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Best Bosses

Five leaders who use innovative strategies and rewards to motivate employees.

By Elaine Pofeldt, Fortune Small Business senior editor

NEW YORK (Fortune Small Business) -- You can offer all the benefits in the world, but the one that matters most to employees is a piece of the action.

Of the 18 honorees in Winning Workplaces' fourth annual Best Bosses competition, 14 run companies partly or completely worker-owned.

That reflects a broader trend. The National Center for Employee Ownership estimates that 9,225 companies were offering stock-option plans, stock bonus plans, and profit-sharing plans as of July, up from 7,600 in 1999.

Winning Workplaces is a nonprofit in Evanston, Ill., that helps small-business managers improve their communication skills to make workers more productive and happier.

It assembled a team of respected judges, who culled the 80 applicants by looking at factors such as employee satisfaction ratings and by interviewing workers. The result? Eighteen Best Bosses - 17 from commercial companies and one from a nonprofit.

From companies that offer free gourmet dinners during crunch times to a boss who lends top performers the keys to his convertible, see five of the winners and what makes them stand out.

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How good a boss are you?

For a complete list of winners, go to winningworkplaces.org.

Also see Fortune's Best Companies to Work For. Winners include: Genentech (Charts), Cisco (Charts, Fortune 500), Microsoft (Charts, Fortune 500), Amgen (Charts, Fortune 500) and Intel (Charts, Fortune 500). Top of page

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