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Gail McMeekin Headshot

13 Traits of a Great Boss

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Do you have what it takes to be a great boss? Do you relish nurturing, advising, and coaching people? Being an excellent boss requires that you be the best you can be.

Here are the essentials:

1) Integrity -- You must be trustworthy and honest to have any credibility. Your staff is hypersensitive and averse to dishonesty, manipulation, and lies. You must set the standard for behavior on your team.

2) Advocacy -- Your job is to stand up for your people and advocate for what they need, whether it is new computers, more training, or raises. You are the chief problem-solver. Helping your team get the tools and the support they need is part of your job description.

3) Caring -- You must communicate genuine appreciation and concern for your staff. They need to feel that you are behind them 100 percent. Recognition is repeatedly cited as the top desire of employees, even more than money.

4) Teaching --You have to be willing to train as needed. You also have to educate them about everything they need to know about your organization. If you have hired the right people, then you need to keep fostering their career development.

5) Hiring and Firing Effectively -- Your team is counting on you to recruit the best talent for the group. You must hire people who have both the ability and the willingness to do the job well. Every team has a personality and you want to match new hires to the tempo of the team. Likewise, if you have a lazy employee, it is your job to work with him or her to see if improvement is possible. If not, you must replace him or her with a competent person. You must be willing to cut a team member who is unmotivated or not trainable. That will earn you needed respect.

6) Communicating Comfort -- You must keep your team apprised of all the factors that could potentially impact their jobs. You also must have excellent listening skills and spend time with your team drawing out their needs and concerns. Be aware of your body language and be clear with people about when and how to approach you. Meet with your team regularly, not just at performance review time.

7) Visionary Leadership -- You are the captain of the ship and you need a map and a navigational plan to get ahead and meet your goals. While you want to solicit input regularly from your team, it is your job to create your plan as well as inform everyone about his or her role. The master plan that you develop determines the results that you want everyone embracing and implementing.

8) Coaching Skills--You must be able to challenge your people, provide a positive perspective, and coach them through the obstacles. You want to hone in on their strengths and help them to work around or master their weaknesses. You need to honor their individual styles and give them feedback and encouragement. Work on a plan with them to direct their career in alignment with their interests and your organization.

9) Knowledge of Your Industry/Profession -- You need to stay abreast of the trends and shifts in your field. Make sure that you are networking with thought leaders, attending key conferences, and reading the important media in your industry. This allows you to share the latest thinking with your team and plan for the future of your company or your department. Foresight will give you the leading edge in navigating change and the major shifts in the business that impact you.

10) Creativity--Making or Inventing Something New -- A recent survey of CEOs cited creativity as the most vital skill of 21st century leadership. Do not be afraid to innovate and experiment to give yourself the leading edge in the marketplace. Keep a journal of new ideas that could improve the performance and satisfaction of your team. Give your team permission to try new strategies. Mistakes are a part of the learning process that creative people must experience before breakthroughs occur. Create a safe space for you and your team to listen to the wishes of your clients and customers and brainstorm new ways to meet those goals.

11) Identify Rainmakers/Innovators on Your Team--Potential rainmakers have the skills to take your division or company to the next level. You want to make certain that these individuals have all the data and expertise they need and are fully invested in the outcome of their efforts. Be sure to offer meaningful incentives. Ask - do not guess - what they want.

12) Share the Money Trail with your Team -- Too many managers do not educate their team about profit and loss statements, return on investment, and cost-saving measures. Spell out the details for them and get them engaged in increasing revenue and reducing costs, while still providing quality products and services. If you keep your team in the dark about the workings of the department and their division, you may endure a group of whiners and withholders, which will diminish your division or organization's financial performance.

13) Motivate Your Team to Look for Extra Business Development Opportunities -- Give your people financial goals as well as career goals and offer incentives for their extra efforts. Motivation comes from within, so you need a team of people who are fully committed to your business, strive to break sales records, and earn exceptional customer/client testimonials. Continually solicit great marketing ideas from your team, clients/customers, and keep refining your business/marketing plans in order to maximize your business development opportunities.

Being a boss is not for the faint of heart. Many employees project all their unfinished issues with their parents and authority figures onto their bosses. These employees may act out an unstable adolescence with us and provoke us to set boundaries and do interventions with them. Your team needs to act as adults and you have the right to expect that. Yet, imperfection affects us all, so as a good boss, we need to balance business with humanity. The challenges can be intense, but the positive rewards for you and your team impact the quality of your life every day. A great boss not only impacts his or her current team, but mentors the leaders of the future by example. Pretty powerful job, wouldn't you say?