A Christmas Card to My Bosses: Thanks to Three Very Wise Men
This is my site Written by Alora on December 21, 2008 – 10:47 am

Last week I wrote that we are rarely good about telling the people in our lives how grateful we are, and, realizing that applied to me as well, I figured that this was as good an opportunity as any for me to correct that when it came to three important influences in my life. As we come in on the end of the year, everywhere you look you’ll find a “Best of 2008” list. So, I decided to do my own variation on that for my last few blog posts of 2008. Only my version is: the valuable lessons I’ve learned from my most memorable bosses. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been very lucky in that I have had some great bosses and mentors, from whom I have learned a tremendous amount. So I’ll wrap up 2008 with a person tribute to the specific lessons I look back and attribute to them.

But before I get started on the specific men and the specific lessons they taught me (and yes, my list is entirely male), I figured I’d take a moment and try to define what I think makes a good boss.

Political Savvy
The best bosses are always the ones with, as I like to call it, ‘great sea legs.’ They are the people you can bring into a new environment, and they are socially and politically savvy enough that it takes them almost no time to find their balance and then successfully navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of office politics.

These are the bosses who not only roll with the punches as business conditions change, but they are also the ones who show you how to adapt and change what you are doing to be most successful because of it.

One of the greatest examples was monthly executive status reporting I was doing at one company. Our team had spent several months fleshing out the set of reports we were presenting every month to the executive to whom our department reported. The reports were geared to focus on the things that this particular executive cared about due to the nature of his role. As soon as we were moved to another spot on the org change, my boss and I worked together to re-define what those monthly reports needed to reflect, now that our executive leader was someone else, whose interest was in completely different areas.

A politically savvy leader knows when to push and when to back off; what battles to fight and which ones to let go. Without having a fundamental understanding of these things, long-term success is nearly impossible. Another common buzzphrase for this kind of self-aware, political astuteness and contextual sensitivity is emotional intelligence.

A great boss asks questions — the most important two being, “Do you need anything?” and “What is it that you really want to be doing?” — and they internalize the answers.

A good boss should understand what you love about your job, and what parts of it you’d love to avoid if you could. He knows where your biggest areas of growth are, and where your biggest strengths are. He knows what you want out of your career, and where you’d like to see yourself down the road. But he knows those things because he’s asked.

(And, in all fairness, if you either do not answer or do not try to find the answers, then you aren’t doing your part to meet your boss half-way so that he can actually be a truly good boss. A good boss/employee relationship is a two-way street, and neither side can do it well if the other side is disengaged.)

“A Teachable Point of View”
To swipe the phrase from Noel Tichy, “great leaders are great
Their underlying philosophy, the foundation for their decision-making paradigm, needs to be established and it needs to be teachable to those around them. A boss whose management style and leadership philosophy changes weekly based on the most recent book he’s read, or a leader whose solid philosophies about managing are closely guarded secrets will never be great bosses. Ever.

In order to be a great boss, you have to have both the content and desire to teach. And you need to make it a priority.

Without a doubt, every boss I’ve ever seen who demonstrates these qualities not only fosters high performance teams, but also breeds a deep respect and fierce loyalty among his staff. Among the bosses I’ve had who have demonstrated these qualities, some have been introverts, some have been extroverts; some have been C-level executives, while others have been managers; some have come from large, mature organizations, others have come from entrepreneurial startup environments. They have all had very different temperaments, personalities, senses of humor and habits (both good and bad).

But they have had two vital things in common: the above listed qualities and the fact that, whether they knew it at the time or not, they each made a huge impact on my life. So this is my Christmas card to three men from whom I learned more than I ever expected, and whose lessons impact business decisions I make daily.

Merry Christmas, gentlemen.

  • http://www.workhappynow.com Karl Staib – Work Happy Now

    Nice way to sending a shout out to some great guys. When we invest in the people that we lead they will invest in us. It’s the Karms of doing great business.