Here’s to the great bosses
I’ve recently changed jobs and have a new “boss”. I’m excited for the new opportunity. I think my new director (“boss”) will be great. My one-year anniversary with ISM Canada is quickly approaching and with the recent change in roles I’ve moved from one great boss to another. It seems fitting to reflect on what makes a great boss.
I’ve had many great bosses over my career so far. I think it’s a little different for everyone based on work style and motivational factors. Here’s my list of my top six boss characteristics. What’s on your list?
- Failure is an option. The greatest bosses all let me fail. Well, the not-so-great bosses did too. It’s how they reacted that makes the difference. The great ones reacted with a problem-solving mindset, eager to collaborate, and focused on how to move forward. They had little interest in wasting time with punitive discipline and figuring out who or what to blame. Saying you want to react this way is easy. Experience has shown it’s not so easy to do. Ironically, my greatest successes through-out my career (so far) came in jobs where I had the freedom to fail without fear.
- Empowerment without ego. Looking back, I realize how fortunate I was. I think I had a bigger ego when I was younger and didn’t recognize my lack of experience. I had some really great bosses back then too. They would gently give advice and provide guidance when I was getting a little too passionate and overly confident. They seemed quite content to see me succeed without taking credit. They also solicitated my input, often indicating they have more to learn too. I didn’t fully appreciate how much their support made me successful. I do now.
- Tactful wisdom. The great bosses of my career knew the “lay of the land”; the politics of the situation. They prevented me from stepping on the big “land mines”.
- Mentor. All the great bosses knew their stuff. They had experience, skills and abilities that legitimately qualified them for the jobs they were in. That made them great coaches and mentors. This may seem like a no-brainer, but anyone who has ever worked for a boss that didn’t have the skills and abilities required for their job knows how hard that can make your job, particularly if they lack the other characteristics in this list.
- Not a push-over. The great bosses pushed and challenged. It was sometimes awkward or frustrating getting challenged. In those situations, it was also extremely rewarding when I ultimately did succeed.
- Fun. The great bosses liked to have fun with their teams. I particularly enjoyed when they would open their homes and host social gatherings or organize social outings. When I was a consultant, I felt particularly grateful when my “client boss” would include me in these events.
In my experiences as a boss, I’ve attempted to emulate these characteristics. I know I wasn’t always successful. I’ll keep trying. In the spirit of my “great boss characteristics” I’d like to acknowledge the great bosses I’ve had so far, both formal and informal. I appreciate all you have done for me more than you know.