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Your Favorite Boss – Revisited

by Duncan Ferguson on

Over the past three months we have had a survey on the Vantage website requesting people to tell us about their best boss experience. To date almost 60 people have responded to the survey. Recently, we have started to review the responses and several interesting themes have started to appear.  Some are expected and some are surprising.  While the themes have a clear and positive impact on the individual, they also have important implications for organizations. We will be sharing our findings and insights in the near future.  And, it’s not too late to participate. Simply go to the bottom left hand corner of our website,, and click on ‘Have a Story To Tell About Your Favorite Boss?’.

One of the more powerful themes about great bosses is their tolerance for mistakes.  As one respondent put it, “I never felt like a failure when I worked for my best boss.”  Just think about that statement for a moment.  I never felt like a failure. What a powerful and positive statement.  How can you learn, grow, develop and build confidence if you are afraid to make a mistake?  To be successful, to push the bar and accomplish great things, one has to take risks.   But you won’t take a risk if you fear reprisal for a mistake. It’s much easier to play it safe. The respondent went on to say, “(My best boss) always had my back, but if I made a mistake, he would come to me and discuss ‘other options’.  Mistakes were seen as part of the growth process in a person’s professional life.

Let me share one of my favorite stories on this topic from our survey responses.

“I asked my boss to join me on a sales call to a Fortune 500 company, which was a major opportunity for me. When we got to the lobby, I realized that I forgot to bring the firm’s brochure and panicked because I thought he would be disappointed.  Instead, to my surprise, he said…” a good sales person doesn’t need any stinking brochures”, which made us both laugh.  It was such a funny comment and made me feel OK.   He told me that I was a good sales person and that I should just rely on my sales skills and ability to build relationships. He told me not rely on brochures as they just become a crutch.  It was a huge learning experience for me”.

What a cool reaction by the boss as well as a dramatic learning moment for the individual. It’s something that she never forgot when, years later, she herself became a leader.

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