‘The lessons I learned from my favorite boss’

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A great boss can inspire and motivate you. A great boss can shape your career and the type of manager you become.

A great boss can also teach you valuable career and life lessons. We asked workers to share stories about the best bosses they’ve ever had and what they learned from those leaders that still influences them today.

The power of a thank you
“What I learned from my best boss was two things — first the power of ‘thank you.’ No matter what kind of day we had or what disappointments or victories, he always thanked me for my effort. I didn’t make a lot of money at that job, but ‘thank you’ was worth coming back for every day. Second, he taught me that the only stupid question was the one that never got asked. He valued the fact that not everyone on his team knew what he knew because to him that meant we knew something he could learn.” – Brooke A. Benschoter, chief marketing officer, Torsion Mobile Inc.

Empowering others leads to success
“While I have gained insight from each and every one of them, my favorite single piece of insight came from Matt Atkinson. While talking about a way to get people to support an initiative and buy into our vision of the future, he told me that, ‘People support a world they help create.’ This single sentence still sticks with me to this day. Essentially, he was saying that to get buy-in from others, you need to make them feel empowered in the process so they feel personally vested in the project, initiative, vision, etc. Once someone feels like they are personally having an impact on something, they will support it and work tirelessly to see it through. This has helped me immensely through my career — not only managing direct reports, but also co-workers and even upper management. It applies in personal situations as well, when dealing with peers and friends.” – Jayme Pretzloff, marketing director, Wixon Jewelers

Always be honest
“My best boss has taught me to carefully select and leverage a team’s strengths, invest in your employees (personally and professionally) and to always follow-up … Always be forthcoming and honest, admit mistakes and communicate with all involved to get input from stakeholders, and set expectations for leadership. Develop your employees and invest in their leadership training and participation in decision-making that will affect them. Take employees to conferences, trainings and events that will expose them to skills and knowledge they can benefit from. Empower your employees and challenge their comfort zones by enabling them to manage a project or training to build confidence and skills. Cross-train the team on all functions and skills so the team can leverage flexibility under pressure and employees can learn a new skill set. Keep lines of communication open so employees always know the direction they should be headed, strengths they can build on and shortfalls to avoid.” – Shannon Etnyre, founder, True North Creative Business Planning

Listen to your instincts
“My favorite boss told me: ‘Only you know what you are truly great at; many people will try and tell you what you are great at — but only you know what your gifts are, and therein lies your passion … and your passion makes you great.’” — David A. Pride, chief relationships officer, Social Impressions

The importance of constructive feedback
“A valuable lesson I learned from the best boss I ever had was how to give and receive constructive feedback. For reference, we work in a highly technical health care IT environment that requires us to communicate complex technical information with a wide variety of audiences. When I submit a piece of literature for my boss to review, his feedback always starts with ‘looks good’ or ‘great start’ and then thoughts on how to improve. By responding with a positive phrase followed by suggestions for improvement, I am eager to figure out how best to implement those suggestions. I’ve begun using this technique in other aspects of my life with very positive results. I am thankful I learned this simple lesson from my boss.” – Amanda Woodhead, corporate communications manager, Emdeon

Enjoy what you do
“Nowadays I speak and consult on management and leadership. But perhaps the best management lesson I ever received came from my all-time favorite boss, a man I worked for over 25 years ago. And that lesson was simply that work can be enjoyable, even fun. And that the more enjoyable you can make the journey toward your goals for yourself and the people you work with, the more likely everyone is to be able to sustain the effort it takes to get there.” – Barry Maher, author and speaker, BarryMaher.com

What lessons have you learned from your favorite boss? Share them in our comments section.

  1. The best boss I ever had was at my first full time job out of high school.  I had been hired as an accounting clerk, but after about 6 months of employment, the treasurer of the company asked me to be his secretary (administrative assistant now)  He saw something in me I did not have the confidence to see in myself.  He was always kind, never angry or stressed.  He was my mentor, taught me what I did not know about accounting, statistics and business and management. After a while he knew he could depend on me to write his correspondence as if he had dictated it.  This was back in 1972, and no other boss has ever lived up to Mr. B’s standards as a boss.  I am sure he has passed on by now, he was in his 50′s when I worked for him.  The company was bought out by a large conglomeration who shut it down after a couple of years.  (Sound familiar Mr. Romney)  He was terminated and I found other employment and we lost touch.   I base my management on what he taught me.

  2. The best boss I ever had. Well, I took a job that I planned to keep for a few months. I ended up staying almost ten years.  This boss was the one who trained the newly hired management personnel on procedures. She had a trainee or two a year.  She was thorough, by the book, a real prefectionist, but never a jerk about it.  She would explain, write it down for you, she would take the time to figure out how you learned and then teach it to you that way. I watched, listened and learned so much about how to engage people.  She was kind but somehow no one ever mistook that kindness for stupidity.  The type of boss who would give you a hand up, but would plant her boot in your behind if you needed that too.  I grew to believe if you gave her pig ears she could make satin handbags out of them. A-mazing. I miss you Carol!

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