As an executive recruiter, many people turn to me out of unhappiness with their managers. They’ll tell me that they love their job, the company is great and they work well with their peers. However, the employee-turned-job-seeker says they can’t stand working for their boss any longer. These folks list a litany of complaints and examples of how their supervisor lacks leadership. They point to an unusually high rate of employee turnover, internal squabbling and it's impossible to get anything done. These are just a smattering of the issues they are frustrated with. Some employees have even reported their manager to higher internal authorities to no avail and they are left with no alternative other than to leave the company.   

A recent survey from Hult International Business School reported on the lack of self-awareness of managers. The study concludes that roughly 60% of  managers claim “they never or rarely appear frightening to junior co-workers.” Contrary to the supervisors’ opinions, the study shows that employees are scared to approach managers with their opinions. They feel afraid to speak up in meetings due to potential backlash and feel their ideas are shot down. They definitely sense the pressure not to dare speak “truth to power,” even if the company is engaged in unethical endeavors, which may yield catastrophic consequences — think Wells Fargo, Boeing, and Volkswagen's recent scandals. In a related piece written for The Harvard Business Review, co-authors Megan Reitz and John Higgins offer some suggestions to supervisors, including managers being cognizant of their facial expressions and the words they use. I’d like to offer some additional things managers should do to become strong leaders. This doesn’t come from an ivory tower, but from years in the trenches dealing with people.

1. Communication is the key to success. Always keep people informed about what's happening and where things are headed. Communication between the manager and his or her employees is essential. Management must engage in one-on-one private conversations, hold group-wide meetings to discuss what’s currently happening and where they’re headed to in the future. Conduct informal off-site meetings to talk in a relaxed location, which makes people more comfortable to talk openly and be heard. Hold question-and-answer sessions, town halls and share thoughts through encouraging emails. Set time aside for staff to ask you questions, seek your input, and offer their views. Frequent open dialogue is needed to keep everyone on the same page and feel connected to the company and its goals and objectives.

2. Clearly map out a plan and the expectations to achieve the goals. Leaders should be transparent with their vision for their team. They have to establish a plan of action and set deliverables to achieve these goals. Everyone should understand their part in this plan and what they’re personally accountable for. The manager should check in with their team regularly—not as a micromanager—to monitor the progress, offer suggestions, and listen intently to their thoughts and suggestions.

3. Empower people by providing whatever resources they need to succeed. You need to equip your team with the tools required to succeed. It may be in the form of tangible items, such as computers, technology, software, a comfortable chair, or quiet place carved out to think without interruptions. It could also be that some people perform better by working from home, engage in job sharing, or work hours different than the traditional 9-to-5. The employees may need to have on-the-job training or paid tuition to get additional schooling or credentials. The manager should get approval for team members to attend networking events and conferences to learn about new developments in their field.

4. Treat people with dignity and respect. It won’t surprise you that some people in leadership positions become abusive, close-minded, and refuse to listen to other opinions. This relates to the survey, in which staff members are intimidated into remaining quiet, as they’re afraid of the repercussions from a tyrannical boss. It doesn’t cost you anything to be kind, considerate, listen to a person who is having a bad day, patiently sit quietly while a team member is venting and getting it out of his system, entertain new and different ideas, say “hello” in the morning and remember an associate’s birthday.

5. Be consistent. Leaders should act in a manner that offers comfort to those around them. Employees want to know what to expect from you on a regular basis. If you are yelling and screaming one minute and then acting like you’re the person’s best friend an hour later, it will create an uncomfortable environment. The boss should also treat everyone in a similar manner. They shouldn’t favor one employee over another nor shower a favorite with accolades while lambasting someone else. Try not being moody and lurching back and forth in your temperament. This will make employees avoid you, as they’re not sure if you’ll be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.

6. Show employees that you trust and respect them. This could be literally telling them how you feel about your staff. You could delegate important jobs, so the employee feels proud. By empowering people to make their own decisions and supporting them if these actions go awry, they’ll appreciate the chance you gave them and support provided when needed. Listen to your employees and heed their advice. This doesn't mean you’ll always have to act upon it, but it reflects that you care enough to listen. If their idea is acted upon, be sure to give kudos and credit to the person instead of stealing the spotlight for yourself.

7. Lead by example. It saps the morale of people when you expect big things from them, yet you don't hold up your end of the bargain. If you require people to be in the office at early hours and stay late for an important project, you should be the first one in the door and the last person closing the lights at night.

8. Celebrate the little victories. We all want to be appreciated for our hard work and efforts. Most of the time, they go unnoticed and taken for granted. When certain benchmarks are met or exceeded, use it as an opportunity to reward them. It doesn't have to be huge. It could be taking everyone out for a celebratory drink or order in someone’s favorite food. The expression of your gratitude for a job well done goes a long way.

9. Take everyone’s input and then act decisively. Once a decision is made, act upon it. Don't vacillate back and forth and change your mind on a whim. Move boldly forward with your mission. It drives people crazy when a leader constantly changes their mind and makes everyone redo everything they've done a dozen times over again because he can't make up his mind. Also, don't let problems fester. If you notice something that is problematic, deal with it quickly. If there are two people constantly fighting and tempers are escalating, intervene before it's too late. When there is a problem employee, give them a chance or two. However, when you feel they’re no longer a fit, cut your losses quickly. Few things are worse than having a team that spends their days bickering and attacking one another or an employee who is cancer eating away at everyone every day.

10. Don't micromanage. Hire the right people for the right jobs. Once they’re in place, allow them the room to do their job the way they feel best. Avoid constantly looking over their shoulders and breathing down their necks. Don't keep budding into what they’re doing and delving into the minutia. Avoid constantly changing what they've worked hours on. It's disheartening, debilitating and ego-shattering when you constantly monitor and nitpick everything someone says or does.

Written by Jack Kelly by
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