We all love great bosses and hate the bad ones. The only upside to a bad boss is what we learn from our experience working with that person: primarily what not to do and, occasionally, what to do.
Following up my previous post on lessons learned from bad bosses, here is more great advice shared by colleagues.
The best lesson I learned from a bad boss is — to kiss your subordinates’ butts. Put another way, be of service and work for YOUR TEAM instead of the other way around. You need your team to get things done. If you are there for them when they need you, they will be there for YOU. So, for example, if one of your team members needs an extra day off or a little resource boost on a project and you deliver, they are far more likely to help you when you need to pull together a presentation for YOUR boss.A lot of bad bosses get it reversed. They are busy ingratiating themselves to THEIR boss and treating their staff like dirt. My favorite and best boss taught me this lesson in a big way. In some ways it felt like he worked for me. Whenever I needed resources or him to push something through the system, he was there. This was a huge help in my being successful. This also meant that when he came to my office on a Friday at 4:30 p.m. begging for help on his board presentation — you KNOW I was there, and happy to do it. — Ivana S. Taylor, Small Business Influencer, DIYMarketers.com
I learned that sometimes the rules need to be broken when something important needs to be done. Not unethically, but when a rule designed to solve one problem, creates a barrier to success, it can be the right decision to do the wrong thing.
We had a process whereby a certain form needed to be filled out. It was a form designed and created 40 year earlier by the founder when there was maybe 100 employees. We had over 2,000 at the time and the form was no longer needed. But no one wanted to stop using it because they feared the repurcussions. My bad boss simply stopped using the form. Two years later someone asked about the forms and he played stupid. We never had to do the form again. Nothing fell apart. Nothing stopped working. The world went on without it.
Don’t Ignore the Value of Engaged Employees
Recognize the fundamental economics of having engaged employees, customers, channel partners, and communities, which is that: companies with highly engaged audiences relationships do better financially than the average company; relationships with customers and talent are a company’s biggest financial and brand equity asset; and disengagement has hard costs in terms of turnover, lower productivity, poor service, more accidents, less healthy people, and legal suits that can have a significant effect on the bottom line and brand equity.
Empower and value people, rather than control them and treat them like statistics: people who feel empowered, act like owners and watch your back — people who feel controlled, act like slaves.
You Can’t Fake It + Other Important Lessons
Playing politics never pays — It’s shallow, transparent and short-sighted. It may help you win the day, but it will lose you a ton of respect long-term with peers, superiors and subordinates.
Communicate clearly (not in code) — There’s no excuse for allowing ambiguity to cloud judgment, direction or execution. If your style of management is to expect your team to predict or guess what you mean and want, that’s terrible leadership. Not all news is good news, but people want clarity, not innuendos.
Invest time with your team — Absentee management never works. You can’t hide behind emails. And it’s never a good idea to look annoyed when one of your team members wants to see you or ask you a question. Successful management requires time, it requires an investment in spending time with your team to make them better, allow them to become more autonomous and productive. That just takes time, but it creates results, loyalty and longevity (for you and for them).
Superficial optics will backfire — This particular boss told us she wanted us to be at our desks as much as possible, so that people walking by would see how hard we are working. She literally said that to us. You can imagine what that did to her credibility. — Matt Heinz, president, Heinz Marketing, Inc.
Special thanks to Ivana Taylor, Paul Hebert, Bruce Bolger, and Matt Heinz for sharing their lessons learned from bad bosses.