How To Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For in 2024 (+ A Bonus Tool for Faster Collaboration)
As leaders, we all want to optimize our team's performance.
More than that, majority would want to achieve this while still being held in high esteem by those who work for us.
Not all of us enjoy being tyrants - that's a lonely road after all.
The times are constantly changing; bringing in new opportunities, challenges and evolving ways of managing teams. What used to work before, is now replaced by better practices and methods of leveraging the most value out of our teams.
So how do you become the boss everyone wants to work for in 2023 and the years to come? Disclaimer: It will take a lot of work - for most, it's almost impossible. Just take a look at the statistics below:
"82% of front-line leaders are not rated as 'excellent' in skills and capabilities as leaders. 80% of front-line leaders are dissatisfied with the job they're doing as leaders, and 70% of their senior managers agree. 40% of newly-promoted leaders fail within the first 18 months. 50% of managers are labelled as 'incompetent', a 'disappointment', a 'wrong-hire' or a complete 'failure' by their co-workers."
- William Gentry, author of "Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For"
Personally, I've worked in a number of leadership positions myself, and despite making adjustments or changes to my leadership style with every new posting, I was never everyone's idea of a "perfect" manager. Whether you are stern or friendly, I found there will always be at least one employee that simply refuses to synergize.
To be clear, being liked or popular shouldn't be any manager's goal - it wasn't written on our job descriptions after all. But there is a difference between being a "popular" leader vs being a leader who is respected. And instead of trying to be the leader everyone likes, it's far better to be the leader everyone likes to follow.
Videos on Leadership
On this quest to refine my own leadership skills, I watched countless videos of thought-leaders speaking on the topic. Using this free web extension called Beep, I created a collection of the videos that offered the most practical leadership insights.
As a reader of this article, you have access to that video collection (as seen below) to view at your own leisure following the link here. You can scroll up and down to view the page screenshots, and click on the links on the right side-panel to open up the video of your choice.
🗝️Key Takeaways to Start Implementing
If you can't watch those videos just yet and want to get some quick value right now, here are some key takeaways which you can implement.
1. For New Managers
If this is your first time being promoted to a leadership position, the skills and activities that got you promoted will not be the same ones which make you successful in this new role.
In other words, you're starting on a blank slate and will need to set aside time to learn and refine an entirely new set of skills. What skills do you need to learn? Well, there are a multitude, a great place to start would be building a solid EQ (Emotional Intelligence) foundation or the art of delegation, though really, the best place to start is wherever you are now - as you go about your role, if you come across any challenges you feel you fall short in overcoming, then start by building your skills in that area. If you can get a mentor to shadow and learn the ropes from, that would be ideal for the first few weeks.
It's always best to start with your own pain points and work your way up rather than follow someone else's order of what to learn. In the end, books, courses and workshops only get you so far, none truly prepare you for every nuance or challenge there is to face so adaptability is key.
Furthermore, it's not all about learning more, but also unlearning a few habits or mentalities. For example, where in your previous role you were held responsible for your own tasks, a leadership role will demand you be responsible for the performance of others. It's no longer about how much you can do, but how much you can get your team to do.
2. It All Starts with a Clear, inspiring vision
What do you intend to achieve as a leader in that position? What progress do you want to bring about? How can each team member be fully involved towards that goal? How does it improve the lives of every team member?
These are things you have to think about, and then learn to communicate to your team regularly.
A compelling vision is one that is better than today's circumstances, takes everyone's wellbeing into account and is doable. Your team members must see where they fit into the plan, and how their efforts and contributions add up to attaining the final outcome.
Even if you're a front-line manager and may not have much freedom in creating a large ambitious vision, whatever department or team-specific vision you can draw up is better than having none at all. Remember that to lead is to take others somewhere. If they don't know where you are taking them, don't be surprised when you find some going astray.
3. Embody Someone Who is Worthy of Followers
You have to walk the walk, and talk the talk. Be the type of boss that you would want to follow. When others talk to you, or watch you work, would they believe you can attain the vision you set out for yourself and your team? Do you hold yourself to the same standard as you hold others?
Clearly this involves maintaining a strong value system of integrity, discipline and hard work, but also means developing yourself in terms of effective communication and body language to give off the best impression you can. Many times, you can calm a room down just with the proper tone of speech and presence.
Remember, people often do not resign because of the companies they work at, they leave because of bad managers.
4. Foster inclusivity
Leadership does not involve operating in a silo from above expecting others to magically align with everything you have to say. You've got to get involved.
Once you've come up with a vision, invite your team to shape the dream along with you. Ask them for their input and opinions. If you're new to the post, there may be employees who are more knowledgeable in certain areas that can offer insight. Take note of what they say, show appreciation for good ideas & feedback, and kindly give your rationale when you disagree.
Some people will be more expressive and extroverted, while others will be more introverted and soft-spoken. Some offer the best opinions during group discussions, while others give their best opinions if talked to alone or in written format. You'll need to observe and adapt to match every person. This is just one of the many skills you'll need to master in order to be a great leader.
Overall, show them you take their ideas into consideration by acting on them. If it goes well, mention who gave the idea and shine the spotlight on them - don't hoard the glory. Celebrate the individual's contributions in public. Show them they matter (because, frankly, they do). In essence, managing people is less about them working for you as it is you working for them - it's ironic, but the more experienced managers reading this will agree.
5. Don't Get Involved in Politics
No matter how tempting it may be for some, you must hold the urge to engage in gossip or backbiting. It may have been fine in your previous position, but now you need to hold yourself to a new standard. Sometimes, just quietly retreating or leaving when others start gossiping is enough - because otherwise, you may start treating people different based on things that you only heard, even if untrue.
If there is an argument, it is important to step-in and mediate the conflict before things get worse, but take a neutral stance and present a mutually beneficial solution unless there is a clear wrongdoer.
If you overtly talk bad about someone behind their back, others may think you do the same towards them when they're not around - even if you don't. This apprehension and doubt is never a great atmosphere to create within a team. Your team mates will noticeably be more withdrawn and aloof towards you, and you will not get them to tell you things even if you want to help.
6. Respect Work-Life Balance
The boundaries between work and personal life have become increasingly blurred. This is not a recommendation to be close and friendly with your employees - there are cases where that can backfire - just be the boss who respects boundaries.
Encourage them to unplug and recharge, don't foster a work environment where unnecessary overtime is praised (praise results, not hours worked), don't invite people to meetings or calls that have nothing to do with them, avoid sending work-related messages during off-hours, mark their birthdays and occasions that matter to them on your calendar, and support them in finding a balance that works for them. A well-rested and balanced team is a more productive one.
7. Systematize Whenever Possible
Every activity at work is a process that can be modeled as a repeatable production process. You must understand the elements of production (i.e., inputs, outputs, timing, limiting steps, quality controls, variability) required for these activities to create and improve the “machinery” needed to fulfill organizational goals.
Systematizing not only helps attain high quality results in less time with less waste, but also makes recruitment and training much easier, as well as provide more mental bandwidth to take on new tasks.
8. Empowerment is a multiplier
Empowerment is a buzzword nowadays. In leadership, it comprises two things above all. First, equip your employees with the right knowledge and tools. Don't just sign them up for classes you think they might need, actually ask them if they are interested to learn something that will help them perform better at their job. Give them some time to do their own research and propose a course or workshop that you can pay for. These costs in the short term should pay off as earnings in the long term once they put what they learnt to action. Encourage continuous learning. Make sure you too embody this spirit of continuous self-development. Ultimately, you grow when your team grows.
Second, as they prove themselves, be ready to grant them more autonomy in carrying out their tasks - avoid micro-managing and the temptation to control every minute detail. Tell them the problem that needs to be solved/ what you want, the constraints and deadline, and then grant them freedom to figure out the rest (learning and adopting the "CPORT" framework for delegation could be useful). Show your employees trust, and most will return the favor with effort. Keep them accountable to their KPIs and be present or on-call if ever they require assistance, but give them space and permission to make a few mistakes as well. Discuss setbacks with them in private and come up with possible solutions to move forward. In the end, we only either win or learn.
9. Evaluation Drives Performance
Schedule regular evaluations with each member. These can be monthly, quarterly, or even semiannually.
Take note of what they've done well up until then, so you can bring them up during those sessions and see if those successes can be replicated. Furthermore, any shortcomings or improvements on their part can be discussed better in private. Remember, it's not about finger pointing but jointly seeking a solution or compromise that suits both.
Ask if they need support or help on your side. You can even give them a heads up to come prepared with an improvement they wish to see in the workplace or team, or specific support they can ask of you. It's important to know some people may be good at thinking and speaking on the spot, others may not be so comfortable doing so and may need more time to formulate their answers.
Overall, employees that are evaluated are more motivated to perform and stay engaged at work - whereas those that aren't may think it's enough to simply clock-in and out. In the end, what gets measured gets done.
10. Celebrity-Leader Status
Though only a portion of readers will possess this, it's nevertheless something to consider investing your time to build for the long term.
Having a personal brand definitely helps attract and retain talented employees. Some questions to evaluate your reputation would be: Can people find you online? What impression does the content give about you? Does it attract others to work with you? Are you an industry thought-leader or respected personality?
Building that reputation takes time and effort, but they help save you time and effort in finding people who want to genuinely work with you. Many would even accept a lower salary just to be around you and learn from you.
A thing to take note of is this celebrity status or reputation should only come after you tangibly attaining results. Fame should not be something you seek actively, unless you work in showbusiness, media, marketing, politics, journalism, etc.
11. Clear & Quick Communication (Bonus Tool 🛠️)
Don't be the annoying manager that sends vague instructions, lengthy briefings or conducts unnecessary meetings that robs the team of their precious time.
A large portion of your job as a boss will involve communication - so make sure you communicate in a way that is concise, clear, professional and as timely as possible. It's a pain to waste time on back-and-forth clarifications, or worse, be delivered a task that is far from your expectations due to misunderstanding.
That's why we created Beep for teams that work online. Beep is a web extension that:
Allows you to annotate / comment anywhere on any webpage instantly without leaving the page
Anyone can use, and be sent comments (via tagging their Beep username, sharing a link, or through email)
Automatically generates a page screenshot every time you create a comment. This makes the messages you share easier to understand, and for recipients to know exactly what you are referring to.
Is great for explaining tasks that require visual demonstrations.
Has a collaboration page showing both the screenshot/s and a side-panel to view replies and collaborate further in real-time
Makes tracking task progress intuitive via project a status toggle for every comment created.
(Coming Soon!) Will be integrated into other task management platforms like Notion, Slack and Jira, among others to further empower and streamline your workflow.
Try Beep with your team for FREE today at https://www.justbeepit.com/ and enjoy easier task & feedback sharing.
12. The Ideal Triple-Outcome
Overall, you'll know you're doing an exceptional job as a leader if those who work for you report feeling:
You inspire your team by having and communicating your vision in a way that is clear, actionable and rewarding for all. Inspiration also comes from the way others see you leading yourself. Are you the type of person who looks capable of achieving that vision? Do you hold yourself to the same - if not higher - standard as you do everyone else? Being a leader implies you know where you're going and want to take others with you, and your team should see that (not simply going back and forth between the office and your home).
You show your team they are valued by showing and telling them that you notice them, and appreciate their contributions as employees. Even a little bit of praise and gratitude goes a long way in keeping employees engaged and effective.
You empower your team by giving them the autonomy, tools and information they require to fulfil and potentially surpass their objectives. Even something simple such as promptly replying to emails with questions counts.
A good manager understands the value the team provides, and finds ways of "leveraging" that value using 3 main tools: (1) information gathering, (2) decision making, and (3) "nudging" others.
When your employees feel inspired, valued and empowered, not only will your team's performance be optimal, but also the word will spread and others will similarly want to work for you. Once you've reached that point, don't be surprised to find unsolicited job applications pop into your email inbox.
13. When it still doesn't work
If all else fails, it takes a great extent of self-awareness to acknowledge either:
leadership is not meant for you. Considering there are plenty of non-leadership roles that provide equal - if not more - value for companies (and are also paid well) means this is not a loss for you at all.
you are working in the wrong industry. We all have our strengths and interests, and positioning yourself in an industry or niche that does not align with those will work to your detriment. You will almost always underperform or burnout when compared to other leaders who have the tenure, natural aptitude and/or interest in that area.
or both the above.
Whatever the case, it is important to take some time do a personal inventory and ask yourself these tough questions. Ideally you should have done this before choosing a career or applying to the role, but earlier is better than later. It's never too late to pivot in career path.
We'd love to hear from you
Is there any other trait or management strategy that you would want to see more of that we didn't cover here? Do let us know in the comments section below.