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People Who Love Their Jobs Work for This Kind of Boss

People Who Love Their Jobs Work for This Kind of Boss

Want to be a leader who's revered, not reviled? Do three of the most important things that empathetic bosses do every day. To read the full article, visit Inc.

Money alone doesn't make talented, motivated, career-minded people get out of bed. What does is a sense of purpose, a feeling they're making a direct impact. Regrettably, many leaders still haven't gotten this memo.

As a consequence, is it any wonder that we envision Michael Scott of NBC's The Office when we picture the quintessential bad boss? Troublesome, emotionally confusing managers abound, often prompting high employee turnover, low office morale, and constant client churn with their management style. Unless you're interested in becoming a memorable boss for all the wrong reasons, you'll want to learn how to make your employees feel valued, not undermined.

Go from being a downer to a defender

Far too many leaders remain stuck on the notion that they have to manage by force. In some cases, this comes from the belief that barking orders will cause their people to "get $#!+ done." However, heavy-handed approaches to managing talented teams will quickly devolve into disengagement.

To be sure, switching gears from gruff, demanding manager to supportive mentor and coach isn't simple. Nor does it happen happen overnight. It takes a willingness to learn the power of empathy, something that's lacking in 60 percent of leaders.

I discovered how effective it can be to praise and recognize others publicly as well as empathize proactively. I took steps to increase my emotional quotient when I learned about the chasm between the way employees view empathetic and non-empathetic bosses. Workers tend to love their jobs when their managers show empathy; conversely, they merely clock in when leaders have a dictatorial management style.

If you aren't bettering yourself in the areas of humility and team empowerment, I recommend you try doing what the best bosses do.

1. Look for opportunities to build trust each day.

Trust between a boss and an employee doesn't occur after one positive encounter. It unfolds over time as the worker comes to realize that the leader isn't going to throw sudden curveballs or fly into a rage. Look for ways to show your employees you believe in their judgment. After all, that's why you hired them.

Put the brakes on micromanagement. Give workers the freedom to make choices, then allow them to proceed unfettered. Will they always succeed? No. When they make mistakes, show empathy rather than immediately withdrawing your trust. Come from a position of understanding and walk them through their decisions. Treat them not as failures but rather as talented individuals who misjudged a situation, an outcomes, the data, etc. The next time you give them a task, encourage them to use their past experiences as a guide to map out better solutions.

2. Silence your inner know-it-all.

As a manager who has tripped on his gift of gab more than once, I couldn't be more aligned with the advice from leadership consultant Krister Ungerboeck. "How many times do we march into a conference room with a list of things to say?" he asks. "Yet it's far more prudent, productive, and profitable to shift from having all the answers to asking all the questions."

I've been guilty of this, and I bet you have, too. Speaking over everyone and having all the answers just leads to disengagement among team members, as Ungerboeck points out. In time, employees with exciting ideas may start to doubt themselves, assuming that only you can run the show. Instead of losing fantastic, innovative ideas from your team, take a backseat role more often than not in group settings. Oh, and banish "We tried that before, and it didn't work" from your phrasebook.

3. Walk out of the bathroom with toilet paper attached to your shoe.

OK, so you don't literally have to do this, but do be humble. Show employees you are a real human and not some kind of would-be superhero. Rather than puff out your chest at how amenable a tough client became thanks to your risky strategy, reveal how you wondered whether your gamble would pay off. Talk about your actions not in terms of self-satisfaction but self-awareness.

When you express humility, you change the way employees see you. A research project published in Organization Science showed links between retention and humble bosses due to the resulting job satisfaction and employee engagement. How does this translate into everyday life on the job? Two words: Be real.

You don't have to be a flawless boss to master leadership traits that will keep your employees eager to tackle projects on behalf of your brand. In fact, it's better if you're not! You just have to make changes to your approach to others, starting with the empathy you feel and show.


The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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