How to be a good boss, rather than just “the” boss. And how to
ensure that the people who work for you are gratified in their jobs,
which in turn will make your job as their supervisor that much
Coherent Communication: You are the team leader,
the person responsible for delegating work to your subordinates and
ensuring that the larger goals of the company are met. So the first
step is, simply, making that clear by communicating coherently.
In the hurly-burly of daily office life, it is surprising how
often this basic requirement can be overlooked. Communicate in
person as much as possible, by email only if you have to. And make
sure you are specific in setting expectations for single employees
as well as the team.
“To be a good manager, it is very important to articulate the
expectations at an individual level as well as at the team level. It
is important for the manager to set the context right and explain
what all is expected to achieve that task,” says Neetasha Joshi,
senior vice president of HR and training and development at Tata AIG
Life Insurance Co. Ltd.
Appreciate and Criticize: Praise and other
feedback are an integral part of a manager’s communication with a
team. The way both are dealt with makes all the difference.
“A pat on the back should be done in front of everyone. But
punching in the ribs should be done privately,” says Rajita
Singh, head of human resources at Broadbridge Financial Solutions
(India) Pvt. Ltd., an outsourcing firm.
A manager should also take note of the effort involved in
completing a task and not just the result.
“Appreciation alone of achieving the target is not enough,”
says Abhijit Bhaduri, chief learning officer at Wipro Ltd. “A
good manager will also acknowledge the effort put in to achieve the
Remember that however frustrated you may be, or however justified
you may feel in yelling openly, the effect of your critical words on
an employee could be very harmful – going far beyond what you
intended — and be counter-productive.
Learn to Listen: As the boss, it’s tempting to
think your role is to be authoritative and bark orders. Leave that
to the military. Instead, listen to what the team has to say as you
make your decision. Once it’s made, it’s good to be decisive. But
not garnering input in advance runs the risk that your decisiveness
“Listening to your subordinates/team encourages and motivates
them. It leads to a sense of purpose as well as a sense of belonging
in your team members,” says Sumit Mitra, executive
vice-president corporate human resources at Godrej Industries &
Walk the Talk: As a manager, don’t think that
you are the one watching the team, the team is watching you. So set
an example and follow your own rules.
“If there is a rule of not carrying your cell
phones to a meeting then a manager must not, however important his
phone might be,” says Suhas Kadlaskar, director of corporate affairs
and human resources at Mercedes-Benz India Pvt. Ltd.
That includes taking responsibility, as you would like employees
to take responsibility, when there are errors.
“A good manager will always take responsibility and not pass the
buck by saying his team did not perform well” he says. “A good
manager is the one who makes a dysfunctional team functional.”
Leading from the front also is important. “A good manager will
always know when his team needs that morale booster and will provide
it by not just praising or by a pep talk but at times by
demonstrating the work to them himself,” says Ms. Joshi.
Stop short, though, of doing so much that you effectively do
people’s jobs for them. That is de-motivating.
“Keep in mind to think and act in a controlled manner,” says
Ganesh Shermon, partner and country head in the People & Change
Practice at KPMG Advisory. “Never do it to the extent where the
person stops thinking for himself.”
Be Friendly but Not Necessarily Friends: It is
tempting, especially for new managers, to try to win over their
employees by acting as a friend rather than a boss. The BBC has made
a whole hit comedy series out of this misguided
effort. Instead, be friendly and approachable but keep enough
distance that no-one in the office feels left out and so you have
sufficient room should you need to take disciplinary action against
This is the part most managers dread most. And it is almost
always tough. But it’s made harder if there is a genuine friendship
involved, too. If you do have to fire an employee, do so within the
processes established by the company: If it is a dismissal for
performance reasons, it should be preceded by warnings and an
escalating series of steps designed to right the employee’s
“A manager has to be fair and firm to ensure that the performance
of an individual does not drop below expectation level. In such a
situation you can work with the person, support him/her to make
things work, but also ensure that you as a manager cannot take up
and fulfill those responsibilities,” says Pritpal Singh Kular,
director of human resources at Max Bupa Health Insurance Co. Ltd.
“Discussion is important to make the person understand the gravity
of the situation.”