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14 Ways To Be A Better Boss From A Corporate Survivor

14 Ways To Be A Better Boss From A Corporate Survivor

I’ve had seven bosses across four different Fortune 1000 organizations. You’d think I’d learned enough about being a better boss from my own years of corporate experience, plus the massive dose of leadership training I’ve had from MBA school. But after doing my own tour as a boss, I quickly realized there was a void in what I’d learned. Emulating what I’d seen before wasn’t getting me the results I wanted, and the textbook approach just wasn’t cutting it either.

So now I’m giving you the tips I wish someone had given me 15 years ago. When you follow these ways to be a better boss, you’ll find:

  • More respect
  • Higher performance
  • More peace of mind when you leave the office
  • Effective relationships with your direct reports
  • Better results.

These tips can save you years of frustration as the boss, boss-in-waiting, and even as an employee.

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The Most Important Thing About Becoming a Better Boss

It’s crucial to realize upfront that being a “better boss” is a matter of perspective. One boss might be a godsend for one employee and then an absolute nightmare for another. Your “better boss” classification is always based on opinion, so it’s never the absolute truth.

For example, your employees might interpret asking questions about a particular project as you being a distrusting “micro-manager”, or maybe they interpret it as you just showing concern over their workload.

Or, an employee might interpret delegation of responsibilities as you not being involved enough in day-to-day activities and that you’re afraid to roll-up your sleeves; while another employee may interpret the same actions as showing you trust your team and want to empower them to make an impact.

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Whatever the employee’s opinion is, it always says more about the employee than it does about the boss.

This challenge leaves most bosses in the lurch, trying to guess what their employees will think and then trying to strategize an approach to fit the employee.

While this can work, I’ve personally found it to be stressful and incredibly frustrating. There’s a far more effective way to be a better boss, if you just follow a few guidelines.

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Try These Ways to be a Better Boss:

  1. Create wins! Wins create confidence, boost momentum, and inspire action. Tee up the wins for your employees and don’t hesitate to go as far as to create wins for them. Most employees don’t know how toot their own horn — so toot it for them! When you don’t have wins for your group, make them up! Highlight the bright spots without dwelling on the mistakes. This will go much farther than berating your team’s performance.
  2. Talk about tomorrow. Day-to-day work can be a grind and often employees don’t take the time to think about the bigger picture. Talk about where the group and company is headed. Talk about how the team’s efforts impact the bottom-line. Give them a reason to face the grind that’s inspiring.
  3. Create a common mantra. A better boss ensures that their team has a simple mantra for decision-making when there’s not a lot of guidance. When I worked in a logistics role, my boss ingrained one mantra for everyone: “Move the Freight.” He’d say, “Moving the freight early gets us beat up, delaying it gets us fired”. Our goal obviously was to ship! It was awesome having this kind of mantra because we always knew what to do even when the boss wasn’t around.
  4. Spit it out. You’d be surprised how many mistakes are made when an employee is just left guessing what the boss wants. Tell your employees what you want and then ask them to be bold enough to ask you to clarify and be specific if they don’t understand. Also, don’t be afraid to admit you’re not sure what you want and then ask your team for help in clarifying.
  5. Listen to others…but not too much. Everyone’s opinion is always from their perspective. Listen to others to see what you can learn, then make your own decision.
  6. Practice marketing. It’s a trap to assume that just because your team reports to you that they’re going to be buying in to what you say. Marketing isn’t just for customers, it’s for your own team too. A better boss packages a new idea or project with the benefits to the team in mind.
  7. Be direct. Ask them to be direct. If you’ve got a problem — or even think you may have a problem — with an employee then get it out on the table. Don’t let the problem fester and grow into resentment and anger.
  8. Identify missing conversations. Employees can get in the weeds quickly on a problem and a better boss helps them identify the conversations that are missing. So, instead of solving the problem for them, you’re identifying the communication gap and helping them advance the solution.
  9. Discover your employees’ strengths. Most bosses never really understand what their employees’ strengths truly are. Instead they end up projecting the strengths they’d like to see. Better bosses take the time to ask and understand what their strengths are, so they can identify the best way to put them to use.
  10. Train yourself to see crisis as opportunity. Some of the biggest opportunities for you and your team come from stepping up when there’s a problem. A better boss practices viewing crisis as opportunity. Invite your team to consider, “What opportunity does this represent?” It creates a much more optimistic and positive mindset.
  11. Develop through experiences. Be a better boss by encouraging your employees to take action and learn from their own experiences. You may have to dig them out of a hole a few times, but they’ll learn much more, develop faster, position themselves for promotion, and take more ownership.
  12. Ask employees to generate solutions. When I first started working, I stopped by my boss’s office to ask a question several times a day. Then my boss stopped me one day and said, “Before you walk into my office and ask another question, make sure you have three possible solutions already in mind, no matter how crazy they might be.” This helped me start to think for myself and made me much more valuable in my role. I’ll always be grateful for that.
  13. Show appreciation. Better bosses show and tell. Thank your employees. Just a quick verbal, “Thanks,” or an emailed, “Bravo,” goes a long way. When you model gratitude for your team, you’ll start to see it emerge in how they treat others as well. This strengthens the entire office.

The Final Way to Be a Better Boss

The final way for being a better boss is to take action. Action puts the strategy in motion and inspires the team to get the job done.

Select one of the 13 ways to a better boss above, and write it on a post-it note beside your computer. Use it a reminder to try it in your work day.

Notice the difference.

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Share it to inspire your team.

More by this author

Ben Fanning

Ben is a Burnout Specialist. He helps frustrated executives and teams rekindle their passion for their careers.

How to Get Motivated to Work and Start off Your Day with Positivity 14 Ways To Be A Better Boss From A Corporate Survivor

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

1. Cloud Computing

“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

3. Data Management

All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

4. Scheduling

Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

5. Financial Skills

These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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6. Research Skills

These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

7. Marketing Skills

While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

8. Network Security Specialist

Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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9. Communication Skills

At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

10. Computer Programming

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

11. Graphic Design

As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

The Bottom Line

We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
[2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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