In my work life, I’ve had three *STELLAR* bosses in three very different roles. “Why on earth would I share this info with you?”, you might ask. First, thanks for asking. Secondly, half of the people reading this blog are supervisors themselves, and I’d like to offer info on what I appreciate when working for somebody. Lastly, if you aren’t a supervisor, you likely will be in your lifetime. So listen up, and learn what makes a good boss before you become one.
Each of the three bosses I describe below were different: their personalities, management styles, and demeanors were all different, but they shared an undeniable desire to improve their employees lives. They focused on improving their people and letting their people improve the customer experience.
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The first BOSS was a Vice President (VP) at Raymond James Financial. I wasn’t even supposed to be in his direct reporting structure, but I was for several months. Rather than tossing me aside because he “didn’t have time” to manage me, he took my role and my work seriously. And for that, I’m grateful. There are a couple of things that really stand out to me about this VP. First off, he was humble enough to ask me, as someone working on finishing my college degree and a secretary (about 4 levels below a VP), for advice. Specifically, I had some public speaking training, and everytime I was present during an event in which he was speaking to an audience, afterward he would ask me, “How did I do?” And then…he would actually wait for my response. This type of humility is practically unheard of in the corporate finance world, and I was always blown away that he thought enough of my training to ask me how he could improve. What I learned is that no matter how high I go, I can always learn from people around me…if I’m willing to listen. That’s a big “if” in adulthood. But I hope I always stay porous to constructive criticism.
The second thing that I will never forget about this guy is the way he evaluated my job performance. Most people HATE those pesky employee evaluations, but truthfully, I really like feedback. In my mind: no feedback means no change, which means no growth.
When it came time for our annual evaluations, here was part of his feedback (to the best of my memory):
- Your listening skills enhance your ability to communicate.
- Your level-headed self-evaluation will keep your footing solid, no matter where your career takes you.
First off, evaluations are often bent toward the negative. But this was positive; this was a strengths-enhancing evaluation. If you’re a supervisor or may one day be a supervisor, keep this in mind: enhance your employees’ strengths, not their weaknesses. Secondly, this evaluation showed that he noticed how my skills aided my work, rather than just the quantifiable results. While the data-driven evaluation was certainly measured, I don’t remember a single piece of that.
As a supervisor, your voice is a special voice in your employees lives. Speak words of encouragement. If you don’t have time to encourage your employees, you don’t have time to be a supervisor.
Because of this VP, I felt like I mattered, and more importantly I felt like my unique perspective and talents were valued. My role at the time was as a secretary, but he had so much faith in me beyond my title. In my mind, that’s something that far outweighs salary increases and bonuses.
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The second BOSS I want to highlight was a General Manager at a restaurant I worked at for a few years. He hired me with no experience as a hostess, and I eventually became a server, bartender, Manager, and Marketing & Sales Coordinator.
Over the years, I probably worked thousands of hours with him, but what stands out to me most is that he empowered his employees to make the changes they wanted to see in the business. For the last position I held at the company, I totally made up the “how” part of fulfilling the restaurants’ sales objectives. This boss never once killed my ideas, but rather said “try it”. I was at a professional conference recently called Global Leadership Summit, where famed pastor Andy Stanley advised leaders to:
Replace “How?” with “Wow!” Wow ideas to life, don’t how them to death. Try to meet every new idea with the statement, “Wow, tell me more.”
I never saw this better exemplified than with this GM at the restaurant. I felt empowered to change whatever I wanted to when it came to people and processes. And importantly, I felt empowered to create a path that wasn’t already there – to branch out and expand the business into areas I was uniquely gifted to help with. He let me fall down some so I would learn and develop creative solutions to fix problems. He gave me creative freedom, even though I was doing what tens of thousands of people around the people around the world are already doing – running a restaurant. But that experience was truly life-changing.
He used to always say:
“I am responsible. If I say I’m not responsible, I can’t fix it. But if I take responsibility, I still have the power to fix it.”
He lived that philosophy daily and inspired his employees to do the same.
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The third and final BOSS I want to point a talk about is someone who’s never technically been my boss, but has filled the role nonetheless. As a volunteer coordinator for a satellite campus of my church, I didn’t work for the church, so how could someone be my boss? #questionsforgod Well, I had some responsibilities, and our temporary campus pastor was in charge of that campus, so he certainly filled the role of BOSS. He encouraged my leadership, allowed me to lead – truly lead – and stepped in when I asked for help. He always asked for my opinion before giving me his opinion. Among all the profound words he’s spoken to me, the thing I remember most about working with him is the feeling of “I believe in you. You got this”. Because he trusted people to do good work, our team was able to grow and build good foundations for a thriving church campus. He was instrumental in this, and we all learned first-hand what inspiring leadership looks like.
One of my favorite quotes of his is:
Strong leaders never play with the goal of not losing. They always play to win.
Pastor Mike Kalapp
With that kind of attitude, we were always ready to charge on to victory. And we did. Our church attendance doubled in one year’s time. That’s hard to do in today’s times, but we were part of a strong team with strong resolve.
So that’s it. Simple, easy lessons anyone can pick up for how to be a great boss. I have taken their owns credos into my life as I work with people:
- Enhance people’s strengths, not their weaknesses.
- Give people the freedom to change the business.
- Believe in your people, and they will do their best.
If you’re currently a boss, aim to be a stellar one. If you’ll be a boss one day, learn how to be stellar before you get there. You will enjoy work more, and so will your employees.
If you’re wondering where the faith aspect is in all of this, welllll…WWJD? How did Jesus treat his disciples, the ones who would carry out His mission after His short life ended? With something so valuable as the Gospel and people who only spent a few years with Him, how did He treat His people? He nurtured their individual strengths and spent more time with His Twelve than with the crowds. He guided them during His life, but afterward gave them all the freedom possible to spread the Gospel. He believed in them enough to leave only a few short years into His work on earth.
That’s where faith comes in! If you’re a Jesus follower, you follow His example at church, at home and at work. You follow Him in your marriage, with your children, and with your colleagues. You follow Him always, and that’s where the blessing is so rich!
I encourage you to take these ideas and think about how you can be a better boss, a better employee, and a better colleague. The world needs a lot more of the people-helping kind of people right now. Go be one!