Just in Time for Boss’s Day: How to Be a Better Boss

In honor of National Boss Day (Oct. 16, 2009), I’m delighted to feature this interview with Allison O’Neill, author of The Boss Benchmark and blog about how to be a better boss.

QSM: It’s unlikely a person in management aspires to be a bad boss (at least I hope that’s the case for most managers!). So why do you think there are so many bad bosses out there?

Allison: I think it’s because they kind of get swallowed up by the role – they are so busy doing, they don’t see the bigger picture. They don’t get to see themselves from the perspective their staff do. Often there are things staff feel left out of/want to know more about but the boss doesn’t pick up on this, so the team are excluded. Some bosses have a bad attitude and refuse to believe they could ever be wrong about anything (!) and that doesn’t sit well with the team! Others might be quite unapproachable, so the workers are not comfortable discussing things with them, so communication is very lacking.

Overall I think it’s the inability to step back and evaluate themselves really truthfully. It’s also not realizing that they need to be continuously growing and learning (many times a day) and not being afraid to say “I was wrong” – workers trust you when you are that humble and unafraid of honesty.

QSM: Other than learning from examples in the workplace (what to do + what NOT to do when in a supervisory position), what advice do you give most often to someone who’s a first-time boss?

Allison: Your #1 key responsibility is to see the big picture of yourself as a boss – evaluate everything you do as if you are a third party who is watching and see if you find yourself thinking “that guy is acting like a prat!”. Ask yourself EVERYDAY how you could have been a better boss today – keeping a notebook of your thoughts on this would be good.

QSM:  What do you advise someone who’s been around for a while and wants to become a better boss?

Allison: Don’t be fooled into thinking that because you are the boss (and may have been one for quite some time) that ‘you have made it’ and that you have all the skills required. You need to keep your eyes open constantly for opportunities to learn, change and develop – especially if you’ve been a boss for ages as the workplace is constantly changing – bosses need to be aware of different things/have different skills than they did even 5 yrs ago.

QSM: What are your suggestions for observing National Boss’s Day for employees fortunate to work for a great boss?

Allison: Tell them you think they do a good job – and explain why – be specific!

QSM: And for employees whose current boss is in need of serious help?

Allison: Buy them a copy of my book!

QSM: LOL … Anything that will help develop a better boss is appreciated. Thanks, Allison!

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