Being a Good Boss: 9 Ways To Become A Leader That’s Loved by Your Employees
The world is overrun by bad bosses—but not the types we see in movies. Instead of screaming and shouting from an office, the traits are a lot more subtle.
The tips for being a good boss can be quite vague and underwhelming in most guides. However, what if we told you that basing your leadership style on one powerful emotion could have the biggest impact of all?
Great bosses have a deep understanding of their people, how they interact, and how to encourage a positive sentiment between colleagues and their work environment. Those with these leadership skills are few and far between. So, let’s discuss nine tactics you can use to help you meet your full potential to become a leader that’s loved.
How To Be a Good Boss and a Great Leader
You may have seen an image like this that depicts the difference between a boss and a leader. The “boss” demands results from afar, while the leader gets involved in the hard work.
Whether you’re a boss, co-founder, or vice president, being a good manager doesn’t have anything to do with your title. It’s about the way you value and nurture your employees and how they view you as a result.
This means displaying characteristics like:
- Always inspiring others
- Focusing on team interests and needs
- Supporting and encouraging everyone (not just direct reports)
- Maintaining a high level of enthusiasm
- Setting clear goals and communicating them effectively
The best bosses have mastered the art of being great leaders.
1. A Great Boss Leads With Love
Love is an emotion that motivates all of us. Whether it’s for others or a deep sense of attachment to a purpose or project. Leading with love doesn’t mean romantically, but rather, companionately.
Research by Wharton faculty found that companionate love (emotional attachment, compassion, warmth, and empathy for others) in the healthcare industry impacts employee satisfaction and productivity.
This also applies to other industries—employees who feel loved are 2-4x more likely to remain at a company and produce more (voluntary effort) when they feel loved. So, how can you encourage that kind of loyalty within your organization?
Becoming a better boss means respecting and interacting with your employees. Here are a few tips for leading with love:
- Avoid micromanaging and build relationships based on trust
- Understand your team and each of their personal circumstances
- Be prepared for difficult conversations and negative feedback
- Constantly work to improve your leadership skills
If you’re the leader of an enterprise-sized organization, you can still put measures in place to find out employee sentiment.
2. Have Genuine (Not Controlling) Conversations
Plenty of managers and bosses think that leadership is about control. When, in fact, it’s the opposite. Controlling conversation means you’re not really listening to what the other person has to say—it’s a one-sided exchange. You’ll also miss out on constructive feedback that could enhance your management skills.
Building self-awareness as a team leader is one of the most critical tasks for building trust and love. That’s why it’s important to encourage open communication with all team members. It’s okay to have clear expectations and big goals but allow honest feedback too. Let go of any ego and strive to have genuine conversations with employees and team leaders.
Instead of shutting down ideas you may not agree with, try asking clarifying questions instead:
- “Sounds interesting. How would that idea work?”
- “What resources would we need to make it happen?”
- “Is this what you mean? Let me know if I’ve got it right.”
Decision-making is tough but make sure your team is aware of the factors that led you to your choice. If you involve them in the process, they’re less likely to be blindsided and react negatively to any decisions that might affect them adversely.
3. Provide Resources To Align Employees’ Goals With the Company’s
While moving forward as a business is important, personal development for each employee needs to take place in tandem. There has to be a vision and values that management can inspire everyone to get behind. However, you also need to get to know and figure out how to best utilize each employee’s strengths.
To truly get your employees on board, you need to align their goals with the company’s vision. Not only do they need the resources to do their jobs, they also need support for personal growth and professional development.
You’ll want to do a few things as a good boss to make this happen:
- Revisit your values every so often to make sure you’re still on track
- Let employees suggest ways they can contribute to the overall mission
- Make sure your senior management and team leaders are setting a good example
- Offer upskilling opportunities like temporary leadership roles and career coaching
Ask each employee what their goals are and help them create actionable plans to work towards them. This will involve you or team leaders organizing one-to-one meetings to connect with each person to understand their motivations. It’ll take time, but creating a more engaged workforce that feels valued and respected will be worth it.
4. Good Leaders Encourage a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Every human on this planet has challenges outside of work to varying degrees. It’s a trait we all share. We can’t all do our best work all of the time—good leadership understands that and prioritizes the well-being of all team members to prevent burnout.
81% of 3,500 employees in a recent poll placed importance and value on flexible working. In a post-pandemic workforce, it’s something a lot of prospective hires will expect. It can help those with other commitments, like families that need to work around childcare or school pick-ups and drop-offs. Offering this work style makes it clear you trust your team to manage their own time.
These days, people value time just as much as financial perks. Being a good boss may mean switching to a focus on productivity rather than hours. Introducing a flexible time-off policy for vacations also allows employees from all backgrounds to enjoy events, religious holidays, and celebrations that fall at different times of the year.
You should always encourage employees to prioritize their physical and mental health at and outside of work. You may wish to make it mandatory to turn off email notifications after hours or recommend scheduled breaks.
Bumble’s CEO gave all employees a fully-paid extra week off in 2021 due to pandemic-induced burnout. Several companies offered something similar as they realized people can’t bring their most engaged selves to work when they’re run down.
5. Create Inclusive Onboarding for New Hires
Starting at a new company is a nerve-wracking experience. While you may have an HR team, being a good boss means creating a system that encourages a sense of belonging from the beginning. Giving new hires an inclusive, welcoming experience can help inspire employee engagement and retention in the long term.
Inclusive onboarding results in employees that are more invested in their work and team. They’ll get to grips with your processes and feel like they “belong” a lot more quickly. This attitude means they are also more likely to stay with your company for longer.
At Google, managers receive a “just in time” email checklist on the Sunday before new employees start. The list involves a few simple suggested steps:
- Discuss roles and responsibilities to ensure clear expectations
- Match the new hire with an onboarding buddy
- Help them build a social network within the company
- Set up regular check-ins (once a month for six months)
- Encourage open communication and honest feedback
These ideas are meant to help new hires integrate faster and make connections with their colleagues. Managers at Google don’t have to complete the checklist, but a study found the team members of those that did became fully effective 25% faster.
6. Focus on Initiatives That Make People Love Their Workplace
What makes a Most Loved Workplace®? Is it the benefits, compensation, or an office best friend? The answer may surprise you. 78% of employees say they simply want a feeling of value and respect from others they work with.
Creating a Most Loved Workplace® comes down to making your people happy at all levels. This doesn’t mean bowing down to every demand but asking how you can best make meaningful change and showing you appreciate their input regularly. As a boss, what are some other initiatives you can work towards to help your team love their workplace?
- Encourage creativity in the workplace to develop workable solutions
- Involve your employees in identifying and creating your company values
- Provide continuous feedback (not just once or twice a year in performance reviews)
- Promote teamwork across your organization to create new products and solve problems
Employers that promote sustainability and ethical business operations are valued more too. Studies show employees are willing to give up financial benefits for organizations that practice environmental and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Think about where you could implement and improve CSR policies—or better yet, ask your team.
Ensure all processes are people-focused, and you’ll find it much easier to keep everyone working towards a shared goal.
7. Ensure Employees Are Recognized for Wins Regularly
Many bosses are quick to criticize team members when things go wrong. It’s a demoralizing experience that could make them reconsider working for you if it happens too often. The other side of the coin is underused—recognizing when they’ve done a great job.
Recognizing little wins and achievements takes very little effort but can help employees feel a lot more valued and keen to stick around. Organizations can recognize good employees for things like:
- Specific achievements (e.g. hitting sales goals)
- Going above and beyond expectations
- Mentorship efforts or charitable initiatives
- Milestones (e.g. number of years at the company)
- Exhibiting desired behaviors or competencies
Day-to-day encouragement and appreciation don’t have to be huge gestures. It can be as simple as a sticky note on someone’s workstation to say thank you or a mention in front of colleagues. The level of recognition will depend on the amount of effort that went into the achievement.
You can choose to reward singular people and whole teams in different ways. Here are some ideas:
- Surprise your team with a paid lunch
- Celebrate weekly wins at the start of every meeting
- Implement a peer-recognition program
- Treat employees and their families to an off-site event
- Offer a late start or extra time off
- Give out a monthly company award to an employee exemplifying your organization’s values
Telling someone they’ve done good work with a high five as you pass them in the hall is nice. Being specific with recognition about what they’ve done well and why is even better. This way, you’ll reinforce the actions they should focus on to stay on track with personal and company goals.
8. Build DEIB Into Your Company Culture
DEIB stands for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. It shouldn’t just be something you talk about in job descriptions, but many do without meaningful policies behind it.
Developing into a company that prioritizes these practices is a surefire way to build community and trust within the workforce. Being a good boss means creating a work environment where everyone feels included, heard, and offered the same opportunities.
DEIB starts long before hiring takes place and includes everyone, from your most junior members of staff to senior management. It’s a long-term commitment that will need input from a variety of team members if it’s to be successful.
Here are some ideas for DEIB best practices you can start talking about implementing:
- Encourage and fund employee resource groups (ERG)
- Ensure your work environment and online tech stack are accessible for those with disabilities
- Allow candidate names on job applications to be anonymous
- Conduct pay equity reviews for a data-based overview
- Forget one-size-fits-all uniforms and invest in making your team feel comfortable
- Train and engage all employees and management on DEIB practices
Any training or lectures you organize should be thoughtfully designed—not just a checkbox exercise. You won’t be able to “fix” things like unconscious bias, but you can make everyone aware of it.
A leadership team that’s willing to commit to building a more diverse, inclusive workforce is much more likely to have a widespread sense of belonging. DEIB practices should be woven into the fabric of your company to ensure you stay competitive and creative.
9. Make Sure Everyone Has a Positive Vision for the Future
As the boss, everything at your company begins and ends with you. Collaboration should be at the heart of all your business processes. If there’s no clear goal or mission, it’s easy for any member of your team to become demotivated and disillusioned.
Great managers and leaders follow the SPARK model:
- Systemic collaboration: Facilitate an environment where everyone will be deeply heard and work together towards common, shared goals.
- Positive vision of the future: Be clear and positive about your vision for the future. Avoid blame and focus on what you can do better.
- Alignment of values: Align your core beliefs, goals, practices, and work methods.
- Respect: Create a culture where it’s unacceptable to disrespect people, their ideas, or passions.
- Killer achievement: When you create a culture where everyone loves the company, killer outcomes are the only outcome.
A positive vision for the future has to have everyone on the same page. Being a good boss and leader means asking for feedback and adjusting your behavior and actions to get everyone there.
Ask what you do well as a leader. What could you do better? What could you do more or less of? That’s how to make your future vision collaborative and more effective.
“Love” in the workplace is still a fairly new topic of discussion. However, the feeling isn’t. It refers to how we collaborate and feel psychologically safe within an environment. It also relates to the things that we feel we must do vs. the things that we don’t need to do.
Being a good boss has nothing to do with the title. It has everything to do with the emotions and attitudes you instill in your entire workforce. If you want your employees to love you and where they work, you need to base every decision on that emotion and lead with love.
Few organizations can say that they put the love of employees at the heart of their processes and have employees return that love. If you think you’re applicable, becoming a Most Loved Workplace® is a simple, five-step process.
Louis Carter is the founder and CEO of Best Practice Institute, Most Loved Workplace, and Results-Based Culture. Author of In Great Company, Change Champions Field Guide, and Best Practices in Talent Management, as well as a series of Leadership Development books. He is a trusted strategic advisor and coach to CEOs, CHROs, and leaders of mid-sized to F500 companies – enabling change and steering employer brand development together with highly effective teams, leaders, and organizations as a whole.