Like a Boss – A Good Boss, That Is: 4 Things Good Bosses Do

By Tonya Graser Smith

Today is National Boss Day (a.k.a. Boss’s Day). If you’re sipping your coffee out of your “World’s Best Boss” mug, you might be feeling pretty confident in your place at the helm. But workplace tides can change swiftly.

How do you know if you manage, lead and inspire “Like a Boss?” Here are my observations as someone who has had her fair share of bosses (good, bad and meh) and who now manages the world’s best associate and world’s best paralegal.

  1. Good bosses trust their people.

Nobody likes a micromanager. Good bosses don’t have to micromanage, because they trust. I like how Tina Fey put it. “In most cases, being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way,” says the actress, “Saturday Night Live” alum and author of “Bossypants.” (Hilarious book, by the way.)

If you have trained your people and continue to inspire, serve as a role model and lead by example, the team will get the job done and feel great about it. Just trust. And offering well-deserved recognition after a job well done can’t hurt either.

  1. Good bosses get in the trenches.

Micromanaging is bad. But so is an unwillingness to work, put in the time or show up. Sure, being boss might mean you get to come and go as you please and can even hold yourself accountable to a different set of standards if you so choose.

But you’re the team leader. You set the tone. You set the bar for performance and professionalism. Imagine a coach who doesn’t show up to a game. Unthinkable. Be the boss that others aspire to and you probably won’t have to spend too much time in the trenches or micromanaging anyway. You might get to sit back and … well, lead.

  1. Good bosses invest in the next generation.

It’s important for bosses to pay attention to the younger generations coming up in their fields. Millennials – which is not a bad word – are the largest segment in the workplace and next year are expected to make up half of the U.S. workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2030, millennials are expected to account for three out of every four workers.

Consider this insight from my own industry.

“Millennial lawyers have learned to travel light, and they will vote with their feet…,” writes Susan Smith Blakely in a recent ABA Journal article. “If the profession fails them, they will walk. It is that simple.”

One way I’m investing in my associate Kate Kovats is by supporting and encouraging her as she develops her voice when it comes to writing about family law. Kate is now writing articles that appear on her LinkedIn profile (please follow her) and the GraserSmith website. My firm is stronger because of Kate’s expertise, and I want to cultivate it and showcase it. I want to pay it forward. And if you haven’t met Kate, make sure you do; she is one heck of a great lawyer.

  1. Good bosses have a signature move.

Perhaps the boss I admire most is the one from my first job after undergrad. I worked for my college sorority, Delta Gamma, advising chapters across the United States and Canada. My boss sent everyone who worked for her or had ever worked for her a card on their birthday. After one year on the job, I headed to law school. But 15 years later, I still get a birthday card from my one-time boss; it’s her signature move. Tracey Williams, I feel celebrated every year when I get your card!

My signature move: My yearly “boss Q&A,” in which I ask my employees how I’m doing as a boss and what would make them stay or leave. My goal isn’t to be the “World’s Best Boss.” It’s not about me. My goal is that my team feels inspired, empowered, recognized and supported. When I worked for my best bosses, that’s how I felt, and that is when I did my best work.

And that’s what good bosses do.

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