Sometimes the smallest things can transform an experience from perfectly good to really great: adding a teaspoon of salt to a recipe, the perfect soundtrack in a movie, a shower with a fresh-from-the-dryer towel ready for you on the other side.
If you’re reading this article, odds are you’re already a good boss. You know the value of foundational relationships and employee investment. You’ve got that figured out (and if not here’s a place to get started). But how do you bridge the gap from being a good boss to becoming a great one—dare we say the best one? We think it’s easier than you may know.
Here are some things you can do now—literally in the next fifteen minutes that nudge you from “She’s a good boss” to “She’s the BEST boss!”
1. Call and ask about their day.
Asking someone how they are doing tends to be an American formality before jumping to the real agenda. But the world’s best boss really cares about how their employees are doing beyond a productivity update. Manager-employee relationships are the most important to the success of a business because they impact every other aspect of operations. Try giving your employee a call and have no agenda. Since you probably already have a working relationship, ask them about how their kid’s play went, how their marathon training is going, or the latest show they are watching.
Have at least one touchpoint that is not work related with each of your employees and continue to build a relationship with them. Of course, remain mindful of the personal boundaries they may individually have and only discuss what they are willing to share. While it may seem like a 10 minute chat can hardly make a difference, studies show that employee performance improves when led by intentionally empathetic leaders focused on building relationships.
2. Send a book from Amazon.
This could be a book that corresponds to their personal interests or one that matches their professional goals. It could be a book that you enjoyed recently. Don’t make it complicated—the book itself does not matter so much as the thought behind it. Bonus points if you include a small note to them letting them know you thought they might enjoy the book but no pressure to read it.
3. Send them home early.
Obviously there are positions for which this does not apply, but for individuals who are required to remain in the office or online until a certain time, tell them to leave a little early as a special treat. Have them set their status to “send any questions to [your name]” and forward their phone to yours. It can mean a lot for an employee to hit the road twenty minutes early on a Friday and start their weekend a little sooner.
4. Share a compliment.
Spread the love by telling an employee an overheard compliment. Pass along the “good gossip” you’ve heard about them or just give them a compliment yourself. Kudos shouldn’t be reserved for performative group settings, make them part of your daily routine.
5. Ask for feedback or help.
It’s one thing to tell employees that you value their input, it’s another to actually stop and ask them for it. What are you working on right now that could benefit from a second opinion? Layout on a cover sheet? Vendor for a birthday cake? A few applicant resumes? When you include your employee’s voice in a decision you make them feel valued and empowered.
6.Go for a walk together.
There is just something about getting out of the office and soaking in the sunshine together. Whether you’re working in the city or closer to nature, a 15 minute break together to just enjoy being outdoors and speak freely can alleviate a lot of tension and spark renewed vigor when you return to the office. And your topic of conversation doesn’t need to be work related, in fact it’s probably better if it’s not (although a walking 1:1 is always a fun shake-up to the usual routine).
7. Introduce them to someone in your professional network.
Good bosses know that developing their team is important, the best bosses connect and train their employees to outgrow their current positions. Networking can provide your employee with opportunities to increase their knowledge and personal development. Facilitating that process is a high-impact, minimal-effort action you can do as their manager. Perhaps your employee hasn’t had the pleasure of meeting a senior VP, maybe a manager of another department would be a good contact, is there a client visiting who works in your employee’s interest area? You never know when you can be the connection an employee needs to take their skills to the next level or that will help them find a mentor.
8. Restock their office supplies.
Sometimes it really is the littlest things. On your way past the supply cabinet stop by and pick up some extra sticky notes, paper clips, and the good pens to deliver to your employee’s desk. If they are WFH, send them a little supply package to replenish their home office. This takes five minutes maximum but is a thoughtful reminder to your employees that you care.
9.Order in (or send out) lunch.
Though this isn’t the most original idea, people still love a free meal! The key to making it a little more meaningful than a stack of pizza boxes in the break room is to target your employees individually. If Chris is vegan shoot him a menu for a local vegan spot and have him pick something out. If you know Amy loves breakfast food order in from an all-day brunch spot. You get the idea. If they’re not in-office have something delivered to their home.
10. Give them a recommendation on LinkedIn.
If you want to give a compliment that is very unexpected and absolutely valued, a LinkedIn recommendation is the way to go. By putting a recommendation in writing for the world to see you are validating the employee and providing social proof of their credentials. And as a bonus for you, the recommendations that you make will appear on your profile as well; those who view your profile will see that you give recognition and care for the progression of your team. Need a starting point? This article can help you out.
11. Sign up for a Campfire.
If you truly want to level up as a manager, our sessions can help you get there. Campfire sessions are 45-minute, guided training sessions with groups of managers just like you. Our goal is to create the best managers ever by providing peer connection, actionable content, and scalable technology. Click here to learn more and sign up to attend a free session.
Now, the best boss in the world isn’t constantly interrupting their employees with gifts and questions. Stagger these “best boss” actions so that you and your employees retain your natural work rhythm; you should balance your efforts so they are not too forced or too frequent while still ensuring that each team member receives some of this special attention. Remember, these are the sprinkles on top of your already great hot chocolate. They aren’t the substantial work you need to do with your employees, but they do advance you from an A to an A+ leader. Then, unlike Michael Scott, you won’t need to buy yourself a World’s Best Boss mug because the title will be inherently earned.