The movie Horrible Bosses was released in 2011. It was rather crude, but also pretty funny. It made me realize things could be a whole lot worse in the workplace. That said, I still have a few good stories of some of my own horrible bosses.
Very early in my career I had a boss who trained me how to take markdowns. She instructed me to always pad the item counts with a few extra. She explained “this will help our numbers when inventory is calculated.” At year-end we were visited by an internal audit investigator. My boss got fired for falsification of records.
Then there was the micro-managing boss. She demanded to know EVERYTHING before anyone in our department could share information with ANYONE outside of our department. Yet she made it incredibly difficult to meet with her. She came in late, left early, had her assistant run interference, and kept her office door shut. Work often came to a standstill while waiting for the boss to grace us with her presence.
So, you are in a position of leading a team. How can you avoid the pitfalls of being a bad boss? Here are some best practices that the very best leaders use. These aren’t rocket science, and you don’t have to be a “born leader”, but you do need to practice these on a consistent basis in order to be effective.
Hire for Attitude, Train the Skills. People who have a positive mindset tend to be more flexible, are more open to learning new things, and are better at problem solving. Hire happy people; train them the skills of the job.
Teach, Test, Trust. The best way to train is by showing. Demonstrate the methods you expect your team to use. Have them give it a try. Give them feedback so they can improve their skills. Then let them do the job you hired them to do. Be present, approachable, and helpful when your people have questions and need your guidance but get out of their way!
Harness the Power of Encouragement. Be generous with praise, rewards, and recognition. Scientific studies have shown it takes 6 positive interactions to overcome the effects of just 1 negative interaction (reference: The Losada Line). If your turnover is higher than you want it to be, think about your interactions with your team. Do you typically use an approach that is positive and encouraging, or negative and correcting?
Stay Teachable and Coachable Yourself. Carve out time in your schedule to read, watch, or listen to something new every day. Even if you can only dedicate 15 minutes, you will reap the benefits of keeping your mind open to new ideas and concepts.
If you want to be a successful leader, you must create an atmosphere in which success can occur. Dedicate yourself to education, excellence and enthusiasm. As I’ve said before, it all comes back on you, boss.