We’ve all collected boss horror stories throughout our careers that make us cringe. Stories where our boss has taken credit for our work, thrown us under the bus or didn’t recognize us for our efforts. But what about the stories where you’ve had a boss truly mentor you and guide you on the upward path of your career? What are the qualities and characteristics that make these leaders stand out from their not-so-great counterparts?
Throughout my professional experience and the different leaders I’ve had the opportunity to work with, I’ve identified 6 specific qualities that make up a great boss:
1 – They freely share knowledge & resources – Nothing is worse than a leader that worries if they share their knowledge & resources that they will be “giving it all away” and decreasing their own value. The best leaders know that this is far from the truth. An individual’s value is made up of that person’s unique perspective and specific experiences that aided in their knowledge gaining. When you find a leader that openly shares their know-how and the resources they use to maintain that know-how, you know you’ve found a keeper.
2 – They give credit where credit is due – Good bosses know that when their team members are successful, that success is in part a direct reflection of their leadership. Knowing this, these good bosses aren’t stingy when advocating the great work done by their direct reports. They openly discuss and highlight these wins across their organizations, creating a culture where employees are motivated in their work, knowing they will receive credit for their successful outputs.
3 – They humanize themselves and their experiences – Sharing stories of success are great, but when leaders share stories of their success AND their failures they become truly inspiring. Every career path is a bit bumpy and filled with wrong turns & missteps. When senior leaders are open about their own wrong turns, they humanize themselves and in turn create culture where risk-taking is welcome, failures aren’t considered the end-of-the-world and honesty is a core value.
4 – They forgive you on your “off” days – Even after credibility, trust and quick wins are under your belt, there are still going to be days where you can’t come up with a single good idea, you feel completely overwhelmed or your work on a particular project is sub-par. Great bosses understand this and recognize that there are going to be off days. The best bosses are transparent about their own off days and aren’t quick to judge your overall performance on these days.
5 – They believe in a life outside of work – Gone are the days where coming in early, staying late and working all weekend are a badge of honor. As the work landscape has evolved and millennials have become a predominant part of the work place, so has the importance of having a life outside of work. When leaders emphasize the importance of spending time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies outside of work and taking time to relax and recharge (not just through words, but through the example of prioritizing these things themselves) employees report being much happier not only in their work but with the companies they work for. An article in the Pacific Standard says it best:
“When employees have time to spend on their hobbies, connect with friends and family, and volunteer for a great cause, they come to the office re-charged and ready to make a difference. They are more creative at work and less likely to leave the company to pursue other opportunities because they know we care and they value the culture we’ve built.”
6 – They focus on your strengths – While all of us have professional areas we’d like to grow in, it’s much more powerful and efficient when the work we’re doing falls into our areas of strengths. Gallup’s 2015 Strengths Analysis Study shows that:
“Strengths-based development has a significant effect on key performance outcomes. Organizations that invest in strengths-based development achieve as much as a 29% increase in profit.”
When managers focus on employee strengths rather than weakness, not only does employee engagement increase but side effects of happiness and productivity are sure to follow.
While not all leaders encompass the above qualities, the ones that do are the ones that will have the most impact on your career. Have a boss in your life that exemplifies all of these traits? Thank them for their commitment to your success and show appreciation for their investment in you.