One can only hope that managers who hire you are as good listeners and interested in your career development once you start work as they were during the employment interviewing process. Sometimes a new boss’s leadership attributes are transparent; the person who seemed so invested in having you join his or her team continues to demonstrate similar supportive behaviors in real supervisory circumstances. In other instances, it may not be so clear. Consequently, new hires might ask once they have begun a new job, “How can I assess if my new boss is going to be someone whom I will continue to admire, trust, and want to follow while I am under his or her supervision?”
Let’s review nine powerful practices of really great bosses that you can look for in your new supervisory situation:
1. They possess self-awareness and look for ways to expand self-knowledge. Research shows that bosses that ask for feedback and integrate useful feedback into their supervisory practice or role performance achieve more in their careers. They possess the emotional intelligence and strength to make sure they understand how others perceive them, without defensiveness. For a leader, self-awareness leads to better self-control and an accurate sense of ways to improve their leadership skills.
2. They practice empathy. More effective managers are those who seek first to understand situations, rather than to have subordinates understand their subjective viewpoints or opinions about these situations. Empathy is a personal characteristic best defined as being “other-oriented,” by understanding and responding to the unique circumstances of others. Empathy is about caring and listening, letting the story unfold, and asking open-ended, information-eliciting questions.
3. They lead the way they would want to be led. Admirable bosses follow “Golden Rule” principles that one should treat others as one would want to be treated – a universal feature of effective interpersonal relationships.
4. They are credible and warrant active following. Bosses that subordinates want to report to and from whom they wish to seek out guidance are those who have demonstrated they are credible leaders. Credibility involves the alignment of the boss’ words and actions, their personal values and the values of the organization they help lead, and their expertise with their organizational role assignment. When this type of alignment occurs, bosses earn their subordinates trust and willingness to be an active follower of their supervisory direction.
5. They maintain appropriate boundaries. Bosses cannot play favorites or act in a way that undermines their authority to supervise their staff’s performance.
6. They criticize artfully. When a performance deficiency needs to be addressed, really great bosses use communication techniques to provide feedback or criticism in a way that is not emotionally ruinous to the supervisory relationship. Instead, they use methods that reduce defensiveness and open the direct report up to information they need to improve performance.
7. They adopt a coaching style. Bosses who micromanage are sending a message that their direct reports cannot be trusted to do the job they have been hired to perform correctly without a constant watchful eye over their shoulder. Bosses who consider themselves more as coaches or mentors than dictators create a far more productive work environment.
8. They transform conflict into opportunity. When a boss needs to mediate a conflict, they do so most effectively when they look for opportunities to emerge from the dispute with greater shared understandings of team objectives.
9. They adapt to different personality styles among their subordinates. Really great bosses look to build rapport with their staff, using methods that identify natural personality styles and showing the flexibility to lead different types of people.