I’ve been the boss for more than 4 decades, starting with my own law firm. Today I run a commercial real estate company with more than 75 employees in 4 states. I’m still discovering new and effective tools for management every day. In fact, I believe that, no matter how good you are at your job, there is always room for improvement.
Below are 5 principles I’ve found invaluable to improve my leadership and to help me become a better boss.
- Empower your employees. No one likes to fail, and no one can be good at every aspect of every task (even you!). Part of your job as a manager is to discover the areas in which your employees excel and assign appropriate work to them. Likewise, it’s important to know where they are weak and avoid putting them in situations where they will likely fail. For example, if someone has trouble with oral presentations, find ways for them to contribute without making a public presentation. They can learn that skill later. An important part of being the Boss is to position your employees for success. This works better for them, better for you, and much better for your business.
- Management by wandering around. This is a practice I started many years ago that has been crucial to my effectiveness as a manager. Once or twice a week, I take time to simply wander around the office. It gives me a chance to speak to my employees in an informal setting and to discover procedures being used in my business that I didn’t even know about. Years ago, I found an accounting clerk preparing statements by hand – eight years after we began to use computers.
- Step down from your ivory tower. As the Boss, you carry with you an inherent “intimidation factor” that often keeps your employees from communicating freely and honestly with you. This creates barriers between you and your team. Over the years, I’ve learned to step down from my ivory tower (which, I must say, is cozy) so that my employees find me more human and less intimidating. I join my team for lunch. I wear a silly costume for Halloween. I support Girl Scout cookie sales and soccer teams on which employees’ children play. This helps to open up lines of communication and creates a real team spirit within the office.
- You don’t have to solve everyone’s problems all of the time. As a manager, the buck stops with you, and a big part of your job is solving all the problems that others can’t. But not every problem is your responsibility. There are many areas of specialization which your employees can handle better than you. My general manager and property managers are far more experienced at handling day to day conditions than I am. When there is a flood, talk to them, not to me. When I seek advice from my staff, or delegate responsibility, they invariably rise to the occasion.
- Trust your people. This is one of the hardest concepts to learn and implement as a manager. Bosses, by nature, tend to have a strong quantity of the “do it yourself” gene. Also, isn’t hindsight grand? We tend to feel that the only person we can truly trust to do a job is us. But that is a huge limitation on the productivity of your team, especially when you become a bottleneck. If you don’t trust your employees, they will not trust, and may even resent, you. This limits their job performance which, as a Boss, is what you are really after. Your company is a team, and the reason you hired your employees is to allow them to do what they are good at. So take a small step back and let your trusted employees implement their jobs. They will reward you with improved enthusiasm and performance.
You can learn to become a better manager to your team. Learn how with these AMA resources and seminars: