Thank you to everyone who sent us birthday wishes on October 15! We’re proud that Red Velvet Events just turned 17 years old, and we are so excited about what the future will bring for us in the next year.

But like a lot of us do when facing a birthday, I have been looking back while also thinking about the future. I have been contemplating my own work as a boss and how to take my leadership to the next level and hopefully make the next 17 years for Red Velvet Events even more amazing than the first 17.

While I offer many leadership insights and tips in my book, I also recognize that the best bosses are always learning. In that spirit, I am sharing five best practices for managers that I have learned recently and how I am applying them today.

Best Practice 1: Live Your Culture
If you lead or work at a successful company, chances are you can easily define your company culture. Many companies have core values that they emphasize and promote, which align closely with their culture.

Unfortunately, some companies do not take the steps they need to take to make their culture a real part of the employee experience. They clearly define their company culture, but they do not practice it at the top level or create an environment where employees feel like they can practice it. For example, some companies say they have a culture that values giving people time off to rest and recharge – but if they rarely approve personal time off requests, are they really living their culture?

Action is the key distinction between a company that lives its culture and a company that does not. Bosses have to lead their organizations in a way that emulates their values. In other words, they have to practice what they preach.

What I have learned in my 17 years at Red Velvet Events is that I need to show our team that my expectations are not just things I say – they are also things I do.

It is just one example of walking the walk of our company culture, and I know that it starts with me. If I do not practice it, no one will.

Best Practice 2: Set Expectations
When new employees come on board at any job, they learn about their job responsibilities and their boss’ expectations. But within those expectations can be a lot of gray area. How do they figure out how to prioritize? What context clues do they see and hear that make them think some projects are urgent when they’re not, or vice-versa?

Over the years, I have learned that I sometimes accidentally make our team think projects are urgent when they are not – and that is my mistake. I can talk very fast and be energetic, and I have found out that some employees think my tone and speed of talking means they need to drop everything and focus on one thing.

Because of this feedback, I have learned to clearly state when something is an urgent rush job and when it is a medium priority. It has saved everyone a lot of time and headaches – especially new employees!

Best Practice 3: Check In
I check in with our employees on a frequent basis. I want to know if they are feeling good about where they are and give them the chance to ask for assistance if they need it.

For some employees that have worked in more corporate environments, this can feel a little like micromanaging or can give the impression that I do not trust our team members. However, the opposite is true. I trust our employees tremendously, and I recognize how hard it can be to ask for help sometimes. That is why I want them to know that I care, and I am here to help them work through any challenging parts of their projects.

Once they understand how my check-in process works, they tend to feel more comfortable bringing up issues and questions to me, and I know they will ask for the help they need when they need it.

Best Practice 4: Have A, B, and C Conversations
Recently, I learned about the ABC method of communication. I am finding it incredibly helpful when working with our team (and even my own family). It is a quick and easy way to make sure everyone is on the same page about a conversation, so no one walks away feeling misunderstood or like their time was wasted.

Now when someone comes to me, I ask if they want to have an A, B, or C conversation:
A: “I just want to vent.”
B: “I want to vent, and I do want you to ask questions if you have them.”
C: “I want to vent, and I want you to ask questions and give me advice.”

As a manager, I have spent a fair amount of time assuming that employees wanted a C conversation when sometimes they just wanted an A or B conversation. It was with good intentions – I just want to help our team as much as I can! – but, again, it could be inefficient and unhelpful.

By learning the ABC communication tool and utilizing it at work, it has helped me become a better manager. It has also helped our team feel like they are getting exactly what they need when they come talk to me. Everyone wins!

Best Practice 5: Know Your Weaknesses
The last best practice I want to share is one that can be tough for every company leader, because it involves an honest examination of your own weak points.

To truly set your company and your team up for success, it is crucial to recognize where your strengths and weaknesses are as a manager. If you feel like you are falling short in some area, you need to find and hire managers who can fill in those gaps for you and help lead the team in the most effective way possible.

Small business owners often operate under the assumption that they truly have to do everything themselves. But just because you founded the company does not mean you will excel in running every single part of it. Recognize where you fall short, then hire people who can help with those areas.

Best Practice Makes Perfect
If you are a boss, I hope you have found these best practices helpful. If you have additional ones you would like to share, I would love to read them in the comments section.

If you are not a boss (yet), I hope this blog post has given you some insight into what is needed to become a successful company leader – and I hope it has made you appreciate the good bosses in your life. Don’t forget to tell them thank you, whether on Boss’ Day or year-round. They will be grateful that you appreciate their hard work!