I have figured out the first step to being a good boss. Don’t be a bad boss and you will be much closer to the target. Wally Bock had a great short post the matter (how not to be a bad boss).
My Project Social partner Laura Schroeder posted on the subject as well. Laura talks about one of her first chain-smoking bosses and some of the good boss tricks she employed.
To the best of my knowledge, I have never been accused of being a good boss so I can only talk about things I have seen other people do that seemed to work well. Food is always good. I think if it is something that has your fingerprints on it, then it means more. I have had supervisor’s fix up a crock pot of soup, stew or bar-b-que and bring it to work for their troops. There is the boss buys pizza day, or one of my personal favorites, the boss brings donuts.
Another little trick in certain parts of the country, is to warm up cars or scrape windshields for your staff on cold winter days. I guess the inverse would work also, in a warmer place by starting employees cars to cool them off.
Another little event is the at work treasure hunt. By hiding things and giving clues you can create a day or week long event, awarding small prizes or tokens for the sleuths on your team who find the booty.
One last idea is the employee showcase, where you let employees show off their work skills in front of their peers, family members or just in public. A couple examples of this are things like a fork lift rodeo where operators are challenged to move a load, from place to place, without error and the tasked is time. Another showcase example might be to have money handlers see who could count a given pile of cash and be accurate in the shortest amount of time.
None of these thing cost much, if anything and if you are worth your salt as a leader you should want to do things periodically to motivate your folks. And if in doing so you can bring yourself down off of any perceived pedestal you will relate much better to your staff.