Why You Need A Good Boss

January 7, 2015

A friend called me yesterday to say he was leaving his current job. His boss was unbearable. A recruiter I commonly network with often tells me that the number one reason he’s able to pull people out of great companies is bad bosses.

As a consultant, I have the opportunity to talk with a people in a variety of companies at a variety of levels. I can usually tell by talking to the employee whether they have a good boss.

While bad bosses may not be ideal, I believe that good bosses can bring the best out of their team. The following are two key criterias of good bosses. You can see from the examples the impact a good boss can have on your career.


I hope you chuckle. It’s amazing how many managers don’t actually manage. They typically project manage. Are you getting the things done we need you to get done? They aren’t providing the direction or background to make you successful.

Here is a classic example of good managing versus bad:

The Bad Manager

The bad manager tells you that the business is looking into cloud computing. Go figure out what they need and make sure it fits into our standards.

The Good Manager

The good manager provides the context to make you successful. The business is looking to provide this new capability. They think the cloud will help them do that. The CEO said the other day we have to get to market before our competitor. Can you help the business figure out whether this cloud service will do that?

Especially in information security, we use the context of generic security rather than what the business is trying to accomplish. It’s the difference between saying no and trying to understand how you can help the business achieve what they need to achieve securely.


This is where I believe good managers can become great managers. Let’s go back to our cloud computing example.

I often tell people early on in their career that there is going to be a point where it’s more important to learn the business than learn the technology. In the above example, the manager provides the context. As a coach, it’s an opportunity to help the employee grow. While you’re there, you’ll be more successful in the long term if you build relationships with the business and learn what they do.

The idea of coaching is long-term not short-term. Investing in your employees will pay dividends in the future.

This is Basic Stuff

It is. I’m embarrassed to write it. And yet I’d guess more than 50% of you have bad bosses. You’re getting no guidance and no coaching. (If you’re a bad boss, unfortunately I can’t fix it you 700 words.)

How You Can Help Your Boss (and you)

My hunch is that many bad bosses have the talent to manage and coach but don’t make the time to do it. If it’s the difference between finishing a project for their boss or giving you advice, they’re focused up the ladder and not down.

But there are bosses that are plain bad. Move on.

For those who have potential, help them out:

Think about a survey you’d fill out about your boss. Does he/she give timely feedback? Do they inform you of important corporate decisions?

Start asking those questions. How am I doing? How do you think that project turned out? I saw a reorganization in department A, what was behind that?

Many years ago, I tried this technique with a plain bad boss. “Jay, I’m not exactly sure how you’re doing. How do you think you’re doing?”

But with a majority of distracted bosses, you can coach them to be better. As you’re thinking about the new year and getting out from under that bad boss, maybe first try taking a more active approach to get what you need from them.