It’s easy to find and write about bad bosses—the one who yelled at my coworker in front of the whole office, the married one who carried on a very loosely hidden affair with another married boss; the one who stole employees’ lunches—but the good ones tend to fade from memory because they were just doing what they were supposed to be doing. It’s kind of like being the “good student” in school, never causing any trouble and basically being ignored.
But I can think of some positive qualities that these “good” bosses shared, and I hope for 2013 that all of those in leadership can strive to consider adopting these qualities:
1. They recognize talent and they let people do their jobs.
I was hired for a reason, mostly because I knew how to report, write, and edit. There was always collaboration and team brainstorming on what we’d be covering and publishing, but after that it was up to the editors to get the stories done, the artists to provide pictures and design, and the customer service reps to work with the clients.
2. They see employees as equals.
We were all working together, perhaps on different professional levels, but still just part of a team. If someone was having difficulty, there were personal meetings with real discussions, not threats.
3. They obviously care about the product.
They wanted to make money and be successful, but they wanted to do that in a caring, professional manner. They created and delivered a good product. They didn’t set out to rip someone off.
4. They recognize that employees care about the product, too—and that the success of a product was a result of the whole team.
In every place I’ve worked, I’ve wanted to put out a perfect product because that was my job; that was what I was hired to do. A typo is upsetting to me. An article that is unclear is less than perfect. I’m not saying everything can be or will be perfect, but that’s the goal. The client may never meet me, but if he’s holding the company’s product in his hands, that’s my work.
5. They give people responsibility without hovering or meddling.
At one job my coworkers and I joked about how much more productive we were when the boss wasn’t flitting about making another suggestion, asking for an interim progress report, or changing another procedure.
6. They don’t assign unnecessary work.
Was I missing deadlines? Was there a problem? Only then might a daily log have been needed. Also, giving employees extra assignments just to make your own job easier creates problems. At one publisher the managing editor was always too busy to read the monthly issue and pass it along in a timely manner. He wanted a separate copy so he could read it at his leisure. This meant the person beneath him had to track two sets of pages and add corrections from both sets—some of which conflicted with the previous person’s corrections.
7. They guide employees into new assignments, instead of just tossing them off the deep end and telling them to swim.
Do you want me to lead the meeting this week? Please tell me ahead of time, not as we’re all gathering in the conference room. Do you want me to finish a report for you? Please give me the parameters, and explain why the extra work is necessary when I’m already overloaded. If you can’t do it because you “always” leave at 4 p.m., but expect me to stay until it’s done, that’s taking advantage of your position. If there’s a true emergency, I am more than happy to help.
8. They are respectful.
In the last 10 years or so, every time there’s been a layoff for financial reasons (not an employee’s bad performance), this is how it’s happened: The employee was called into the manager’s office to be informed (surprise!), while the office manager and/or security was locking down his or her computer and making his or her building keycard inoperable. The employee was told to pack while security or office manager stood by, and was then escorted out, often not even being allowed to say goodbye to coworkers. To me this trend screams of guilt—the boss feels bad about screwing over an employee and now is afraid they’ll screw him over by sabotaging the system.
9. They are honest.
Often financial problems were out of my immediate bosses’ control. But most times where there were layoffs pending, the employees were kept in the dark. If it was a big enough company, the news might be discovered online and then employees were even more resentful that they weren’t told. I can’t say knowing ahead of time makes layoffs easier, but I would certainly be more sympathetic with a manager if he told me his hands were tied.
10. They are hard-working, but they also like to have fun on and off the job.
There was socializing outside of work. They saw the company as a family. I know that can’t always happen in some corporate structures, but in places where I’ve had it, it was a wonderful feeling and I felt like I belonged. Who wouldn’t want to perform in such an environment?
Jan Arzooman, a periodic contributor to the Leadership Almanac, offers leadership insight from the point of the “end user” – a person who has worked for a variety of managers. She is a freelance writer and editor with many years in publishing. She currently focuses on fiction, memoirs, blogging on a wide variety of topics, social media marketing, and health and medical writing. Her website is http://arzoomaneditorial.com/.