Cross-sections of the "best boss"

They can launch your career or sink your ship; your boss is one of the most significant people in your work life. It's likely you spend more time and energy pleasing your boss than any other person in your organization. And in spite of what they're being called these days in the popular press: coach, facilitator, most people they're still simply "my boss".

As National Boss's Day approaches, I thought it would be interesting to survey a cross-section of employees to see how they would describe the best boss they've ever had. I asked employees from large and small companies, across many industries, and sampled opinions from all levels within their organizations.

Would you expect the results to be fairly consistent? You're right. It appears that American's are of one mind when they describe the ideal manager. Here's what they said:

Here are some representative comments from people who were describing the best boss they ever had:

1.      He believed in me and trusted in my abilities. He had high expectations that I could do whatever he gave me to do. Even when I was unsure, he never wavered in his confidence in me. Sometimes I surprised myself that I could rise to his expectations.

2.      She challenged me. She was always checking to make sure I was stretching and growing in my job. She often gave me projects that seemed over my head, but then she would make sure that I succeeded.

3.      He was honest with me...even when I didn't want to hear it. He never pulled any punches because he said it wasn't going to do my career any good if he didn't tell me the truth. I always knew I could go to him and ask for honest feedback, both performance related and political. He even told me little things about myself that allowed me to make subtle refinements in my approach.

4.      He cared about me. He spent time with me and listened to me. He cared about me as a person, not just as an employee who was there to produce work. He always made time for face-to-face meetings and asked me how I was doing; he really cared about what I said.

5.      She encouraged me. She was very supportive and kept nudging me toward the goals I had set for myself. She praised my work when I was heading in the right direction and was always there with helpful advice when I was getting discouraged.

6.      She built on my strengths. She focused more on what I was doing right than on what I was doing wrong. Consequently, I worked really hard to keep improving. She took the time to discuss my strengths and asked me where I wanted to go in the future. Once she knew what I wanted, she seemed to become my personal career coach. It was very motivating to think she was helping me achieve my goals.

7.      He would not let me give up or slack off. He was relentless in keeping the pressure on. He was smart enough to know that I had to be aggressive and keep on growing and changing in order to succeed in my field.

How about you? Who was the best boss you ever had? What did they do that made such a difference in your career? If you can, why not thank them this Boss's Day. If you are a boss, why not renew your commitment to be the best boss your employees ever had.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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