What is something you learned from the best boss you ever had, and how has it influenced your own leadership style?
The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Listen to What Your Team Says
The best boss I ever had truly listened to what everyone else had to say. I had bosses who just told us all what to do and walked away when we started talking, but my best boss would sit down and really listen. He would give us his full attention and let us speak, then ask questions or say something that acknowledged he understood. This has helped me do the same with my team.
2. Have a Consistent Work Ethic
The best boss that I ever had was truly consistent and intense in his work ethic. I thought I knew how to work hard toward my goals, but I quickly learned that there were different levels to it. Although my boss was not the most efficient worker, he was able to make breakthroughs through brute force. I added creative problem-solving to the equation and the lessons I learned became invaluable.
3. There Are No Problems, Only Challenges
Early in my career, I had to create a presentation directly for my VP on some key changes to the company. I opened with, “The problem with…” and was interrupted. She said, “In this organization there are no problems, only challenges. I haven’t had a problem in 35 years, but I’ve had plenty of great challenges to overcome.” Our choice of self-talk says a lot, so choose words wisely.
4. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
One of the best lessons I ever received was that in order to grow, I had to get out of my comfort zone. My boss would often ask me to do things he knew I didn’t like, but that would improve my overall skill set. And while there were times I stumbled, I learned a lot, which made it a win-win for us both. As such, I ask our team to go beyond, and the results often pleasantly surprise them.
5. Don’t Ask Others to Do Something You Wouldn’t Do Yourself
My best boss was employee number 26 at a 10,000 person company. He was universally respected for trying his best to work with people in the lab and on the bench because he missed it. At Mappedin, it is written in stone that leaders lead from the front. No one can delegate work that they haven’t done themselves or wouldn’t do again.
6. Move Quickly and Don’t Wait for Permission
The best boss I ever had taught me the major benefits of moving faster (learning more, reacting, setting a team pace, etc.). The other big lesson I learned from him was about taking action to move things forward without asking permission. Just let someone know what you’re doing so they can give feedback, and move forward with action unless they say differently. This directly ties back to team speed.
7. Freedom Is Precious
The most important lesson I learned from one of my best mentors is that giving people freedom has tremendous value. Allowing your team to work remotely, letting them make decisions on their own and breeding independence creates loyalty and happiness in the workplace. Giving your employees freedom can be perceived as more important than a salary. Freedom has a huge ROI.
8. Do What You Love
I was having a beer with an old boss, and he told me to only commit to something that I’m in love with. His rationale was that people spend more time at work than with their spouses. If people get married for love, then why don’t they work for love? Since energy is contagious, I make sure to be the company’s biggest fan whenever I can, especially on bad days.
9. Be Forgiving
I’ve had two sorts of bosses: those who punish employees for mistakes and those who help employees learn from mistakes. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and the boss I learned the most from let me know in no uncertain terms when I screwed up, but she also saw every mistake as a learning experience. I try to bring the same ethic to my management style.
10. Adjust Your Management Style
One boss once told me that you can’t expect all of your team members to comply with your singular management style. To the contrary, you must adjust yours based on the employee you’re communicating with. That’s the best way to maintain a happy and productive team.
11. Ask High-Quality Questions to Get High-Quality Answers
One of the best ways to lead is the question-based approach. Not only does it help encourage team members to do more by asking them about performance rather than telling them, it also helps you get to the bottom of any potential workplace or task-related issues. Always ask good questions to get good answers, no matter how mundane the question may seem.
12. Be Patient and Accept Feedback
Patience and editing are essential to sustainable leadership. By demonstrating patience in your behavior and showing patience with team members, you encourage growth in a safe, non-threatening environment. Everyone requires edits. As a leader, I choose to be an editor and encourage team members to openly make suggestions and edits to my work as well. We all have talents to be supported and edited.
13. Guide, Don’t Tell
Anyone can tell someone what to do; good leaders guide people and help them accomplish their goals. You want to give people a task in an informative and respectful manner, not as a dictator shelling out orders. You should be accountable for everything that you assign, so you need to make sure that everyone knows exactly what to do. Guide them to the desired result; don’t just relay orders and leave.
14. Keep Calm When an Employee Messes Up
There will be times when the boss is not happy with the employee. The reaction of the boss, and the manner in which feedback is given, can make or break an employee’s morale. My best boss taught me that a calm, peaceful approach with positive feedback (instead of criticism) is the best approach, and it has influenced my own leadership style.