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10 things great bosses do

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY In the best of all worlds, executive compensation, shareholder value, operating goals, management objectives, and employee needs are all perfectly aligned.

If you ever find a company like that, keep it to yourself. Nobody will believe you.

It should come as no surprise that perfect companies are about as easy to find as perfect bosses and perfect spouses. It just doesn't happen. Come to think of it, if you look in the mirror and don't see plenty of flaws, you're delusional. And companies are entirely made up of imperfect people, just like you.

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Even after 100,000 years of natural selection, the human race has evolved to the point where our organizations are nearly as effective as a colony of ants with defective antennas. That's right, we still have a long way to go. Sobering thought, I know.

And yet, for all the Yahoos, HPs, RIMs, Sprints, Sonys, Kodaks, Nokias, Bank of Americas, and all the executives that turned these once-great brands into laughing stocks, there's still the occasional Apple or IBM to give us hope.

It may be an imperfect world, but there are still managers who more or less know what they're doing -- after they've had their morning coffee. Here's my take on what high-performance managers do -- or are at least supposed to do -- to motivate their teams and deliver results:

- Help the company achieve its strategic and operating goals by making smart business decisions and managing their team effectively.

- Entrust their employees with as much responsibility as their capabilities will allow and hold them accountable for the same.

- Behave like a mature adult -- genuine and empathetic -- even when their employees or their management are acting out like spoiled children.

- Provide their employees with the tools, training, and support they need to effectively achieve challenging but reasonably attainable goals.

- Promote a can-do, customer service attitude with customers and stakeholders by walking the talk and leading by example.

- Promote their team's accomplishments and take the heat for their failures.

- Provide genuine feedback, both good and bad, to their employees, peers, and management. Request the same from them.

- Work their tail off and be hands-on when necessary. If they don't, they can't expect anybody else to do it either.

- Don't compromise their ethical principles in the name of "the ends justify the means" or for any other reason.

- Strike a balance between shielding their folks from the ripples of dysfunctional management and openly communicating events that may affect them.

Overall, the best managers create a work environment where people feel challenged, do their best, and are held accountable for meeting their commitments. But most importantly, they're key components in an organization that exists to serve its customers and shareholders. We're all happiest working for a successful company.

Image courtesy of Flickr user dan_mcweeney

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