Adverising. And Howe
By Karen Howe
A superior boss welcomes questions, provides timely guidance, nurtures creativity and has a sense of humour
Looking for a job? Don’t just look for the right agency. Look for the right boss. Think of a boss as a career coach, one who holds your fate in his or her hands.
You’ll report directly to them, and they do your annual reviews. You’ll also spend endless hours together in some very demanding situations.
So you need to figure out what kind of boss is right for you. When job hunting, look beyond the agency’s creative and client roster to find out if it’ll be a good fit. Dig a little deeper.
Because there are many different styles of bosses.
There are some who lead by example and then expect you to learn on the fly. Their assumption is that you will observe and learn FAST, rather than being spoon-fed.
Others are much more methodical about explaining what they want from you, exactly how they want it done (their way), then letting you earn increments of responsibility along the way. Or never.
There is also what I call the “sink or swim” boss. This kind provides no direction and is rather muddy about defining expectations. They toss you into the deep end, and stand off to the side, acting a little puzzled when you’re flailing about in confusion.
Personally, I have flourished with bosses who have provided clear expectations, then stood back to let me do things my way. Yet at the same time, those bosses offered timely guidance as needed – which gave me a psychological safety net. They didn’t dish out demerit points when I made mistakes. Nor did they perceive questions or requests for help as weaknesses. I could openly discuss issues with them and brainstorm solutions together. For me, a defining attribute of Superior Bossdom is a sense of humour. Levity is an oasis of sanity when things get crazy, as they always do. It’s therapeutic to be able to blow off steam with a laugh together.
It’s also extremely important to pick boss who you admire but also like.
A boss hires you because they see promise in you, and it’s their job to help you achieve your full potential. Yet I once had a boss who hired all of us under the pretext that we didn’t have much to offer, yet he would try (insert heavy sigh here) to make the best of it. It was a wildly dysfunctional department. Everyone felt insecure. At work we felt like we were animals trapped in a cage being poked with sharp sticks.
I think a boss who delivers praise when earned builds confidence. But you also want the straight goods when you’re not hitting your marks, or you have an area of weakness that needs shoring up. You are owed that kind of honesty because that’s how you’ll get better. Good bosses kill a bad idea deftly. They don’t leave it flailing on the floor in false hope. But they also help you explore different directions that you may not have considered. They coax you to places creatively you might never have otherwise discover. A good boss can nose out the hidden gem in the ideas you’ve scrunched and tossed aside.
You’ll want a boss who teaches you the soft skills needed to deal with clients, while also finessing your craft.
When it comes right down to it, the right boss is the potential architect of your success and happiness. So take the time to find the right one.
Karen Howe is senior vice-president, creative director of one. in Toronto.