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leadership, lean

What Makes a Good Boss?

The greatness in people comes out only when they are led by great leaders. We are all growing and learning, and we all need teachers and coaches to help guide us. We say at Toyota that every leader is a teacher developing the next generation of leaders. This is their most important job.” – Akio Toyoda

There are numerous articles available on the subject of bad bosses. Besides the fact that these articles tend to be entertaining, talking and writing about a bad boss can be a form of therapy to deal with the stress caused by poor leadership.

But what about good bosses?  Most people, at one time or another, worked for someone they would consider a good boss, but what is it about their style or approach that made them a “good.”  Below is a list of the characteristics I have experienced throughout my career that I would consider make someone a good boss. I’m sure there are many others that can be added to the list, but these are the things that stand out when I think of the good bosses I’ve had over the years.

  1. Provides Regular Feedback and Coaching:  The bosses who provide continual feedback based on real behaviors and actions demonstrate a true interest in the development and improvement of those on his or her team.  On the other hand, waiting for the annual performance review to provide feedback on areas to improve is ineffective and turns it into more of a check the box activity or justification for a specific rating.
  2. Connects to the Workplace:  Good bosses go to the workplace regularly to understand what team members face on a daily basis.  The focus of the visits is how barriers can be removed, processes improved, and culture changed.  Bad bosses have “open door policies,” which really means they are too busy to go to the workplace – and make team members come to his or her office to talk.  Rather than serving team members, the focus of a bad boss is much more on pleasing his or her boss.
  3. Always Strives for Excellence:  A good boss continually drives team members to improve.  This drive for excellence applies to the boss as well as team members.  Bad bosses focus on cost-cutting rather than improvement to meet objectives.
  4. Question vs Tell:  Good bosses question team members to better understand issues and to help the team solve problems.  Bad bosses always have the answers and provide “solutions” to problems even when they don’t completely understand the situation.
  5. Inspires: Good bosses continually help team members connect the work they do to higher-level objectives and the organization’s purpose.  This gives meaning to the work performed and helps inspire people to continually improve.  Bad bosses don’t understand or care about higher-level objectives and focus only on getting things done quickly and cheaply so they look good.

The most telling sign of a good boss is that his or her power comes from something other than position.  When I think of the good bosses I’ve had over the years, it was always a win-win relationship I had with them.  They provided me with opportunities to develop and improve, and I worked hard to help make them successful.

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About Gregg Stocker

Gregg Stocker is a lean advisor for Hess Corporation. He possesses over 20 years experience in a variety of disciplines including operations, manufacturing, human resources, quality, and strategic planning, and has worked in manufacturing, service, and oil & gas industries. He has extensive international experience, including successfully leading an $65 million business in The Netherlands. He authored the book, “Avoiding the Corporate Death Spiral: Recognizing & Eliminating the Signs of Decline,” (Quality Press, 2006) and was a contributing author to "The Lean Handbook," (Quality Press, 2012). Gregg is a frequent speaker and recognized expert in business and performance improvement having been interviewed on television, radio, and in a number of newspaper and magazine articles including The New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek, and InformationWeek. Gregg has implemented change in organizations ranging in size from $10 million to more than $100 billion. He is a team-oriented leader who achieves results by improving teamwork, focus, and communication throughout the organization.

Discussion

One thought on “What Makes a Good Boss?

  1. Nice article, Gregg. I particularly like the quote from Akio Toyoda.

    Posted by Lawrence M. Miller | June 28, 2015, 10:00 am

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