Bad Bosses: 5 Things to Say to Your Mirror Every Day

Last Updated Feb 2, 2011 7:53 PM EST

We've all had a boss we despised working for. That's bad, but what's worse is when we become that person.
Want to avoid becoming the boss you would hate to work for? Every morning, stand in front of the mirror, look yourself in the eye, and repeat after me:
  1. "I am not that important." Studies show changes in leadership, on average, cause about 10% of the overall variance in corporate profitability. (Arguably a business owner has more influence, but the more employees you have the less influence you have.) Great leadership won't solve every problem. And some problems get solved in spite of terrible leadership. While you matter, you don't matter that much. Focus less on your skills and more on your limitations -- and work hard to overcome those limitations.
  2. "I am not that smart." Just because you're in charge doesn't mean all your opinions are valid -- or should even be shared. I worked at a plant and a sinkhole formed in the parking lot. It was expensive, but we brought in a geologist to test for sub-surface issues under the building. (Sinkholes + multi-million dollar equipment = Career Limiting Event.) In the middle of a highly technical presentation our CEO jumped up, drew a few lines on a topographical map, and said to the geologist, "That's all you need to do. Settled. Next topic?" Holding a position of authority does not automatically confer wisdom. Be quiet when you don't know... and often when you do know.
  3. "I am not that funny." Leading a business is a little like being famous; your employees treat you differently because of your position. But in reality your thoughts aren't that profound. Your insights aren't that insightful. And your jokes definitely aren't that funny. If you sometimes wonder why your friends don't think you're as wonderful as your employees do, now you know. And speaking of friends...
  4. "My employees are not my friends." Your job is to win customers, increase efficiency, reduce waste, and make things happen. Making friends isn't part of the job. You should be friendly. But you can't be friends with your employees. Don't say you have the interpersonal and professional skills to strike the right balance, because you don't. No one does. (In some cases interacting with the boss is less enjoyable than doing household chores.) Never put employees in a position to feel they should do the "friend" thing with you outside of work. Make other friends. Better yet spend more time with your family. Keep relationships separate and you'll be a better leader.
  5. "My employees will never care as much as I do." They won't and they shouldn't. No matter how dependable or self-motivated, and no matter what incentives you provide, your employees are still employees. It's your business. You should care more. Set high standards and expect excellence -- but don't expect the same level of dedication. You'll only frustrate yourself and disengage your employees. Inspire your employees by setting goals and helping them achieve those goals.
Are there things you remind yourself every day? Any notes taped to your monitor? If so -- share them!

Read more: Image courtesy Flickr user Chloester, CCM 2.0
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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.

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