How To Handle A Bad Boss: 7 Strategies For ‘Managing Up’

bad-boss-4001

If you’ve got a lousy boss right now you have my sympathy. Truly. It can really siphon the enjoyment from what might otherwise be a rewarding role, leave you feeling undervalued, and wondering whether you should begin searching for something new. But before you start planning an exit strategy, it would be wise to rethink how you can better manage the boss you already have –for all their flaws and shortcomings.

Having worked with numerous not-so-inspiring bosses in my corporate career, I’ve learned they provide invaluable opportunities for developing  executive leadership skills and learning ‘what not to do’ when managing people who work for you. You just have to be proactive in looking for them and ready to practice some real self-leadership.

New research has found that being overworked is not the reason people leave their jobs. A Danish study of 4,500 public service workers has provided credence to the adage that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.”  According to psychologist Matias Brødsgaard Grynderup, one of the researchers behind the study, “We may have a tendency to associate depression and stress with work pressure and workload; however, our study shows that the workload actually has no effect on workplace depression.”

However fixed in their ways your boss may be, you can always learn ways to better manage him or her.  The secret is to “manage up” without them ever realizing you are doing it. So rather than think of your boss as your boss,  think of them as a difficult client – one you have to figure out how to work with if you want to get ahead, even if you’d rather not.

Hopefully the strategies below will help you on your way. Underpinning each of them is a commitment to take responsibility for your own success, regardless of the different (and difficult) personalities you will inevitably have to encounter throughout your working life.

1.  Know their why: what motivates them

The better you understand what your boss does, and more importantly, why, the better positioned you are to deliver results, manage expectations, and avoid lose:lose situations.  Try to put yourself in their shoes and see the world, and your workplace, as they might.

  • What does he care about?
  • What keeps him up at night?
  • What would he love more of and what would he love less of on a daily basis?  
  • What frightens him?
  • How much importance does he place on impressing others? 
  • How does he measure success and what does he think about failure?

When you know what drives your boss (even if your boss may not be fully conscious of it), you can speak to “his listening,” frame your opinions and use language in ways that line up with his core values, concerns and priorities.

2.  Support their success:  Work around their weaknesses

While it may sound counter intuitive to support a bad boss in becoming more successful, there is absolutely nothing to be gained by making him look bad, going to war or helping him to fail. If he is as bad as you think, he will likely do a pretty good job of that all by himself. Exposing his incompetence will only compound your own misery and may even damage your reputation.

One way is to help your boss focus on his natural strengths. Another is to proactively work around his weaknesses. If you know you have a boss who’s disorganized, then help him to be on top of things rather than whining about his lack of organizational skills. If you know your boss is often late to meetings, offer to kick off the next meeting for him. If he tends to change his mind frequently, or is outright forgetful, be sure to document interactions so you can refer back to them if he ever contradicts himself. If you know your boss is slow to respond, continue to work on a project while you wait to hear back from him.  Making yourself  indispensable and someone your boss can rely on to help him do his job is a valuable asset when you start to look to ‘what’s next?’

By doing what you can to help your boss succeed, you lay a solid foundation for greater success yourself. It may not be an immediate reward, but in the long run, you can never lose by helping others do better than they otherwise would.

3.  Take the high road: Your “Personal Brand” is riding on it

Never let your boss’s bad behavior be an excuse for your own. All too often, people start feeling entitled to slack off, take longer and longer lunches, lose interest or stop performing well because of their bad boss. Don’t do it. Keep your mind focused on top performance. Complain to your spouse or your friends all you want, but when in the office or workplace, stay upbeat and engaged. Actually handling a difficult boss well can really set you apart. You never know who is watching or listening but be assured, people who can open or close future opportunities for you are doing just that!

Evening the score by working slower, taking excessive “mental health” days or longer lunches doesn’t do you any favors and can hurt your own self more in the long run than any irritation or trouble you cause for your boss. On top of that, it may only put you behind in your workload and build a case for your boss to give you the old heave-ho before you’re ready to go. So if your boss is a shouter, don’t react by shouting back. If they are petty or small minded, don’t descend to smallness yourself.  Rather maintain a calm and professional demeanor in dealing with your difficult boss or let your emotions get the better of you. Literally. As Gandhi wrote “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In this case, act like the leader you wish your boss was.

If you feel you’ve run out of options for dealing with him reasonably, then don’t go rumor-mongering or bad-mouthing him to everyone within earshot. That will ultimately say more about you than it does about your boss (and not things you’d want said!)  Rather, follow proper procedures for registering complaints with Human Resources or with higher-level superiors, documenting each step of the way.

4.  Know their preferences: Adapt to them

Observe your boss’s behavioral style, preferences and pet peeves.  Is he fast-paced and quick to make decisions? Is he slow to think about things, needing time to process information?  How does he like to communicate – via e-mail, in person drop-ins, or lengthy memos? The more you can match your style to your boss’s style when communicating, the more he will really hear what you’re saying.

If you’ve ever done any personality assessments such as Myers-Briggs or DISC, then see if your boss has as well and find out what they are.  It can help you adapt your style and spare a lot of strain.  Working with his preferences is an obvious way of managing your boss without his ever knowing it, and it’s a key leadership skill to develop regardless of the kind of boss you are working for.

5.  Don’t be intimidated by a bully: Stand tall, never cower

People who bully get their power from those who respond by cowering and showing fear. If your boss is a yeller, a criticizer, or a judge – stand firm. If you’re doing the best job you can do, keep your head held high and don’t give him the satisfaction of pushing you about.  Rather ask questions, seek to understand, and work to defuse a difficult situation instead of cowering or responding in anger. It takes practice, but over time you will get better at it and he will look elsewhere for his power kick.

If you feel compelled to call your boss on his behavior, go ahead but do so with a cool head and prepare in advance for the ensuing fallout. It could get ugly so think things through beforehand. What are your options?  Who are your allies? Have you documented his behavior? Can you deal with the possibility of the worst outcome?  Sure, it’s important to stand strong, but be smart about it. As I wrote in Stop Playing Safe, “Sometimes you have to go out on a limb and do something where the risks are high. But before you climb out, be sure you’ve managed the risks as best you can and set up a safety net should you fall.”

6.  Speak up: Give your boss a chance to respond 

Early into my career,  I left a good job with a global consulting firm because I had a lousy boss and a toxic work environment.  Upon leaving, the HR lead – a senior partner at this organization – asked to meet with me to find out why I was leaving.  I shared how undervalued I had felt, how the promises made to me upon employment had not been met and how little accountability there was for my colleagues. He was surprised and disturbed and asked if there was anything he could do to make me change my mind. Apparently I’d been ear-marked a hi-po (which would have been nice to have known before then!), but by this point it was too late. I’d already made other plans, hoping for a better work environment, and a better boss.

The lesson for me was this: have the courage to speak up rather than cower in silence for fear of an awkward conversation. The truth is that I’d  been too cowardly to address my concerns with my boss or to go around her.  Admittedly I was young (mid-twenties) and inexperienced, but if I knew then what I do now, it would have been that I owed it to myself, and to my boss at the time, to have at least voiced my concerns, offered up some possible solutions and engaged in a conversation about how we could have improved the situation.  It may not have changed a thing, but at least I could have known that I at least gave her a chance.

So just because it may be easier to say nothing, to just ‘suffer quietly’ or complain loudly to colleagues or to head for the exit as I ultimately did, you at least owe your boss the opportunity to respond. Don’t prejudge and assume they aren’t able to take feedback, or don’t care how miserable you are. When you approach them with respect and with a genuine desire to make things work better, you can open the door to whole new levels of trust, collaboration and outcomes. A door that will remain permanently closed otherwise.

7.  Be Proactive:  Do your research before  jumping ship 

Of course the best way to manage a bad boss is not to have one in the first place. So whenever you are looking to move into a new role in the same company or move to another organization  all together, invest some time to get a sense of the culture, the leadership and the sort of management practices that are tolerated and supported. If you are moving internally, make sure you do your networking ahead of time to get a sense of both the environment within the team you might be moving to, and those  who are creating it. Are they leaders who create an environment where people are inspired and supported to work hard, or do they incite fear about what will happen if people don’t?

If you are moving to a new organization, do your research to make sure you’re not jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Sometimes in our desperation to escape a toxic work environment we fail to take notice of the warning signs that the new job we’re taking will only be worse.  Have a coffee with whoever you know at the new company to get a sense of the culture, employee engagement, moral, and management style. Investing a few hours up front could spare you a few years of frustration. -Margie Warrell

Are You the Smartest Person in the Room? Let’s Hope Not.

Smartest person in the room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best thing that can happen to you as a boss is hiring a person who is smarter, more creative, or in some way more talented than you are. It’s like winning the lottery. Suddenly you’ve got a team member whose talent will very likely improve everyone’s performance and reputation. Including yours.

Yes, it’s human nature to feel fearful that a “superior” employee could make you look, well, inferior, and perhaps slow down your career progress. But in reality, the exact opposite usually occurs.

The reason is that leaders are generally not judged on their personal output. What would be the point of evaluating them like individual contributors? Rather, most leaders are judged on how well they’ve hired, coached, and motivated their people, individually and collectively—all of which shows up in the results. That’s why when you sign up top performers and release their energy, you don’t look bad. You look like the goose that laid the golden egg.

So keep laying them. It is a rare company that doesn’t love a boss who finds great people and creates an environment where they flourish. And you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to do that. Indeed, when you consistently demonstrate that leadership skill and come to be known as the person in your company who can land and build the best, watch your career take off.

Now, we’re not saying managing “superior” employees on your team is necessarily easy. We received a question from an audience member at a speech in Chicago several years ago who said two of his seven direct reports were smarter than he was. He asked: “How can I possibly appraise them?”

“What the heck happened to the other five?” was our attempt at a lighthearted response. But we took his point.

How in the world do you evaluate people whom you feel are more talented than you?

You don’t. That is, you don’t evaluate them on their intelligence or particular skill set. Of course, you talk about what they are doing well, but just as important, you focus on areas in which they can improve. It is no secret that some very smart people have trouble, for instance, relating to colleagues or being open to other people’s ideas. Indeed, some struggle with becoming leaders themselves. And that is where your experience, self-confidence, and coaching come into play.

In that way, then, managing superior employees is just like managing regular types. You have everything to gain from celebrating their growth and nothing at all to fear. -Jack and Suzy Welch

10 reasons you hired the wrong person

Despite a widely touted uptick in the economy, it’s still tough out there for job candidates in many industries, marketing included. So if you’re in the position of hiring people these days, you’ve likely encountered a sea of job candidates that is both flush and eager. (There are, of course, exceptions in certain emerging job roles and highly technical positions. But in general, there’s a lot of great marketing talent out there.)

That said, despite a deep talent pool, hiring mistakes are still common for a lot of reasons. If you’ve been hiring people for any length of time, you’ve likely experienced one of those “ohhhhhhh nooooooo” moments upon the realization that a relatively new hire just isn’t going to work out. It’s a horrible moment (made even more horrible by the fact that many managers are too afraid to admit defeat and remedy the situation).

10 reasons you hired the wrong person

Some marketers learn from hiring mistakes. Others sadly don’t. But if you’d like to minimize your “ohhhhhhh nooooooo” moments (not to mention the wasted time and money associated with making the wrong hire), then here are the mental biases that you need to keep in check while screening and interviewing candidates.

He said a lot (without saying anything)

We’re marketers, so a lot of us talk purty. Confidence and smooth talking is often part of the job. But thankfully, in most cases (I hope), there are also some skills and expertise under the hood.

That said, there does seem to be a small pocket of unfathomably silver-tongued job candidates out there who talk a big game but do, in fact, completely strike out when put to the test. They get hired because they use the right buzzwords in interviews and generally endear themselves to people. But they don’t bother to acquire the actual skill set required to execute on their verbal promise. You can often spot these folks by their resumes, which are often filled with impressive positions that only lasted a brief while. That said, these folks rarely have been laid off or fired. They’ve learned to move on before their lack of skills can be taken to task — and often before their hiring managers can fully realize that they fell for some fancy talk.

So how do you screen for this? It can be tough, but a good place to start is to ask more about execution than ideas. Because, after all, ideas are the easy part. But they’re also the most mesmerizing. So if someone has good ideas, be sure to find out exactly how they might see them to fruition.

He (only) looked the part

This one ties closely in with the previous point. Contrary to popular belief, clothes do not actually make the man. They’re just clothes. And while good taste is a noble quality and our outward appearances are important in marketing, you shouldn’t allow yourself to be dazzled or intimidated by someone who out-dresses you or simply shares your own sense of fashion. Good taste and impressive looks can be a nice bonus in a job candidate. But please, please make that person back it up in the interview with some substance. I realize this is Interviewing 101, but in an industry of good-looking, well-dressed people, consider this an important reminder.

She was available immediately

If your team is short on resources (and whose isn’t these days?), even a short gap between the departure of an employee and the hiring of that person’s replacement can hurt. So, while it is important to put in place an efficient recruiting and onboarding process, it’s equally important to not let your desperation to fill a role lead you to hire the wrong person.

Often, the right candidate for the job is the person who needs to put in at least two weeks’ notice to do right by a current employer. This is not a drawback to hiring that candidate versus the slightly less qualified applicant who can start tomorrow. Rather, you should take a candidate’s commitment to a current employer as a testament to strong character and an indication of the respectful employee she will be at your company as well.

You forgot to check references

Again, this is Hiring 101, but its importance can’t be overstated. Screen people thoroughly. Call their references. And, particularly when making marketing hires, verify that the candidate did the work that he said he did. You’d be surprised by how many portfolios fudge the truth. (Well, you might not be surprised. But with full knowledge of how many people take credit for work they were only loosely tied to, it’s up to you to keep them honest.)

You thought he’d be easy to retain

Hiring is a stressful and often expensive process. Thus, it’s tempting to look for candidates who you think will hunker down with you for the long haul so you never have to deal with the pain in the ass of filling that role again. And yes, it is good to look for candidates who you think will stick around long enough for you to recoup your training expenses.

However, if you get needy and only look for candidates who you think are willing to “settle in” with you, then you’re probably passing over some rock stars. And you shouldn’t. Rock stars might move on quickly, but they almost always leave cool things in their wake. So you shouldn’t pass them over. Just be thankful for the time you do get with them and try to make them happy.

You ignored candidates who were overqualified

We just climbed out of a recession, people. Some very skilled people out there need jobs, and a lot of them are willing to take steps back in order to secure gainful employment. I know you might feel bad offering them a salary or tasks that aren’t quite up to where they should be. But take a step back. This is the candidate’s decision to make. Don’t make assumptions that might 1) keep a capable person unemployed and 2) prohibit you from hiring a rock star who might do more than you expect in a role (see previous point).

You insisted on a certain college degree (or one at all)

It’s most important for those of you with advanced degrees to hear this: There are a lot of valuable candidates out there who might not have a college degree in marketing or a related field. Hell, some of the most valuable marketing job candidates might not have degrees at all. And while I’m not here to thumb my nose at the notion of relevant education (or education in general), I would like to encourage you to broaden your thinking when it comes to job requirements. Focus on skills and experience. Not degrees.

He went to your alma mater

See the previous point. I understand that college is an influential time in one’s life and that you might think that anyone who experienced what you experienced during that time is more qualified to work alongside you. But please. Just because you both sing the same fight song and threw up at the same frat house (albeit, a decade apart) does not mean he’s the perfect fit for the job. Dig deeper.

You ignored office culture

Most of my previous points have urged you to focus on skill sets rather than more superficial attributes of job candidates. And while I stand by the notion that you need to look beyond a person’s shoes and university choice, I do firmly believe that a person’s personality and ability to mesh with your existing team are just as important as his or her ability to get the job done. If you knowingly introduce a hyper-active person to your otherwise laid-back team (or vice-versa), you might be asking for trouble. That’s not to say you should never introduce new personality types to your team. But if you can already foresee a conflict while you’re interviewing the person, think twice before hiring them based on on-paper qualifications alone.

You failed to think outside the job description

Finally, and most importantly, don’t get too obsessed with whatever is written on that job listing. Interviewing and recruiting new hires can be an interesting and enlightening process. You might meet people who don’t exactly fit into the definition of what you think a job is, but that person might, in fact, open your eyes up to what that job should be. So be willing to rewrite requirements and responsibilities on the fly (including salaries, if possible and warranted). Hiring the right person means more than just avoiding the wrong ones.

Drew Hubbard is a social media strategist and owner of LA Foodie

Want To Succeed? Don’t Check Your Email – And Work Out At Lunch

working out at lunch

David Morken practically sparkles with energy, even over the phone.  Morken is Co-founder and CEO of Bandwidth, a 15-year-old company that focuses on IP-based communication technology – and is proud of the fact that they’re “challenging the standards of old telecom” in everything they do.  Their stated mission is to unlock remarkable value for our customers – and, as I discovered when I spoke to him, Morken is convinced that a big part of doing that involves ‘unlocking remarkable value’ for their employees: making Bandwidth a place that supports employees’ body, mind and spirit.

One Bandwidth policy supports all three: the company has (and enforces) a total embargo on email to and from the company during vacation.  That is, when you’re on vacation, you may not communicate with the company and they may not communicate with you.  And to make sure the policy is followed to the T: when someone goes on vacation, all the folks he or she would ordinarily communicate with (employees, partners, boss, etc.) get an email, saying “so-and-so is on vacation.  If he or she contacts you for any reason, please let us know.”

While it may sound a little draconian, it means that folks generally only break the rule once: getting a phone call from the CEO reconfirming that you’re on vacation and shouldn’t be emailing anybody seems to convince everyone that the policy is real. And, according to Morken, while lots of people have told him it’s difficult at first, no one has ever told him they think it’s a bad idea.

The results? Employees experience vacations as vacations: rejuvenation, reconnection and relaxation. And managers put more attention toward developing their folks  – because their folks can’t call them when there’s an emergency during their absence; they have to be willing and able to handle it themselves. Finally, Morken says, it makes managers more thoughtful about preparing for vacation: if you really can’t give added instructions or sort things out while you’re gone, it’s essential to get as much clarity as possible beforehand about what’s supposed to happen when you’re not there.  He’s convinced that this has impact outside of vacation time, as well: that the increased clarity and trust ‘leak’ out into employees’ interactions every day.

Then there are the 90-minute lunches.

This part is voluntary vs mandatory, but it’s still an important aspect of the culture.  Any employee can take a (paid) one-and-a-half-hour lunch to pursue fitness.  Not only will Bandwidth pay you for the time, they’ll pay your gym membership, shuttle you to the gym, provide access to a personal trainer, and offer you a comprehensive “know and go” assessment of your physical condition that gives you a foundation of information for getting in better shape.

It’s a big investment for a relatively small (400 employee) company – so what’s the payoff?  Morken believes that because everyone has limited time outside of work to be a significant other, a parent, a friend, or to pursue other non-work passions, making time for fitness during work hours makes it more likely that employees will both get and stay fit, and have time to focus on the non-work parts of their lives –  improving both morale and productivity.

These unusual policies seem to be paying off in terms of business results: Bandwidth is set to make $150M this year – up about 20% from last year –  and they anticipate $200M in profitable revenues next year.

I love hearing about companies and executive teams that are willing to do more than just talk about creating a culture focused on supporting people to be their best: who are willing to put dollars into it and create policies that support it. -Erika Anderson, Forbes Magazine Contributor

Work Your Way into Better Habits for 2014

Work habits

 

 

 

 

It’s a new year – which means you’re probably contemplating resolutions for personal improvement and ways you can break bad habits. Because most positions often require an attention to detail, better habits can improve productivity and make it easier to focus on the task at hand. By taking small steps, you can break bad habits and replace them with productive behaviors.

Before you can change bad habits into good habits, you must identify the things that have prevented you from making progress in the past. At work, many professionals find a myriad of excuses to avoid making progress on personal development goals. Many people are held back by fear—that you might not succeed, that your goals will prevent you from getting your work done, or that you don’t have the resources to accomplish a personal improvement goal. Other roadblocks are related to the perceived hassle or stress of creating a new habit. Once you identify the things that hold you back from making progress, you can find ways around them.

Personal improvement can often feel like an uphill battle. One of the most important things to do when creating a positive habit at work is to start small. When you take on a large goal all at once, you create a high risk of failure. Instead, start with a large goal and break it down into smaller components. According to a recent Forbes article, a specific, organized plan with carefully delineated steps can make it easier to stick to your goals.

If you want to adopt more efficient filing habits, for example, start by identifying the things you want to change about your current system. Pick one item and focus on changing it for a full week. You might create a different naming convention and practice it for a week. The next week, you could work on renaming directories, and the next week, you might move files into more logical folders. The same process works for any habit; by focusing on small changes, the overall personal improvement process feels less daunting and overwhelming.

Chances are, in your quest for personal improvement, you will come across challenges. A big project at work can make it easy to lose focus on a goal. A stressful week might lead you to fall back into old habits, and a demanding boss can make it difficult to accomplish your small milestones. To reduce the impact on your personal development plan, make a list of potential challenges. For each item, create a plan that will enable you to accomplish your work without stalling your progress. In doing so, you can reinforce the positive habit.

Whether you are trying to revamp your professional image or finding ways to do your job more efficiently, better habits can increase your chances of success. By building positive, productive habits, you can make light work of the personal improvement process.

Why Providing Critical Feedback Can Be A Gift

Feedback

 

 

Rarely are managers, in any field, well prepared to deal with employees who need corrective input. In fact, we’ve heard all too often how the whole idea of being critical strikes a note of “being mean,” “acting arrogant,” or “hurting someone’s feelings.”

And yes, being critical can be all of those things when misunderstood or delivered without support, care, and kindness.

But when you understand that life well lived is a journey of growth and expansion, then there have to be teachers along the way to provide helpful input. When left to only our own devices, our own perspectives, our own experiences, we can only replicate what we already know. And that’s what causes people to be stuck in a rut, unable to take their work life forward in a manner that is continually challenging and transformative.

So, if you are a manager, a supervisor, in any way someone who has the responsibility and opportunity to help other employees improve, please see your role as a gift.

Magic Words

When you can touch another person’s potential—beyond what they currently understand about themselves— you have the opportunity to provide the gift of a larger vision of who they are, of how they can conduct their work life, even perhaps a larger sense of their true identity.

While that may be beyond the scope of your work as a manager, it is not outside the scope of touching someone’s life and career.

Sometimes people have to have their hearts broken open in order to receive new value about who they are, what they are truly capable of, and how they are viewed by others. And while this can be painful, even very painful on occasion, it is an essential element for professional and personal growth.

That’s why your words of critical feedback and reality messages about the need to improve can be Magic Words, providing the inspiration for your recipient to look beyond what they already know and embrace and actualize what you are suggesting is needed for their improvement.

Steer In Another Direction

You may have someone on your team or in your company who needs a frank and honest wake-up call, explaining how they are not a good fit for the company. When you lay out the specifics with care and respect, hopefully the individual can understand that they would be better off if they moved on rather than feel frustrated and continue to receive less than sterling performance ratings.

Sometimes you can steer the individual in a new direction within the company, but be prepared for this to be met with hurt feelings, skepticism, or flat out refusal. In either case, remember that your honest attempt to help has still been a wake-up call about reality. And that, in the long run, will be a gift whether or not the recipient can accept it as such.

Support, Support, Support

Even if you have to use fairly extreme criticism, putting someone on probation or on a PIP (performance improvement program), as long as you do so from a position of support for that individual’s well being, you are still providing the gift of reality.

Too often, people who end up in trouble on the job do so because they are caught up in unrealistic ideas about their talent and ability, their role in the company, or on the other hand fears of putting forth their true expertise. Either way, when you can present them with reality, providing examples of their behavioral problems and limitations, you provide a mirror of reality.

The primary gift of critical feedback, when delivered with respect, including specific examples the recipient can relate to, and ideas for concrete improvement is the advancement of the recipient’s grounding in reality. Yes, there’s that “reality” word again. Because the delivery of critical feedback needs to always provide support for the individual being more fully grounded in reality. That is the most solid basis for their choices going forward.

10 Leadership Resolutions to Make It a Very Good Year

 

2014 resolutions

 

New Year resolutions — who keeps them? Practically no one. But if you’re a leader, be it of three people or 3,000, it’s your flat-out responsibility to not just go into work every day and improvise around the latest crisis or email flurry or employee meltdown, but to go into work every day with a cohesive plan of action about how you’re going to lead. Otherwise, why would anyone follow you, except that they simply have to?

That’s no good.

So here’s to 2014, and 10 resolutions to make it a very good year — for you, and for the team you lead.

1) Get In Their Skin

From the day you become a leader, your biggest role is to build trust, respect and support from your team. A mutual respect. As long as they deliver, you will support them and stand up for them in every way — and they know it. It’s a never-ending job and you can never slip up.

2) Over-Communicate

It’s your job to communicate your message, your values, what’s right about what’s happening, and what’s wrong — over and over and over again. There can be no lack of transparency. Everybody has to be on the same page. Even when you’re ready to gag over the message, you have to keep communicating it.

3) Follow-Up Relentlessly

Just because you say something once, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Too often, managers think, “Hey, I told my team what to do.” Then they come back a week later and nothing has happened. Yes, your job is to set the direction. But you also have to make it your mission to follow up — relentlessly — to see that things are moving in the right direction.

4) Create a Rallying Cry

I’ve always found that defining an enemy is very helpful. Define a competitor that’s coming after you. Rally the team around every win you have against them, every new product you introduce that’s better than theirs. Make that competitor come alive as your true enemy and you’ll see your team galvanize around beating them and winning in the marketplace.

5) Realize Personnel Actions Speak Louder Than Words

When you pick someone for a new job, you are defining what’s important. Managers love to give speeches about how their new initiative is the most important thing in the world. But then they put whatever warm body happens to be available in charge of it. Nothing could be worse. When you make an personnel appointment, you’re doing much more than any speech you could ever give. The people in the organization already know who the star performers are. And matching those stars with the projects you claim are important is absolutely critical for your credibility and the trust you want to build.

6) Embrace the Generosity Gene

I happen to believe that every good leader loves to give raises to people. They are thrilled to see their employees grow and be promoted. They are turned on by their success. Good leaders understand that they are only as good as the reflected glory of their people — and so they give until it hurts.

7) Fight Bureaucracy

Remember how much you hated bureaucracy from the bosses above you when they wanted this “i” dotted and this “t” crossed? Guess what? You’re now the leader. Don’t let bureaucracy creep into your place. Just because it’s yours doesn’t make it any prettier than when it was someone else’s. Get rid of clutter. Bureaucracy slows things down and speed is one of the best competitive advantages you can have.

8) Find a Better Way

Recognize that in business, somebody out there is always doing something better than you are. Your team can get insular and come to believe they’re already doing everything right. Your job is to ask, “How can we do it better? Where can we find someone doing it better?” Finding a better way of doing things every single day can become so much more than a slogan. It can become a way of life and make your group stand out above the rest.

9) Own Hiring Mistakes

Look, you’re not the only person in the history of the universe who has ever made a hiring mistake. Once you understand that hiring is hard work and you’ll surely have missteps along the way, realize that you’ve got to deal with mistakes fast and compassionately. Recognize that it was your fault that the fit didn’t work and get on with it. The team will respect you more. The hire you dealt with fairly will respect you more. And your superiors will reward you for your candor and willingness to own up to your error.

10) Dig into Crises

Without doubt, crises are going to erupt in your career. You’ll have someone do something wrong or have to face into a violation somewhere in your organization. To make matters worse, when you first hear about it, you’re not going to get the whole story — after all, you’re the boss. You’re only going to get the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the surface is a very big piece of ice. Your team will come to you and feed you, piece by piece, a slow-drip expose of the crisis. Your job is to dig deep, early and fast, to get it all to the surface. Be candid. Recognize there are no secrets anywhere. Get the right people involved immediately. And you will see a swifter resolution to problems that people all too often try to brush under the table. – Jack and Suzy Welch