Best Practices

Best Practices


Are you a great boss? Its not easy, but its worth honing your skills in this area. Studies frequently show that a bad boss is the number one reason that people quit their jobs. In this tight job market, you can ill afford to lose quality staff or, even worse, lose high performers and future company leaders.

Lets start with how you might assess how you are doing as a boss. Perhaps your company has a set process for getting feedback on supervisors from their direct reports, their own bosses and selected peers. If so, this is a great way to get comments from those people with whom you work most closely. If you dont have such a process, consider setting one up with help from human resources, or try doing it informally. These processes usually produce reports, including ratings of some type as well as verbatim comments, and should be a rich source of useful feedback for you. If the feedback is not anonymous, it can provide a great launching point for a deep conversation on what you do well and what you can improve as a leader.

If such a process isnt available, set up one-on-one meetings with your direct reports where you specifically discuss your performance as their leader and strengths and weaknesses to tackle. Another key sign that you are doing well as a boss is that people are keen to work for you and that open jobs in your area are easy to fill from within. You are likely to hear about your skills as a supervisor in your annual performance review from your boss, as he or she has probably gotten some feedback in this area throughout the year. Finally, if any of your staff leaves the company, perhaps you will get feedback from their exit interview.

Here are some tips on becoming a great boss:

Build a trusting relationship.

In my experience, one of the most important aspects of being a supervisor is to establish a trusting relationship with those working for you. It is also great if the relationship is cordial and enjoyable, but you are not there to be the friend of those working for you.

However, your staff should feel that you care about each of them and that their personal success is important to you. You should strive to be honest with employees about their performance and their strengths and areas for improvement on the job, as well as their prospects for success in your department or your company.

Dont hang on to staff too long.

You dont want to be that boss whose staff has worked for them forever. Of course, you may have some employees that fit into this category because they are specialized workers or if your company is small and movement is somewhat limited. In general, I recommend that you should look to rotate people out of their jobs in two to three years for early career and three to four years for later career folks.

This may not be practical in all situations (such as if you have a project role that demands continuity, or if you have someone working for you that is lower in performance and thus hard to place), but it is good practice. After this period of time, there may be less opportunity to learn and grow, and staying longer may not be helpful to career aspirations. If your department looks like a dead end in the organization, you will find it difficult to recruit people.

Be supportive.

Do try hard to give your staff positive feedback when it is warranted, not just in their annual review. There should be numerous opportunities during the year to provide positive commentary, whether about a well-done presentation, accomplishment of a goal, or simply about being easy to work with or having a great attitude.

Another key way to be supportive is to listen to your staff and help them achieve their goals. Perhaps they need assistance removing a barrier or obtaining help from another department. If your staff completes a project or achieves a difficult goal, provide recognition through a celebration dinner or other means consistent with your companys recognition policy. Support your people moving on for promotional opportunities when warranted.

Do what you say you will do.

If you promise to help an employee in some way, be sure to act upon this, no matter how small the follow-up may be. If you dont, this eats away at trust and can damage the relationship. If you do follow up, make sure you advise your colleague of what you have done. If the action isnt sufficiently helpful, seek to find alternate solutions that may address the need.


Take time to explain to your employees the company mission, vision, goals and financial plans and how your department fits into this. Ensure that new employees are schooled in the company culture and norms. Explain any company or industry jargon as it comes up. Provide useful tools such as organization charts and other background material.

Give feedback to employees regularly on their performance and offer training opportunities where necessary. Pay attention to the ways in which you communicate with your staff. Dont rely solely on email and texting to do the job, and be sure to have phone calls, video calls and face-to-face meetings, too.

Give staff your time.

Make time for your employees, whether through regular meetings, specific coaching sessions, check-in telephone calls or the like. Keep in mind that employees should get more frequent engagement and feedback earlier in their careers. If your direct reports are in a different geographic location, set up periodic face-to-face sessions with them throughout the year and, if practical, have a dinner with them when you are together.

Be respectful of others.

Be aware that your performance in company meetings and other public forums is an opportunity for people to size you up as a leader and potential future boss. No one will want to work for you if you come off as a person who seeks to embarrass or berate others.

Be authentic and professional.

People can always sniff out behavior that is inauthentic, so be yourself, but try to be your best self with your colleagues. Share your own story, and let people get to know you and feel comfortable with you. Naturally, keep in mind you are managing workplace relationships, so keep the conversation professional and appropriate. The old-fashioned advice about no discussion of religion or politics in the workplace is still good advice.

Make this year your year to be a great boss!

Sara Lefcourt of Lefcourt Consulting LLC specializes in helping companies to improve profits, reduce risk and step up their operations. Her experience includes many years in marketing, sales and procurement, first for Exxon and then at Infineum, where she was vice president, supply. Email her at or phone (908) 400-5210.

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