Three Things Great Bosses Do That Employees Never Forget

There are no flawless bosses. Even the great ones have their quirks. But they possess something that overshadows their shortcomings: the trust of people who choose to follow them.

Trust isn’t a gift; it is an earned benefit. You have to work for it and never take it for granted. You earn it when people see a direct, positive connection between your values and your actions. You know, the talk and the walk are in sync.

In my years of teaching leadership and management, I’ve read hundreds of 360-degree feedback reports on managers. We call them Personal Development Questionnaires and they’re a key part of our Poynter leadership seminars. PDQs always include narrative descriptions of what colleagues say bosses do well and could do better.

Time and again, these reports reveal that the best managers are trusted, respected and followed — not just because they’re smart and have clout — but because of behaviors they choose. The bosses may not even think of these particular actions and reactions as a big deal, but their employees always remember.

So let me share three things that employees never forget:

  1. How my boss apologized to me when he or she was in the wrong
  2. How my boss handled a truly boneheaded error of mine
  3. How my boss responded to something personal and important to me: a joy or a tragedy

It’s the “how” of each of these actions that makes them unforgettable and builds the trust. That’s what I talk about in today’s three-minute “What Great Bosses Know” podcast:


I’d love to hear about other unforgettable acts of great bosses. Feel free to share yours in the comments section of this article or directly to me by e-mail.

Some other resources for you:

Coming up next: Three Things Bosses Do That Employees Never Forgive

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information on leadership and management that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and all walks of life.

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