Your Boss Doesn't Get it — Here's Why
Rebecca Riekaan, Career Specialist
If your boss is an intelligent, wise leader who cares about you and the direction of your company, go ahead and click out of here now. This article doesn’t apply to you.
If you came here to see what a disaster your professional life has become with your current boss at the helm, you’ve come to the right place.
In other words, your boss is an idiot — and we welcome you!
A few days ago, I binge-watched a series called “Band of Brothers” (based on true events of World War II). I’ve watched it multiple times throughout the years, so I won’t get into the gritty details. And if you’ve seen it, you know just how tough the men of Easy Company are. The tough company of battle-hardened soldiers needed a leader who personified courage, dignity, and respect, both on and off the battlefield.
So...what does this have to do with your boss?
Major Winters, the leader of Easy Company came up with a timeless set of guidelines that cover successful leadership principles. As you’re reading the guidelines below, think of how they apply to your boss’s leadership style:
Leadership at the Point of the Bayonet:
Ten Principles for Success
By Major Dick Winters
- Strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage.
- Lead from the front. Say, “Follow Me!” and then lead the way.
- Stay in top physical shape — physical stamina is the root of mental toughness.
- Develop your team. If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you will develop teamwork.
- Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their jobs. You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination or your creativity.
- Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind.
- Remain humble. Don’t worry about who receives the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.
- Take a moment of self-reflection. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
- True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. The key to a successful leader is to earn respect – not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.
- Hang Tough! — Never, ever, give up.
As you can see, Major Winters set a great example that can be applied to anyone in a leadership position. Let’s break down each of these 10 points to see if they apply to your boss:
Strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage.
If your boss has willingly participated in “shady” or deceptive business practices, they probably aren’t a leader that shows a strong amount of character. Is your boss competent? Can they make things happen successfully without needing assistance or advice every step of the way? Are they courageous?
All of these traits can set a good example for employees. If an employee sees their boss engaging in practices that harm the customer, or even vendors, they might think it’s okay to do the same. Once a boss shows they are not up to the task of handling a particular issue, whether big or small, employees will lose confidence in their leader. Being a courageous leader means accepting responsibility, no matter who is at fault.
Lead from the front. Say, “Follow Me!” and then lead the way.
A boss must lead from the front. Always. Whether your boss is the owner of your company, middle management, or a supervisor, their job is to lead, not follow.
A perfect example of a boss not leading the way came to me last week from one of my friends. Here’s an exact copy of the chat conversation we had:
Joanne: “Hey, you won’t believe what Ron did today.”
Me: “I can’t even imagine. What happened this time?”
Joanne: “So, he received an email complaint from a customer of ours. She’s been a solid customer for over 8 years now. It wasn’t anything too major, just some general complaints about our service. This particular customer can be a little critical and dramatic at times, so Ron doesn’t want to deal with her.”
Me: “Oh? So is he just ignoring her?”
Joanne: “Not at all. In fact, he wrote a really detailed reply.”
Me: “So what’s the problem?”
Joanne: “He wrote the reply (which still didn’t resolve her issues) and forwarded it to me.”
Me: “That’s weird. You’re not the customer.”
Joanne: “Exactly. He forwarded the email to me, so I could send the reply to the customer through my own email account.”
Me: “So that way he doesn’t have to talk to her?”
Joanne: “Yep. She emailed him because she wanted him to specifically address her concerns. Not me. Not anyone else. Now things will be worse because she still won’t get her complaints resolved and she’s going to see that he’s not willing to work with her. I think we’re about to lose a big account!”
Me: “That’s too bad…”
This example is a clear indication that Joanne’s boss doesn’t have any clue about leading from the front. Obviously, my friend could have handled the email just fine...it is her job, afterall. But in this particular case, the customer only wanted to talk to the man in charge...and he passed his responsibility down to his employee.
He didn’t lead from the front. Instead, he “passed the buck”.
Stay in top physical shape - physical stamina is the root of mental toughness.
When I first saw this bullet point on Major Winters’ list, I thought to myself, “That probably isn’t true for all bosses. He must have only applied this to military leaders, since they have to be in top physical shape on or off the battlefield.”
Nope. This applies to all leaders. The second part of this leadership trait is key:
“...the root of mental toughness”.
Is your boss mentally tough? Do they get stressed out easily? Can they think clearly when the chips are down? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, your boss may not have the capacity for mental toughness — and that may be due to the fact that they aren’t physically fit. Don’t believe me? Read on...
Now, obviously you can’t tell your boss to purchase a monthly gym membership. But the advantages to being physically fit always outweighs the benefits of being unhealthy.
If your boss is constantly out sick, or they’re always scheduling appointments with the doctor, chances are, they aren’t thinking clearly. And to be mentally tough, you have to have a clear mind so you can focus on the tasks at hand (as well as plans for the future). Thinking about appointments and health concerns aren’t doing your boss any favors. And if they’re in a physically demanding role (construction, for example), they need to show their subordinates that they’re more than capable of tackling the job at hand.
Develop your team. If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you will develop teamwork.
In my opinion, this leadership trait should have been way higher on the list. I can write an entire series on this one statement alone. The reality is that you will probably spend more time with your boss on a daily basis than your own family. Your boss needs to realize this and take the appropriate steps to develop a working relationship with the people they spend the most time with.
Develop Your Team and Know Your People
Not all bosses are the same. Some bosses are also the owners of their respective companies. Some bosses are the liaison between hourly employees and upper management. And some bosses manage one specific department within the company.
Regardless of their role, one thing is clear — All bosses need to develop their team and know exactly what it is that makes each person “tick”.
What does that mean? It means fostering the individual skill sets of each person on their team and allowing those skills to flourish with the rest of the crew. It means getting to know team members on a personal level. Your boss should set aside time to take their team out to lunch every now and then. And this time should be used to see who fits with any given role and act accordingly.
Be Fair in Setting Realistic Goals and Expectations
When I first started college, one of my full-time jobs was conducting mall surveys. Now, if you’ve never participated in a mall survey, it’s simply sharing your opinions on new products before they hit the retail market. Most of the time, respondents get paid for their opinions. Because of that, you’d think everyone would want to sit down for a few minutes, just so they can be paid handsomely for their time.
No matter how friendly I was, and no matter how much foot traffic we saw in our little section of the mall, it was always tough to approach a stranger, get them to sit down with you, and pay them for their time.
What’s more unbelievable is the the fact that my boss had such high expectations that were nearly impossible to achieve. Here’s how a typical morning meeting went:
Boss: “Today, we need to get 450 people to answer 10 questions about (Company Name)’s breakfast cereal."
Us: (collective sigh) “Ugggh. There aren’t that many people that even come through this part of the mall in 8 hours!”
Boss: “It doesn’t matter. Just do it. We need those surveys submitted by the end of the workday.”
Us: “But even if there are that many people, only 30% of them will actually stop and take our survey!”
Boss: “Well, let’s get 100% of them to do it!”
It’s stressing me out just typing that, and I left that job over 17 years ago! As you can see, my boss set some very unrealistic expectations. It’s great to think positive, and there’s nothing wrong with being an overachiever. However, setting unrealistic expectations is an immediate downer for any employee. Actually, in this example, they were impossible expectations.
If your boss sets unrealistic goals, chances are, you’ll immediately shut down as an employee. The psychological effect of not doing your job can be mentally draining. And when that happens, bad things happen — or work doesn’t get done at all.
Although I didn’t personally participate in the shenanigans, a lot of my co-workers cheated and made up fake respondents on a regular basis, just so they could meet my boss’s impossible expectations. Needless to say, a few of our biggest clients found out and pulled out of our company. After that happened, it was just a matter of time before the entire company was out of business.
The next time your boss tells you to do the impossible, talk to them. Communicate your concerns and what the consequences of their expectations might be. Even if they get mad or debate with you, at least they will hear your grievances.
Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their jobs. You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination or your creativity.
This is one of the most obvious points on Major Winter’s list. And it’s an important one for your boss to understand. If your boss doesn’t delegate responsibility, they are shooting themselves in the foot.
Most successful companies are swamped with busy work. There’s always a task that needs to be done. Certain processes can always be more streamlined and efficient. The customer experience can always be upgraded to be more pleasant. These types of things should be assigned to the team. There’s no reason for your boss to be involved with the “small details”, unless they don’t trust their team. In that case, they’re doing it wrong anyway.
Instead, a boss should have time to plan ahead so they can use their imagination and creativity to implement processes that will benefit the company in the long run. Growth and sustainability should be at the forefront of their planning. This will ensure that everyone keeps their job, and that alone should keep employees happy and productive.
Delegate, bosses! It’s your job!
Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind.
If you work in a reactive environment, rather than a proactive one, you’re not alone. However, that doesn’t excuse your boss from being unprepared for future problems and obstacles. Preparation is extremely important to the success of any company.
In order to prepare, your boss has to be organized and thorough. This means keeping detailed records of the problems your company or department encountered from the past. If they don’t have detailed data from previous days, weeks, months or even years, they’re not being proactive. They should come up with solutions to each of those problems, while anticipating new ones.
Once a plan for tackling obstacles is in place, there shouldn’t be anything that stops the team from performing their job efficiently and effectively!
Remain humble. Don’t worry about who receives the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.
In the day and age of social media, this statement has never been more relevant to the topic at hand. People in general are obsessed with taking selfies, posting endlessly about their accomplishments, and being all-around “humble-braggers”.
You know the type.
If your boss constantly takes credit for ideas you came up with, check their social media accounts and see how many selfies they post every week. You might see an indication of why it’s pointless to take credit for “their” idea. Instead, bosses should creatively encourage everyone’s ideas (only the good ones, of course). When employees feel like they’re part of something bigger, they will naturally become more productive.
If your boss continually takes credit for something they didn’t do, just make them “think” it was their idea to begin with. If they’re resistant to change, you might as well make the best of it.
Take a moment of self-reflection. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
We all get caught up in the hectic schedules of our daily lives. This is especially true when it comes to your boss’s schedule. That’s why it’s best for them to take a break every now and then. They should gather their thoughts, clear their mind and ask themselves if they did the best they could.
Also. Vacation. Please, please, please encourage your boss to take a vacation if you feel like they need time away from the office. Obviously, you can’t really tell your boss what to do, but small conversations about Hawaii or Paris might go a long way in convincing them!
True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. The key to a successful leader is to earn respect — not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.
How many of you respect your boss because of who they are, rather than their position or rank within your company? Respect is mutual, and if your boss doesn’t respect you or the work you put into the company, then it may be hard to give that type of respect back.
Character plays a very important role in the employee-boss relationship. As mentioned above, if your boss says or does things that aren’t on the “up-and-up”, you may lose some respect for who they are.
Years ago, I had a boss who wanted me to slightly manipulate some documents in Photoshop. The documents weren’t that important, but he wanted me to make a change that altered the reports to work more in our favor.
Needless to say, I refused, and lost all respect for who he was as a person. If he can make that kind of change to some small reports, where does it stop? Will he ask me to manipulate tax forms or customer info in the future?
Two weeks later, I left the company.
Hang Tough! — Never, ever, give up.
This one is too easy! Your boss should never give up without trying every available option. When the going gets tough, the tough get going! It’s as simple as that!
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