I’ve been reflecting on what it takes to be a good boss. First of all, I know it’s not easy, but it’s probably the most important component of any successful and satisfying career or professional experience. Ask someone about a negative experience with a job and chances are good you’ll get a lot of emotional reminiscing about a particular boss – the memories are still vivid and can evoke stress even years later. I think we all know a “bad” boss when we experience it, but what are the attributes of a “good” one? Certainly it will vary from person to person, but here are a few that I feel are universal:
- They respect you. Respect can be shown in a myriad of ways, but it is the one thing that is critical for a successful professional relationship. As a worker, you must feel like your work product is valued and contributes to the goals of the organization.
- They see you as an individual. Everyone is different and a good boss will be able differentiate how to interact with each of their staff in a way that works for that individual. It is an important skill to be able to understand how people are motivated and what is important to them – this is where you can find areas of commonality which can strengthen commitment.
- They support your professional development. A supervisor who wants your skills to grow is both a sign of respect and a way of telling you that you are a valued member of the team. Not only does it help them achieve their goals, but it makes it more appealing to stay part of the team for a longer time. Insecurity about seeing someone improve their skills – or even learn something the boss doesn’t know – is not conducive to building relationships.
- They trust you. Trust is a tricky thing – it has to be earned, but there have to be opportunities given in order for people to show they’re trustworthy…tough! But this is a foundational piece to working with someone, and therefore important to cultivate. In this case, perception is just as important reality.
- They listen to you. A professional relationship is not a one-way street. It is critical that a supervisor can listen to, seek out and value your ideas and opinions. If you don’t feel like your views are important, what’s the point?
When you have a truly respectful relationship where both parties feel smart, valued and equitable, the results can be amazing – work can actually be fun! It is important for supervisors to feel secure and to take the time to get to know their staff. When they can model good practices, find out what’s important to you and to be honest, the relationship can grow over time and reap benefits for both parties.
– Libby Bingham