Are You a Bad Boss?

We’ve all seen them.  Some of us have had them.  And no one wants one.

And above all as a leader…. You shouldn’t want to be one!

Bad bosses.

Like others, I read lots of blogs and articles around leadership in an effort to expand my own knowledge and refine my skills so that I don’t become one.  One of the blogs I follow is Michael Hyatt | Intentional Leadership.   This week he posted a fantastic article called Thirteen Ways to Frustrate Your Employees.  This was a humorous, but very honest view of 13 bad boss behaviors.  Given that I’ve had conversations with several of you about “bad bosses”, I think you’ll find this article very interesting.

As I read through the short article, I realized that I have observed every one of these behaviors and definitely have a desire NOT TO BE like this.  And that is part of the point of his article;  you don’t just learn behavior from good bosses, but you learn what not to do from bad bosses.

To take his article a bit further though, it is up to us as leaders to be very aware of how our leadership is perceived and received and then do something about the things that aren’t working as well for us (or others).  Here are three simple steps to take in making changes to your boss behaviors:

  1. Assess your leadership.  Be aware!  Whether through official means (e.g., 360 degree surveys, structured classes), through feedback loops, from mentors and trusted colleagues, or with the help of the human resources department – find a way to know how people see your leadership.  And don’t just do it once.  Figure out how to constantly assess.
  2. Acknowledge your issues.  No one is perfect.  And no one expects you to be either.  But people do expect you to be honest.  So, following an assessment, share with your team, peers, boss or others (as appropriate) what you are doing to address your areas of opportunity.  I recently saw a great display of this out of one of my bosses – it was well delivered and as a result, well received.  This shows humility, which is a great tenet of servant leadership.
  3. Follow through.  Develop a plan to change and then make sure that you do what you said you were going to do.  Make sure your actions match your words.  People WILL remember what you say.  If you need to modify or change your plan, then make sure you communicate that and set the proper expectations.

Here is the link to Michael Hyatt’s article:  Thirteen Ways to Frustrate Your Employees.  Make sure to check it out.  You will definitely find it valuable!  AND it will also give you a good chuckle!

If you find that you exhibit any of these behaviors, then it may be time for you to review steps 1-3 above and do something about it!

Question:  What other bad boss behaviors have you seen or experienced?  Comment below.




Mentoring Basics: Part 5 (series finale)

Throughout this series we have covered several basics of mentoring from the mentor’s perspective. Everything from creating some structure in your mentorships, to assessing a potential mentee, to some key do’s and don’ts.

This is the final post in the series on Mentoring Basicsand we are going to spend a little time talking about how to handle tough conversations.

Before we dive in to how to handle these types of tough conversations, I want to make sure we cover why you need to deal with these types of conversations in the first place. As a mentor, you have accepted a position of guidance and leadership over another. You have agreed to provide input and experiences that will help shape and grow them. You are tasked with being a good steward of the trust given to you by your mentee and you must be honest and objective in diligently executing your role.

Being a mentor is a big deal!  All this responsibility should sound pretty heavy.  It’s almost like there should be an official oath, a swearing in, or at least a cool handshake that has to be accomplished before you become a mentor.

And while the handshake would probably be fun, the point is that your role is important and should be taken seriously. That means you have to take the good with the bad. While there are plenty of good times in developing others, there are also plenty of tough conversations to be had. And a good mentor won’t shy away from these tough issues. Rather, they find a way to deliver the message that needs to be heard in an appropriate manner in the best interest of the mentee.

So what are tough conversations?

I find that these are talks with your mentee on topics that may be difficult to deliver. Based upon your own experience and personal style, some topics may be more difficult for you than others. These topics can revolve around all sorts of things (e.g., performance, attitude, style, grooming, etc.). One way to know that a topic may be particularly difficult for you is if you have that little voice in your head saying, “Oh man, this isn’t going to be fun.” Or if you have an immediate reaction to walk away rather than deliver the message. Or if you start seeking out ways for you not to have to deliver it. But if you don’t deliver it, who will?

I’ve been here several times before. And its not always easy. Sometimes its something that can be embarrassing for both you and the mentee, like telling them that their personal hygiene needs improvement. Or sometimes it may be something confrontational, like telling them they are wrong when they strongly believe they are right.  Or perhaps they are close to or have violated an ethical or morale principle.

As I think through my mentoring experiences, I find that these center around a few general themes.

  • Delusions of grandeur – when someone thinks they are greater than they are and/or are better at something than they really are.
  • Negativity or negative traits – when someone exhibits negativity in the workplace and/or negative traits (e.g., lying, gossiping, bad attitude).
  • Poor performance or failure to complete work – when someone delivers sub-standard performance or doesn’t meet expectations.
  • Highly personal issues – when there are highly personal, sensitive or potentially embarassing issues, including personal life issues that affect the work place.
  • Ending the mentoring relationship – when you need to end the mentoring relationship ahead of schedule.
These are just a few themes that I’ve encountered and I am sure there are many more.
While the listed themes cover a wide variety of issues, the approach to handling these as a mentor are very similar. Here are five suggestions on how to handle the conversation that you can add to your leader’s locker.
  1. Be prepared. Make sure you know your facts before you engage in a tough conversation. This may mean that you need to fact seek and fact check before you have this conversation.
  2. Be private. Before you have a tough conversation, make sure you are out of earshot of others. Protect your mentee as appropriate from any additional embarassment.
  3. Be honest. One thing that should always set you apart as a mentor (which we have discussed in other posts) is honesty. You of all people should provide an honest assessment of the situation. While being honest can sting some times, if done properly in the right spirit you may do more for someone’s development than ever before.
  4. Be clear. When having a tough conversation it is very important to be concise and clear about what you are saying. Don’t ‘beat around the bush’. Get straight to the point. Talking around the situation only creates greater confusion.
  5. Be supportive. Tough conversations are just that. They can be embarassing. They can make someone feel inferior or badly. So, unless it’s your goal to destroy someone’s ego or self-confidence, you should find a way to deliver in a supportive and uplifting manner. Watch your tone. Be mindful of the words you use. Tell a story about a time when you did something similar and learned from it. There are things you can do to soften the blow if the situation calls for it.

Again, there are many other approaches that you can take in handling tough conversations, but these are just a few that you can add to your locker.

I hope you have enjoyed this series and if you’ve taken anything away it should be that there are many ways to approach mentoring. You need to figure out the approach that works best for you and then build upon it as you gain more and more experience.

Hopefully, the tools provided in these 7 posts on Mentoring Basics will serve you well on your mentoring journey. If you have other thoughts, please feel free to post comments and share with the broader audience or you can email me directly and I will find a way to incorporate.

Again, I hope you have enjoyed this series. If you have thoughts on other series or topics you would like to explore, drop me a line.  Don’t forget to ‘like’ The Leaders Locker on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Happy Mentoring!


Return from a Short Hiatus

If you’ve wondered why there hasn’t been any new content posted on The Leaders Locker or new emails in the last couple weeks, it’s because I was away on vacation.  And the kind that doesn’t allow you much contact back with the digital and social world.  While this is always a shock to my system for the first few days, it starts to become kind of nice when you detox a bit because you lose connection with the outside world (namely the workplace).

Going away for a bit is always a great idea.  It’s always good to let your batteries recharge a little.

While I was hanging out on the deck of the cruise ship, my mind went to a place where it could free flow ideas. This “place” was mainly due to relaxation and not caused by some artificial state of induced euphoria – in case you were wondering.  It was that state where your worries and stress just seem to melt away.  Fortunately, I had my iPhone close by to take notes and jot down thoughts and ideas for future posts and articles.

I thought this would be a fitting first article upon my return, because it highlights a key (yet often forgotten) tenet of being a leader.  What is this great piece of wisdom you ask?  It’s not so much great wisdom as it is common sense – and here it is:  Leaders need to take breaks.  If nothing else, to refresh the mind.  However, there are many benefits of vacations or “time away” from the daily grind.

In doing a little research, I pulled these thoughts from an article written by Elizabeth Scott on the importance of vacations for stress relief, productivity, and health.

  • Vacations Promote Creativity: A good vacation can help us to reconnect with ourselves, operating as a vehicle for self-discovery and helping us get back to feeling our best.
  • Vacations Stave Off Burnout: Workers who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.
  • Vacations Can Keep Us Healthy: Taking regular time off to ‘recharge your batteries’, thereby keeping stress levels lower, can keep you healthier.
  • Vacations Promote Overall Well Being: One study found that three days after vacation, subjects’ physical complaints, their quality of sleep and mood had improved as compared to before vacation. These gains were still present five weeks later, especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction during their vacations.
  • Vacations Can Strengthen Bonds: Spending time enjoying life with loved ones can keep relationships strong, helping you enjoy the good times more and helping you through the stress of the hard times. In fact, a study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations were more satisfied with their marriages.
  • Vacations Can Help With Your Job Performance: As the authors of the above study suggest, the psychological benefits that come with more frequent vacations lead to increased quality of life, and that can lead to increased quality of work on the job.
  • Vacations Relieve Stress in Lasting Ways: It should come as no surprise that vacations that include plenty of free time bring stress relief, but research shows that a good vacation can lead to the experience of fewer stressful days at least five weeks later! That means that vacations are the gift to yourself that keeps on giving
There are two things that I would like to add to this post about vacation.
The first is that of duration.  One of my mentors told me once that while the short 3 or 4 day weekends are great to help give you a little extra rest, extended vacations (week or more) help you really relax.  While I am sure that this is different for everyone, I must admit that my experiences support my mentor’s comment.  It seems like its usually day 3 or 4 on my vacation before I can truly start to relax.  Its the right amount of time for me to get past the anxiety of having to know whats happening at work.  And while I usually don’t take my company Blackberry on vacation anymore, there is still that nagging voice in my head that wants to know what’s happening at work.  He goes away after 2-3 days, which is when I really start to relax.
The second is that of perspective.  While vacations hopefully allow your mind, body, and spirit the opportunity to relax a little, I always find that my mind becomes less noisy.  And when there is less noise, I have clearer perspective on life.  Things that may have had me wound up at work, just don’t seem as important any more.  It allows me time to help assess my current priorities and reprioritize if necessary.  I know I did a little of that in this last trip.
So, with the vacation season upon us, I hope that you are able to slip away and enjoy some nice quite relaxing time that allows you to enjoy family and friends and lets you shed the worry and stress of the daily grind.  Hopefully, those quiet moments will also grant you clarity and perspective as well.
Now that I’m back, I’ll probably get back in the regular cadence of weekly posts and articles.   This week, we’ll also be closing out our series on Mentoring Basics, so make sure to keep a watch out for that.
I’ll close by borrowing a Swahili phrase made popular by Disney:
Hakuna Matata (there are no worries)

2 Million Smiles

Today was the annual Shareholder’s meeting for Walmart. The event is always a spectacle to behold.

About 20,000 people descend on Northwest Arkansas to attend the Friday Shareholder’s meeting after a week of all kinds of events. The entertainment is first rate and our executives are in top form as they rally the crowd.

Associates travel in from all over the globe and bring a vibrant enthusiasm to the venue. In fact, they are still fired up! I’m sitting here in the airport terminal writing this post and I’ve heard at least 3 loud Walmart cheers in the terminal where they are waiting to depart and return to their homes.

It was in one of the Shareholder Meeting presentations that I heard something that has been rattling around in my head all day.

It was a quick comment. You would have missed it if you weren’t paying attention. Here it is:

“If one person smiles it’s contagious. If 2.1 million people smile, it’s an epidemic.”

They were speaking in reference to our corporate culture and of the 2 million plus people that make up our great company.

What it meant to me was that one person doing something great makes a difference locally. A group of people doing something great has the power to change the world.

As leaders, we should always be cognizant of our actions and strive to positively impact those around us; even with something as simple as a smile.

But as leaders, we should also be building our organizations to make a positive difference. We do this through the culture that we build, the environment we create, the expectation we set, the people we develop, the emphasis we place on what’s important, and the example that we provide.

As leaders, we need to focus closely on both. Be contagious. Start an epidemic. Make a difference. Transform the world. Smile.



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