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The Three Qualities of the Best Bosses

By: Brian Tracy

Based on surveys of more than 32,000 employees in 16 industries, researchers found that for their subordinates, the best bosses have three qualities or characteristics. These three qualities or characteristics will ensure that any job or responsibility delegated will be accomplished on time and well.

The first quality of the best bosses is consideration. When asked to define this quality, people say, “I always felt that my boss cared about me as a person, as well as an employee.”

You practice consideration when you take a genuine interest in the life, work and personality of the people who work for you. You ask them about their family and their personal relationships away from the job. You are sensitive to how they might be feeling on a particular day, and you are willing to stop the discussion about work in order to learn more about what is happening in your employee’s personal life.

How much do you know about your employees’ lives away from the office? Do you know if they are married, and to whom, and how many children they may have? What do they like to do on the weekends, and what are the biggest problems and concerns that they are dealing with at the moment?

Who Do You Know?
Toward the end of a six-week management development course, the executives and managers taking the course were asked the question, “What is the name of the janitor who cleans the hallways every day when you are coming and going from the class?”

Not a single person in the class had the slightest idea. They had walked past the janitor for six weeks without ever thinking to ask his name or to learn anything about him.

The professor went on to say, “Your success in your business is going to be largely determined by your taking the time to get to know the people who work for you. You need to ask them questions about their lives and listen to the answers.”

Children Come First
In my company, as our business was growing, we had four married women working with us, each of whom became pregnant and had one or more children. Since my wife and I have four children, and we are very aware of the pressures and demands placed on parents when raising young children, we decided to introduce a new policy to our company: “Children come first.”

According to this policy, if any of the children of our employees had a need of any kind, employees were to take care of the child first, and the work would come second. They would stay at home with a sick child, take their children to appointments, and leave immediately if a child had problems or needs at school.

We also made it clear that there would be no deductions of pay or requirements to make up time. All we ask is that they pass off their immediate responsibilities to someone else so that no one drops the ball for our customers.

We have had that policy in place now for more than 20 years, and have experienced no problems as a result. In fact, it has probably brought us more goodwill and cooperation from our staff members, both those with children and those without, than anything else we have ever done.

Clarity Comes Second
The second quality of top managers is that they set clear tasks so that everyone knows exactly what they are expected to do. The best bosses are those who are absolutely clear about what is to be done, who is to do it, and to what standard.

If you put consideration on the X axis and clarity on the Y axis of a graph and divide it into four quadrants, with low to high consideration on the one axis and low clarity to high clarity on the other, you will have four different kinds of bosses. The first are those who are low on consideration and low on task clarity. These are bosses who are unclear and indecisive and who make it almost impossible to perform to high standards.

The second quadrant will be bosses who are high on consideration and friendly to work with, but vague and unclear about the tasks or the structure of the work. These bosses are usually ineffective and their teams perform at low levels.

In the next quadrant are the bosses who are task-focused but don’t pay a lot of attention to their people. They seldom ask their questions about their personal lives. This type of a boss will be effective in a highly demanding, fast-changing work environment. But since people are largely emotional, they will eventually become dissatisfied when they feel that their boss, the most important person in their work lives, doesn’t really care about them very much.

The fourth quadrant is those people who are highly considerate and very clear about the tasks that each person needs to do. These people are what we call a 10-10 boss. They score a ten on both of the two critical grades that make for excellence in management.

Your job is to continually balance these two sensibilities—caring for your people by asking them questions about their lives away from the office, and giving them clear instructions on exactly what they are to do. This is a never ending balancing act.

Give Them Freedom
The third quality of top bosses is that they give considerable freedom to people to do their job as they see fit. Confucius had a saying: “With the best leaders, when the job is done, the people will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”

Employees describe the best bosses as people who largely left them alone to get the job done. Once the boss had assigned a task and delegated it completely, she got out of the way of her staff members and gave them considerable freedom to decide exactly how to achieve the goal. 

The time when people are the happiest at work (and you probably know this from your own experience as an employee) is when they are working autonomously. This doesn’t mean that people should have work thrown at them that is “above their pay grade” or more than they are capable of doing. It means that the job should be clearly spelled out and then people should be free to do the job very much the way they think best. There should be no one looking over their shoulder or harassing them about times and details.

Once you have assigned a task, how much freedom do you give to your employees to do the job on their own?

Excerpted, by permission of the publisher, from Delegation & Supervision by Brian Tracy. Copyright 2013, Brian Tracy. Published by AMACOM. For more information, visit www.amacombooks

These are only a few qualities that top managers and bosses have. Learn how to be a great manager with this AMA webinar.

About the Author(s)

Brian Tracy is the Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. One of the top business speakers and authorities in the world today, he has consulted for more than 1,000 companies and addressed more than 5,000,000 people in 5,000 talks and seminars throughout the United States and more than 60 countries worldwide. He has written 65 books and produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on management, motivation, and personal success.