The best boss...

the best bossBy: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA

I have been actively reading about leadership and there is so much material. You’d think we’d all be awesome at the role but in reality, have you seen the statistics on how many people leave jobs because of the boss? I suspect we all have stories of the good bosses and the not so good. Rather than go down the path of, “Let me tell you about the bad one I had…” I was reminded of the significance of a great boss; one that “gets it.” In my career I have been blessed to have bosses that demonstrated the right attributes to support my role in the company. As I go through some of those below some of them will likely match well with your thinking. Others are a function of my personality and my needs, so we may have some differences. After all, it’s the great boss who knows that too. See how yours compare.

  1. Me value.  The best boss I ever had respected and appreciated me. I am not about public praise as much as knowing he had my back. If, like me, you crave autonomy in the work role, the “me value” shows in a boss who will give me an assignment, tell me the must-haves, the deadline and let me go. The good boss will trust me to keep him/her apprised, to protect them if I get in a jam and to deliver what I said I would when I said it would be done.
  2. Hard worker.  I need a boss who works as hard as they expect me to!  I love working for someone who pushes me to work smarter as well. The boss who is able to know which project deserves attention at each critical juncture is a key attribute in these crazy times. Hard work is not just hours.  It is their willingness to roll up their sleeves.  If I am having a hard time with the analytics, I want my boss to either help me or to make sure that together we find someone who can find the right solution. (Obviously, I have to learn and not ask again on that same topic).
  3. Keep me in the loop. Keeping every one apprised of everything in today’s climate is impossible. I don’t expect perfect but there are categories of information where each person is top of mind for a specific type of message. To do it well requires formal methods of communication alongside emails or relationship-building conversations. Shared knowledge is not just the “need to know to do the job.” I work better when I understand the background and if there is politics, tell me. If there is concern about keeping the information confidential I will manage it. A great boss will also forewarn the staff when there are anticipated changes.  A good boss makes sure each employee feels like part of the team and that generally starts with proactive, quality communication.
  4. Make decisions, fix things. Simply stated, this is the work bosses are supposed to do. Great bosses are willing to consider their options, make decisions, and support the team in acting on that decision.  Those who are always on the fence or trying to figure out the right political thing suck team energy.  I also want the boss to tell me if they are not going to make a decision. “Kriss, I am not willing to ask for an additional FTE because I do not feel I have the kind of results that can make a strong business case…” While our attention is often on the boss’ ability to make big decisions, it is often the daily/weekly piling on of smaller decisions that drain teams. Today’s leaders are critical allies in helping the team decide on current priorities.

The other boss duty is to fix what they can. I suspect that goes without saying but there are issues that could/should be managed and fixed. I am not talking about overhauling the IT department type of fixes, but those things like equity among staff issues, reimbursement processes, getting a service line leader to respond to the team. Staff need to let the boss know the issue but good bosses will take it from there. Great bosses take on those fixes that drain energy from their team. They understand that it is important to have strong relationships and a good environment to maximize productivity after all.

What other attributes come to mind for you?

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