The Right Stuff

By Hannah Wallace April 30, 2008

We love covering business in Sarasota and Manatee, but lately a lot of the news has been gloomy. So this month’s Best Bosses cover story was a much-appreciated morale booster for our editors. It reminds us that good people are still making good things happen in local companies. We received 145 nominations for 69 bosses, and the e-mails and letters were filled with inspiring tales of employers who stood by their employees through cancer treatments, celebrated birthdays (and the birth of employees’ children) and even took workers and their families to resorts to thank them for a good year.

But simply being a nice person did not qualify our winners for the distinction of Best Boss. In addition to the warm and fuzzy attributes, we looked for bosses with a sharp business edge—leaders who had high expectations, challenged their employees to excel, used innovative strategies to manage people and profits, and could communicate their goals for their people and companies.

After our editorial panel chose the seven finalists, we wondered if we could back up our subjective scoring with a more objective analysis. What, if any, qualities do our Best Bosses share that made them rise to the top?

We asked Marc Simms of RPM Business Advisors, a Bradenton behavioral science company that helps companies find and retain talented employees, to subject our best bosses to a self-assessment survey that measures professional skills and values. Six of our seven bosses took the time out of their busy day to take the 45-minute questionnaire online, and then RPM evaluated the results and reported them to us in summary form.

What emerged surprised even Simms. When he looked at the 23 major strengths of our best bosses, “mastery of customer service” came in first place, with each one of our best bosses scoring 100 percent in the category. In second place, with more than 80 percent mastery, was “employee development and coaching.” According to Simms, to have six bosses score so similarly is not typical, nor do these qualities typically rank near the top in most self-assessments. “It shows that [your] best bosses put emphasis on helping their customers and employees reach their goals,” he says. “It is about creating win-win relationships. For best bosses it’s more about the ‘us’ and less about the ‘me,’ and that helps them succeed.”

Our best bosses also scored similarly in the category of values, ranking the return on their energy, being in control of their own destiny and genuine caring for others as their top values out of the six measured.

Simms says that while many of the traits he measures are values, which are hard to change, most skills that make up our best bosses are learned, and that’s good news for leaders—and their employees—everywhere. See all of the exceptional bosses where were nominated in this online issue.

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