I've had some great bosses and some awful bosses in my professional life. While all of those experiences may not have felt like a great experience in the moment, they did all teach me something about management, teamwork, and effective systems.
Rather than focus on the negative, I thought I'd focus on what my former bosses have all done well... and in particular, what qualities my best bosses all seemed to have in common. It is by studying those who are excellent at what they do that we can become better ourselves.
So here are the qualities of some great bosses from my own professional life and the things I've attempted to emulate as a manager:
They value their employee's professional growth
A good boss chooses employees that are a great fit for the company, the project, the team, etc. However, a great boss will see the benefit in helping employees continue to grow professionally, even if that means they may grow out of your current position.
I had one boss tell me very early on "You're going to get bored in this position after a while, so I want you to think about any special projects that may interest you and let me know when you need to be challenged."
Not only did that discussion boost my confidence and increase my feeling that she believed in me, it also prompted me to seek out more challenging tasks in that current role. As a result, I was able to make a large contribution to a major project within the company. I learned new skills, boosted my resume, and the company got a hard worker who provided some necessary expertise to a specific project.
They take initiative with problem-solving
One sign of a poor manager is constantly reacting to situations. Instead, a good manager will look at the bigger picture and consider all the positives and negatives. They anticipate problems that may arise and have an idea about how to address those problems.
It's important to point out here that this is not something that is always spoken or obvious. Middle managers, for example, often foresee multiple problems in assignments passed down to them but still have to implement such projects.
In these situations, a good boss will plan ahead to tackle those problems and warn their team (as appropriate) about potential concerns so everyone else is prepared. They also know when it is time to communicate those problems, and have at least one possible solution when they present it.
They do whatever needs to be done to complete the project
A good boss doesn't have any qualms about doing the "dirty work" if it's needed to get the job done. That means they may get to the office early so they can bring breakfast and coffee for the team who is scrambling to meet a last minute deadline. They know when to stay late at the office and when to tell their team it's time for a break.
Unfortunately, this also means that a great boss sometimes makes some difficult choices. They may have to let someone go because they are not able to be effective on the team. And they may have to ask their team to invest extra hours right before a holiday. However, they are always a participant when asking their employees to step up and do something uncomfortable.
They advocate for their employee's needs
Whether it's through making sure employees have what they need from a customer, providing training opportunities, or pleading a case with a business partner, good bosses make their employees a priority.
As a boss, your first role is to make sure your team can get the job done.
That means breaking down barriers, improving communication, and filling in when needed. It also means sticking up for your employees when customers may want to put undue blame on them, and giving your employees the benefit of the doubt.
They share information that is relevant
The days of employees simply showing up at work and following orders are over. Blame it on the millennials if you want, but employees are genuinely interested in what is going on at a company and how they contribute to a mission.
This is a great thing!
But it doesn't work well with old school ideas about hiding information from employees. Share the company wins, company losses, struggles, and the reasons for difficult decisions. When you share why you're doing certain things it is much less likely that morale will be impacted by decisions.
Breaking it down
Which of these qualities seems especially important to you? I encourage you to choose one that you feel strongly about and evaluate what you can do now to improve that quality.
Talk with your team to get their feedback, discuss this quality with other business owners and do some research on techniques for improvement. Share in the comments below what you plan to work on and also let us know if you have any helpful tips that aren't listed here!
Want to improve your management skills but not sure where to begin? A Strategy Session might help you identify your strengths and how to maximize them with your team. Click here to schedule your Strategy Session and get actionable tips to make you a better leader today.