“David, our key employee Sarah just came to us with another offer she got from one of our key competitors, what should we do?”

If you’ve ever been in this situation where you’re threatened with the loss of a key team member you’ve experienced the pit in your stomach, and the awful fear that spirals through your body.

Over the past decade of working with our business coaching clients we’ve learned one very important lesson–the time to focus on retaining your key team members isn’t after they’ve been approached by a sexy suitor, but rather years before they ever get approached.

Here are our top 16 secrets to being a great boss, one of your key first defenses to retaining your top team members.

I’ve written out this list from the perspective of your employees (hinta great boss regularly sees the world through the eyes of her staff.)

A Great boss…

1. Really listens to me. I’m not talking lip service here, but he really hears what I’m saying and values my input. He doesn’t always agree, but he always respects my ability and intelligence to fully hear me out.

2. Delegates new assignments and the authority to oversee them. She shares interesting projects and doesn’t just keep the good stuff for herself and fob off the rest. Plus, when she asks me to take on a project, she gives me the authority I need so I can do my job without having to go back to her to micromanage every little decision.

3. Fully explains projects. He doesn’t just assume I understand, he gives me concrete direction and establishes clear expectations. If I have questions, he answers them.

4. Cares about my development and growth as an employee. She understands my goals and looks for ways to leverage the work to help me progress on my goals. She proactively asks me what I’m learning and coaches me to grow as a business professional.

5. Encourages me to take risks and grow. He understands that sometimes new projects intimidate me, but he is such a great cheerleader and mentor that I regularly grow beyond my comfort zone. And when I do, he celebrates these milestones with me. I feel supported and seen.

6. Respects me. She sees me as a person, not just a tool to help her meet her goals. She treats me with courtesy, and is also direct with me when the situation is warranted. I know she sees me as capable and able to be trusted with information and to make good decisions when I understand the situation. And when she messes up and snaps, she is quick to own her behavior, apologize, and repair the situation.

7. Gives me credit for work that I’ve done and contributions that I’ve made. In fact, at our last team meeting, he gave me a shout out to our company founder for a key part I played in meeting our delivery deadline. That meant the world to me.

8. Creates a positive work environment. She has helped cut out infighting, “silo-ism”, and snarky emails. At our company, we truly are a team, and she was the catalyst who started this transformation.

9. Knows his job. He is competent; I have so much to learn from him. He does great work himself and I respect his professional abilities.

10. Supports my actions and decisions, even when that means she takes a risk standing up for me in our company. I know that she’s got my back and is my champion.

11. Asks for and listens to my input. He values my ideas and circles back with me to share how my ideas have made a difference when the company implements them.

12. Treats employees fairly. She doesn’t play favorites. She is impartial. She doesn’t allow certain employees (including herself) to take liberties. She holds everyone to the same standards.

13. Gives me specific, timely, constructive feedback on an ongoing basis. He picks his moment to give me coaching (often waiting until I’m ready to hear the feedback.) The fact that he takes the time to give me feedback along the way shows me he cares about me, my work, and wants me to succeed.

14. Inspires me. She doesn’t do this by shouting or clapping her hands, but rather by being someone who’s respect I want to earn and maintain. I admire her and never want to disappoint her. When I come through, and she smiles and says well done, that means the world to me. Plus, I love how she has such high expectations of me; she helps me play at my best. I value being part of her team.

15. Enforces policies equitably. He takes company policy and fairly and humanely applies common sense to the rules so that the outcome is I feel fairly treated. He’s not a blind rule follower, nor is he blinded by some of my charismatic peers.

16. Appreciates my efforts. And she lets me know it, in a myriad of ways. She often gives me specific and concrete verbal praise. When I come through for her, she will even hand write me a card and slip in a small gift card to my favorite coffee shop. One time after I worked all weekend to meet a key deadline, she even sent me and my spouse out to dinner, arranging a sitter for our two kids to say thank you. It felt so good.

For more ideas on growing your business, including a free tool kit with 21 in-depth video trainings to help you scale your business and get your life back, click here.