5 Qualities of Remarkable Bosses

I just finished reading an incredible article on managing staff on Inc Magazine.  It was written by Jeff Haden and is called 5 Qualities of Remarkable Bosses.  It is available here; http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/the-5-qualities-of-remarkable-bosses.html 

I’m a huge fan of strong, successful management in organizations especially in light of the fact that every organizations’ most precious commodity is its people.  It’s always been said that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”.

But if you have not clicked that link yet, and you’re still reading, here are the 5 qualities according to Jeff, and to be honest, the reason this article resonated with me is because some of this stuff he mentions can be taught – they teach you in graduate school – while other skills you either have or you do not.  I try each and every day to make sure I am aligned with these qualities and I think if you don’t do these, you really should.  

“Remarkable bosses aren’t great on paper. Great bosses are remarkable based on their actions”.

Here are the 5 according to Jeff…

1. Develop every employee.

I totally agree here that it is the managers responsibility to train, coach, mentor and provide learning opportunities for each and every employee.  By doing this you are showing your employees on a daily basis that they matter and it makes their days better which produces more productive and comfortable employees.  The organization wins here because they are getting constant feedback instead of having to wait for the twice a year formal performance appraisal process.

2. Deal with problems immediately.

Nothing kills team morale more quickly than problems that don’t get addressed. Interpersonal squabbles, performance issues, feuds between departments… all negatively impact employee motivation and enthusiasm and are extremely distracting, because these problems never go away.

As we all know, small problems always grow into bigger problems.  It’s best to not count on the fact that these problems will go away, because at the end of the day someone has to deal with it.  It should be the manager, dealing with the issue head-on, no matter how small.

3. Rescue your worst employee.

Almost every business has at least one employee who has fallen out of grace: Publicly failed to complete a task, lost his cool in a meeting, or just can’t seem to keep up. Over time that employee comes to be seen by his peers—and by you—as a weak link.  Before you consider removing the “dixie cup” from the group, put your full effort into trying to rescue that person instead.   Step up the mentoring and coaching you provide.  A struggling employee has tons of upside; rescue him and you make a tremendous difference. 

4. Serve others, not yourself.

As a remarkable manager you do not need the spotlight.  you have it already.  Your staff, on the other hand, need all the recognition they can get, and face time with senior manager is even more important and their level, so no matter what you to, do not try to take credit for something they have done.  The staff know your contribution and support to them, your team and the organization and trust me, if you’re doing that well, senior management already knows it too.   

When employees excel, you and your business excel. When your team succeeds, you and your business succeed. When you rescue a struggling employee and they become remarkable, remember they should be congratulated, not you.

You were just doing your job the way a remarkable boss should.

5. Always remember where you came from.

I came from an organization which, in my opinion, had terrible management practices, and I went to an organization which had amazing management presence and I took with there all my past experiences about how to not treat employees and made sure not to do any of it. 

I am also very aware of what it’s like being the “new guy” and how people look at you and over time come to get to know you and realize how much you can add to an organizaiton so I make it a policy to always engage the newest employees, ask them questions, talk to them, show them around and give them a work buddy so they don’t ever have to experience that feeling I went through.

I remember where I came from and I know what I hated so it is the responsibility of a remarkable boss to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  Personally, I also try to remember a fact or 2 about each and every employee I come across – along with the correct pronunciation of their names.  It means a lot and it allows me to have a conversation with them beyond “how’s the weather”.

So if you take a step back and look at the support you get from your boss – directly or indirectly – you probably already know what you like about their style and what needs improvement.   Don’t forget the good when thinking about the bad.  for all you know your manager could be trying to improve that too.

Managing – Internal communication. Keeping staff engaged.

What forms of communication work best with your staff and within your organization?  Besides the usual suspects, being email, phone and video conferencing, what do you use to keep dialogues open and retain information for ease of use or for succession planning?

Here are some of my thoughts and suggestions;

How to use these tools to improve internal communication with and among employees.

I have noticed in my 15 years in industry that many companies are reluctant to adopt social media tools internally and externally for fear of losing control of their message and to protect their brand.  Those who have made the leap are learning that online tools and technologies make it easier to engage employees in more meaningful dialogue.  The result, I find, is improved efficiency, increased collaboration and greater employee engagement as they are creating an environment where employees feel their voices will be heard.  Engaged employees feel valued, and valued employees tend to have more motivation and are happier.

One of the most common ways to engage employees is by keep an up-to-date internal home page for the business or for the business unit.  My tax unit, for example has a neat, organized internal site that we use to store information and anyone in the unit can recommend changes and most can make the changes.  It’s a team page, through and through.  It also serves as the unit’s evolving knowledge base since it is edited and updated collaboratively by the unit   It also houses the latest applicable company announcements, HR information relating to tax, marketing documents, company policies and how-to information.  We recently made part of it public so we could share that information with the rest of the business.

This site works for us because it’s a great archiving tool for tax information.  We try to keep links and documents up to date and the problem of multiple versions of information living all over the place is eliminated.  We are sharing our tax knowledge and spreading the word in real-time.  I have always felt that people who share ideas and their thought process learn and understand faster.  No better form of training exists.

A slightly more advanced tool I like to use is the office messenger service, which only works internally.  It not only allows me to see when someone is at their desk, but when they are in a meeting or busy and do not wish to be disturbed.  Staff use the application to challenge each other, think communally and can have answers within seconds which allows them to continue working through issues and not have to drop it and get back to it at a point in the future (if at all). 

It’s also used for personal discussion, which I’m okay with since it is better than having to get up and walk over and disturb one person or possibly more than that.   I have always felt this tool increases collaboration and allows the staff to learn from each other and it gives them an outlet to ask a question privately which thy may have been too shy or nervous to ask out loud.  With the screen sharing capabilities, staff no longer have to struggle with explaining things, they can share their screen and others can see, learn and help.

My latest pet project is the internal tax blog.  In my opinion, the blog is much like the main page on a sharepoint / Intranet site where news about the company and staff are posted.  It can be used to explain a new tax treaty change or to congratulate a colleague on the birth of their child, with pictures.  Most of the blogs are written by senior management, but other staff do post occasionally, and aren’t shy about chiming in with their opinions.  Case in point, this blog, which is now 3 years old and still a work in progress.  It’s intent was to be the repository for tax changes, tax research and my management style.  Needless to say, it’s not there yet.

I also want this blog, and the internal one to be collaborative too, and provide an outlet for the staff to comment and receive feedback or questions to answer from either the team or the rest of the business.  It’s a great forum for a shy employee who knows a lot to be heard and recognized for their knowledge.

A blog is a also a smart tool to keep employees aware of what’s happening in the company, without overflowing their inboxes.   Everyone should be encouraged to participate because if it is just one or 2 people then it runs the risk of being their opinions and not the facts.

From the IABC Research Foundation’s 2009 survey, some numbers on usage of tools by employers to engage employees.  I’ll bet the numbers have grown considerably in the past 3 years with twitter coming into the mainstream and many corporate missteps through social media. 

Tools used by organizations to communicate with employees:

Blogs: 47%

Discussion boards: 32%

Podcasts: 29%

Videocasts: 28%

Social networks: 27%

Wikis: 26%


What tools have you found work for your organization and which will you stay away from?  any stories to share?