I am not going to insult you by telling you I am a great boss. I am not certain I know what makes a great boss, but I do the best I can. Striving to be a good boss means you are shooting at a continually moving target.
In graduate school I learned principles and techniques of management such as statistical process control, statistical quality control, management by objectives, the Harvard Business School Case Method and other concepts with important sounding names. Lost amidst the numbers-crunching and pragmatic analysis is the fact that successfully managing a business or business unit is all about managing people. Learning to manage people is strictly an on-the-job endeavor.
Over the years I have worked with a few great bosses and many bad ones. My management style and philosophy was shaped by emulating the management behaviors of the great ones and attempting to avoid those of the bad ones.
Here are few important management principles I try to follow:
Value Your Employees
The founder and CEO of the first company ($500 million in sales, 8,000 employees worldwide) I worked for after graduation had a unique organizational philosophy. He believed the traditional pyramid structure of the corporation should be turned upside down, with the broad base of workers at the top and the small point of executives at the bottom.
He knew that although management set the long-term direction of the company it was the workers that made it run. The organization could survive for weeks or months without the executives. Without the people who carried out the day-to-day tasks, business would come to a complete halt immediately.
I always try to make sure my employees know how important they are to the company’s success, and I reward them for their contributions.
Set an Example and Don’t Expect Employees to Do Anything You Will Not Do
I am the first one in the office in the morning and I make the coffee. I am the last one to leave in the evening and I turn out the lights. I do not take extended vacations.
In our small company nobody has a rigid job description; we do what must be done when it needs doing. No one has privileged status, including me.
Communicate and Provide Ongoing Feedback
When assigning work to employees, I strive to be exceptionally clear what is expected and when it is expected.
The old-fashioned model of yearly reviews does not work here. I try to provide performance feedback on a continuing basis. Positive feedback is always done publicly; negative feedback is given behind closed doors with an emphasis on constructive criticism and improving performance — never chastising or threatening.
Creativity is not just for advertising guys and designers. The old thinking that managers think and workers do their bidding is completely rejected in my office. From the CEO to the guys on the loading dock, we are all expected to think and contribute ideas to improve our performance and every idea is given careful consideration, not just lip service.
Employees are rewarded for their ideas that we implement. The reward might be a $50 cash bonus, a gift card for dinner at a local restaurant, or if the idea generated substantial savings or efficiencies, we will award a bonus of 10 percent of the first year’s savings to the employee who generated the idea. Two years ago we acted on an idea for reducing shipping and receiving costs. The employee in the warehouse who suggested it received a bonus of $6,500.
Being a great boss is not easy, but it is worth making the effort to be one. Good managers make their employees better.