When an employee is let go, I think that in over 50% or more cases, the source the problem can be found in leadership. That doesn't mean that employee isn't a disaster, but with adequate leadership, many difficult situations and/or employees can be lead in the right direction.
I'm not talking specifics here, but here's what I'm looking for in my next boss:
1. Sets clear expectations
A great boss sits down with a new employee right from the beginning and identifies priorities. She discusses the performance review, and how she defines “excellent performance.” She holds discussions regularly in regards to expectations from that point on.
An effective boss doesn’t tell her employees how to get the work done. She talks about outcomes and results with them, and the employees are entrusted to execute the details and the process in the way they see fit.
Expectations are set in different ways -- sometimes in a formal planning session, other times in an informal conversation about a specific issue.
A great boss views her position as both a leader and a coach, someone who educates and encourages her players, who leads her team by example.
An effective boss does not assume her employees know what to do and how to do it. Like a good coach, she calls in the plays from the sidelines. Often a boss might be tempted to run in the game and play it herself, while her employees don’t learn a thing. A great boss recognizes that success in coaching is found in the balance of control – that fine line between being over-controlling and under-controlling - to be enough of a presence as a source of help, but not so much as to overshadow her players.
3. Gives feedback
Some bosses wait until the formal performance review to relay negative feedback to their employees. When this happens, employees are left thinking – Why didn’t my boss tell me sooner? I could have tried to change or do things differently. Giving employees feedback along the way establishes a coach-player relationship. There’s a sense of conversation, of leadership, and of cooperation. Waiting until the performance review for feedback, however, has more of a prosecutor-prosecuted/trial-verdict feel, and negative feedback rings like punishment.
(I thrive on honest positive or negative feedback. You see a problem or have a concern? Let's chat. It's most likely a misunderstanding and if not, I want to fix the problem ASAP).
4. Recognizes efforts
Employees need to feel appreciated. Research shows that human beings thrive on recognition. They just never get tired of it. Nothing works like positive reinforcement, and a great boss is very aware of this. She mentions the things she likes that her employees are doing; it’s no surprise that she gets more of those things.
Common sense, really. If someone wears a new pair of blue pants one day, and gets a lot of compliments about them, that person will certainly wear the pants again. In this way, human behaviour is certainly not complicated.
5. Is inclusive
It’s essential for employees to feel like equals and equal contributing members to the team.
A great boss creates an environment based on integrity, trust, respect -- and one that encourages feedback, innovation, and creativity. Employees in such an atmosphere flourish.
6. Gets to know employees
A great boss stops by and says hello. She makes herself available. No matter what she’s doing, when employees speak to her, she will stop and give them her full attention.
An effective boss takes a personal interest in her employees’ lives. She doesn’t pry. She tries to get a better appreciation for the entire person inside the employee. An employer who understands her employees’ lives is more likely to be sympathetic and, for example, consent to flex time when required. Employees who feel that their boss is caring and interested in who they are will be more committed to their work.
(I'm not terribly focused on this one. I like the general info to be known...but let's not be each other's BFF. It's a fine line.)
7. Finds each person’s unique talents
A great boss observes her employees to find out what they do best. She talks to them about what aspects of their job they enjoy the most. A great boss taps into and leverages the instincts and skills her employees have. This creates a win-win as she is able to reap the rewards of employee satisfaction, and employees grow increasingly inspired and confident about their work, skills, and talents. Moreover, they feel appreciated, that someone has their best interests in mind.
An effective boss makes a personal investment in her employees’ success. She takes the time to sit down and discuss their goals with them and she does what she can to help them achieve such ambitions.
8. Works fearlessly
An effective boss encourages her employees not to be scared of making mistakes along the way. The mentality a great boss puts forward is one that encourages learning – not one that instills fear of making a mistake. It’s about opportunity, trying something new and different, and pushing personal limits. Fear only inhibits growth. Instead, a great boss uses mistakes as tools.
9. Is open and truthful
A great boss is direct, but sensitive. She realizes that communication is essential. If she sees performance slipping, she won’t wait very long to talk about it. She never dodges the truth, nor does she hang onto or hoard company information that could help her employees. She is not threatened by her employees’ knowledge; rather, she encourages it.
(Going through months of uncertainty made me rightly distrustful, fearful to make a mistake, anxious, which led me to start to look for a new job).
10. Is made, not necessarily born
It is true that some bosses have a natural flair for leadership, and motivating and inspiring others. That said, much of what it takes to be an effective leader is learned behaviour. A lot of people have innate traits that could make them great bosses; it’s a matter of developing those capabilities. A great boss rarely stays great without working at her craft. Greatness can be maintained by attending management classes and seminars, reading books, and doing a lot of self-assessment.