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Some traits of a good boss December 31, 2008

Posted by fetzthechemist in Careers.

I have written a few times about dealing with a bad boss or the characteristics of one. In this short article, I want to describe a few things a good boss has or does. Several of these characteristics come from employee survey results.


A good boss lets go of a lot of things, letting others do the bulk of the work. Involvement is limited to direction and advice during the work and to review and more advice afterwards. This allows the boss to focus on issues and topics where she or he must be or has to be involved. Why work more than one job by inserting oneself into everything?


This empowerment carries with it a message that helps and advice are freely given when asked for. If a person needs efforts among people to be coordinated or resources to be allocated, then that is best done by the boss. Setting priorities is another task in this vein. Creating cooperation and teamwork sometimes needs a nudge to make it happen. Being a boss means empowering others for many tasks, but also assuming certain ones that must be done as the leader.


A good boss learns to trust those who earn it, giving them more independence and responsibility. Delegation is not surrender of power or authority. It is a way to free up time and reserve energy for things that deserve it. Trust allows risk, which allows performance beyond what is expected or required.


The corollary is that a good boss also watches and steps in when there is a need, but not in a heavy-handed way. If there is conflict, then the mediator’s role is assumed. If there are divergent ideas about goals, schedules, and priorities, the boss defines them for everyone and so that all know theirs and how each fits together.


A good boss builds dialogue through listening before speaking. This often takes patience since scientists are not inclined to share their feelings and thoughts. Expectations are clear and known, including those that might bring negative effects. There are no surprises for performance, good or not.


A good boss does not show favoritism. Praise is merit based, Recognition is done in public, but in a fashion that suits the recipient’s preference (some people actually hate being the center of attention!). Criticism is never public, but is handled directly behind closed doors. A heavy hand only builds resentment and minimalist performance.



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