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September 26, 2016 Biz Books

Tips to becoming a better boss

“Supervision Matters: 100 Bite-Sized Ideas to Transform You and Your Team” by Rita Sever (She Writes Press, $16.95).

Notwithstanding what's not said in exit interviews for fear of burning bridges, a Gallup poll shows that most people quit because of their supervisor. So when there's high turnover in your department, it's time to look at how you supervise.

That begins with “How you think about you.” Your actions and inaction directly affect the way you relate to your team. Make time to “meet with yourself” each week to go over your interactions with your employees. Some questions to ask “you”: “Did I take into account the difference in personalities when communicating?” Did I show a bias (good or bad) when dealing with an employee; if so, why?” “Did I act or react to situations based on assumptions rather than facts?” “What was my reaction to employee feedback?” “If concerns were raised, how did I address them?”

Your answers give you a picture as a leader as viewed by your staff. If they convey “I'm in charge,” you're viewed as a leader-by-title, which doesn't make you a real leader. “In charge” tells employees “that the supervisor doesn't care about the staff member's learning process or ideas.” Employees disengage; they don't want to be thoughtless drones. The best ones will quit — and you'll be left with a mediocre team, which can't produce optimal results.

To truly lead, you must view the supervisory relationship as a partnership. Sever's “100 Bite-Sized Ideas” see the supervisor as a super-guider, coach and mentor. As such, employees-as-partners know the supervisor adds value by guiding challenge and learning, and ensuring they have the resources needed to finish what they start. Engagement flourishes as people own their jobs. Two-way communication keeps everyone in the loop. Wins are celebrated; missteps become learning experiences. Productivity climbs.

Key takeaway: A supervisor who wants to keep staff engaged will listen first and then ask how he/she may assist.

• • •

“5% More — Making Small Changes to Achieve Extraordinary Results” by Michael Alden (John Wiley & Sons, $25).

Section IV “Give 5 Percent More to Your Business” highlights how small changes pay off big time. Here's an example: I made two suggestions to Dennis, a friend who manages a time-share property: 1. Use select-a-size paper towels rather than full-size; 2. Lower the temperature of the hot tubs from 104 to 100; people wouldn't notice the four-degree difference. He did the math — implementing the changes would save a little over $10,000 per year. The “found money” could be used in other areas, or put into the rainy-day account.

The “found money” got him thinking about small ways to find more. He started a pilot program by installing LED lights over bathroom vanities in 20 percent of the units and LED motion-detecting outdoor lights along high-travel walkways. He estimates the annual savings in electric bills at $9,000; he'll recoup the cost of the equipment in 1.3 years. Little by little he'll equip the whole complex; annual savings will be about $45,000 steady-state.

Alden believes that every business can identify and implement small changes that find “hidden” money. How? By getting employees thinking about ways to improve the way the business does business. The people closest to the jobs know what works, what doesn't and what may work. Management must give them the freedom to do what-if thinking.

He provides this advice on increasing revenue: Focus more on your existing customers than prospects. They already bought; you don't have to sell them; most likely, they'll buy again. They are also a ready source of word-of-mouth referrals, which provides free, testimonial advertising. To get the most out of your customer base, stay in touch constantly.

Other sections of the book deal with getting more out of life by breaking down big goals into small, easy-to-achieve steps. 

Jim Pawlak is a nationally syndicated book reviewer.

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