Don’t Be a Bad Boss by Default by Jay Geier

Don’t Be a Bad Boss by Default 

by Jay Geier

The word boss tends to have a negative connotation, as if “bad boss” is implied. For centuries, it seems, employees have believed the boss is there to catch them arriving late, leaving early or doing a task wrong; to criticize; to micromanage; to play favorites; and to demote and fi re others. All while making unreasonable demands and paying too little.

A positive outcome of the economic crash of the 1980s is that companies were forced to reevaluate how they conducted business, especially when it came to human capital. Organizations that recovered and went on to be even more successful spent considerable time and effort creating performance-based cultures that included team building; employee training and development; clear goals, recognition and reward; and, above all, an environment in which everything came together to drive customer satisfaction. Bosses who couldn’t change their old ways were drummed out of the organization, along with employees who lacked the aptitude or attitude to be trainable on a new approach to business.

Some doctors have large, multilocation businesses with layers of management and lots of team leaders. But most have small to midsize practices. Especially if you run a small practice, you may not even think of yourself as a “boss,” but your people certainly do. And just because you don’t do any of the bad things mentioned above doesn’t mean you’re a good boss, either. If you don’t intentionally do the things that make you a good boss, you’re still a bad boss, by default. Let’s look at what your best people want from you so you may be recognized as a good boss.

What talented people want in a boss

Chick-fi l-A, known for its exceptional service and people culture, commissioned a study titled “What Top Talent Really Wants in a Job” to identify how to attract and keep the best people. If you think you’re being a good boss just by giving people jobs and paying them fairly, you’re mistaken; better pay didn’t even make it into the top three qualities of a good job. Ahead of a brighter future and bigger vision, the No. 1 essential that top job candidates focus on when seeking the kind of employment they want is a better boss.

Talented individuals want bosses who genuinely care about their people and consistently engage with their efforts. They want someone who listens, mentors, shows appreciation and values others’ input. They want a competent leader who pushes them to grow and provides opportunities to excel.

Be a better boss

You can’t become a great boss overnight, but you can become a much better boss instantly by making just a few changes in your behavior. Although this adjustment may be somewhat out of your comfort zone initially, it shouldn’t seem like work. After all, you spend more time with your team members than many of your own family members.
  • Call people by their names. If you have just a few people, of course you know their names. But is it your habit to say a generic “good morning” to the group? There’s no real connection made because it doesn’t come across as genuine interest in them as individuals. Don’t underestimate the feel-good factor of saying “good morning” to someone by name and taking just a moment to engage with them.
  • Know key information about each person—things like spouse’s name; number of kids, their ages and sports; pets; family illness, loss or other hardships being faced right now; and birthday and service anniversaries. Delegate a team member or form a “care squad” to keep information up to date and give you cards to sign. That’s not being ungenuine—that’s having a process in place to nurture a caring culture.
  • Be approachable. Intentionally carve out time to engage with your people just by walking around and chatting. Ask questions, then actually listen and respond. The key is to be authentic and make a connection that demonstrates you genuinely appreciate and care about them.
Become a great boss

An essential trait of a great boss is being a good leader and coach. Unlike behavior changes that can be initiated immediately, developing into a good leader and coach takes training and practice.

Here’s a quick self-assessment of how good you currently are as a coach:
  • Am I willing to accept feedback and constructive criticism?
  • Am I comfortable giving feedback and constructive criticism to others?
At first, you may not be comfortable giving positive feedback and praise, but with practice and experience, it becomes almost addictive. Recognizing people for a job well done, no matter how briefly and informally, makes deposits into what educator and author Stephen Covey termed the emotional bank account: “By proactively doing things that build trust in a relationship, one makes deposits. Conversely, by reactively doing things that decrease trust, one makes withdrawals.” Build trust by making deposits so when constructive criticism is required, the balance doesn’t go negative. If you maintain trust, people will know your comments are meant to help them perform better, which is in their best interest as well as that of the business.

Your talented people want a boss who shows appreciation with positive feedback and also listens and values input. What may start out as negative feedback may lead to a discussion about why a process broke down and how to improve it. Seize those opportunities so people learn and grow from their mistakes, and the practice benefits from continuous improvement.

Everyone else in the organization who plays any sort of boss role—your office manager and any team leaders, for example—must also be trained as good coaches. Choose leaders based not on their productivity but on their potential to be developed into good bosses. Then make sure they get the needed training. If not, you could lose good people who report to them without even realizing why.

Coach only coachable people

Nick Saban, considered one of the best coaches in college football ever, humbly refers to himself as “an OK coach” and candidly admits he coaches only talented players—those with the brain, capacity and heart to make the team a success.

Being a good coach to team members without the aptitude, attitude and trainability to help make your practice successful is an unproductive use of your time. Your strong performers suffer because the poor performers monopolize your time and energy.

Even worse, the feel of stress and discontent in the office will be palpable to your patients. Just because there aren’t actual altercations between team members doesn’t mean they work and play well together. Talented people don’t want to work with mediocre people; they resent those not willing to put in the work and effort. Conversely, mediocre performers don’t want to work with high achievers.

Low performers, especially, want completely different things from their jobs and their bosses. They want to be left alone and expect to get paid just for showing up, regardless of performance. If anyone on your team should have been replaced a long time ago, get on with it. They are the ones setting the bar for performance, not your top people. If you retain untalented people and low performers, you will lose your best people and be unable to attract strong candidates to replace them.

Create the greenest pasture

Successful organizations and businesses of all sizes have come to recognize human capital as their most valuable asset and as what ultimately determines success and growth. Mismanaging that asset is costly short- and long-term because mismanaged talent leaves. You not only lose the contribution of that team member over the course of their career, you also spend time and energy having to constantly recruit, hire and train new people instead of focusing on delivering a great patient experience and solving problems that get in the way.

Keep your good people from thinking the pasture might be greener elsewhere by being a better boss, starting immediately. Then learn to become a great boss and coach by getting the leadership training and coaching you need so you can provide what attracts and retains top talent.

Author Bio
Author An entrepreneur, author, speaker and philanthropist, Jay Geier is on a mission to help others live up to their full potential through time-tested, proven strategies he’s gleaned from decades of achieving success both in his own life and in the lives of countless professionals he’s worked with. Geier is the founder and CEO of Scheduling Institute, a practice management and health marketing firm designed to help private practice owners achieve a more successful business and, as a result, a more fulfilling life. To subscribe to his Private Practice Playbook podcast, go to
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