Career Advice, Watercooler

What Makes a Good Boss

While the perfect boss – like the perfect person – may not exist, “good” bosses do! For those managers who haven’t yet grasped the behaviors exhibited by their more venerated leadership colleagues, read on. The following seven tips provide insights on how you can become a good boss, too:

1. A good boss makes their employees feel valued.

It is not enough to smile or use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’; although, both of those behaviors are commendable and courteous.

In addition to reflexive appreciation, a good boss will take additional measures to prove they believe in the employee’s value. For example, a good boss will take a few moments after a particular grueling project and handwrite a thank you or personalize an email to reflect on how the employee shined. This could include denoting specific areas of team leadership, crediting them with performance improvements or could pinpoint a specific skill the individual employed without which the project would have likely failed.

2. A good boss can take the commendation a step further and link an employee’s efforts to something bigger and better that has arisen from their work.

For example, if they helped spearhead a new technology initiative that saved the front-line customer service reps time in responding to repetitive inquiries, then a good boss can delve into the metrics and provide proof of productivity improvement. This is especially valuable if the employee doesn’t have access to the data and can leverage the information for self-marketing.

3. A good boss will be interested in employees’ development, even if that means developing employees in ways that seemingly compete with their own job.

For example, if the boss is generally accountable for spearheading a particular customer event, but they know the employee has an interest in meeting planning, they can delegate this initiative to the employee. The value-add to the boss is freeing up time for their own career-stretch initiatives.

4. A good boss is sensitive to those individuals on the team who struggle.

While in some instances, a struggling employee may simply need to be reassigned to a right-fit role, in other instances, it is a lack of training and development. A good boss knows when it is the latter and initiates help.

For example, perhaps new technology has an employee stumped; offering to send them to a training seminar may be the answer. Or, if several employees are clamoring for assistance, then bringing a trainer onsite may be the solution. Taking the time to ferret out the right course of action to defray employee frustration will empower staff while also showing, through action, that the boss values them enough to invest this way.

5. A good boss gives an employee credit in front of their boss.

While it may be easy to slip into a “We delivered this” manner of speaking, a boss who specifically exudes an employee’s praises in front of their boss (i.e., the boss’ boss) elevates attitudes. 

By sharing that “Amy Leonard” took the lead on this profitable product development project that led to XX% revenue growth in ABC Division, and shining a spotlight on the employee’s individual value, a good manager gains points, securing the employee’s faith that what they do matters to both their boss and to the company.

6. A good boss lets go.

In other words, when a boss delegates a task or project to their employee, they let go of the reins. While this does not mean abandoning the employee should they need resources, tools or other support, it does mean the boss will not presume weakness and begin interjecting themselves into the day-to-day project execution.

In other words, when a boss delegates a task or project to their employee, they let go of the reins. While this does not mean abandoning the employee should they need resources, tools or other support, it does mean the boss will not presume weakness and begin interjecting themselves into the day-to-day project execution.

Micromanagement is a palpable way to devalue employees. By dispensing of the over-the-shoulder watching and replacing it with a regularly scheduled ‘update’ session, the employee is both empowered and liberated to do what they do well – what they were hired to do.

7. A good boss encourages risk-taking.

While this can be easier said than done, especially when it involves investing real money into an initiative that hasn’t been proven to perform, encouraging risk-taking can be one of the most effective ways to demonstrate an employee is valued.

While this can be easier said than done, especially when it involves investing real money into an initiative that hasn’t been proven to perform, encouraging risk-taking can be one of the most effective ways to demonstrate an employee is valued.

Whether the risk initiative is one suggested by the employee or is an idea spawned by the boss, being open to shedding the safety net from time to time is imperative.

For example, perhaps an employee is inspired to launch a new marketing channel that involves time and resources to build a new website and other media. After determining that their reasoning is legitimate, and calculating that it is affordable, perhaps a stamp of approval is in order. Regardless if the project is a success or not, the employee will feel their boss valued their ideas and capabilities. As well, they will realize that the boss is behind them, no matter what the outcome.

Finally, to be a great boss, you have to be at the forefront of thought leadership and timely topics around building employee engagement, and subscribing to the Glassdoor for Employers blog is a great way to do it.