In your efforts to refine your managerial skills, don’t aim for perfection or try to imitate someone else’s style. Instead, determine how you might become an even better version of the boss you already are. Here are some strategies to try:
Lead by example. If you want your employees to work hard and push themselves to excel, you must be willing to do the same. Set high standards for performance and hold yourself to them. Be an example in terms of time management, client service and creative approaches to problem-solving. Set a professional tone by treating everyone — your peers, staff members, customers and vendors — with equal respect and courtesy.
Establish clear expectations. Make sure your employees understand their individual responsibilities and how they contribute to achieving the company’s goals. Explain the criteria you will use for performance evaluations so your team knows what you expect.
Set up your employees for success. Although it’s important to challenge your staff members and encourage them to acquire new skills, you don’t want to overwhelm them with tasks that are beyond their current abilities. When delegating tasks or calibrating workloads, analyze skills and assign duties accordingly.
Support professional growth. Take the time to find out each staff member’s career aspirations and motivations, then find ways to help them achieve their objectives. Share authority and responsibility to give individuals the chance to develop new skills and prepare for more-complex roles.
Delegating tasks and involving your employees in decision-making and planning are other ways to enable them to build their professional skills. Mentor promising employees so they can eventually move into leadership roles.
Keep an open door. Ask your team to come to you with any problems, and work at becoming a better listener so you can readily identify employees’ concerns, even when they are not stated directly. When employees believe their voices will be heard, they are more likely to perform at their best.
Also remember that communication goes both ways. Ask your staff to give you timely status reports and feedback about difficulties or challenges they experience.
Give employees more autonomy. Your responsibility is to provide strategic vision, establish goals, clarify objectives and set expectations. Your main focus is results, not process, so try not to become overly involved in how your employees perform their jobs. Give clear directions and guidance, then step back and allow team members to put their own talents to work.
Criticize with care. In a perfect world, your employees would do their jobs flawlessly. But the reality is that they will make mistakes, miss deadlines and forget to provide you with important information.
When the time comes to criticize, make it your goal to preserve the individual’s dignity. Meet in private and allow him to explain what led to the error. Rather than assigning blame, reframe a mistake or failure as a lesson and focus on what the employee might do differently in the future.
Acknowledge both effort and achievement. No matter what their position or level of experience, all professionals appreciate recognition, particularly when they’ve put in extra time or effort. With a single sincere statement (“You’re doing a great job, and I appreciate your hard work.”), you can help your staff sustain productivity and stay on schedule, even during times of peak activity. Sounds simple, but it works.
At staff meetings, congratulate individuals and project teams on their accomplishments. But don’t just wait for formal occasions. Spread the word whenever a member of the company achieves something important. For example, if one of your employees attains advanced certification, publicize it in the employee newsletter or on your company intranet.
Personal milestones are often inspirational and worth acknowledging, too. For example, offer congratulations if several of your employees participate in a marathon to raise funds for charity.
Experiment with these strategies, but keep in mind that they are not a hard-and-fast recipe. One of the most important qualities of a good boss is flexibility. Remain open to new management methods and techniques and be willing to experiment.