What A Good Boss Does (According to a 4-Year-Old)



It can be hard to pin down exactly what a good boss does, and even more difficult to become one. For most managers, this is an ongoing process of learning from others and evolving in the hopes of becoming a true leader. But maybe this journey of growing into a great boss isn’t as complicated as you think. Perhaps it’s so simple that even a small child knows what a good boss should be doing.

For those of you who have kids, this scenario will be easy to picture. When my son Carter was four years old, our bedtime routine consisted of reading two books in the hopes that he would finally calm down enough to get to sleep. One night during this routine, while Carter was jumping around his room cleaning up toys and trying to pick out a book (read: delaying sleep), he started the following conversation:

Carter: “Daddy, you have a new boss.”

Me: “Who’s that?”

Carter: “Mommy.”

Me: “That’s interesting… Hey Carter, what does a boss do?”

I laughed a little, anticipating a response having to do with bossing around or yelling.

Carter: “A boss protects you.”

This answer caught me by surprise – and gave me goose bumps because it was so profound. I wanted to hear more.

Me: “What else does a boss do?”

Carter: “A boss helps you.”

What?! Helps me? This was particularly shocking to me, as I have had many bosses (if not all) who never did anything to help me.

Me: “Wow, they help you? What else does a boss do?”

Carter: (Whispering) “Buys you Star Wars toys…"

This answer wasn’t as surprising.

While this is a funny story, it contains a serious lesson about what a good boss – and leader – should be doing to effectively lead their team.

Do you protect your employees? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce identified “Management Loyalty to Workers” as a top 10 desire of employees at every level of an organization. Do you back up your employees? Do you support their decisions and show them how to learn from their mistakes?

Do you help your employees? As leaders, we are responsible for helping those in our team. A common mistake made by many bosses is thinking their success alone dictates the team’s success. It is only by removing roadblocks to an employee’s success that the team can be as effective as it should be. An effective team must go out of their way to help each other succeed.

Do you know what your employees’ Star Wars toys are? Yes, this one applies too. Find what motivates your team. It may be expressing a simple thank you, or getting to know someone personally, or including them in shop-related decisions. Find out what motivates each individual team member and, if it’s within your power to provide, do it.

Sometime in our lives, each of us had a person who took the time to get to know us, gave us opportunity and picked us up when we made mistakes. Everyone has somebody – whether it’s a family member, teacher, coach, boy/girl scout leader, military officer or church leader; we can see their faces, we remember their names. There is no reason why, 10 years from now, you cannot be the face someone remembers as their respected leader. All it takes is helping, protecting and, finally, Star Wars toys.

Want more tips for becoming a great leader? Register for my upcoming webinar, The Journey to Great Leadership Starts with You, on May 22 from 12pm-1pm. Read more here.

Charlie WestraGrowth Services Program Manager
As the Growth Services Program Manager at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center), Charlie’s expertise spans many areas. In his role, Charlie is responsible for developing organizational growth strategies, providing management consulting, and building effective teams. Specializing in improving employee engagement with supervisory skills and leadership development, Charlie works collectively and individually with management and sales teams to develop customized workplace tools to fit specific needs and goals. His mission is to assist companies in producing sustainable, positive results.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Categories: Leadership/Culture