A Dartmouth professor shares the common management practices that will make work a better place for employees.

Share story

My research into the world’s most successful bosses has unearthed some common practices that can make work much more meaningful and enjoyable for their employees. If you’re a boss, make sure you do the following:

Manage individuals, not teams. When you’re under pressure, it’s easy to forget that employees are unique individuals, with varying interests, abilities, goals and learning styles. But it’s important to customize your interactions with them. Ensure you understand what makes them tick. Be available and accessible for one-on-one conversations. And deliver lessons cued to individual needs.

Go big on meaning. In hopes of fostering employee engagement, many organizations now emphasize meaning and purpose. But such engagement is also your responsibility as a boss. Inspire your team with a vision, set challenging goals and pump up everyone’s confidence. Articulate a clear purpose, set expectations high and convey to the group your confidence in them.

Focus on feedback. Even if your organization sticks with traditional performance reviews, supplement them with continuous, personalized feedback. Use regular — at least weekly — one-on-one conversations to give lots of coaching. Make the feedback clear, honest and constructive, and frame it so that it promotes independence and initiative.

Don’t just talk, listen. The best leaders spend a great deal of time listening. They pose problems and challenges, then ask questions to enlist the entire team in generating solutions. They reward innovation and initiative, and encourage everyone in the group to do the same.

Be consistent. Who could be happy with a boss who does one thing one day and another thing the next? So be consistent in your management style, and in the way you set expectations, give feedback and are open to new ideas. If change becomes necessary, acknowledge it openly and quickly.

Is it hard work to maintain these key practices? Yes. But it’s worth it.

Sydney Finkelstein is a professor of management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. His new book is “Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Manage the Flow of Talent.”