Whether they’re overloading or underpraising, denying us credit or giving‘constructive feedback’ they have the power to pollute our workplace, destroy our confidence and sideline a career. Whatever our corporate journey, we all at some point have laboured under a bad boss. In fact…who’s to say you’re not being one right now?
“Me? Never! My team love me – see how they laugh nervously at my jokes, and thrive on stress-induced nose-bleeds.” Denial is a sure sign of guilt – believe me: I was a terrible boss. Didn’t realise it at the time, of course – I was on the board, just assumed everyone was on board with me. Twenty years later, I bounced into reunion party – to be hit with cold shoulders all round. Yep, my former staff saw me as less ‘guru’ than git.
Truth is, people often get promoted into management roles for being good at their craft, as opposed to looking after those around them. The higher any of us go, the bigger our impact – but the less we’re forced to confront it. (Who hasn’t feared that speaking truth to power could prove a career-limiting move?)
If you’re the boss – it’s time to break the cycle of abuse. Try putting some of these simple ideas into action – and start getting the feedback you need to be effective.
- Start asking for feedback from the people around you – factor time into your schedule for having these conversations, and really listen to what people have to say. The marketing leadership team of a multi-national food company now start every off-site meeting with an exchange of data-based feedback to one another. Connecting with what they value about each other means that when they do get down to business, they can debate the issues and not each others’ personalities.
- Your ability to ‘fight your corner’ may have got you promoted, but is entirely useless when reassuring people that you want their input. When listening to feedback, breathe through any discomfort you’re feeling – stay positive and calm. Their perception is more important than your instinct for self-justification, so suck it up – and soak it in.
- When having feedback conversations, separate the facts (the specifics of the way you acted) from consequent interpretations (why people thought you acted in that way) and impact (how your actions made others think and feel). A marketing director at a global pharmaceutical company was shocked to discover his team of brand managers dreaded their regular update meetings. The marketing director believed his barrage of detail-oriented questions demonstrated how interested and involved he was. To his brand managers it felt less like supportive curiosity and more like micro-management indicating a lack of trust. Separating the facts (detail-oriented questions) from the different interpretations (lack of trust v supportive curiosity) and impact (weekly Spanish Inquisition) meant the marketing director could quickly flex his questioning style to create a more positive impact.
- Visibly act on the feedback you get. If you ask people what they think, and then ignore it – then they’ll soon stop telling you what they think. When people see that they’re being listened to, and not having their head cut off – they’ll soon become your greatest advocate and supporter.
If the idea of receiving feedback from your people makes you wince – then the likelihood is that they’re already wincing at the sight of you. Maybe it’s time to stop pretending that you’re the best boss EVER, until you find out how you can be…