Great Bosses Connect Through Conversations

iStock_000012681402XSmallAre you your employees’ best boss?

If you’re not, you may be surprised how quickly you can become their best boss. It’s not complicated.

Think about your own best boss – the person you worked for who created an environment where you were immensely productive and you loved going to work every day. What did your best boss do to create that environment for you and your team members?

I’ve asked this question of clients for over 20 years. The answers are remarkably consistent across a wide range of industries, organization size, country of origin, even personality. From my research, these are the most consistently reported “best boss” behaviors:

  • They care. Each team member is a valued person.
  • They celebrate. They give praise, encouragement, and credit.
  • They listen.
  • They validate others’ ideas, efforts, and accomplishment.
  • They’re available.
  • They inspire increasing performance in service to customers.

Notice the pattern of these great boss behaviors. They are primarily about support, validation, and connection – not about, for example, pay, goals, or metrics. Certainly great bosses must inspire terrific consistent performance. And, for these “best bosses,” they spend more time creating and maintaining positive personal relationships than they do driving results.

The payoff for leaders that connect through conversations with employees? Better results.

Knowing these consistent great boss behaviors is one thing – demonstrating them every day with team members is another! The simplest, most effective avenue for leaders to connect to employees is through regular conversations.

Two colleagues have written a terrific book that helps leaders have more authentic conversations with employees. Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni’s book, “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go,” is available today. Beverly and Julie present a vibrant model that outlines the importance of proactive, frequent discussions about progress, opportunities, and career.

Their model describes conversations that engage leaders and employees in hindsight (learning from past effort and identifying what employees are good at AND love doing), foresight (considering the changing business environment and what those changes mean for the future), and finding insight, the “sweet spot” where hindsight overlaps foresight, illuminating paths to enhance employee skills, contribution, and career.

Being a great boss is not complicated. It simply requires proactive engagement on the leader’s part to invest time, attention, and conversation with each team member. Where those conversations enable the employee to feel cared for, listened to, validated, and inspired, the leader is on the path to being that team member’s best boss.

Please join in THIS conversation! What did your best boss do to create an inspiring work experience for you? How do your great bosses engage you in career conversations? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

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  • When a boss takes time to know what drives us, what we like to do, and let’s us focus on our strengths, it is inspiring….it is also all too rare. I agree with the six points of your research and this is a great encouragement to all who want to be a “great boss.”

    • There is hope for us all, Skip! Demonstrating these behaviors and engaging in these conversations truly inspires those around us.


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  • Great message. As leaders we should strive to care for others as we would want for ourselves from our boss. I remember a great boss I had and I try to be even better. It takes time but it is time worth spent.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Jason! There are far too few great bosses in our workplaces –


  • jgmo

    Just got off the phone with my boss…he was asking about an issue we are facing with our teenager. Nothing more than, “How are you guys doing?” “Can I help?” “I don’t have the answers but I do want to walk through this with you.” Just want you to know…he can pick the wall he wants me to run through today! I am also inspired to lead the team he has entrusted me with the same way.

    Thanks for sharing these insights!

    • Thanks for sharing, Jason! You’ve got a GREAT BOSS, there, modeling concern and respect.
      I’ll bet your team members feel the same about YOU.

      Serve on!



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