and Elance—not just to India but also to remote workers in the U.S. and Europe. A micro-task economy is now flourishing on sites such as Amazon Mechanical Turk, Samasource, and CrowdFlower, in which smaller tasks are farmed out. Big and small tasks such as data handling, website development, design, and transcription are commonly done by workers in diverse locations.

Crowdsourcing is making it possible for work to be done simultaneously by many people—no matter where they are. It is becoming possible to solve big problems by using the power of the collective as I just have for Innovating Women—a book on how to enable more women to participate in the innovation economy.

While research entrepreneurship, I realized there was a serious problem: women were facing discrimination and exclusion in the technology industry. I wanted to write a book that inspired, motivated, and educated women to surmount the hurdles. But I am no expert in this field. And interviewing women and researching solutions would have taken me years. So I asked women all over the world to crowdcreate this book with me—by sharing their stories and ideas on how to fix the problem. We did this on a social-media-style website.

I was able to tap into the collective knowledge of more than 500 women. Within six weeks, we had gathered enough information and anecdotes to publish not one but several books. And we learned from each other.

Businesses are beginning to do this as well. Rather than locking workers in departmental silos, companies on the cutting edge are encouraging employees to start communicating with each other on internal social-media sites. What used to be the quarterly email from the CEO has become a torrent of information-sharing within companies—at all levels. Watch this transform into the same type of crowdsouring of ideas to solve problems as I did with Innovating Women. Companies will start designing and developing new products and services by engaging their entire employee base.

Telepresence robots are taking video conferencing to a new level. There are several products on the market, such as Beam by Suitable Technologies and Fellow Robots,, that allow a screen mounted on a mobile platform to move around the office and experience what is happening in a more human way. Imagine walking into your boss’s office while you are at home, stepping into a conference room to join a meeting, or chit-chatting with your peers around the water fountain.

We can expect Google Glass-type devices to bring the computer display to our body—so that we view the screen on our glasses and don’t need to sit at a desk any more. I expect future versions to provide immersive 3D experiences which are more like the holodecks we saw in Start Trek. And who knows, we may well have holodecks that make it feel as though we are together—but that is getting too far into the future. During this decade, we’ll have to settle for 2D interfaces and 3D simulations.

This is all exciting—and terrifying enough. But what worries me is the intrusion that companies will increasingly make into our lives and the burnout we will suffer from always being at the beck and call of our employers. I know from personal experience how hard it is to turn off email and disconnect from social media. This will only get worse for all of us as we become more connected.

And then there will be demands by our employers for us to better manage our lifestyles—so that they can reduce their health bills and get more out of us. Just as companies reward workers who join health clubs and stop smoking, we will see them making greater demands. They will be able to measure what we do because we will increasingly be wearing biometric-monitoring devices such as the Nike FuelBand and Fitbit Flex and our smartphones will be adding new sensors. The new generation of sensor-based devices will continually gather data about our movement, heart rate, weight, sleep, and other health-related matters and upload these to the cloud. Before giving you more sick leave, employers will probably demand that you improve your lifestyle and habits.

All of this may seem like science fiction, but it isn’t. The future is happening faster than we think and changing important parts of our existence.


If there’s anything certain about the Jonathan Martin-Miami Dolphins situation, it’s that we don’t even know enough to be dangerous.

The simple details are out there for anyone to peruse. Martin, an offensive tackle, gets hazed as a rookie well into his second year, finally has had enough and leaves the team with the allegation of over-the-top hazing that’s basically a harassment claim. A voicemail from teammate Richie Incognito is leaked to show the craziness and intimidation. That teammate is put on administrative leave pending a National Football League investigation.

Why did the Dolphins situation go so wrong? It went wrong because a new type of player was onboard, and the managers responsible for the team were disconnected.   They didn’t give that new type of player the support he needed within a group of incumbents who looked very different from him.

The incumbents in the Dolphin locker room collectively said “no nerds.” Which the last time I looked, isn’t a protected class.

Martin is a nerd. He’s a Stanford University grad whose parents graduated from Harvard. Regardless of the fact that he’s 6-foot-5 and 300-plus pounds, he’s different. He’s perceived as an academic and soft in the dog-eat-dog world of the NFL.

Like so many workplaces that bring in recruits with different backgrounds, Martin’s managers (in this case the Dolphins coaches) appeared to have taken a hands-off approach to managing Martin and onboarding him into the organization.

It’s a man’s world in the NFL. Figure it out for yourself; make your own way.

Any new hire who appears different is a threat to the status quo, which is why when the hazing started and continued without any apparent intervention, the result was this: Martin became a voluntary termination, and a jaded one at that. Lawsuits are sure to follow.

Your company has hired nerds. And just who are the nerds in your company? Your incumbents define nerds as any hire that looked different from what was normally hired for the position in question.


• Hiring college grads when a large percentage of the incumbents don’t have a college degree.

• Hiring people with the experience you need in unrelated industries because you want to broaden your company’s perspective.

Every company of any size has made a move to hire new recruits that don’t look like the incumbents in a target position, otherwise defined by me (and incumbents) as “nerds.” The success of those initiatives usually depends on one factor: The strength of the manager(s) who are charged with onboarding those nerds, talking to the incumbents about why they’re coming in and troubleshooting the assimilation of the nerds on an ongoing basis.

Nerds — by this definition — are good for your company. They broaden your perspective and make you more diverse in ways unrelated to employment law.

But buyer beware: If you’re going to hire nerds or anyone different from what’s expected, you can’t have absentee managers. The nerds need support, and the crusty veterans can’t be trusted to be mentors because of the perceived threat and aforementioned differences. Diversity through your version of nerds needs active managers who build relationships with everyone.

Just ask the Miami Dolphins.