“Tell me about the best boss you ever worked for and why?”

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I love this question because inevitably my candidate’s face lights up as they remember what it was like to work for a truly great leader and manager.  One of the things I find interesting about candidates’ responses is that for most employees, their “best boss” wasn’t necessarily the nicest or easiest to work for.  Usually, people remember the boss who led, inspired, and motivated them to be better than they thought they could be.

Here are some of common reasons candidates give for naming someone their “best boss”.

  • “They knew what they wanted and they knew how to communicate that to me.”
  • “They challenged me and held me accountable.  As a result I’m better at my job today.”
  • “My best boss was also my worst boss.  He/she was tough and had incredibly high standards but it was really satisfying to meet those standards.  After working for them I know I can do anything!”
  • “My boss held me accountable to my job but they didn’t micro-manage me.  I felt like I had the autonomy I needed to do my job well.”
  • “She was open to new ideas and she empowered me to try new things.”
  • “He took the time to be a mentor to me and I really appreciated that.”
  • “My boss trusted me to do my job well.  I worked really hard for him because I didn’t want to lose that trust.”

It’s not always easy to be a great (or even a good) boss but as a leader in your organization, you have the opportunity to make a real impact on the people who work for you.  Great bosses inspire and empower the people they lead and in return they receive increased loyalty and greater productivity.

How would your employees describe you? What are some of the things you do that make you a great boss?  Is there anything you can do differently?