How to Become the Best Possible New Boss

Gregory P. Smith

People don't quit their company; they quit their boss. A Chart Your Course International survey found that 50 percent of employees left their last job because of their first-line supervisor. That's a painful statistic. And it points up the critical importance of starting off on the right foot with your new team.

Becoming a first-time supervisor or manager may seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be. Gallup's research shows the genesis of highly engaged employees boils down to one key factor: "whether people have a manager who cares about them, grows them and appreciates them."

Thus, the most valuable asset you can bring to your new role is soft skills: a caring attitude that you demonstrate by your actions. It's about putting the "human" in human resources.

Here's an 8-step guide to begin building credibility, camaraderie and teamwork as an HR manager:

  1. Listen up! One principal hallmark of a leader is active listening. When you take the reins, set aside a period of quality time to talk with each employee, and continue this practice on a regular basis. It can be brief; the benefit is not the length of the meeting, but the value of information exchanged. The key is giving each person your full attention, without interruption.
  2. Ask the right questions. As you sit down with your team members, ask how you can help them do an even better job. Your questions might include:
    1. What's working well for you? Describe how you achieved this outcome.
    2. Who or what is most helpful to you?
    3. Is there anyone or any process that is causing you difficulty?
    4. What are you doing to address these challenges?
    5. How can I help?
  3. Recognize individuality. Every employee is unique, and managers need to understand how to supervise very different personalities. "One size fits all" only works for clothing -- and often the phrase is a misnomer, as women will attest. Consider enrolling in DISC assessment training to help you get a handle on who each team member is.
  4. Be proactive and "plan it." Having an action plan that delineates objectives, strategies, tools and resources for your team members will contribute strongly to your success as a new manager. A plan gives them a template to follow, and gives you a guide for assessing progress to see where and how you can support them in moving forward.
  5. Acknowledge good work. Most of us learn how to give negative feedback, but are far less skilled when it comes to praising a job well done. Tell your team members what you found favorable, and how it has helped your company and/or a client.
  6. Share accolades with the C-suite. One field manager at a national organization was so pleased with an HR team member's rapid response to her urgent request, she sent a memo to the CEO, commending the staff member's timely action. The CEO forwarded the memo to the HR director, with a handwritten note to the employee: "Congratulations on a great job!" How do you think that team member felt when her boss handed her the memo? Aim to share praise not only with your team, but with top executives whenever appropriate.
  7. Groom for growth. Ask your team what projects they covet, what skills they most want to learn next and how they'd like to move forward in the year ahead. Then help their desires bear fruit.
  8. Request feedback. Great managers are always learning, and "humility" is their middle name. Making an impression is less important than making a connection. So ask your people how you can improve, then act on these suggestions. This has a two-fold benefit: your staff will feel valued for their contribution to enhancing your managerial skills -- and they'll get an even better boss in the bargain.

About the author:

As the founder and President of Chart Your Course International Inc., Smith helps executives and business owners create good organizations that attract, retain and motivate their workforce. He helps design strategies and processes to grow organizations and improve customer service creating clearer direction, increased profitability, stronger executive teams, improved communication and happier and more productive employees. He has written several books and has been featured in numerous magazines and trade journals and appeared on numerous television and radio programs, including Bloomberg Business News and PBS television. He also conducts DISC workshops and certification programs. Please visit his website at or call 770-860-9464.

Reprinted with permission courtesy of
XL Staffing