Nine qualities of a good boss

Read the latest blog post on mycareer, by guest blogger Lynda Silk, BA, FCIP, Manager, Quality Assurance | National Underwriting Operations, RSA.  From first-hand experience, Lynda tells us what makes a good boss.

Photo of Lynda SilkWhen people ask me why I love working in insurance, there are so many reasons that come to mind such as great people, interesting work and so many opportunities. But one thing that is always very important to me is who I report to. Over the 30+ years I’ve worked in the insurance industry, a good boss is a key factor for me with regard to how successful I feel I am and how much I enjoy my job.

But what makes a good boss? What are the qualities that they possess that make them superior to other managers and leaders in the working world? Why is it that a number of managers can all possess the same level of intelligence and knowledge but some will have a much more positive impact on my performance than others?

1. Good bosses… build employee engagement

What stands out for me when I think of the best managers I’ve worked for was their ability to build employee engagement. They worked collaboratively with their teams and actively looked for my feedback, encouraged me to think creatively and come up with outside the box resolutions. This not only made me a more knowledgeable employee, it also made me feel like I was an important contributor to the organization and that the work I did every day was meaningful and had impact. When I feel like I am an integral and valued part of my organization, it motivates me to always do my very best and not just meet but exceed my business targets.

2. Good bosses… expand your knowledge and skill set

I also loved the managers who I could learn from and expand my knowledge and skill set. It could be technical training or soft skill development that they helped me with. Or I could learn just by observing how well they handled certain situations and the techniques that they used.  Learning from them enabled me to do a better job, enjoy my work more and move on to more senior roles.

3. Good bosses… act accordingly

Good managers also remember that they are role models and that they must act accordingly. I know a manager who is always interested in finding out the latest gossip and shares whatever she knows with anyone who walks into her office. Her team doesn’t respect her and they don’t trust her because they feel that she will divulge their confidential information to anyone she bumps into. They expect more professional behavior from someone in her position and not surprisingly, her team is one of the lowest performing teams in the office. Who wants to be on a team like that? Not me! But it shows you the importance of how a manager behaves and the effect it can have on a team’s results.

4. Good bosses… recognize talents and strengths

People always have talents and strengths and I have always found that good bosses recognize these qualities and put them to good use! I had a friend who had lost a lot of her enthusiasm for her work; she felt bored and wasn’t interested in what she was doing. However, the one task she really enjoyed was scheduling her fellow team members to attend town hall meetings that were held every quarter. Not a big deal but she liked organizing the people and assigning them to different sessions while still ensuring that there was adequate staff in the office to answer the phones. Observing this, her manager made her responsible for scheduling for other events such as training sessions, team meetings, etc. The outcome was remarkable…my friend’s attitude changed immediately and her work improved. She took pride in being the “team scheduler” because she was good at it and it made her feel that she added value. She received compliments and thanks from her manager and co-workers and this made her even happier and more willing to do a good job.  And not only was the manager successful in turning my friend’s performance around, but she also had more time to do important things that she didn’t have time for before so it was a definitely a win-win situation!

5. Good bosses… reward good work

One of the key actions in the above story about my friend was that her manager made sure that she recognized her for her good work. Even if it was just for scheduling, look at how great it turned out! Everyone feels good when they are acknowledged for something they’ve done well and good bosses know that. And it doesn’t have to be a big reward; just a simple thank you or compliment is often good enough. Nothing is more motivating than when a boss expresses their appreciation for a job well done! When that happens to me, I try even harder to do better!

6. Good bosses… are knowledgeable

I’ve talked a lot about soft skills a lot but bosses also need to be knowledgeable about their team’s work. This doesn’t mean that they need to do every little thing. Some of my managers couldn’t do all of the functions that were part of our jobs and yet they were still great leaders to me. That’s because they had other skills like establishing a high degree of employee engagement and building a high performance culture within the team so they didn’t need to know how to do everything…they left that up to the experts on their team. But they still have to be conversant enough with the work to make good decisions and to help out their employees when required.

7. Good bosses… can make the final call

Managers also need to know when it’s appropriate to make the final call when the time comes and it’s obvious that consensus will never be achieved. But it has to be done in a way that doesn’t alienate the staff. Even though the manager may not be entirely onboard with you, a good manager will still retain the support of their employees. That’s because at the end of the day, the employees will trust their leader’s judgment and expertise.

8. Good bosses… have fun!

That brings me to another important point about great bosses. They need to be able to work with their teams so that they work hard and reach their targets…but have fun too! I’m not advocating that we all forget about our work and don’t do anything business related. But no one wants to come to work and spend the day in a stress-filled, negative, gloomy environment. Maybe having fun just means bringing in donuts one morning, holding a pot luck lunch or perhaps having cake and ice cream to celebrate the birth of a grandchild or the adoption of an adorable pet dog.

9. Good bosses… are good leaders

As I moved from role to role during my career, I was able to see many of the qualities I’ve mentioned in the managers I worked for. I also had bosses who were absolutely awful… from the one who snapped pencils in front of my face when he disagreed with something I said to the one who asked me a year after I started in a role “what is it you do exactly?” But the good managers definitely outnumbered the bad ones and I tend to think of them as leaders instead of bosses. Perhaps that’s the key to being a good boss… that you aren’t just a boss but a leader. A leader knows how to build employee engagement, is always looking for ways to educate and support their staff, and makes the workplace a successful and great experience. I just feel lucky that so many of my bosses have actually been leaders during my many years in the insurance industry. And that’s why I can still say that I love my job and still love coming to work every single day.

For more from Lynda, check out her video in the Fireside Chats section of the mycareer website.

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