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Hire great bosses

4 min read


One of the most important hiring decisions companies make is who to put into leadership roles. How well does your company do on this critical task?

The Gallup organization reports that organizations make bad leadership hiring decisions 82% of the time (!).

Gallup’s research indicates that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement. That huge impact on employee engagement translates into good or not so good performance, customer service, quality, profitability, and discretionary energy being applied to daily tasks.

The problem is that most companies have not defined what a “great boss” looks, acts, or sounds like. Without a set of “great boss” standards, companies put people into leadership roles who do not have demonstrated leadership or “people” skills.

Past individual accomplishment and technical expertise does not mean that the candidate will effectively manage and inspire others.

Gallup has found that great bosses have the following talents (demonstrated skills):

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage them with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.

The problem? Gallup’s analysis indicates that only about one in 10 candidates have these talents.

If companies take the time and energy to seek out and hire players with these talents into leadership roles, Gallup’s research shows that increased employee engagement, customer service, and profits will follow.

How can your company improve the quality of bosses throughout your organization?

First, be proactive with leadership standards. Gallup’s talent list is a great place to start in building your standards list. You may add additional skills you would like leaders to demonstrate. Formalize these expectations and embed them into your hiring practices.

With existing leaders, communicate these standards. Gain commitment from every boss in your organization to demonstrate these skills.

Then, about six months after publishing and communicating these standards, measure how well existing leaders are modeling these skills. Do an employee survey that gathers perceptions about the degree to which leaders meet your leadership standards.

Provide feedback from this leadership survey to every leader, showing where their team members see them as exceeding these standards, meeting these standards, or missing these standards.

Celebrate each leader’s demonstration of these skills — and map out a plan for closing gaps. Coach leaders to model the behaviors outlined in your leadership standards.

Conduct this survey annually. It will validate your great bosses and highlight the bosses that are not so great. If not-so-great leaders don’t embrace these standards, remove them from leadership roles.

Hold all leaders accountable for modeling every one of your leadership skills. Don’t let any leader “off the hook” — don’t tolerate any leader missing the mark on these standards.

What do you think? How “great” are your company’s bosses? What additions would you make to Gallup’s leadership skills list? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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Get your copy of my ChangeThis manifesto, titled “What? Your Organization Doesn’t Have a Constitution?” I invite you to add your experiences to two “fast & free” research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Links to these assessments plus results and analysis are available on my research page.

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