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Showing Up to be a Great Boss

On a recent podcast, I was asked a very simple but important question - how would you define a great boss? The question surprised me as the title of our new book is Bad Bosses Ruin Lives: The Building Blocks for Being a Great Boss, which means that most questions posed to us these days are about bad bosses. But I was actually pleased that they had, for although yes, part of the book focuses on the concept of bad bosses, the other half focuses on tools to be great, with the ultimate objective of the book being to help bosses be great.

So how did I answer this question? I began by summing it up in two words - showing up. This was a concept I heard over and over again when watching an interview with a college gymnastics coach that I greatly admire. She spoke about how her role as a coach (as a boss) is to show up for her gymnasts, to be there for them as an athlete and as a student (the whole person).

To help them when they’re having a good day or a bad one, when they need a bit of a push and a challenge, and when they need a helping hand or just a hug. 

I love this for a few reasons. First, because it illustrates how coaching in the sport of gymnastics is evolving, moving away from what you may have read about the days of coaches bullying and abusing athletes. And second, because I think it’s such a powerful way of summing up what our book is all about - moving from being a bad boss who ruins lives to a great boss who enriches lives.

So how do you show up for your people? What does this look like in the workplace? Let me answer this by relating it back to each of the 14 building blocks we cover in the book, the tools we all have to be a great boss:

  1. Be empathic – Understand what your people feel and need based on their individual and diverse situations, challenges and frustrations.

  2. Be compassionate – Take action to encourage and support your people through understanding and empathizing with their individual and diverse needs.

  3. Be authentic – Show your people who you are, what you believe in, and your true self.

  4. Be vulnerable – Show your people the full spectrum of your true self, including your emotions, struggles, and imperfections.

  5. Be respectful – Believe in the value of your people, recognizing their abilities and contributions, and treating them with dignity and courtesy. 

  6. Be trusting – Believe that your people will do the right thing, having confidence in their honesty, integrity, and reliability.

  7. Listen – Hear and decode what your people say and suggest, showing that you value their input and contributions.

  8. Communicate – Share information with your people openly, honestly, transparently and continuously.

  9. Give feedback – Provide information to your people on how they’ve behaved and performed to help them grow, learn and improve.

  10. Give appreciation – Show your people that you recognize, acknowledge, value and appreciate their efforts, accomplishments and contributions.

  11. Provide development – Help your people create the best approach and plan for them to develop their abilities, learn new skills and achieve their goals.

  12. Provide coaching – Support and facilitate actions and activities to help your people learn, grow, discover and explore solutions to help them achieve their goals. 

  13. Empower – Give your people the freedom, power, control, and space to take ownership of their work.

  14. Inspire – Motivate your people by driving them towards a common purpose to achieve milestones and overcome obstacles and challenges.

By showing up for your people in these ways you are being the kind of boss that they need, a great one! If you’d like to read more about these building blocks, check out our book or look on our website (

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