Is there any movie cliché more overused than the angry, unpleasant boss? Think about Gordon Gecko from Wall Street or Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. Heck, even Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol and Darth Vader from Star Wars were terrible, mean bosses.
Sure, there are plenty of nasty employers out there, but most entrepreneurs and small-business owners are good people. Just because the business world can sometimes be cutthroat, there’s no need to lose your ethics or your kindness when you walk into the office.
As Marcus says, “Don’t compromise who you are.” But, what makes a good business person? Simply put, it’s honesty, empathy, forgiveness, and accountability. Here’s how you can be yourself, implement these four key traits, and thrive.
Being a Good Person is Good Business
Former CEO of Kaiser Permanente, George Halvorson, has a saying. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” (Reiss, 2020).
A positive work culture keeps employees happy and productive, which will make your job easier and more enjoyable and can even help your sales. Marcus tells us that, “If the employee is happy, then the chances of the customer being happy are exponentially better.” When a boss goes out of their way to be a kind person, they’re setting the tone for the whole office. Molding your employees in your upright, strong image is what makes a good business person.
The easiest way to create a positive culture in your office is to keep things consistent. Treat every employee and client in the same way: with manners, respect, humor, and dignity.
Some relationships will be different based on personality types or senses of humor, but those four elements should always remain because that’s what makes a good business person. When employees come to work every day and know that they will be treated well by a boss who isn’t playing favorites, they’ll be happy to put in a full day’s work.
This was a tough lesson for the owner of a catering company in Chicago. When Marcus wanted to invest in his company, he noticed how the owner managed his employees. When things got hot in the kitchen, the owner got hotter. From his high temper and shouting to having overall control issues, Marcus helped this owner realize that he was letting personal issues of his past affect him professionally – to the detriment of everyone around him. If you stay positive, treat your employees with respect, and do good for them (and do good by them), they will do good for you. Keep in mind that a little good goes a long way.
Clients should be treated with the same amount of respect given to employees, but not more. Yes, we’re serious. Sure, their money pays the bills, but your employees deliver the product. Without your product, you have nothing. As usual, Marcus boils it down concisely. “The customer is not No. 1 to me. They’re No. 2, right behind the employee.”
An added benefit to treating everyone in your world as equals is that customers will notice. Today, with services like Glassdoor, an employee review site, disgruntled employees can impact an unkind entrepreneur’s business with a simple web post. Don’t give anyone an opportunity to say that you prioritize sales over relationships.
You’re a Good Person, Here’s How to be Even Better
Show That You Care
- Your customers and employees are people. Show them empathy and treat them as human beings, not checks coming in and wages going out. Clients are more loyal to kind people.
- You have two ears and only one mouth, so listen more than you speak. Please keep an open mind about what others are telling you and put yourself in their shoes. Empathy is what makes a good business person.
- Build bridges, not walls. No small-business owner or manager should feel above their employees or clients. Share your experiences, your tastes, and your opinions. As Marcus says, “It’s OK if people know the truth about you. Employees will work harder for you and customers will understand you.” Eyeglass sales company Warby Parker inspires their employees to get to know each other by occasionally sending random employees out to lunch with one another. (Patel, 2015). That’s an easy, innovative way to build camaraderie.
Consistency Builds Routines
- Treating your employees and friends with the same respect as your customers has long been a hallmark of the Japanese management style. They realized long ago that being consistent in your relationships is what makes a good business person.
- Nobody should feel like they’re putting on a mask when they enter their workplace, not even a boss who has to interact with countless people all day. Your consistent, kind, empathetic persona should be a reflection of the real-life you. If you find yourself wanting to do a little more to better yourself, look into self-improvement books, seminars, or web classes from reputable sources such as SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management. You can use what makes a good business person to make yourself into a better person.
You’re Better at Being You Than Anyone Else
- The key to building a profitable business and healthy relationships is authenticity. Sometimes, that takes courage. When everyone else in your industry is doing something one way, but your gut tells you to do it differently, you’re going to have to decide to believe in yourself. Listen to Marcus. “Get comfortable being your true self. Do it at the risk of being criticized.”
- Care about your people and be honest with them. Your opinions are valid and authentic. Being honest doesn’t have to mean that you pull your punches. You shouldn’t sugarcoat your criticism, but you should offer solutions as readily as you hand out disapproval.
- You are 100% in charge, so you have to give 110% effort. Marcus tells entrepreneurs all the time that “A successful business owner subscribes to one theory: They show up first, and they leave last.” Your strong work ethic should also extend to working on your authenticity. You have the most invested in your company as the boss, so put in the leg work and keep improving.
Talk the Talk, Then Walk the Walk
- Each of your employees comes from a different background. Their lives are what makes them unique, and your team has to feel like you understand them. Joe Hart, CEO of Dale Carnegie Training, explains what it means to understand your employees’ lives in a professional setting. “It doesn’t matter the country, language, race or religion, we wanted people to come together around our strong values.” (Reiss, 2020). Celebrate the diversity in your office while bringing everyone back to your company’s ethos.
- It’s easy as a boss to think of a lofty goal and then hand off the responsibility to someone from your team. What makes a good business person is the ability to empathize with your employees and understand what they do so you can correctly value their time. Take some time to sit down with a different person every week and shadow them as if you were a new-hire for their position.
- Be realistic with your team. Balanced workloads prevent staff from feeling overburdened. Just as each employee is different, their ability to handle levels of stress will be different. Some can take a lot. Some can’t. What makes a good business person and manager is knowing your team well enough to realize their potential without overloading them.
Five Days a Week, Your Team is Your Family, Socialize With Them
- Didn’t you love it when you were a kid and your family would give you a birthday or graduation card? One management trick that’s easy to do and will put you in the good graces of your employees is to pick up a stack of congratulatory cards the next time you’re in the grocery store and store them in your drawer. When someone on your team has a particularly good day or gives an excellent presentation, jot down your appreciation for their work and leave it on their desk.
- Everybody loves a good party, especially when it’s celebrating the end of a big project. By giving your employees an hour or two to breathe, reflect on their peers’ work and sacrifices, and come together as a team, you’re turning the pressure valve down to zero and encouraging bonding. If you make the parties a routine, then it gives people something else to look forward to.
- Congratulatory gifts don’t have to be big. If one of your employees’ work merits something more than a card but less than a company-wide celebration, consider giving them something like a free lunch, a month of free coffees at the café down the street, or early dismissals on Fridays next month. As Marcus says, “People will work for recognition and opportunity more than they’ll work for anything else.
Be the Quarterback and the Cheerleader
- You decide the big play calls. You also motivate your team to be the best they can be. What makes a good business person is their ability to train their employees to succeed everywhere, not just their current job. If you’ve given a loyal employee a space with a positive culture where they’re treated as equals, then they will want to stay. Once a year, Amazon, the online retail behemoth, offers their full-time associates working in their fulfillment centers $5,000 to leave the company. They only want people who want to be there. (Umoh, 2018). Good bosses are willing to pay to have a business full of loyal workers.
- Be generous with your time and your expertise. The more skills your employees have, the more they can help your business. Plus, having a good boss who is bighearted and willing to help will assist with employee retention. Good bosses are hard to find. As Marcus often says, “There is no being generous to a fault. Because there is no fault in being generous.”
People and Principles Come Before Profit
Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but you can set yourself up for success, no matter the difficulty, by doubling down on your values. Your business is a reflection of you. There’s no need to pretend to be the wolf of Wall Street. You’re the hero of this movie, and you can be the good boss employees dream of working for. It’s just like Marcus says. “It is OK in business, no matter what anybody tells you, to be yourself.”
- Are you one of the good guys?
- How do you show your team that you care?
Patel, S. (2015, August 6). 10 examples of companies with fantastic cultures.
Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249174
Reiss, R. (2020, July 15). Top CEOs agree that culture is the key before, during and after crisis.
Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertreiss/2020/07/15/top-ceos-agree-that-culture-is-the-key-before-during-and-after-crisis/#40a1ab342cb2
Umoh, R. (2018, May 21). Why Amazon pays employees $5,000 to quit.
Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/21/why-amazon-pays-employees-5000-to-quit.html