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Bob Sutton on What Good Bosses Believe

I was recently offered a review copy of Good Boss, Bad Boss, an upcoming book by Stanford Professor Bob Sutton, author of The No Asshole Rule. In the meantime, he blogged in Harvard Business Review on 12 Things Good Bosses Believe. I found the post to be intriguing, but not for the reasons you might think.
First, let me say that I think I understand what Sutton's trying to do here. Much like his now-famous book, he's pandering to employees, which, as a book-buying audience, just happen to outnumber managers by an order or magnitude or two. That said, it wouldn't be genuine of me to criticize his business sense, which I actually admire.

While I don't wish to be a negatron, I did find most of the 12 Things to be trite, obvious, or oversimplifications. And I think a more balanced approach would include the reciprocal relationship, i.e. what good employees believe. More importantly, my list would be more outwardly than inwardly focused. After all, management is at least as much about customers and business as it is about the employee-boss relationship, is it not?

Anyway, here are 6 of the 12 Things, along with some commentary of my own (ST: in italics):

  • I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
    ST: Um, doesn't that define all perception of all things? Trite.
  • My success -- and that of my people -- depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.
    ST: I find success in business to be neither obvious and mundane, nor magical and obscure. Everything important actually falls somewhere in between.
  • Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day.
    ST: Again, it's not really a question of either or. I think a good boss does her job, day-to-day, always mindful of her goals for direction and guidance. On the other hand, I have seen more than a few goal setting and measurement processes that weren't worth a damn.
  • I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.
    ST: I don't think managers should be concerned with either convincing people they're in charge or being right or wrong. If, however, they possess a relatively genuine sense of self-awareness, they needn't worry about overconfidence.
  • One of the best tests of my leadership -- and my organization -- is "what happens after people make a mistake?"
    ST: Agreed, but that's just a restatement of Miles Davis's oft-quoted: "When you hit a wrong note, it's the next note that makes it good or bad." I love that quote.
  • How I do things is as important as what I do.
    ST: Yikes, can you even get more trite than that? It applies to everything.
In any case, this did get me thinking, so maybe I'll follow up with my own list of what good managers believe. Let me know if you'd like to see that.

Okay, here's the sequel, my list of 10 Things Good Managers Believe

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