professional work

What makes a good boss?

About 4 months ago, after a tough week at work, I was reminded again how lucky I am to have a great line manager but also how some managers severely lack essential, basic skills and attributes of a good boss.

A vast majority of us spend most of our working days in front of a computer, performing repetitive tasks, working on a spreadsheet or a database for hours. Not everyone enjoys what they do for a living but not many quit because of it.

Most stay in a job that they don’t necessarily enjoy because of great colleagues and most importantly a great manager. And most, even in highly paid positions, quit because of their managers.

Throughout my career so far I came across great managers, OK managers and a terrible one. I quit a job after three months because of my manager.

There is a long long list of skills and attributes of a good manager, based on decades of research that I’ve studied for years when working towards my stage 1 qualification in Occupational Psychology, but I’ve summed up what I think, based on my experience so far, are basic, essential skills below.

I thought it would be a good idea to set up a completely anonymous, short, single question survey to see what others think and I got some amazing responses, most of them similar to my thoughts and views. I added them in quotation marks throughout this post.

I strongly believe that not everyone can be a manager, however many books they read or courses they take.

First and most importantly to be a good manager you need good people skills. Empathy, patience, honesty and communication (especially good listening skills) are vital.

“Someone who listens, supports, and help you grow professionally and personally!”

“Fairness, support, understanding, be prepared to listen. Good communicator to the team. Ability to reprimand if necessary. Trustworthy and discreet.”

Not all people have strong interpersonal skills so it doesn’t come as a surprise that not all managers do either. Quite often, getting promoted comes with managing others without assessing their managerial skills (there is a great suite of psychometric tests that can be used for that purpose, although not many employers do).

You are managing a person, not a robot.  We are all humans. Although we do our best to be as productive as possible at work, life can get pretty tough and a manager needs to be able to empathise and genuinely care about their staff’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Pretending to care or blindly following steps/rules/advice from ‘Management skills 101’ coaching courses is worse than not caring.

A good manager knows how to support their staff but also trusts them and give them space and autonomy.

“One who trusts his/her team to do their jobs properly and does not micromanage, but is there to support and discipline when required.”

“Fairness, support, understanding, be prepared to listen. Good communicator to the team. Ability to reprimand if necessary. Trustworthy and discreet.”

A good manager knows the individual’s strengths and weaknesses and unique character and cares about their career development, helping them to reach their full potential even if that leads them to a different job or employer.

“A good boss should change their management style for each individual employee. They need to strike a balance between oversight and letting you get on with the stuff you know how to do. They should be willing to work with you on your professional development. Most importantly they should deliver on the things they say they’re going to do… there’s nothing worse than a manager who promises change but then never delivers. My boss is awesome!!”

A good manager strikes the right balance by managing their staff effectively whilst ensuring that the business also strives.

“A good boss is someone who has put the infrastructure and support in place, to ensure the business is efficient and fully functioning regardless of any absences in personnel , including their own.”

Professionalism is essential but a sense of humour and having a laugh every now and then makes a world of a difference.

Finally, a good manager leads by example.

“Someone who is honest has integrity: leads from the front inspires and able to communicate a clear vision. Has your back , but also able give constructive feedback oh not forgetting to give credit when warranted. Sense of fun can also go a long way. Able to unite a team.”

Thank you everyone for your amazing responses. Feel free to share your thoughts by commenting below 🙂

I’m closing this post with one of my favourite comments:

“I once read a really interesting article about what makes a good boss but I haven’t been able to find it since. In essence, it said that a good manager often has a certain amount of self-doubt, and this makes them consult with their team and listen carefully to their opinions before deciding on a way forward with a particular issue or task. What was really interesting about the article though was it’s assertion that good managers almost always become bad managers over time. They get told so often that they’re great at managing people that they lose their self-doubt and begin to believe that their ability to manage is an inherent strength, not just a factor of their tendency to consult their staff, and begin making a lot of unpopular unilateral decisions etc. I was lucky enough to have a great manager for many years and his strengths were his willingness to consult (but then make a confident decision), his trust in his staff and his humanity. He was always approachable, never micro-managed and kept everything in perspective. He didn’t overload his staff but didn’t baby them either. He fostered a team spirit and lead by example. A really great guy :-)”

Eleni

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