What the Best Bosses Do

I was talking to a colleague the other day about where I came up with the name for my management training program. I call it “Best.Boss.Ever. Training.” The name comes from a question I use whenever I’m interviewing a candidate for a job. Whether the candidate is applying for an entry level position or a management position I always ask this question, “Could you tell me about your best boss?”

I learn a lot about a candidate when they answer that question. I also learn a lot about some of the great bosses that are out there. I ask a follow up question about the worst boss and, unfortunately, there are a lot of them out there as well. The training is designed to help leaders become the best boss their people will ever have . . . hence the name.

Do they Listen?

Back to the conversation with my colleague, when I told her about my interview question, she asked, “How many times do they say it’s because the boss listens?” The answer is, in one way or another, almost always. Great bosses are great listeners. I asked her to elaborate on what she meant. She talked about someone who respected her experience in the job and listened to her ideas. They didn’t look down on her, thinking that because they were the boss they knew best about everything.

The best bosses are engagers. One of the dynamics of engagers is that they not only listen when their people bring them ideas, but they actively solicit ideas from them. They recognize that the people doing the work probably know it best and therefore usually have the best ideas about how to improve the work. Many times people are afraid to share their ideas out of fear of rejection or worse . . . being ignored.


If you’re a leader, try asking your people how things might be improved. Instead of asking the generic, “How’s it going?”, make it a habit to ask the following questions during every employee encounter:

  1. What’s going well right now?
  2. Is there anyone you’d like to recognize for doing great work?
  3. Do you have everything you need to do you job right?
  4. What’s one thing we could do to improve our operation?

Listen with an open mind and don’t be afraid to try some of those ideas. You will improve the business. Even if the ideas don’t work, the fact that you asked and listened will improve engagement. Increased engagement will show up in your other important metrics. You will also move the needle toward becoming your people’s best boss ever.

[NOTE: This post is re-published version of a LinkedIn article I wrote a couple years ago]

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