6 Habits of Extraordinary Bosses

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For the past two decades, I’ve been interviewing and observing successful C-level executives to discover the secrets of their success.

In a previous post, I documented the core beliefs of extraordinary bosses. Now it’s time for something more tactical–the simple ground rules for managing a team effectively:

1. They Avoid Creating Superstars

Average bosses sometimes allow one employee to become the “star” of the team while ignoring the hard work of everyone else. The “star” gets plenty of recognition and attention, while the rest of the team gets shunted aside. This alienates everybody except the star and sends people the message that their contribution is not valued.

Extraordinary bosses coordinate individual workers’ goals so that they intersect with and support team goals. Such bosses compensate based on how the team (rather than just the individual) performs and encourage top performers to use their talents to create a broader level of success.

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2. They Remove the Nonperformers

Average bosses sometimes hire somebody who can’t do the job–but then keep that person on board, hoping that he or she will figure things out. This damages the the entire team, because it creates a lower level of performance and forces everyone else to do extra work to fill the gaps.

Extraordinary bosses monitor employee performance and provide constructive coaching when an employee falls short. However, once it’s that clear a person can’t perform, they either reassign that employee to a more appropriate job or do him or her a huge favor: suggest finding a job elsewhere.

3. They Coach But Don’t Interfere

Average bosses can’t “let go” of what they’re good at. They’re constantly intervening when things aren’t done the way they’d prefer. This not only lowers motivation but also turns the manager into a “gatekeeper” for any activity–causing productive work to grind to a halt.

Extraordinary bosses know that their primary responsibility is to let people do their jobs and provide coaching when necessary or requested. Such bosses realize that it’s impossible for workers to think strategically when their time and energy are getting consumed with details of tactical execution.

4. They Put Their Employees First

Average bosses put most of their attention on customers, investors, other managers, and their own career. In this priority scheme, employees rank dead last–if they’re even on the list. Unfortunately, employees can sense when a boss doesn’t care about them, and they respond by not caring about their jobs.

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Extraordinary bosses know that the best way to please investors, peers, and customers is to put the employees first. They realize that it’s employees who create, build, sell, and support the products that customers buy, thereby creating investor value and advancing a manager’s career.

5. They Manage People, Not Numbers

Average bosses focus on numbers rather than people. They jiggle revenue and profit numbers, monkey with statistics and data, and spend more time worrying about their spreadsheets than making things happen.

Extraordinary bosses know that numbers represent only the history of what’s happened–and understand that the best way to have great numbers is to make sure that that the job gets done. They realize that their responsibility is to manage people and their activities so the numbers take care of themselves.

6. They Ask Questions Rather Than Give Answers

Average bosses think their job is to know all the answers and to provide those answers to their employees as frequently as possible. However, each time a boss answers an employee’s question, that boss robs the employee of an opportunity to think and grow.

Extraordinary bosses know that people don’t learn when wisdom is handed to them on a platter, much less forced down their throats. They know that a manager’s job is to ask the questions that will spark, in the employee’s own mind, the thought processes and ideas that will make that employee successful.

Geoffrey James writes the Sales Source column on Inc.com, the world’s most-visited sales-oriented blog. His newly published book is Business to Business Selling: Power Words and Strategies From the World’s Top Sales Experts@Sales_Source

Read more from Inc.com:

8 Signs of an Extraordinary Boss

Bad Boss? 7 Management Moves to Avoid