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24 Golden Rules to Being a Great Boss

The skills that got you your new gig may not be enough to help you keep it. If you've just been promoted and don't have a clue about what to do next, these tips from been-there-done-that pros will help you manage like a boss.

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Provide a clear map

It's really hard, if not impossible, for your team to reach a goal if you've never told them exactly what that is. You may think it's obvious but remember, you are the one with the overall vision and the best person to see how it's coming together. Great managers will take the time to write down clear goals and set measurable expectations for each employee, says Alison Green, of the blog Ask A Manager and author of How To Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager.

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Have high expectations and high attentiveness

"The best managers know how to push you toward ambitious goals without getting into the realm of the unreasonable or the unrealistic," Green says. This means not only knowing what your employees are capable of but understanding what they'll need from you to get there. "While good managers have high expectations, they're willing to brainstorm with you about how to meet those expectations, not just assigning you a big goal and then disappearing," she says. Do you know the top quality Steve Jobs looked for in his employees?

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Take a vacation already

You may think that to be a great boss you have to always be the first in and the last out, pushing yourself the hardest, if you want to inspire your team. False, Green says. All humans need rest to do their best work and you are no exception so it's important that your employees see you taking the occasional break, vacation, and, yes, sick day. "If you have a manager who herself never stays home, that usually makes people feel they're expected to do the same—even if the manager doesn't actually feel that way," she explains.

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Confront mistakes immediately—yours and your employees

Don't like confrontation? Join the club. Yet as a manager it's your job to have difficult conversations, especially when it comes to acknowledging and fixing mistakes at work. While it's fine to let a few small, non-critical mistakes slide (no one likes their spelling errors in an email corrected), when it comes to problems that hurt the work, it's important to be proactive in acknowledging your own mistakes and firmly but kindly pointing out those of your employees; then set up a plan to fix them, according to Steve Wang, HR professional, hiring manager, and recruiter. "Whatever you do, do not just sit and wait for the problem to go away on its own," he says.

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See your coworkers as people first, employees second

The members of your team are people, not just cogs in a machine, and great bosses know that a little human kindness and understanding goes a long way. One good way to do this is to ask polite, but not overly personal, questions and then really listen to the answers, says Gina Folk, author of 30 Strategies to Ensure Your Team's Success and creator of the Mentor Up Method. Remembering birthdays or other important events is helpful too. These are the 15 things bosses say they never want to hear again.

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Don't force employees to read your mind

Frequent, quality communication is the key to be a highly effective boss, Wang says. Even if you think of yourself as the strong silent type, it's important to keep your employees and higher-ups in the loop as they may read things into your silence that you don't intend, Wang says. Don't confuse this for micromanaging—the goal isn't to tell everyone what to do all the time—but do keep the lines of communication open, offering feedback and asking for questions or comments.

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Be a manager, not a daycare worker

"Great bosses know that they've hired adults and will treat their employees as such by trusting them to manage their own time and responsibilities," Green says. When you hire good people there's no need to micromanage them, so let your employees do their work their way, she explains. For example, a good boss wouldn't demand a doctor's note when someone's out sick or prohibit telecommuting simply because they don't trust employees to work when they can't see them. Check out these amazing jobs where you get to be your own boss.

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Ask for differing opinions

Presumably, you've hired your people for good reason—they're smart, capable, and talented. Don't let that go to waste with a "my way or the highway" attitude. Instead, great bosses will seek out input on everything from how to perfect a strategy to whether a deadline is realistic and will be open to dissenting opinions, Green says. "Decisions won't always go everyone's way, but a good manager will make sure that people feel heard and respected, and will genuinely want the benefit of hearing perspectives other than their own," she says.

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Follow the 30-second inbox rule

As a boss, you may feel overwhelmed with the number of messages, emails, calls, and other requests people make on your time, yet a great boss will respond in a timely manner, says Monster Career Expert Vicki Salemi. Try this quick shortcut top managers swear by to help you stay on top of everything: If it will take you less than 30 seconds to do, do it right then. Most emails only need a two- or three-sentence reply, so don't waste time putting it off and just answer the message.

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Avoid the water cooler (conversations)

As the boss, you're privy to confidential information that could hurt or help your employees, and while the temptation to engage in a little office water cooler gossip is real, you have a responsibility to stay out of the interpersonal dramas. Gossiping, encouraging fighting, and sharing (or hoarding) secrets all create a toxic office environment which can lose you good employees, Salemi says. These are the 9 signs your employees may not trust you.

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