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Make Yourself a Better Boss

Boss employee engagement

This is no mystery: Better bosses get more productivity out of a team of people. Take the same set of workers, swap out a bad boss for a better one, and productivity goes up about 10%, with no other intervention, as established by a Harvard Business School study published last year.

HBS Better Boss Article“When they examined all this data,” notes the author, “they concluded that replacing a boss who was in the bottom 10 percent of the (performance) distribution with a boss who was in the top 10 percent had the same effect as adding another whole worker to a nine-person team—a huge effect for such a small variation in quality.”

“That’s because the effect of a boss is multiplicative,” says the researcher, HBS Assistant Professor Christopher Stanton. “If you have a better boss on a team, you get more out of each individual worker.”

That study did not attempt to uncover why the better boss had such a measurable positive impact, but our three decades of building better teams gives us some solid insights on how good bosses foster higher productivity. The people who lead great teams exhibit most, if not all, of the following behavior sets when leading their followers.


Engagement is energizing, but it takes energy and focus to accomplish. The leader must accept the need to cajole, encourage, recognize and reward people to higher levels of performance. He or she is also in charge of “fun” or positivity. A mood-enhancer, if you will.

Task Master

You are all at work to achieve great things, and meet your obligations. The leader must hold the team’s collective feet to the fire, demand excellence, walk the talk, track performance and take remedial action when effort falters. Work can be fun, but it is still an exercise in obtaining high-quality outcomes.


Everyone can get better at what they do. The leader must spot the skill or morale gaps within the team and put a plan in place to bridge them. Hold One-on-Ones at least monthly. Use HR to run assessments to raise personal and interpersonal awareness Connect individual team members to the resources they need to obtain or sharpen needed skills, especially critical collaborative skills (aka people or soft skills.) Task the team with brainstorming around how to work better or innovate new processes, procedures or products.


This encompasses the official role the leader has. He or she is responsible for tasks and processes as well as people. Task assignment, tracking, scheduling, communication flows and human resource obligations all fall under this role. The leader must ensure policies are met, procedures followed (even while challenging them!), tasks accomplished, and reports filed.


The leader is tasked with seeking collaboration with other teams, promoting your team’s outcomes to outside groups, and running interference for your team. New resources need to be found, current positions or resources protected, relationships forged across the organization, access to senior management gained.

The leader also advocates for individual members, winning them developmental opportunities, accolades and, eventually perhaps, promotions.


The leader must serve as the ultimate owner of decisions made by the group (as well as advocate for them.) When business disputes or interpersonal conflicts occur, the leader must actively pursue solutions that remove these productivity barriers and move the team forward. The leader must keep the team’s focus on the problems, and off the personalities involved.

Create your own Better Boss Role Mix

You create your own leadership mindset mix; some combination of the above roles will best fit your team’s motivational needs.

  • Which of these roles has been most missing from your leadership mindset mix?
  • Which of these roles, if amplified, would most favorably impact team productivity over the near term?

Great bosses adopt engaging leadership mindsets that sustainably elevate employee contribution. Take the time to assess your current results, get honest input from your team, and work toward the optimal solution for your situation. If you need help to accelerate this process, call us in to help!

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