The "To Do" List Every Boss Should Have

Posted on April 16, 2013.

People like lists. It helps to summarize the complexity of life. You don’t have to listen to all the music out there because iTunes or Amazon gives you the top 10 or 50 downloads, movies or books.  And there are thousands of lists of what managers and entrepreneurs should and shouldn’t do every day and now even on the weekends. 

So I thought I’d take a different tack and help you create your own list- one that helps you become a better person, not just a better manager or owner.

When I was still in the corporate world, I would never leave the office without making a “to do” list for the next day.   Most of the items on the list were the usual stuff: clients to call, reports to review or produce, appraisals to get done. Now that I’ve been gone for a while, I can look back more objectively and think about some of the more intangible items I wish I had consistently put on the list:

1.    Find someone to compliment.  Seek out that person who never toots their own horn, who is viewed as the “worker bee” in the office and give them some positive feedback.   Complimenting someone who is consistently overlooked will spread positivism like wildfire in the office

2.    Don’t judge people.  This is really hard for managers and entrepreneurs to pull off. It’s in our DNA to have strong opinions about just about everything and everybody..  But keep the opinions to the work. Even if you have a low performing employee, it’s about their work product not what kind of person they may be.

3.    Take time to breathe. Since I retired from the rat race, I’ve been fortunate enough to practice yoga and mediation.   The irony is that I should have been doing this when I was at the peak of my stress.  No matter how busy you may be, take 5 minutes to sit quietly and just breathe. Block out all the “noise”.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly your stress level will go down. 

4.    Listen.  This one is on a lot of lists for a reason. Bosses love to talk and give orders.  It takes a deliberate effort to stop and really listen to what your employees and your customers have to say.  Everyone wants a voice.  Feeling like you’re not part of something is a major reason employees disengage.

5.    Don’t React. One of the hardest things to do when confronted with a problem or crisis is to jump in and solve it. Take the time to fully investigate the situation, hear all sides, get input from others and then make your decision.  If possible, challenge the people involved with solving the problem themselves. This is a great motto to just stick on your computer as a constant reminder.

6.    Be kind.  Everyone can have a bad day, but when the boss has a bad day, it trickles through the office like a contagion.  Check your bad mood at home and no matter what, treat people with respect and kindness.

The great thing about these “to dos” is they don’t take up a lot of your time.   If you do them consistently every day, you not only change your own behavior but the behavior of the people around you. 

I started this blog before the news about the Boston Marathon bombings. In light of this tragedy, I feel this list is more important than ever. Work doesn’t always  have be about  the work, but it’s always about the people.