I had the great pleasure of having lunch with my first proper boss the other day. He taught me everything I know, pretty much, and we have lunch at least once a year and it’s always a highlight of my year.
My old boss, let’s call him Robert, gave me an opportunity to make mistakes and didn’t belittle me for them. But he didn’t let me get away with much either.
He gave me enough responsibility, but not too much, and spent a lot of time mentoring me.
This is something I see very little of these days.
At the same time, I see very little support for people in leadership and management roles to become better bosses.
This in turn makes it difficult for people to recognise if they are in fact a poor leader.
This is especially the case in small business, where opportunities for professional development are scant given how time-poor principals usually are.
Change leadership specialist Michelle Gibbings says it’s also hard to self-identify as a “bad boss”.
“There’s a correlation between seniority and overconfidence. Which is why it’s essential to have trusted advisers who can help you become more self aware,” she says.
According to Gibbings, there are three main signs that indicate you’re a bad boss.
- You’re the last to hear bad news
If you’re the boss and you’re always the last to know about important aspects of the business such as the loss of a key account, chances are you need to look at your communication skills.
This is an opportunity to review communication pathways and reporting mechanisms in the business to ensure you’re the first to know when something critical happens in the enterprise.
- Team members never disagree with you
If everyone’s too scared to be real with you, it’s a sign you’re a bad boss.
This is an opportunity to reconsider how you interact with other people. The idea is to learn to live with and even encourage dissent and differences of opinion.
Fostering an environment in which healthy debate is encouraged helps test ideas and strengthen the business.
- You put your needs ahead of others’ needs
Bosses who turn up late and leave early, yet prevent others in the team from doing the same, will find it hard to garner the support of their direct reports.
In the same way as a captain should go down with his or her sinking ship, bosses must put the needs of their team before their own needs, if they want to inspire loyalty and commitment among their employees.
Gibbings says there are plenty of ways you can change if you are a bad boss.
“A lot relates to your mindset. If you have a fixed mindset you don’t take on board feedback. In contrast people who have a growth mindset are more open to learning and accepting the fact they don’t have all the answers,” she explains.
Bosses with a growth mindset are generally better bosses. Use online tools to assess your leadership strengths and weaknesses. Another idea is to join a networking group with other business owners to workshop your leadership style.
If you are a bad boss, chances are one of the reasons is because you have too much on your plate and not enough time to spend mentoring your talented staff.
If that’s the case it’s time to assess how you can work more effectively with your team, not only for your and the team’s benefit, but for the business as a whole.
Are you a bad boss who has mended their ways? Post a comment below and tell us you story.