5 Simple (Not Always Easy!) Ways to Be a Better Boss

Have you ever wondered how you can be a better boss? If you have, I acknowledge you for asking this question. It means you want to learn. It means you want to be better. It means you care about your role, your team and your organization. Many people never even ask this question!

There is a lot of advice and training on this topic. It seems that everyone has a leadership technique (some even develop a fancy acronym). Do you ever find these techniques overwhelming?

Today, how about we just focus on five simple things you can start doing right now to be a better boss?

1. Stop bossing your team members around. This may sound surprising. You might think, “Isn’t that what a boss is supposed to do?!” I don’t think so. Instead of telling people how to do things, the best bosses ask their team members questions such as:

  • How would you do this?
  • What authority do you need to get this done?
  • How can you hold yourself accountable?

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” —General George Patton

2. Stop trying to make people be like you. To become as successful as you, someone need not be your replica.

Start making a conscious effort to understand who your team members are and what their specific desires are. Ask them questions such as:

  • What matters most to you?
  • What excites you most about your role?
  • Where do you want to learn and grow?
  • What do you think about [fill in the blank]?

Too often, we think that being a good boss is about molding someone into who we think they need to be for a particular role. Instead, try granting others the space to figure out how their personality, skills and desires fit into the context of their role.

3. Value your team members as equals. Regardless of titles, pecking order and politics in your organization, remember we’re all fundamentally equal as human beings. When you ask for and value someone’s opinion, you show them that you respect them as an equal. This will give them more confidence. They will feel empowered to speak up, contribute, and engage more at work.

For example, after an important meeting or project wraps up, you could ask a team member:

  • What did you learn?
  • What worked well?
  • What would you have done differently?

When you ask questions like these on a regular basis, not only will your team members feel valued, but you gain the benefit of learning another perspective.

4. Start appreciating what your team members do well. The typical boss is trained to look for opportunities to correct others. They think they are helping others when they point out what they’re doing wrong. I agree this can be helpful, when it’s done in a balanced way.

How often do you look for and point out what your team members are doing right? What impact might this have on them, their team and the work they do? By calling someone out for doing something well, you not only reinforce the positive behavior, you send a message that you noticed and appreciated it. An added bonus: you’re more likeable!

You can discover a team member’s strengths through an on-going dialogue. Ask questions such as:

  • What are your strengths?
  • How are we currently utilizing your strengths?
  • Where are we missing opportunities to leverage them?
  • How can we best merge your strengths with our organization’s opportunities?
  • What do you enjoy most at work?

5. Allow your team members to be themselves. A coaching client recently told me that she wants to leave her job because she is exhausted by constantly pretending to be someone she’s not.

How often have you felt pressured to put on a mask at work…like you’re playing a role? I think we can all relate to that on some level. It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Instead of expecting a team member to expend energy pretending to be someone they’re not at work, why not allow them to channel their energy in a more positive direction? By encouraging a team member to show up at work as their authentic self, they’ll be able to contribute more and feel good about it.

Encourage your team members to reflect on what makes them feel authentic by asking:

  • What is unique about you?
  • How could you be more authentic at work?

As simple as these five ideas are, they may not come easily to you. Some of these ideas may even require a fundamental shift in perspective. The key is to pick one (just one!) of these ideas, and start practicing today…and see what happens!


About the Author

Sarah believes the future of the accounting profession depends on our capacity to love. Through one-to-one coaching, group learning and innovation labs, she helps CPAs access the possibility dimension: the place where fear is no longer the enemy.

Prior to founding Intend2Lead, Sarah consistently balanced client service, firm management and industry leadership throughout her career as a practicing CPA. She spent ten years at PwC, where she performed a two-year rotation in their National Office.

Sarah was more recently the national audit partner-in-charge of a high-growth, regional CPA firm and served on its executive and human resources committees. Her responsibilities included oversight of training and development, firm strategy, personnel management, technical accounting and auditing leadership, firm policy and methodology, and quality control.

Sarah is an author, speaker and instructor on coaching and leadership development and a passionate advocate for women in the CPA profession.