Be a good boss

Walking over to the local Blue Bottle in downtown San Francisco, I run into more founders than hippies in the Haight.

Nowadays, it seems that anyone can be a founder. However, as a company grows beyond the founders, they also become the boss. As a company continues to grow beyond that, the bosses hire/promote other bosses to manage people. Just as there can be bad and good companies, there can be bad and good bosses. I’d be willing to wager that most good companies have a high correlation with good bosses.

Here are some of the tips I’ve learned on being a boss:

Listen

A good boss often engages in conversation with their co-workers and actively listens. Actively listening involves eye contact, not checking your phone, and asking follow up questions. Listen, internalize and look for opportunities to help but balance with it on being a good listener. Sometimes, people just need a place to vent and not someone to solve their problems.

Help plan for their future both professionally and personally

Your people want to grow at and outside of work. They want to build on their skills, expand their network, and be taken care of financially. A good boss should send their employees to meetups, conferences, and provide resources and tools for them to learn. There may be cases where an employee outgrows their role or wants to try a new position they are unqualified for. Invest in the materials or mentors that can help this person become qualified.

I often ask about their personal life and if there is anything I can help with. Sometimes it’s a spouse or a relative of theirs that want an intro, other times it’s a restaurant suggestion. It’s a good idea to acknowledge people are more than what they are at work and see where you can help.

Give them a clear runway long enough so they can takeoff

A good boss helps clear the path for their employees of any obstacles that may be “blocking” their performance. A “blocker” to me is something that is beyond their capability of handling or is something that would take you a minimal amount of time whereas it would take them a massive amount of time. However, it shouldn’t go as far as removing the challenge from the job. There is a fine balance that will take some time to calibrate with your employees, but once it is reached your employees will be more independent and will know that they can reach out to you for help when needed.

Go on a walk

A good boss doesn’t just spend all their time in the office or a conference room. I like to go on walks, grab coffee (even though I really don’t drink the stuff), and grab dinner. It’s a great opportunity to get to know one another outside of the office.

Have resources but enable them to be resourceful

There are plethera of tools, educational materials, and resources that employees want. A good boss will provide them but I believe it’s important to check whether it is a “nice to have” or a “need to have”. I believe there are creative ways around some of the “nice to haves” that can be an opportunity for your employees to be resourceful.

Transparency

A good boss is transparent with what is happening in the company. With transparency, comes better communication and information for everyone to make decisions. Keith Rabois has a great talk about this here.

Ultimately, if you want people to make smart decisions, they need context and all available information. - Keith Rabois

Inspire and Excite

A good boss doesn’t need to use the carrot or the stick. A good boss understands the motivations of their employees and ignites a fire in them to “go get it”. Along that journey, a good boss is part cheerleader, part nurse (fix ‘em up and send them back out to battle), and part Tony Robbins.

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It’s impossible for this to be an exhaustive list but I hope it sheds some light on what it means to be a good boss. Please feel free to share your thoughts and tips on being a boss or from the bosses you’ve had.

Thanks :)