From good boss to great boss: do you have what it takes?

John Sherman

Everyone has worked for a boss that lacks in one area or another. While “good” at what they do, they fail to motivate, encourage, and support – all necessary qualities of a “GREAT” boss. If you work in a position of authority, regardless of the company size or industry, you owe it to yourself, your staff, and your employer to be the best manager possible.


Key qualifications of a GREAT boss

Along with the three above-mentioned primary qualifications of a great boss, there are many others.

Clear Vision

The people who work under your leadership truly want to excel at what they do. However, if they don’t understand your clear vision and goal, you’ll likely find that there’s a lot of wasted time and effort across the board.


Your team needs to see the results of what they do; otherwise, their daily tasks have no meaning. As an example, one woman worked for a salt company dispatching workers to repair different types of equipment inside of mines. However, having never been inside a salt mine, there was no connection between her actions and the repair work involved.

Instead of allowing her to feel inadequate and unmotivated in her job, her employer had her go down inside one of the mines. Visually seeing the equipment first-hand and meeting some of the technicians made all the difference in her performance.


A lack of performance expectations is one of the leading causes of stress in the workplace. It’s essential for you to lay out not only the department’s goal, but also individual goals for each employee. As a result, you’ll find your team becomes more invested in achieving the set objectives.

Knowing what you expect from each member of your team gives them something to strive toward which, in turn, helps reduce stress. A great boss also communicates any modifications to expectations whenever there’s a change in priority.

Feedback and mentoring

You’ve heard the term “constructive criticism,” which is imperative as a great boss. However, it’s just as crucial to give kudos when warranted as it is to point out areas that require improvement. For you to advance from a good to great boss, provide your staff with consistent feedback and mentoring.

As a manager, it’s your job to address both positive and negative things that happen in the workplace. If an employee doesn’t handle a customer service call correctly, instead of berating that individual, provide guidance or schedule online training. On the other hand, if a worker goes above and beyond to assist a customer, make sure you acknowledge it.

Personal connection

Although sometimes tricky, you want to make every effort to build a personal relationship with each person on your team. That doesn’t mean spending time together outside of work, but you should try to learn about each individual’s personal life to some degree. For staff members with children, ask about them; for someone who has some kind of hobby, show interest.

A simple comment like “Is your daughter feeling better today” after learning an employee has a sick child or “How was the miniature train exhibition” when you know someone planned to attend one creates trusted relationships and motivates employees.

At the same time, you need to be somewhat transparent in your personal life. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to know things about your employees without them having some insight into your life. The key is to use experiences as learning tools. For instance, if someone stole a parking space while out shopping, you could share the story but explain how it wasn’t worth becoming upset over.

In a Reader’s Digest article, Jerry Acuff, a sales and marketing agent, was quoted as saying, “Employees want us to care about them. They want us to help them succeed. The best way to do that is by providing competent job instruction, combined with providing your workers independence in doing their job.”

Acuff went on to say, “Fall in love with your people. You have been entrusted with one of the most important responsibilities in life – helping someone else succeed.

Those are powerful words with in-depth meaning. As a manager, you have the opportunity to help mold someone into becoming successful in his or her career. By opening up to some degree, you humanize the relationship with your employees, yet also tell stories that serve to mentor.

Fun workplace

There’s nothing worse than going to work each day to a strictly regimented job where no one has fun. Yes, there’s work to do – but make it exciting. Small gestures go a long way. You might make it a tradition to pay for lunch each Friday for your team or to bring in freshly baked donuts and pastries every Monday. You can also organize contests whereby the person who reaches the goal first receives a $25 gift card.

A “good” boss smiles and makes the work environment comfortable: A “great” boss incorporates fun activities for the employees. Anything from a dress-down day to an off-site team-building event gives your employees something to look forward to, which makes the job fun.


Regardless of the size of your department, you want to foster a team mentality. Especially when overseeing a significant number of people, there are a lot of different personalities and opinions. Remember, each of those serves an important purpose when corralled as a team. While sometimes challenging, push for unity. In addition to achieving more, each employee will feel like a viable member of the team.


You should not only listen to employee feedback: You should also solicit it. Although you should have excellent knowledge of each worker’s role, there’s often an opportunity to learn how to do something better by listening to your individuals team members. By asking for feedback, you help unleash your employees’ creativity and give them more freedom to think proactively.


Sure, giving verbal support to your team is critical, but as a great boss, you need to do more. Make sure your staff has the resources and tools necessary to perform at the level you expect. That could be anything from securing a new computer to registering them for online training. Instead of getting in the way of your team’s performance, ask them what they need and then follow through by providing it.

Transforming from a good to great boss

Many managers believe they do an excellent job when, in fact, they’re far from great. Part of your responsibility involves taking a hard look at yourself and how you manage your team. Although you might discover some things that make you feel uncomfortable, if you genuinely care about the company and your employees, you’ll do whatever it takes to transform from a good to great boss.

In one instance, a manager for a pharmaceutical validation company was more than difficult. He berated his employees in front of others and often threw temper tantrums. One of his computer experts spent an entire day creating a detailed blueprint; however, it required one minor change. Instead of giving that individual guidance, this manager placed the CAD drawing on the floor and poured his hot cup of coffee on it. True story.

To become a great boss, you need to identify any areas of weakness and be willing to make changes in how you manage your team. In exchange, you’ll see a remarkable difference in attitude, morale, and performance – and you’ll enjoy your role far more.

Multiple studies show that when morale declines, employees automatically disengage. When that happens, people become stressed, which wreaks havoc on performance and production. In no time, you have a dysfunctional and chaotic team. Even worse, you could end up with a hostile work environment, which puts people at risk. The cause of this falls back on you. The good news is that you can change, which in turn improves your employees’ mindset and actions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a unit of the U.S. Department of Labor, the average American worker spends 44 hours a week at work. When you consider how much you and your staff are together, why not make the time as enjoyable as possible? A great boss takes advantage of online training to learn how to create a positive environment that allows workers to achieve excellent results.

Identify areas you need to improve

Too much business

You’ve probably heard the proverb, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy,” something Jack Nicholson typed over and over in the movie “The Shining.” While somewhat creepy, it’s an accurate depiction of what can happen when you’re all business, all the time at work. There’s nothing wrong with being career-minded, but if you take it too far, you’ll end up with a miserable team that dreads coming to work each day.

Close friendships

You also need to remain mindful of the relationships you have with your employees. As mentioned earlier, it’s fine to know some things about peoples’ personal lives, but be wary of becoming “buddies.” For one thing, this gives the other members of your team the impression that you show favoritism.

Also, if have to reprimand or perhaps terminate your “friend,” you would find yourself in an uncomfortable position. In that situation, the person you hang out with could take advantage of the friendship, putting your job on the line. Even if you and one of your workers have a lot in common and enjoy each other’s company, as a great boss, there’s a line you shouldn’t ever cross.

Company news

Whether due to insecurities or just an oversight, pay attention to how and when you share company information. In a leadership role, you’ll need to keep some things private, but anything of public knowledge, you should share with your staff. If your employees hear news from an outside source, they could resent and distrust you.

Another true story involves an employee who fell on hard times. A manager working in HR knew this individual would receive a $2,500 bonus and, feeling bad for her, shared the news. While the manager thought she did something good, unbeknownst to her, the employee went directly to the head of HR to tattle. Although the company didn’t fire the manager, it lost trust in her as she shared private information that wasn’t hers to share.

A great manager has a clear understanding of his or her responsibilities to the company. In your position, you need to know your employer’s expectations and abide by its wishes. Even if tempted, understand what and when to share company news.

Employee reviews

Do you loathe going through annual employee reviews? While other managers might share your sentiment, this is something your staff expects. Especially if reviews crop up at the busiest time of the year for your company, as a great boss, you need to make time to ensure that every person on your team gets the review and discussion time they deserve. As discussed later on, you can always delegate responsibility, freeing up your time to make the reviews happen.

Workplace conflict

Dealing with conflict within a department is a problem area for a lot of managers. However, in your role, you don’t have the luxury of pretending everything is fine when an issue arises. If necessary, you can engage your HR director and/or risk management director.

Ultimately, you want to step in immediately after you become aware a conflict exists. By Allowing things between employees to fester could negatively impact morale, production, and potentially put everyone in the company at risk for workplace violence.

Embrace change

If you’ve been in management for a long time, there’s an excellent chance you’ve become set in your ways. Without even realizing it, you could be holding your team back rather than tapping into its creativity. Instead of stifling your forward-thinking employees, embrace their ideas and implement change when appropriate.

Hard on mistakes

Look, your employees are humans just like you, which means they’re going to make mistakes from time to time. While having everyone achieve perfection would be nice, it’s unrealistic. If you typically come down hard on your employees when they make mistakes, remind yourself to provide guidance and mentoring instead. Remember the saying, “Treat others like you would like to be treated.”

For a worker struggling in a specific area of his or her job, rather than lose hope, consider providing that person with online training. For instance, if you have a member of your team responsible for handling customer service calls who doesn’t always provide the correct information, find courses that will help with focus and communication.


For you to become a great boss, you should never procrastinate. Whether you delay the follow-up on an employee’s question, put off annual reviews, or fail to schedule a promised team-building day, there’s no room for being lax with your employees.

As a great boss, avoid putting things off. Even if a problem arises, rather than deal with it the following day or later, jump on it right away. By doing so, you set the tone that, while you’re a fun boss, you’re also aware of things happening within your department. Avoiding procrastination builds trust between you and your team.


Micromanaging is one of the worst offenses in the eyes of your employees. What this teaches them is you don’t trust they can do their jobs. For whatever reason, you feel the need to check, double check, and triple check everything your staff does. If you want employees with low morale and no sense of self-worth, all you need to do is micromanage.

As you review the provided information and take advantage of online training courses, you’ll learn how to stop being a serial micromanager and, instead, entrust even important tasks to your team. Again, there’s nothing wrong with having high expectations; however, there’s a high price to pay for looking over your employees’ shoulders all day.

Principles of a great boss

  • Motivate – Motivation is subjective, meaning the way people respond depends on several factors. As a great boss, the goal is to identify what motivates each employee and the team as a whole. Set high standards for professionalism, communication, and productivity. If someone fails to meet those standards, instead of blaming, use the type of motivation required to turn the situation around.
  • Communicate – Always keep the line of communication open with your staff. Even when everything runs smoothly, take time to congratulate your team and express thanks for their hard work.
  • Develop careers - There’s no joy or gratification in seeing someone fail. Even if you have to put in a little extra effort, you can make a difference in your department, for the company, and in an individual’s business and personal life. A great boss helps employees reach their full potential, emphasizes their strengths, and motivates them in areas of weakness.
  • Delegate – You have a team because you can’t possibly accomplish all the company’s objectives yourself. Instead of seeing your staff as nothing more than “workers,” give them the credit, opportunities and respect they deserve. Engaging your employees is an excellent way to motivate and support their career goals.
  • Build trust – The more trust you have in your employees, the more trust they’ll have in you and the company itself. A strong foundation based on trust leads to a positive work environment – one where people feel appreciated and secure.

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