As a leader, you want to scale and grow your business, manage your team, and foster a good company culture. But doing that with a team full of different personality types can be a real challenge. So today I want to talk about an exercise that I do with my executive team and encourage our business coaching clients to do as well. We call it good boss-bad boss.

Over the past 25 years, I have worked with thousands of leaders, and many come to the table with their own preferences or biases. For example, let's say that you really like shout-outs during meetings. So you decide to include that in your agenda each week when you meet with your team. Some of your staff may really enjoy the spotlight, but Linda in accounting might be shy and prefer to be acknowledged in other ways.

So how do you find out what everyone on your team likes so you support them the best way possible? Simply ask them about their past bosses.

Tell Me About Your Best Boss

When you ask someone this, you will get a variety of answers. You will find out who likes to be acknowledged for their victories, who likes shout-outs in your Monday huddles, who likes to be given the freedom to solve their own problems, and who likes to get one-on-one feedback. Most people are happy to share this feedback, and it can go a long way to making your team members feel respected and understood.

Tell Me About Your Worst Boss

On the flip side, you also want to know about an employee's worst previous bosses. Ask about the ones who made them unhappy or the ones who made them seek out another job. When they tell you that they hate being micromanaged, or expected to answer work calls at 10 p.m., or that they struggle when a boss doesn't give them the proper tools to do their job correctly, take notes.

These are the deal breakers for this person and the things that will make a great employee go elsewhere. So, as a leader, it is up to you to take a good hard look at your own management style and company culture and decide if you are at risk of being one of their worst bosses.

When to Ask the Questions

So, when should you ask these questions? Ideally, today, if you haven't already done so. That said, I like to ask these questions during a job interview, because it gives me the opportunity to start off the relationship on the right foot and decide if that person is a good fit for my team.

While everyone deserves individual attention and respect, there is a lot to be said for understanding how you work and manage. If you know that you have a tendency to micromanage and that even on your best day still have a tendency to do so, that might be a deal breaker for someone. Or if you are very hands-off, and you hire someone who thrives on constant feedback and oversight, then it might not be a good match for the employee or your company. So use this as a hiring tool as well.