We've all had them. Great leaders that inspire us, stretch us, and help us achieve things we never thought we could. And...we've had bosses who don't have a clue. They do things that make us slap our foreheads and go..."OMG." You may be working for one of these jerks right now.
Early in my career it was common for my colleagues and me to complain and laugh at these absurdities. But, after a while, I realized that the complaining was like a short-term sugar hit that just left us feeling worse a short while later.
What I Did:
I decided to turn things around and learn from these events. I said to myself, " I
may not know yet exactly what I should do, but when I get my shot at being the
boss, - I sure know what not to do!"
This shift accelerated my on-going growth as a leader. I was able to learn and grow
into leadership by observing both the positive things the good bosses did and to
equally learn what not to do from the bad bosses.
Oh, and by the way, this new way of observing also allowed me to catch myself
and course correct when I made some bonehead move.
So - Thanks Jerks – little did you know that you made me a better leader.
Early in my career I had a sales manager named John who was a brilliant coach and developer of talent. There were eight of us who worked for him in a regional office of a global company.
I recall the first time I was scheduled to present a proposal to a new client. John said, “Before you go, run your presentation by me.” My reaction was similar to when my grade school teacher, Sister Mary Joseph, took my term paper in one hand, a red marker in the other hand and began to edit brutally. Instead, when I ran my presentation and sales materials by John, he was calm, looked interested, and appeared distinctly “non-nunnish.”
When I finished, John pointed out a couple of things he thought I did particularly well –
He then said words that I would hear from him every time I ran things by him – “What would you say if…” For example:
There were many variations on the question, but every time he would ask, it caused me to step back and look at the situation either more broadly or in more depth.
I figured this was a game called – “craft the perfect presentation that is so good John will have no questions.” Of course, in my youthful naivete I didn’t realize John would always have a stretching question to ask no matter how well I prepared. He would ask increasingly sophisticated questions that forced the whole team to think and anticipate every possibility that might occur in our presentations. He was teaching us critical and strategic thinking. Like learning 3D chess.
The result of his questions and coaching techniques was we became the most successful sales team in the entire global organization. Our closing rate was stellar. The odds were almost certain that if we got in front of a client and made a presentation we would get the business.
John went on to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. And five of the eight of us on the team became CEOs, C-Suite execs, and/or business owners.
At the time I didn’t realize it, but John’s coaching style and his commitment to bring the best out of us was a lifelong gift that would pay dividends repeatedly.
Action Step: What can you do today to stretch and grow someone?
The memo below is real. It has parts redacted to mask the source. But it is an actual memo that was distributed to all employees of a regional office of a large, 50+ year old, international company. I'm going to hold my commentary until after you read it. See what you think.
This is a very well organized and clear memo - everyone knows what they are responsible for and when to do it. But, you have to be kidding me - the task is totally absurd - shaving chair fuzz???!!!
Is this the highest and best use of staff time? What impact might this have on morale? What does it say about priorities? Drop what you are doing and go shave fuzz!!! Maybe it would make more sense if tequila was involved!!
Where does this rank on your weird scale?
Got any strange memos to share? Send them to me.