As I sit at my desk…

Nearly every morning at work I start my day with a cup of coffee, some Five Finger Death Punch or some Black Label Society, and I look up on the wall above my desk at a photocopy of an article from the June 1, 2012 edition of the Manager’s Legal Bulletin. It has been hanging there for over 3 years and it makes me reflect on the kind of leader I have been and the kind of leader I want to be.

Not sure who wrote this (and some of it I’m paraphrasing), but sure makes you think:

The ‘Great Boss’ 20-Point Checklist

Look in the mirror
How many of these do you feel confident you exhibit on a routine basis? How many do you need to work on?

  1. Guide, don’t control. Don’t take a completely hands-off approach, but don’t micromanage either. Explain what needs to be done, but don’t dictate exactly how you want it done.
  2. Utilize employees’ strengths. All of your employees have something to offer. Identify, recognize and cultivate their specific skills.
  3. Empower employees. Give them the tools they need to succeed and the opportunities to learn new skills.
  4. Trust. Don’t second-guess your employees’ abilities. Believe that you hired good personnel.
  5. Take an active interest in employees as individuals. Inquire about their families and hobbies. Remember their birthdays. Offer condolences when necessary.
  6. Offer praise. Be quick to give a compliment for a job well done.
  7. Respect your employees. Your position of authority doesn’t excuse belittling, abusing or humiliating workers, no matter how unintentional. Check that your tone isn’t condescending or parental, especially when giving instructions or critiques.
  8. Admit shortcomings and ask for help. There is no shame in admitting to an employee that they are more skilled in a particular area than you. Asking for help shows that you respect the employee’s knowledge.
  9. Have integrity. Avoid a “do as I say and not as I do” attitude. Hold yourself to the same standards to which you hold employees. Give credit where credit is due. For instance, if you use an idea from an employee in a proposal you submit to your boss, give the employee credit.
  10. Learn from your mistakes. It’s not enough to admit when you make mistakes. Learn not to repeat them. Otherwise, employees are going to consider your admissions of error and accompanying apologies as nothing more than lip service.Leadership
  11. Don’t play the blame game. In the face of adversity, look to solve the problem, not place blame. Employees value knowing that you have their backs. That doesn’t mean you should in­­sulate them against deserved discipline. Just don’t throw employees under the bus when they make honest mistakes.
  12. Give employees a voice. When­­­­ever possible, let them have a say in decisions that directly impact them. Also, ask them for feedback. If you cannot implement their suggestions, explain why.
  13. Listen, really listen, to what employees are saying.Sometimes, you have to read between the lines or listen for what’s not said.
  14. Keep employees in the loop. Let them know when, why and how decisions are made. Also, explain the reasons behind new policies or changes to existing policies.
  15. Keep things in perspective. Don’t go crazy over something trivial. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in a week from now?” If not, it might be best to just let it go.
  16. Don’t waste employees’ time. Call meetings only when absolutely necessary. Have a clear agenda and be organized. Also, recognize that employees have lives outside of work and give them the flexibility to live it.
  17. Compromise. Meeting em­­ployees halfway goes a long way! Be careful, however, of compromising too often. If you do, employees may start to think they can bend your will whenever they want, and, in the process, lose respect for your authority.
  18. Be blunt, but tactful. Don’t beat around the bush. Burying your message in small talk, for example, could result in the message getting lost.
  19. Hold all employees accountable, i.e., don’t play favorites.Not only will a failure to treat similarly situated employees similarly pit them against each other, but it could also result in a discrimination claim.
  20. Open your door, and walk out of it. It’s important for employees to know that your door is always open to them. But be careful of waiting for them to come to you. Make a habit of walking around the department and interacting with employees in their workspaces.

It always reminds me of something I learned from one of my Academy instructors during a first-line supervision school, (I’m paraphrasing because my memory isn’t what it used to be!):

“As leaders we should always be looking for opportunities to grow ourselves and those we lead. And as we grow, our greatest responsibility is to ensure that those we lead have the tools and skills they need to some day take our place after we move on.”


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