We’ve all had our share of good and bad bosses through the years. A good buddy of mine, after years as a successful consultant, is going to work for a company as the head of marketing. To support him in the role—or any boss for that matter—I thought it would help to provide a list of qualities and behaviors of a great boss.
Real-life examples from my own career go further than simply being a boss that is fair or smart (although those qualities can be difficult to find). I invite you to leave your experiences (good and bad) in the comments section.
The Best Boss
- Earns Respect: Understands that title alone doesn’t grant respect. Respect is earned. And the fastest way to get respect from your team is to respect them first.
- Never Belittles: Criticizes in private. Praises in public. A good boss doesn’t reprimand employees in front of other people. Growth comes from constructive feedback. Tearing someone apart in front of their peers kills morale and says more about your need to wield power than help your employee.
- Stays Grounded: She doesn’t let having an executive assistant and a corner office let her forget what it was like in the cubicle trenches. She remembers and is willing to roll up her sleeves.
- Stands By Me: Shows loyalty and support. When someone from another department has a complaint about one of your workers, a good boss listens to get a clear understanding of what happened, then speaks with that person before forming judgment.If you were out of line, she’ll have you fix the situation. If you were in the right, she’ll return to the person who complained to set things straight.
- Respects the Role: Despite what they show on Mad Men, your employees won’t respect you if you leap out of your chair to poke your head out your office door to check-out a co-worker as she walks by. It is also really out of line to sleep with your department’s human resources representative. (True story, by the same boss.)
- Keeps Distance, But Is Always Near: Sometimes, an employee needs micro-management. When they don’t, stay out of the way. However, like a life-ring at the pool, be nearby when you are needed.
- Sets You Up for Success: While a good boss may push and challenge you, he won’t throw you to the wolves or sharks. He has realistic expectations of what can and needs to be done, and sets you up for success.
- Is a Bulldozer: A great boss clears a path for her employees. If there is a new well-thought and well-planned program that may get resistance from another department, she works to clear the path for the program.
- Support Themselves: The best boss hires an awesome Executive Assistant and treats them like gold. Truth is, bosses don’t run companies, assistants do. Their skill to serve as air traffic controller for your team and busy schedule is critical.
- Sets The Example: Actions speak louder than words. A “do as I say, not as I do” approach may not work. For example, if you want your team to respect deadlines, lead by example.
- Plays To Our Strengths: Knows his department well enough to form teams of people with complimentary skills.
- Teaches: Be a boss your team can learn from. You don’t have to know all the answers. It’s enough to know where to find the answers.
- Doesn’t Air Dirty Laundry: If there is a problem or dysfunction among the team, this is information and a situation that should be handled within and among the department—perhaps behind closed doors. Don’t expose co-workers, internal customers, or clients to your problems.
- Knows “The Five Work Languages”: This riffs off the book by Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages. Chapman describes, in personal relationships, there are five ways we speak and understand how expressions of love. They are:
- words of affirmation
- quality time
- receiving gifts
- acts of service
- physical touch
Though you may appreciate “words of affirmation” as an expression of love, your partner may prefer to spend “quality time” as a measure of love. Common understanding of these leads to more fulfilled relationships.
These can be reapplied at the office as The Five Work Languages. (I think there is a book idea here!)
These categories match with what a boss should look for in their employees.
- words of affirmation (Tell me I’m doing a good job.)
- quality time (Take time out of your schedule for me.)
- receiving gifts (Show me the money.)
- acts of service (Do something for me that requires thought, planning, time energy and effort.)
- physical touch (Thank me with a handshake or pat on the back.)
- Dishes the Inside Scoop: Most companies require employees to be able to manage certain levels of change and ambiguity. Reorganizations, layoffs, and new departmental structures can throw hard-working employees into a spin.One boss used to call an “emergency meeting” when something fairly major was going to happen within the organization. She probably would have gotten in trouble for sharing what she knew before the company-wide general announcement. But, she respected (and trusted) us to provide us with the inside scoop. Her goal was to have us better prepared when the announcement took place.Instead of being in a panic when the change was announced, we already had time to think about it (just as she had) and were able to prepare—mentally and logistically. We didn’t waste time in a panic; we put the knowledge into immediate action.
- Recognizes And Rewards: A great boss knows the job well enough, they appreciate the work it take for an employee to do it right.It can be very deflating, for an employee who works their butt off, to accomplish a huge project simply to have the boss fluff-off the effort.
- Gives Credit and Takes Blame: When things are going well, she recognizes the efforts of her team. When things get messed up, she accepts responsibility to make it right.
- Replaces Themselves: One goal of a great boss is to develop employees to be their successor. You’ll never be able to promote if there is no one to fill your shoes.
- Builds Bench Strength: While developing a successor, they are also building up a manager for a director role. While making sure specialists are ready to move into the manager role.
- Is a Gardener: Great bosses grow great employees. They develop their team. They measure themselves by how much they’ve grown their team.
- Pushes: The best boss pushes you. They know what you’re capable of, and ask for a bit more. This helps you grow.
Kevin, I hope this helps you. I invite everyone to join in. Please add your experiences below. Perhaps, start your comments with either @GOOD BOSS or @BAD BOSS so we can sort through the advice.