3 Ways to Be a Better Boss for Your Employees

The best bosses inspire us to be our best selves. Pam Parker, former Vice President for Advancement at University of Alabama, was one of those bosses for me. Pam supported me, challenged me, and advocated for me.

She put me into a role that benefited the organization and played to my strengths, even though I didn’t have direct experience. She offered me projects that put me in front of the president and campaign chairs; at a time when others could have easily dismissed me as being “young”.

She exemplified servant leadership before I even knew what that meant, caring about me as an employee and as a person. She sought my counsel and was open to my feedback. Though it has been more than 10 years since I worked for Pam, she is still one of the first people I call when faced with a work transition, or a challenge, or if I want to share good news.

When I think about my own leadership style, I aspire to be the kind of boss that Pam was for me. Whitney Johnson—a renowned thought leader, management expert, and best-selling author—provides a framework for how to do this in her new book Build an A-Team. She shares three steps anyone could follow to be a better manager:

1.     Help Your Team Discover Their Distinct Strengths

As managers, we should spend time understanding what motivates our employees and what their abilities are. What are the projects that give your employees the most energy? What are the strengths that are distinct to them as individuals? 

Take a few minutes to make a list of these qualities for your direct reports and set a time to review this list together with each person on your team. Additionally, empower your employees to ask these questions of themselves in advance and bring a list with what they self-identify. This will encourage their growth now, as well as in the future.

2.     Provide Continuous Learning

The best bosses support their employees in advancing their careers. To do this, your team needs exposure to projects that will leverage their current strengths and help them develop new skills.

Think about your team members’ individual strengths and then align their assignments accordingly. For example, if you have a team member who excels at analyzing situations and determining the path forward, assign her as the committee leader responsible for recommending a new office system.

It is your responsibility as a manager to help develop your employees for their future roles, so you should support (as well as challenge) them.

3.     Hire People Who Can Grow Into Their Roles

People often assume that hiring highly-experienced candidates will produce the best results. The truth is: Experienced candidates may require less training up front, but it also doesn’t take as long for them to achieve mastery. Because they already understand the responsibilities, they will not feel as challenged and might find less satisfaction in their jobs.

If you want to build your organization, find people who have the potential to succeed, but haven’t done the exact role yet.

I have taken a chance on hiring many staff members with less experience—the same chance that was given to me early in my career—and it has allowed them to grow alongside the organization. Ultimately, it led to their accelerated career paths and professional success.

Your team, as well as your company, will benefit from your generosity as a leader. People always remember the boss who took a chance on them and helped them grow. This is your chance to be that boss for others.