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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.

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

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