A lot of people get promoted into a management position because of their skills and accomplishments, yet end up being a bad boss. I am sure you have experienced a bad boss at some point in your career. Perhaps even more than one… Have you ever had the opportunity to work with a good boss? What makes a good boss good or a bad boss bad?
Let’s look at the qualities that you might like to see in a boss.
Every boss has a boss. In a small business it is your spouse, banker, investors, customers, and sometimes even your suppliers. In a larger business there are layers of management that require constant attention to make happy. Communicating with your boss is critical to getting ahead, getting anything done, and getting resources for your projects. A good boss communicates with their boss and does not leave them in the dark. A bad boss never provides anybody with enough information to understand what is going on.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Yet many people spend most of their time fixing problems instead of taking preventive action. A good boss understands what risks lay ahead and actively plans on how to prevent or minimize them using policies, procedures, and well-defined processes. A bad boss is constantly firefighting and has no time (or skill) for fire prevention.
Everybody is better at some things than others. A good boss seeks to understand how to put an employee’s capabilities to the best use. A bad boss puts people where they are needed because there is work to be done.
It happens. Sometimes an employee is just not working out. A good boss quickly addresses the problem. Perhaps moving them to a better job fit. If all else fails then a good boss knows that it is better for both parties if the problem employee left the company. A bad boss keeps the bad employee around for far too long. Bad bosses don’t want to face any conflict and would prefer to hide from problems.
A good boss understands you have an outside life, family, and other commitments. A good boss responds to your emails, requests to review your reports, or obtain answers to your questions, all in a timely manner. A bad boss likes to yell at you, make unreasonable demands on your time, and always has an excuse for why they did not have time for your requests, yet fails to understand why you did not get their requests done on time.
Every boss wants the job done and done right. The question is how much flexibility you have to get the job done. A good boss empowers employees to make decisions, allows flexibility, and recognizes creative approaches to solving problems. A bad boss watches the clock, your vacation time, and how you use your time at work but does not recognize the time you put in after work hours, your travel for work on weekends, or when you stay late at the office.
To maintain an effective relationship with management, you have to trust your boss. Trust is built up over the years by seeing consistent, predictable actions taken by management. Good managers communicate well. They don’t change positions (at least they don’t do it frequently), provide false information, or set unrealistic expectations for projects or goals. Bad bosses over-promise and under deliver. A bad boss makes promises to customers that their employees cannot achieve and then yells at them for failing the client.
Management is about frequent communication. A good boss communicates, both up and down the chain of command, recognizing that good internal communication benefits the whole company. A bad boss doesn’t communicate clearly (one-word emails), doesn’t meet with you often enough, and sometimes never talks to you at all. Bad bosses are bad communicators.
Improving employee performance is a critical skill of a good boss and a distraction to a bad boss. A good boss actively coaches you at work, clearly explains expectations, and sets a good example for you to copy. The bad boss just wants it done and leaves you unsure as to what is exactly wanted.
Everybody enjoys recognition and praise. A good boss notices your good work and publicly acknowledges your superior performance. A bad boss prefers to take credit for your accomplishments without any acknowledgement at all. Good bosses provide rewards, incentives, and praise. Bad bosses take all the rewards, incentives and praise for themselves.
Google’s “Project Oxygen?” has taken a lot of time — a couple of years, actually — to study what makes a good boss. Their ‘people analytics’ staff has come up with eight key attributes of good managers within their organization. Among those eight attributes are:
What shouldn’t surprise us is that of the eight attributes of a good boss, the “Good Coaching” was ranked first in Google’s study. “Technical expertise”, which Google had considered an absolute necessity to being a team leader, was ranked at the bottom.
We’ve talked about the qualities of great leaders and what makes true leaders different from others. These qualities include decisiveness (especially in crisis), doing what’s right (not what’s popular), and the ability to plan effectively. Vision and passion are important as well, but what separates leaders from mere managers?
The answer is those intangible qualities, those “quirks” of personality that stump psychologists and sociologists to this day. What makes for a good manager and exactly how do we quantify it? Well, it’s been tried — a number of times — but Google is putting their own spin on the concept. Despite past failings elsewhere, the people at Google think it’s possible to make the process of grooming leaders a reliable, repeatable process. Their goal is to make the process of hiring and training leaders like any other human resources procedure.
Managing people, with all their complexities and variations, is (at best) extremely difficult and statistical analysis is helpful only to a point. The chief problem with “data driven management?” is that people can’t easily be reduced to a set of predictable behaviors and outcomes — we are only human. Every statistic has to be taken with a grain of salt but even more so when human behavior is the focus.
If you find yourself accomplishing all ten qualities then you are more than a good boss, you are a great boss. Keep up the great work and pass it on to your employees. On the other hand, if you recognize a few of the bad boss traits in yourself, then cheer up. At least you see these traits as bad. Most bad bosses are in denial and will not admit that we are talking about them. Work on eliminating your bad boss traits and improving upon your good boss traits and your life will get easier.
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