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Bad Bosses Are Inevitable Right?

September 18, 2019 - By Dr Axel Zein, CEO of WSCAD, which delivers CAD software for electrical engineering. In three years he turned the company around, grew revenues 57% and achieved number two status in Central Europe. He had previously achieved similar growth in another German CAD software company.

COMMENT BY IAN MUNRO, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP, ON THIS VIDEO

Dr Zein shares a number of insights which are supported by our experience at Legitimate Leadership. When we work with leaders from varied industries and organisations around the world we frequently hear stories from people who have had the most horrendous bad boss experiences. Many of these individuals cite their bad boss as the reason for finding a new job. But, as Dr Zein points out, it doesn’t need to be that way.

No one is born a bad boss. Bad bosses are created when organisations simultaneously neglect to prepare new managers adequately for their leadership roles, and reward success and punish failure in ways that encourage control rather than empowerment. As long as we see our leadership roles as being here to deliver predictable results, the risk-taking and innovation referred to in Dr Zein’s excerpt will continue to elude us.

Fortunately, as much as people leave bad bosses, they also stay for good ones. As often as we hear horrendous bad boss stories, we also hear amazing great boss ones. The difference: understanding that true leaders are here for their teams, and that making sure that leaders have the education and training they need to succeed is just as important as making sure that engineers are fully qualified in their engineering fields.

OUR EDITED EXCERPT FROM THIS VIDEO: Three things in life are certain: death, taxes and a bad boss. As human beings we spend 40-50 years of our lives at work. It’s almost certain that during this time we’ll encounter a bad boss.

An American study found that 60% of American workers were not engaged in their jobs. Why? The main reason was not low pay, insufficient vacations, or a poor work place. The main reason was because of a bad boss.

So why do we have so many employees unsatisfied with their bosses?

Two reasons: firstly, the day you become a manager your job changes totally; secondly, we are simply not educated to become managers.

When you’re an employee, your performance is defined by your own work. And it doesn’t really matter what you do, whether you’re an engineer, on the shop floor, or a cleaner. You’re in a universe centered on the need of one person: yourself.

The day you become a manager you realize your performance is defined by the work that others are doing: Your team. So all of a sudden, it’s not about what you’re doing, it’s about what they’re doing. It’s not about your performance, it’s about their performance. And it’s not about what you need, it’s about what they need.

If you’re an engineer, your job is to design products. If you’re a cleaner, you will be measured by the cleanliness you leave behind.

But if you’re a manager of engineers, or a manager of the cleaning force, you don’t have to engineer or clean; what you have to do is to get the right team together, you have to create a high performance culture, you have to make them more productive, and you have to create an environment where people love to work and love to give their best.

So being a manager is a totally different job. Now somebody gets appointed manager but he doesn’t realize that it is mostly about growing others. That person is going to have a tough time becoming a good manager!

So the second reason people are not satisfied with their bosses is because we are simply not educated to become managers.

In university and school, first of all, we learn in a hierarchical model. “I am the teacher, I give the grades and you’ll have to do your homework.” “But why?” “Because I said so.”

If this is how you treat adults in a business environment, you won’t get their top performance. You can’t motivate a team to deliver a top performance just by your authority or your title. People will follow you through thick and thin if you inspire them, or if you do something great, or if you convince them, or if you care about them.

But they will not do it just because you’re the CEO. They will work for you but they’ll not give it their all.

Another thing we learn in school is to look at problems from every possible angle, and then develop the best solution. Often a very theoretical one. In business, by contrast, success is mostly defined by rapid implementation and not by the best solution. In fact we rarely have time to even look at the best solution.

In schools and universities there is a huge misconception about risk-taking and making mistakes. If you make a mistake you are punished with a low grade.

So we’re educated to not try anything new. We’re not taking risks because we might fail. But failure is necessary for success and necessary for personal development. Steve Jobs was fired as CEO of Apple, the company he founded. What a personal failure! Yet he said years later, “It was the best thing that could have ever happen to me because I entered the most creative period of my life.”

Michael Jordan, the basketball icon, said, “I can forgive failure. Everybody fails at something. What I cannot forgive is not trying.”

But we’re not educated to try. In school we learn to serve ourselves. It’s all about improving our individual grades, about maximizing our chances to get a good job. It’s all about me, myself and I.

By contrast leadership is about serving others.

But we’re not educated to become managers. If you want to become an engineer, you go to school, you learn maths and physics, you go to university, you get an engineering degree and you’re perfectly prepared to start your job, as an engineer. If you want to become a manager, you can do the same things, but the day you start your job you’ll realize you’re totally unprepared. There was no class on leadership.

Nobody taught you how to create a high-performance culture – and by the way what on earth is that?

Nobody taught you how to pick the best person for the job. Remember, you have to get the team together. How to pick the right candidate?

And nobody told you how to get rid, how to let go of, the wrong people in your team. How to fire with decency. How to give straight feedback without demolishing the other person, by actually helping the other person.

You realize the day you become a manager, you’re bound to fail. So no wonder 60% of American workers were not engaged in their jobs.

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