Are You a Good Boss? 11 Tips for Successful Management
Chris Barling, the CEO of EPOS and ecommerce supplier SellerDeck, looks at some elements that differentiate the good boss from the bad.
Managing staff successfully is one of the constant challenges of running a business, and also has a large impact on its chances of success. It’s worth looking at a few of the factors that can have the biggest impact on motivation.
- Be authentic
In the long run staff will “hear” what you do more that what you say. As they say, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Authenticity matters a lot in the long run. A friend of mine was working for a large UK organisation; on the wall was a poster stating that “Quality comes first”. As his project manager left for a holiday despite the looming critical deadline, my friend added graffiti stating that “Holidays come first”. It may have been childish, but I’m sure you get the point.
It’s all too common to state that “we’re all in this together”, yet somehow, the sacrifices are asymmetrical, falling on everyone but the management making the decisions. If you’re in management, lead by example.
- Provide value to customers
Very few people want to work for a company that rips customers off. Those that do will have no compunction in ripping you off – in fact they may feel some measure of justice in doing so.
- Communicate your vision
While some people enjoy the sense of fun if their partner takes them on a “magical mystery tour” where they didn’t know where they are going, this isn’t true of the vast majority of people at work. If you want people to feel comfortable with your management, you must communicate the values and direction that the company is taking. But it’s worth bearing in mind the point about being authentic. It’s no use communicating a “vision” that was made up coming into work and will be changed by next week – be consistent.
- Consult and listen
The two biggest complaints at work tend to be “nobody asked me” and “nobody told me”. As various TV programmes have illustrated, there’s a lot happening at the bottom of an organisation that the boss doesn’t know about. So make sure the lines of communication are open. There’s lots of ways to do this, from taking a spell working at the bottom, staff surveys, one-on-one interviews with staff across a department, suggestion schemes, team building days and workshops. This will not only motivate staff, it will yield lots of valuable insights.
- Let people know what’s going on
As well as vision, people need to know the day-to-day news. If you don’t tell them, the rumour mill will kick in, and in the wrong hands, it can cause all sorts of damage. So make sure that staff are updated on a regular basis about what’s going on. Use an intranet or a noticeboard – whatever suits your culture.
- Empower people
Powerlessness is a painful condition. None of us like it in our lives, so why should we think staff are different. I believe in giving staff discretion, monitoring things and applying gentle correction if they overstep the mark. The key thing is that the mark isn’t too tight, and even the mark that’s there isn’t enforced with a heavy hand. This is particularly important in customer-facing roles where you want staff to have scope to solve problems.
- Provide the right tools
I still remember trying to get rusted suspension parts off my old MOT-failing student banger. The difference was incredible after I bought the right tool. A two hour job could be done in a few minutes. Staff will be frustrated if you don’t provide the right tools. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as popping down to the DIY shop as systems and procedures may be involved, but I’m sure that you get my point.
- Be flexible
Staff will respond well to the company if there is some flexibility in how we deal with the emergencies, problems and treats in their lives. Let them leave early to get to the occasional special event or attend a dental appointment. They will repay this with loyalty and flexibility on their part.
- Kill the politics
Try to keep politics out of your business. Create an environment where people feel safe and free to express their opinions. Apply a bit of cynicism to managers that always do everything you want them to without a murmur, and are a pleasure to manage. A few sparks suggest someone who cares about the job, rather than manoeuvring into your favour at all times, with no thought of the business benefit. In fact, shoot the politicians, it’s the one hard line that will motivate everyone else.
- Provide development
People will become disillusioned if they feel they are stuck in their role with no future prospects. Provide and emphasise opportunities within the company, promoting people internally whenever can. Try to find cost effective and relevant training to improve performance and help employees feel that they are developing their capabilities. The good ones will repay this by staying longer.
- Use the technique: ask and make accountable
Ask staff how work should be done and when it can be completed. After agreeing the details, hold them accountable. This is one of the most effective and motivating way of managing tasks.
Where would I want to work?
It’s probably the case that your business will be full of motivated employees if it’s a place that you would have been happy to join when you first started your career. So that’s how to make it!
About the author:
Chris Barling is CEO of ecommerce and EPOS systems supplier, SellerDeck and has over 30 years’ experience in managing people. which specialises in helping start-ups and SMEs sell online with its ecommerce software and in-store EPOS systems. He writes regularly for Is4Profit and other business publications.