What does a great boss look like?

We all have our good and bad days at the office. But how often do we pause and take stock of our emotional well-being? We believe it is a good idea to do a career audit at least once a year. We suggest taking stock of your career by asking, “Am I still being well served by my place of employment?”

When interviewing candidates at Morunda, we ask a series of questions to ascertain their happiness and contentment in their current position. This series is called the Morunda Career Check (MCC).

The first question we ask is: How satisfied are you with your career path? Second, how satisfied are you with your salary, work–life balance, and company culture? Third, how excited are you about your firm’s pipeline of products? And lastly, how do you rate your company’s management?

We graph the information to provide a snapshot of the candidate’s well-being at their firm.

I was struck recently by one candidate (let’s call him Hiro) who ranked the product pipeline of his company as poor and the company culture as bureaucratic and cumbersome. Hiro was not very enthused about the pipeline and ranked management (other than his boss) as average at best. What surprised me was not so much his answers but his cheerfulness. I just had to ask, “You ranked everything so low, so why are you so happy? You seem so content.”

“That is an easy one to answer,” he glowed. “My boss is a fantastic guy.”

“What makes him so fantastic?” I asked.

Hiro, who leads a digital transformation team, described his boss as honest and upfront. He explained that his boss was not a digital native and did not have particular expertise around digital. Hiro’s boss had left it to him to lead and choose how he should run his team and execute projects.

I asked, “Is he completely hands off?”

“No, not at all,” came the reply. Hiro continued, “What makes him a great boss is that he asks great questions. He’s very insightful and reads a lot.” He further explained, “Since he is not an expert and doesn’t pretend to be, his questions are insightful, and they help me clarify my thinking.”

“What else makes him a great boss?” I asked.

Hiro replied, “He is empathetic, compassionate, and vulnerable. He cares about me, and he often asks me how my family is doing and takes an interest in my life. He’s curious about what is going on with me and my team, not only with our work. He is supportive and compliments me specifically on aspects of my work. His compliments are genuine.”

I asked Hiro to summarize what makes his boss so great, and he came up with these 10 characteristics:

  1. The team comes first.
  2. He provides clear, concise communication.
  3. He doesn’t play favorites.
  4. He shows concern for employees’ careers and personal development.
  5. He doesn’t gossip.
  6. He is open to feedback. He knows he is not perfect.
  7. His motto is “We’re a team. We win together.”
  8. He is self-aware.
  9. He is trustworthy.
  10. He is a great listener. He listens twice as much as he speaks and is often the last to speak at a meeting.

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