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Let’s Talk About Good Bosses


I’ve heard enough talk about Bad Bosses. In the spirit of Appreciative Inquiry, let’s talk about Good Bosses… in a minute.

I recently read an article in USA Today entitled “Careers: 6 common traits of horrible bosses”. I was intrigued by the title. Please take a look. It’s a pretty good read.

While I applaud the author’s effort, in my opinion, Peter Jones got it a little wrong. He did not describe horrible bosses. He simply described Idiot Bosses.

This is an excerpt to which I take exception:

“… in rare instances, you come across a boss who's truly awful. A terrible boss can ruin your life and derail your career.

Ahhhh, so a terrible boss can do all that? No. A terrible boss doesn’t have a clue how to nor a motivation for ruining your career. They don’t care.

But a sneaky boss, a misguided boss, a seemingly good boss, a smart boss can do all that, and you’ll never know.

From an Appreciative Inquiry point of view, rather than throw bosses under the bus (wonder why it’s always a bus? Can it be an ice cream truck, or a Zamboni?) let’s talk about what a good boss looks like.

Ask yourself if your boss does or can do these things…

Does your boss know what you do?

Recently I heard a boss say to a group of co-workers, “Does anybody know what Mary Jane Beth Sue does all day?” in an exasperated sounding voice. Of course, everyone else knew exactly what Mary Jane Beth Sue does and this particular boss just lost a few points. This boss should have met with Mary Jane Beth Sue to better understand the job and the value of the job. A good boss knows what you do.

Can your boss do your job?

A good boss should probably be able to do your job or maybe has already done it. I’m not saying that your boss should be able to do your job as good as you do it, but at the very least, your boss should understand what you do enough to discuss it with you and to learn and help figure-out what you need.

Does your boss advocate for you, help you?

We all have problems in our job. We’re under-informed; we don’t understand an assignment; we’re unclear about priorities. A good boss recognizes obstacles or at least recognizes that you have obstacles and clears your path, helps you be your best. A good boss runs interference for you.

Does your boss honor your work?

Let’s face it, not everyone brings value to their job or to the workplace. A good boss believes in your value. If you’re not providing value, if you’re doing a bad job, a good boss will make sure that you’ve received training and necessary information. If you simply can’t do your job, a good boss will recognize it and will help you move into a different position – within your company or without - more suited to your capabilities instead of continually expecting you to accomplish things that aren’t going to happen.

Help your boss be good!

Several years ago I had a Great Dane. A beautiful, wonderful dog… but a BIG dog. Alongside lots of love came the potential for extreme damage. What I learned - really quickly - is that I had to help my dog be good. If I don’t want my coffee table chewed up, I don’t put it in proximity to the dog. Don’t want my shoes eaten? Don’t leave them out. Etc.

So, while it might not be intuitive or obvious, you need to help your boss be better. If your boss is being goofy or making mistakes, communicate what you believe should be done. A good boss wants to hear from you, wants you to be honest, and will not only listen but will think about and consider what you said. Setting an example will do a lot toward making your boss a better leader.

And Bosses, please don’t forget that your first-line customers are your direct reports.

You don’t manage people.

You manage tasks and capital.

You lead people.

So do it!

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