The Boss . . . . @ the April 2012 Leadership Development Carnival by Shri Tanmay Vora

[The Boss is widely discussed, most hated, most often the butt of the jokes, mostly hated animal of the organizational zoo. The Boss articles in the present April 2012 edition of Shri Tanmay Vora’s  Leadership Development Carnival explore a different dimension of the Leader in the role of the Boss.]

The demographic distribution in any organization obviously puts The Boss at a natural disadvantage. But this is not the reason why Mr. Wally Bock   “urge(s) to try it out, before commit(ting)”.  Mr. Wally Bock has seen the first-time bosses “unfold” and sometime “unravel” for over 25 years. In his experienced view, the boss is a leader who is “responsible (and accountable) for a group and the group’s performance”. Helping his team and team members to succeed is so very different work that becoming a boss amounts to “a career change”.

As the Boss, he needs to natural inclination to accept responsibility, has to make decisions, talk to others about performance and has to love helping others to succeed – all the characteristics of a true leader.

Mr Bruck also cautions that “It takes a decade or more to achieve any sort of mastery and you will never master it all.”

Becoming a good boss and maintaining the position is akin to Alice In Wonderland where one has to keep running in order to stay where you are. Mr.  David Burkus quite succinctly puts forward the concept of “an S-curve  where entropy begins near the top.As we move toward the top, we start to change the way we behave. Our days seem mindless, we experience more anxiety and our less likely to be growing and learning. In addition, we find ourselves in conflict more with our environment and peers. O’Neil argues that when we reach this top, we need to take a step back and observe our needs and ourselves.

Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke, offers an addendum to O’Neil: we don’t just need to step back to observe, we need to step back to avoid hurting ourselves and others.

Ariely (2010) introduced the concept of “self-herding,” which is to say that humans make decisions about future behavior based on past behavior. Therefore, when we act out in anger in a situation we are more likely to behave the same way the next time we encounter that situation, whether angry or not.

This is how well meaning leaders develop into terrible bosses. As they approach the tip of the S-curve, as burnout and entropy sneak in, they act out against their people. The next time they face a similar situation, whether rested or not, they may act the same way. Gradually, they turn toward this dark side.

Leaders must develop awareness for when anxiety, conflict and burnout creep in. When this happens, the not only need to observe but they need to resist negative actions – as they may have lasting effect on themselves and their team.”

In a related video talk , Mr. Burkus goes on elaborate why the boss afflicted by the Peter’s principle   ‘sucks’ his team and provides means to keep away from this pitfall.

On a very different note, Art Petty lists At Least 10 More Things to Stop Doing if You’re the Boss .  Never preach what you will not do for yourself, not only handle difficult issues relating to the team performance but also be seen to act , do not act like a friend if you cannot indeed be a friend, never try to see over the backs of the team, ensure that your own goals remain tightly aligned to that of your team, share praise in public and criticism in private, do listen to your team’s views, never be seen to shy away from the inherent role-based responsibilities and be ready to share the due credit of a good job are her simple sounding tenets. When I was reading the complete article, I could not stop looking at myself, because it seemed that this is some sort of confession. And it seems that there many more who also share similar apprehensions, since she was soon flooded by four times the comments on her article enumerating “At Least 20 Things to Stop Doing as a Leader”.

This brings us to a question: Is your Boss killing your ideas?. Mr. Rajesh Setty is his usual to-the-point in this no holds-barred, but a neatly balanced article. Mr. Setty here focuses on a triad possible solution of how to handle the issue of Your Boss killing Your Ideas.

“The first thing to remember is that an idea is rarely looked at its merits on a standalone basis. Your idea is one of the many on his or her table and he or she has to pick among the best available options at that point in time.

Antidote: The way capitalize on this is to clearly know both your organization’s priorities, your Boss’ priorities and what else is on the table of your Boss. With that knowledge, you can paint a picture with your idea

The second thing to remember (and probably more important than the first one) is that every idea has a weight associated with it and the major part of the weight for your idea comes from “who you are” to the Boss and to the organization.

The third thing to remember is that while you are thinking about the “idea,” your Boss is thinking also about the “execution of the idea” and ALL changes needs to be made with people and systems to make this a reality. If the story does not pan out well in his or her mind, the idea gets rejected quickly.

Antidote: There are two things you need to become really good at – 1) continuing beyond the idea alone and thinking about all aspects of execution 2) the art of telling a great story.”

You are smart and the idea that got rejected is not the LAST great idea that you will ever get.

And still, If you’ve been hitting the snooze button lately on weekday mornings instead of hitting the shower—or find yourself taking the long way around to avoid passing by the corner office, you may just be working for a TOT, that is, a “Terrible Office Tyrant.”

TOTs are bosses who act strikingly similar to children, oftentimes toddlers in their Terrible Twos. Why does this happen? Because we’re all human, and behind the professional facade are grown kids who act out and can’t moderate their power.

However the modern boss – colleague [no more a subordinate!] relationship is expected to be built on the foundation of a transparent two-way communication. Mr. Dan McCarthy strongly advocates that you have got nothing to lose, and everything to gain by talking to the boss in his article How to Discuss a Problem with Your Manager. He explains that “if you talk to your boss, chances are, one of four things will happen:

1. Your boss may have had no idea that whatever he/she was doing or not doing was having an impact on you.

2. Your boss may be dealing with some other issue that has nothing to do with you, and again, was unaware of his/her behavior.

3. In either scenarios #1 & #2, your boss may be perfectly happy with your performance, and you’ll feel much better knowing that (and withdraw those job applications on Monster).

4. Your boss may actually be upset with you – and for some reason, has been avoiding telling you. In this case, you’ll at least have an opportunity to find out what the problem is.

Once you know that, you can work on making it better. If it’s something you can’t make better or don’t want to, then at least you’ll know where you stand and can pursue other options for the right reasons.”

Here is a small piece of advise I read while I was re=freshing my search about Shri Azim Premji’s famous talk about the employees leaving a boss rather than a company:

CALM: Communicate, Anticipate, Laugh, and Manage.

  • Keep the lines of communication open; anticipate problems and solutions; use humor (it is the great diffuser); and      manage up by being a positive, proactive problem solver.

(this is the first of the detailed exploration of the previous post:  Carnival of Leadership Development – April 2012 – By Tanmay Vora