Saturday, December 29, 2007

When B-O-S-S is a Four-Letter Word

Bol·ton (bōĺ tən) : n, adj., Urban slang for a demoralizing or unsupportive boss; all-around big bully; a stinky supervisor. (Ex. “My boss just went all Bolton on me.”)

I love making fun of bad bosses. I don’t find it unprofessional, in fact, its part of my job. We know that one of the most powerful leadership development experiences is “learning from others”. Those others are often good leaders and bad bosses. (By the way: why’s boss a four letter word? It’s a double SOB spelled backwards).

Companies spend an awful lot of time and money training managers how to be great leaders. Maybe we should also tell them how not to be bad bosses? It might be harder to stop doing annoying things than to learn brand new skills.

Here are five ways to get started on your journey to “great leadership”, and to look for things to stop doing:

1. is a site created for the unhappy individual contributor. It’s all about how to deal with a bad boss (in a constructive way). If you recognize yourself doing any of these things, stop it.

2. Fortune’s Stanley Bing has a blog dedicated to Crazy Bosses: If you one of your employees has written for advice, then stop it.

3. Read Dilbert. If you see yourself acting like Dilbert’s Pointy-Haired Boss (PHB), then stop it. And if you don’t think Dilbert is funny, you may be beyond saving.

4. Watch “The Office”, and study Steve Carroll’s character, Michael Scott. Or watch a few samples on this blog. Any manager that can’t find a little Michael in themselves needs to take a closer look.

5. Read Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”. Study his list of 20 annoying behaviors, and strive to stop doing at least two of them in the next six months.

Here’s a summary:

1.Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations—when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.
2.Adding too much value: The desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
3.Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
4.Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound witty.
5.Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”
6.Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.
7.Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
8.Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts, even when we aren’t asked.
9.Withholding information: The refusal to share information to gain or maintain an advantage over others.
10. Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to praise and reward.
11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
13. Clinging to the past: The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.
14. Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
15. Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect.
17. Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.
18. Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocents who are only trying to help us.
19. Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.

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