By: Jennifer Hall, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Certified CEO Effectiveness Executive Coach
Dr. Bill Anton suggests that some bosses are hug-worthy while others are…not so much. We can probably all identify instances of both in our working lives. But even the bosses of our nightmares—the ones caught up in blind ambition and lacking in the self-knowledge that allows them to selflessly serve others—can serve a purpose. To paraphrase a well-known saying: no one is completely useless. Bad bosses can at least provide an example of how not to behave.
When I talk to my clients about job searches, I invite them to list the criteria that would be important to them in taking a new job, so that they don’t act impulsively, but rather think through in a more objective manner what an apparently shiny new job really has to offer. I also suggest that they differentiate between the must-have’s and the nice-to-have’s. As they work through this exercise, my clients tend to enumerate factors such as “interesting work,” “comparable or better title and salary,” and “positive company culture.” Some clients are drawn to high-level, strategic work, while others value the opportunity to see quick and tangible results; some are open to pulling up stakes and trying out a new part of the world, while others have put down roots and don’t want to relocate their families. But time after time, I notice something that is not on the wish lists of my clients: working for a great boss.
When I inquire about whether that might be important, my clients always quickly agree that it is. And I find that once they actually interview for a particular job, meeting and sizing up the hiring manager is critically important in their clients’ ultimate decision about whether to accept the job. Still, I think there’s value in putting that criterion—the opportunity to work for an exceptional boss—on the wish list in the first place. I’ve seen it contribute to more conscious decisions to prioritize one’s own personal and professional development rather than leaning toward positions that might look good on a LinkedIn page. We’ve all heard that job candidates should not only prepare to be interviewed, but to do some interviewing themselves when considering a new position. I think one of the most important lines of questioning for job candidates revolves around the prospective manager’s own level of self-knowledge. Examples of such inquiries might include, “Tell me about your most profound developmental experience” and “Tell me about the ways in which your mental models (or deeply held beliefs) influence your leadership philosophy and practices.” But however you do it, I hope you’ll consider adding “exceptional boss” to the wish list you create for your next job!