Art Jones was the best boss I’ve ever seen up close. I
was with him one afternoon when a much younger and newer boss asked him what he
had to do to get as good as Art. There was a long pause.
“Get a little better every day,” Art told him, “keep at it for a long
The younger man looked crestfallen. “How long?”
“I’ve been at it for twenty-four years,” Art said, “and I’m still
If you want to be a great boss, pay attention to that advice. Work at it
every day. Get a little better. And stay with it. Here’s what to expect, based
on my thirty years of observing great bosses.
It will take you one or two years to master the basics.
There’s a lot to learn and it’s all about doing, not simply understanding.
That’s what a craft is, a doing discipline.
It will take another decade or so to become a master. That’s
not a guarantee. That’s ten years of working on your craft and getting better.
Get lots of feedback from everyone you can. Evaluate it and
use it to do things a little better next time.
Use role models and other bosses for examples of what to do that
works. Try to emulate them, filtering their practice through your
Use reading and courses for ideas. You won’t get better
unless you apply those ideas and see how they work.
Make time to reflect. A little reflection on how you’re
doing every day and every week will help you sharpen your personal
Keep learning. Every new team, new job, and new boss will
mean that you will need a different mix of skills, some of which you haven’t
No matter how good you get at it, you’re never done. Being a
boss is a job you can never do perfectly. You can always do better.
Boss’s Bottom Line
Being responsible for the performance of a group can be the most rewarding
work in the world, but the work and the opportunity for improvement are never