Updated: Mar 25
In the corporate world, there is one person that has the power to make your work experience something you look forward to every day, or well...a living hell. That person is your manager.
We’ve probably all heard horror stories involving a sadistic, lazy, incompetent, and all the while demanding boss that ruined someone’s life at work, or their life period.
But we don’t nearly hear enough stories about the great bosses. In fact, between 13-36% of American workers report that they have a dysfunctional (abusive, inept, malicious, etc.) manager.
Honestly, I can probably write a book based on my own experiences, let alone all my friends and family’s stories combined. But that wouldn’t be news to anyone, would it? The truth is, it’s easy to be a bad manager, and very difficult to be a great boss. I sometimes think that, perhaps by default, if we don’t try hard, we are all bad managers.
This is what brings me to today’s post: Let’s talk about the qualities that actually make a great boss. In my 10 years + of having a corporate and start'up career, I’ve had my share of bad as well as great bosses. But almost every single one of my manager has qualities that I respected and appreciated. I reflected on my experience working with all these managers (and perhaps wondered what they wished I’d known but they wouldn’t tell me…) and came up with a few signs that indicate you actually have a great boss at work.
1. He/She asks you for your opinion in your area of expertise and values your expertise
It’s an incredibly empowering thing when your manager defers to you in areas of your expertise. One great boss of mine always managed to do this to give me opportunities to shine and to have the chance to make an impact instead of telling me what to do.
2. He/She expects a lot from you and trusts in your ability to complete things
It’s not that they're simply laisser-faire and doesn’t like to interfere with your day-to-day. A great boss actually expects a lot from you. He/She knows that you will put 100% into everything you do and that you will deliver on time. A great boss doesn’t need to constantly check in with you, ask if you’re making progress, or monitor how you’re doing things. They simply trust you to deliver when the results are due.
3. He/She protects his/her people from outside criticism but delivers it individually and tactfully when needed
This is an important characteristic in a manager if they want a loyal team with members that trust him/her. They shield the team from others who have directly negative feedback or criticism to the team’s performance. But this protectiveness doesn’t mean he/she would never deliver criticism. A great boss will still let you know where you need to improve, but the feedback is delivered tactfully, purposefully, and with context.
4. He/She respects her employees’ time
This is a big one for me, personally. A great boss is a good time-manager and respects everyone’s time around her. They show up to meetings on time, know what the meeting is about and don't rely on you for a summary, they don't add you to very-last minute meetings when you're not prepared and expect you to "wing it", don’t set up excessively long meetings, and always has an agenda for the meetings. He/She also shields the team from outside projects that are time-sucks or with unclear/indefinite timelines.
5. You look forward to your 1:1 meetings
As an extension of sign #4, a great boss makes sure your 1:1 meetings are productive and your time together is well utilized. This means when you have questions, he/she has solutions, or at least suggestions. This means he/she is an insightful and intentional person and that she respects your time. 1:1 are not always postponed or canceled and rescheduled. That clearly makes the employee feels like they are not a priority.
6. He/She makes it a point to always talk about your development & goals and how you are progressing toward them
If there is one quality that all of the great bosses have, it’s this one. At the end of the day, managers manage people, and people need the motivation to keep performing, improving, and evolving. A great boss works with his/her employees to craft ways to be motivated, i.e. set up development goals. Even when you’re not 100% clear on what your career goals are, a great boss would guide your thinking and help you find your goals.
7. He/She creates an environment such that the team can thrive in
A great boss creates a strong team. He/She knows how to provide social glue and bring people together without forcing! There is nothing worst than a boss trying to force on social interaction. They bring people closer instead of pushing them farther apart, naturally and organically.
8. He/She always makes time for you and is there when you need, within a reasonable timeframe
A great boss doesn’t push your meetings off indefinitely or tell you “I don’t have time” without hearing you out first. A great boss is there for his/her employees in times of need, whether it be with a meeting or a simple phone call. This, however, requires that they are a good manager of their own time, to begin with.
9. He/She supports your career moves even if it means you move away from his/her team
This isn’t just about being selfless, or caring, and empathetic about others’ goals. A great boss knows that the ultimate job is to develop a person as a whole, and not just to develop a member of the team. Any person’s development, if it goes well, will surely extend beyond what his/her team’s function requires of any person on the team. If he/she sees this, will be supportive and happy for you when you one day tell them that you have to pursue bigger or different goals or simply goals that don’t fall within his/her specific team.
Does reading this list make you appreciate your current boss more? Did you just realize you have a pretty decent boss yourself? Tell me more below in the comments section!