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HOW TO BE A BAD BOSS.

Executive coach Paul Lemberg is a pretty upbeat guy, but he's often frustrated by how often well-meaning bosses put obstacles in front of their employees and create dysfunctional organizations. "Most discussions of management and leadership talk about what to do to help people be their best," he notes, "but they don't talk about why executives and entrepreneurs routinely do the opposite."

Lemberg has compiled a list of six ways that bosses can hurt employee performance. The good news, he says, is that it's easy to fix the problem: "If you currently do any of these things--stop immediately."

* You skip the vision thing: Employees need a "clear and compelling company direction," says Lemberg--not just a "nicely written statement on a wooden plaque." He adds: "It's not just having a vision that's important, it is sharing the vision, bringing people into the vision, bringing that vision alive--which makes the real performance difference. When people align themselves with the company goals, they are free to invent, to improvise, to innovate, to inspire each other. They are free to do great work."

* You say important things just once: "Most executives think that if they say something once, it needn't be said again. Wrong, wrong, wrong! If something is important, it bears repeating. And repeating. Repeat until you are sick of hearing yourself say it. Reiterate goals. Restate the product strategy. Revisit the customer care policy. Repeat everything important."

* You don't hold employees accountable: "Either people are held accountable or they aren't," Lemberg points out. "People need to know you expect them to do the things they say they'll do. Otherwise, anything that is perceived to have a higher priority, or worse-- anything that is easier to accomplish--will get done instead. It's that simple. Start by doing all the things you said you would do. Then make sure everyone else does. This will pass through your organization like a virus."

* You try to improve people's weaknesses: Bad bosses waste too much energy on employee makeovers, Lemberg argues. "Don't worry about weaknesses--instead, figure out what employees are really good at and train them to be brilliant. Wouldn't you rather have a brilliant salesperson who was poor at customer service, or a brilliant field engineer who couldn't fill out a report to save his life?"

* You keep people in the wrong jobs: A related bad-boss mistake is to promote smart people into jobs they don't handle well. "Out of loyalty, inertia, or a simple unwillingness to admit mistakes, you leave them in place--causing great harm to both the employee and the company," says Lemberg. "Do them and everyone else a favor: Move them or ask them to leave. Quickly."

* You change the company's direction informally: Technology companies have to be fast and flexible, Lemberg points out--"but when you decide to change direction, make it official. If you don't announce new goals, and admit you are no longer pursuing the previous ones, it becomes too easy to slip and slide from one set of objectives to another. Then your people slip their own goals without telling anyone and start to do whatever's easiest. And it's all right, because no one was serious about those goals anyway."

Paul Lemberg, managing principal, Lemberg & Co., Box 502612, San Diego, Calif. 92150; 760/741-1747. E-mail: paul@lemberg.com.
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Publication:Soft-Letter
Date:Jun 15, 2001
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