The 5 essential functions of a great boss

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Great business owners become great based on their actions. Intentions are meaningless. Words are important. Results are everything.

But probably not the kinds of results you might have in mind.

Consistently accomplish these five functions and you, your company -- and most importantly your employees -- all reap the benefits. Fail at these five functions and no matter how hard you work, you and your business will eventually fall short.

1. Develop every employee. If your sole focus is on hitting targets, achieving results, and accomplishing concrete goals your leadership cart is well before the horse. Without great employees, no amount of focus on goals and targets will pay off. Employees can only achieve what they are capable of achieving, so it's your job to help every employee become capable of achieving more.

Plus, even the most self-starting employees can only do so much to improve their skills. As a manager you owe it to your employees to provide the training, mentoring, and opportunities they need and deserve. In the process you listen, guide, and develop loyalty and commitment. Reviewing results and tracking performance is transformed from enforcement into personal progress and improvement -- both for the employee and for business.

Employee development is your primary responsibility as a boss. Spend the bulk of your time developing the skills of employees; goal achievement becomes a natural, long-term result.

2. Take care of problems immediately. Nothing kills team morale quicker than issues that don't get addressed. Interpersonal squabbles, performance issues, inter-departmental feuds all negatively impact employee motivation, enthusiasm, and even individual work ethic.

Small problems never go away. They always fester and grow into bigger problems -- and when you ignore an issue, employees immediately lose respect for you. Without respect you can't lead.

Never hope a problem will magically disappear (or someone else will deal with it.) No matter how small, deal with every issue head-on.

3. Rescue a struggling employee. Every team has an employee who has fallen out of grace: Publicly failed to complete a task, blew up in a meeting, or just makes particularly slow progress. Over time a struggling employee comes to be seen by his peers, and by you, as a weak link.

When that happens it's almost impossible for the struggling employee to turn a corner on his own. The weight of team disapproval is just too heavy for one person to move.

But that weight is not too heavy for you to move.

Before you remove a weak link from the chain, put your full effort into trying to rehabilitate that person instead. Step in and address the situation, but do so in a positive way. Say, "Mike, I know you've been struggling. I also know you're trying. Let's find ways we get you where you need to be." Express confidence, be reassuring, and most of all tell him you'll be there every step of the way.

Don't relax your standards, though. Just step up the mentoring and coaching you provide.

Granted, sometimes it won't work out, so see the effort as its own reward.

4. Serve others -- never yourself. You can get away with this once or twice, but that's it. Never say or do anything that in any way puts you in the spotlight, however briefly. Never congratulate employees and digress for a few moments to discuss what you did. Never say, "This took a lot of work, but I have finally convinced upper management to let us..." If it should go without saying, don't say it.

Your glory should always be reflected, never direct. When employees excel you excel. When your team succeeds you succeed. When an employee rehab project turns into a superstar, remember they should be congratulated, not you.

You were just doing your job the way a great manager should.

Consistently act as if you are less important than your employees and everyone will know how important you really are.

5. Stay humble. As a business owner, you've reached a level many of your employees also hope to someday reach. Some admire what you have accomplished; most respect you for your hard work and achievements. So sometimes an employee will just want to talk or to spend a little time with you.

When that happens you can blow that person off, or you can see the moment for its true importance: A chance to inspire, motivate, reassure, or give someone hope for greater things in their life.

The higher you rise, the greater the impact you can make, and the greater your responsibility to make that impact.

  • Jeff Haden On Twitter»

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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.

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