What makes a good boss?

What makes a good boss?

Bosses can be the main reason people love or leave their jobs, they connect employees to an organization but if that connection is damaged, employees could leave.

If you are a poor boss, you probably don’t even know it – few of us do at first – but as an employee, if you have a ‘bad’ boss, it can impact your performance and morale. If you are an employee who has a great boss, you shouldn’t take that relationship for granted.

Being a good boss is hard, being a bad boss is, unfortunately, easy. A great boss is someone who shows staff they have more ability than they think so that they can do better work than they thought they could. You have to be accessible, understanding and a leader.

Listen & Communicate

This is a key skill for any effective manager – you need to listen. Whether it’s to ideas, feedback or concerns, listening is vital to being a good boss.

A manager who can listen will base their decisions on the abilities, needs, and even limitations of their staff. Also, when people feel heard, they feel appreciated, which will be reflected in their performance and job morale. Appreciation is something everyone deserves on the job, otherwise, why do it?

Added to listening, a good manager needs to be able to give clear direction and in a professional manner – you can’t be vague. Being vague in directions or speaking in a patronising tone is a turn-off for staff and can lead to resentment. A manager should never yell, make demeaning personal comments or use humour as a put-down.

Remember, being vague will lead to frustration among staff – even more so if you are then unhappy with how a task is completed because of your poor instruction.

Inspire & Coach

A great boss is someone who inspires their employees to be the best they can be – even if that means they eventually move on for another challenge.

As a manager, you should be able to identify your employees’ best qualities or skills and bring them out, even enhance them. Likewise, you should always look for growth opportunities and share them in a constructive manner. Come up with a developed plan for their improvement, even listen to them to see if there are areas they’re already interested in.

Good bosses view their position as a leader and a coach. Of course, you need to command respect but you have to provide the correct balance of praise and constructive criticism or feedback to bring out the best in employees. You have to educate and encourage and lead by example. Don’t assume your employees know what to do and how to do it. Watch from the sidelines first before stepping in and taking over – your employees won’t learn a thing.

A good boss will recognise that success is found in the balance of control. Enough of a presence to act as a source of help, but not to overshadow your staff.


Good employees crave feedback because it helps them improve and grow as a person and staff member. To be a great boss, you should be happy to oblige.

Some bosses may wait until a monthly or quarterly formal performance review to relay positive or negative feedback to their employees, but that can be too long. You may well leave employees thinking “why didn’t my boss tell me sooner?”. That way, they could have tried to change or do things differently. Giving employees feedback along the way, after a piece of work or presentation, for example, establishes a stronger relationship.

When you are providing feedback along the way, there’s a sense of conversation and cooperation – that you’re showing leadership. However, waiting until a performance review for feedback can have the reverse effect, a negative one that can drive down morale and any relationship with staff. It can be seen as more of a trial and verdict atmosphere where negative feedback can sound like punishment.

Feedback and critiques are a valuable part of managing – you have to give it constructively and be willing to receive it. That way, you and your staff grow and improve.


The most important skill a leader can have is awareness – of yourself and your employees. This includes showing compassion to your staff.

Just because someone has a title doesn’t mean they know how to lead. Leadership requires that you understand your employees are motivated differently and that what drives them might not work for others. You may prefer recognition and reward employees in a similar way, but some may prefer a much different approach. Perhaps just an email copying in your CEO or MD expressing their accomplishments — quiet, yet powerful.

Great bosses are compassionate when praising success and tackling challenges. They know compassion can be expressed verbally and non-verbally, you should be able to sense the emotions going on. You must understand and learn the demands placed on employees go beyond the office. Use your awareness to speak with staff and learn if there are private issues affecting their work which will impact results.

Basically, you need to understand personal needs – staff want to feel valued, involved and supported. Any boss who understands this will be a fantastic boss.

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