Are YOU a “Best Boss?” Two key characteristics (and 3 ways to get started)

question markYou can learn a lot about what people want in a leader by asking them!  Over the years, I’ve had a chance to hear hundreds of people respond to the question, “Who was your best boss, and what was it about him or her that made them so special?” The answers, though wide-ranging, (and very personal) have consistently fallen into two main categories.

The first common characteristic focuses on relationships and support. People say that their best boss cared about them, gave them opportunities, and created a great working environment.  They made work fun and they were supportive.

Second, there is the performance and expectations aspect. People will share that their work was demanding, meaningful, and that their boss expected a lot from them.  They also share that their best boss saw qualities in them that they didn’t necessarily see in themselves.

In an article for Blanchard’s Ignite newsletter, I share some examples from Gallup, Southwest Airlines, and  WD-40 Company to make the case for adopting a high support—high expectations workplace. You can read the complete article at this link, but in the meantime, here are some takeaways for creating this dual focus environment.

  1. Set challenging goals. Expect the best from people by setting goals that stretch their abilities. Look beyond what people can currently do and set a stake in the ground at the next level of achievement. Hard goals encourage growth, demonstrate trust, and develop competence. Be sure to set these goals as a partnership—it conveys respect and garners buy-in.
  2. Meet regularly. Conduct brief, focused meetings on a weekly basis to discuss progress against goals, identify roadblocks, and brainstorm solutions. Demonstrate your commitment to an employee’s success by sharing one of your most precious resources—your time and attention.
  3. Provide feedback. Celebrate and recognize achievements. Provide redirection when necessary. Feedback shows that you are paying attention as a leader, consider the work important, and are invested in the employee’s development.

Leaders become “best bosses” by expecting a lot from their people AND also providing high levels of support along the way.  Look back at your own experience and you’ll probably discover that your best boss brought out the best in you because he or she expected a lot and also supported your growth and development. That’s the one-two punch that creates high levels of engagement and performance!

7 thoughts on “Are YOU a “Best Boss?” Two key characteristics (and 3 ways to get started)

  1. My two cents.. In my experience working with different teams and leaders the main different between an average leader and a great leader is how much you care about your people. It is a high responsibility and extremely demanding to be a leader and the energy to walk the extra mile only can come from a higher value like truly interest like to grow people. Having a retrospective of the operation in my previous team it is also the most rewarding achievement.

  2. This was a pleasure to read and very insightful. As a very new “boss” myself I am always thinking back to past experiences with ex employers who motivated me, angered me, scared me, etc and I try to use those positive experiences on my own employees! I also have been actively searching the internet for suggestions and proven methods of effective leadership. In my research I was lucky to come across the book by author Bill Sims Jr. Green Beans & Ice Cream ( The author is well known for designing behavior-based recognition and reward programs for companies such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Disney. He explains the best and the worst ways to motivate people, how to use positive reinforcement correctly, and most importantly how a behavior change can turn around your whole business. The author backs up these practices with anecdotes, examples, and official research. While the book focuses on improving work performances, its lessons can also be used in daily life, in families, and in other personal relationships. It’s helped me a lot and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it

  3. Pingback: Good Reads, Feb. 9-15, 2013 | kkish: My Spot

  4. A must read for all that are a part of the corporate world. At times, the obvious is simply forgotten or taken for granted. Happy reading and thanks for sharing Charles!

  5. Great Wisdom and like all of them it brings out the reality that to be an effective leader one has to have the the basic values along with the Intelligence with whitout which one will end up merely being a BOSS literally instead of becoming the BEST BOSS!

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