With rare exception, no matter what position we hold in a company or organization, we all report to someone. That someone directly affects what job function(s) we perform, and often impacts how well we perform them via the training, coaching and tools they provide.
Top companies hire the best managers and provide them with the best tools and training available so that they in turn can provide them for their employees. Ineffective companies and organizations hire or promote people to positions they are ill equipped to handle, and expect “on-the-job” training will enable them to learn what they need to know, while working around the resources they don’t have.
In my professional career I’ve been blessed to have worked for some terrific companies, each of which spent significant resources to provide the tools and training necessary to compete successfully. I’ve also been blessed to have worked for some terrific bosses. While most had completely unique personalities and backgrounds, they shared many of the same skill sets. Following are the skills and attributes they shared and which I believe must be present at a high level in order for someone to achieve the status of being a Really Great Boss:
- Humility: Knowing that we don’t know everything is critical to successfully managing others. A boss who pretends to have all the answers and constantly reminds employees of their lesser status can never inspire an organization to greatness.
- Leadership: Understanding and articulating the mission and vision of the organization while clearly defining success by establishing the goals to be reached and the performance expectations to which every employee is held accountable on a daily basis
- Strong Moral Compass: The organization takes on the character of the leader. Making sure everyone understands they are always expected to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, and refraining from making decisions based on expedience or short term gain.
- Strong Communications Skills: There is no such thing as an information vacuum. People are going to fill the void with something (rumors, misinformation etc.) so communication has to be clear, concise and ongoing. If the company is doing well, communicate that fact. If times are tough, let folks know what’s being done to make improvements. Clearly communicating goals, expectations and standards of behavior is critical.
- Expert Recruiter: Success breeds success. Strong candidates are drawn to strong organizations that are growing and offer opportunity. Great bosses aren’t afraid to hire people who are smarter or more knowledgeable than they are, and they don’t wait until they have an opening to interview candidates.
- Great Bosses Manage Up and Down, and to a large degree protect their employees from all the “great’ ideas generated by upper management. Everything doesn’t need to roll downhill.
- Strong Listening Skills: Problems and opportunities are uncovered fastest if the people directly involved are encouraged to articulate them. Listening equals learning.
- Excellent Coaching Skills: Employees need constant, individual feedback as to what’s working and what isn’t. Identifying areas for improvement and providing the tools and training required are paramount to the success of any organization.
- Consensus Builder: “Because I said so” works even less with employees than it does with kids. Making sure everyone understands what the challenges and opportunities are, and getting buy in from as many people as possible is the only way to keep all of the stakeholders on board. Great Bosses respect their employees and their opinions.
- Don’t Play Favorites: Exceptions can be made when warranted, but everyone has to believe that all are equal and that the rules apply to everyone.
- Smart: Great Bosses know a lot, and they’re also smart enough to know what they don’t know and are committed to life-long learning. They’re also willing to surround themselves with people who know more than they do.
- Organized: Establishing priorities and maintaining an orderly work flow is critical. Great Bosses just like great organizations know what needs to be done and in what order based on established operational procedures and are willing to adjust to changing business conditions.
- Empathetic: Great Bosses truly care about their employees and their customers and work hard so that both groups of people are successful. They care about their employees (and their families) as people and build relationships.
- Get their hands dirty: Great Bosses get out of their offices as often as possible. By working side by side with staff members they get a first-hand understanding of the issues and opportunities.
- Praise in Public, Correct in Private: Great Bosses deflect accolades for themselves, while looking for opportunities to give staff members credit wherever and whenever it is due. They allow their employees to shine when warranted while always addressing any issues one on one.