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Don’t Make the Mess Your Manager Made

Everybody’s had at least one boss they didn’t trust and desperately wanted to escape. But you probably learned invaluable lessons from that boss about how people should and shouldn’t be treated. You might even have promised yourself what you’d NEVER do when you someday had people reporting to you.

Check In With Yourself

Now that you’re in charge, you are you still guided by those commitments? Or are you doing unto others things that you vowed never to repeat?

Thoughtful practice is usually more effective than following instinctive reactions or habits, so try using these questions to self-assess your reporting relationships. Then consider any behaviors you’d like to adjust, or interactions you need to repair, whether you’re a frontline team leader, startup entrepreneur, or C-suite executive.

  • Are you a kind leader? And even more important, are you fair? Are you conscious of and intentional about your behavior?
  • Are your communications and reactions consistent? Or is your opinion or signoff like a moving target?
  • Do you scrupulously give credit for work well done — acknowledging employees’ contributions, getting them exposure to other leaders and crucial outsiders, and letting them speak their own minds in open meetings?
  • Do you quote people inappropriately to the wrong audience in the wrong context, or otherwise use them as cannon fodder or protective cover for your own concerns and interests?
  • When something goes wrong, do you take pains to put it right, including explicitly apologizing for your wrong step or the company’s oversight?
  • Do you have your team members’ backs? Do you speak for their interests when resources are tight, or people deserve advancement or need help recovering from a big mistake?
  • Do you nitpick at people and their work? Or do you help them confront their challenges — not by taking over, but by providing support and guidance when they need to learn something?
  • Do you engage frequently with the people who report to you — not just claiming to have an open door, but actually seeking them out where they work, and meeting them for genuine discussion at least a few times every month?
  • Do you really know your team members — not just what they do on the weekend, but also their history and personal goals? Do you understand how they got here and where they want to go? Do you provide ongoing growth and development, including encouraging people to leave you for other experiences?
  • Do you share all the information and context necessary for your team to do their jobs, so they don’t get themselves into trouble or suffer from mixed messages?
  • Do you follow up on issues as promised, and provide good “customer service” by issuing progress reports if you can’t resolve things immediately?
  • Do you coach, counsel, and, if necessary, terminate badly-behaved or ineffective people so they’re not a drag on the good ones?
  • Do you help everyone understand how best to work with you?

There are always more questions. But if work through these, you’re well on your way to keeping your commitment to do a better job than the awful boss(es) in your past.

Onward and upward,


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Don’t Make the Mess Your Manager Made
Now that you’re in charge, you are you still guided by those commitments? Or are you doing unto others things that you vowed never to repeat?

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