12 Most Appealing Boss Behaviors

12 Most Appealing Boss Behaviors

Great bosses, like great coaches, get the most out of their players. If you’re lucky enough to work for one, it means you’ll develop skills more quickly, develop skills you never thought you had, advance in your career, and if you’re really lucky, enjoy coming to work every day.

Here are the 12 most appealing boss behaviors — behaviors appealing not only to a boss’s direct reports, but also to the bosses of the boss.

1. Wants you to succeed

A great boss takes great satisfaction in helping an employee achieve results. This foundational aspect of the relationship is, more than anything, what builds the employee’s self-confidence, loyalty and passion for the job. In contrast, a boss who wants to keep the employee down and hog the spotlight creates a team of underachievers who will leave for greener pastures at the first opportunity.

2. Always has time to talk

Just as great salespeople make you feel like you’re their only customer, great bosses make you feel like you’re their only responsibility. The door is always open. No issue is too pressing to distract their attention from the problem you are discussing, no matter how trivial it may seem. This is smart business. If the boss doesn’t appear to care about the employee’s problems, why should the employee care?

3. Turns mistakes into teaching opportunities

A great boss doesn’t scream at you in the heat of battle for something you’re in the midst of screwing up. All that accomplishes is emotional flare-ups, shame and resentment. Instead, a great boss takes you aside later, in a period of calm, and goes over what happened. Part of that conversation may indeed be unpleasant, but you’ll come away knowing how to do better next time. Instead of fearing the next challenging situation, you’ll welcome it.

4. Keeps you on your toes

Because great bosses want you to succeed, they don’t mind giving you tough love. They’ll push you to do better, point out mistakes and poke around in your business to make sure you’re putting in the hours and not taking shortcuts. A great boss I had even went so far as to call customers I called on that week to see if I showed up when I said I did, and if so, how the call went. It felt intrusive, but looking back, it made me a more productive sales rep than I ever would have become otherwise.

5. Doesn’t micromanage

Even though great bosses keep you on your toes, they do it selectively, not 24/7. As any victim of micromanagement knows, a boss who constantly looks over your shoulder saps every ounce of creative energy out of you. It’s a slow, painful death. A great boss, in complete contrast, leaves matters in your hands, and can even make you feel at times like you’re working without a net. Feeling that independence and exposure to risk makes a job exciting and builds a sense of ownership in an employee.

6. Has consistent expectations

When you work for a certain type of bad boss, you come to the office every day in a state of anxiety. If one day you’re being told that filling out detailed reports is your main priority, and the next day you’re being told entertaining customers is your main priority, you’re bound to get confused, and never know whether you’re about to be fired or promoted. On the other hand, if you’ve been working for a great boss for any length of time, you’ll know what the priorities are without anything being said at all.

7. Has high expectations

Great bosses have high hopes for you — maybe higher than yours. A good boss praises you for a job well done and asks how you can do even better next time. The great boss gives you opportunities to further your education and take on new work challenges.

8. Conducts formal performance reviews

Everybody knows daily encouragement and “attaboys” improve morale, but employees benefit even more from regularly scheduled, comprehensive performance reviews. Employees need and appreciate detailed feedback, even when it’s not all positive. And, formal reviews are an opportunity to set new expectations and build a clear career path. A boss who never has time for performance reviews, or doesn’t know how to conduct them, will never be more than mediocre.

9. Communicates clearly and directly

Great bosses know how to make themselves understood. They know how to explain an assignment so employees can get going on it with confidence, and they know how to evaluate results so employees know exactly what they did well and what needs improvement. With a great boss, you always know where you stand; you’re never waiting for the other shoe to drop.

10. Is decisive

From the employee’s perspective, “yes” is exciting, “no” is disappointing, and “maybe” is intolerable. Nothing kills enthusiasm and productivity like a boss who can’t make up his mind, who dithers and fiddles while Rome burns. Great bosses make reasoned decisions, and make them as quickly as circumstances allow. This keeps the team motivated and perhaps more importantly, moving.

11. Takes responsibility

When great bosses make mistakes, they take ownership rather than lay off blame on subordinates. This not only goes a long way toward earning the respect and loyalty of subordinates, it sets an example and a high standard for everyone in the organization.

12. Will fire you without hesitation

As soon as great bosses conclude that an employee is a hopelessly bad fit, they proceed with the termination. Getting fired is bad, of course — but stagnating in an unfulfilling, dead-end job for years or decades is far worse. Great bosses don’t allow that to happen; instead, they make the tough decision that gives an employee a chance to find the right fit, to pursue the best possible career.

As this list demonstrates, being a standout boss isn’t easy. Notice that all of the 12 items stress interpersonal skills rather than technical proficiency. This is why promoting, for instance, star sales reps into sales managers usually backfires. Being great at doing something won’t necessarily make you great at helping others do it.

Have you ever had a boss with some or all of these qualities? What qualities can you add to my list of appealing boss behaviors?

And for the other side of the boss equation, here are my 12 Most Loathsome Boss Behaviors.

Featured image courtesy of Jeremiah Addy licensed via Creative Commons.

Brad Shorr


Brad Shorr is Director of B2B Marketing for Straight North, a full service Internet marketing agency with headquarters in Chicago. A blogger since 2005, he writes frequently on social media, content marketing, SEO and business strategy.

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