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From “Bad Boss” to High Performing Leader

from "bad boss" to high performing leader 1

You have probably heard the phrase “people don’t quit jobs; they quit managers.” And, if you’ve worked long enough, you can probably attest to its accuracy.

Several studies show that people decide to leave jobs overwhelmingly based on the people they work with, and especially their bosses. This data also suggests that if you want your company to thrive, you should focus on hiring and training the boss the company needs and the boss your employees are eager to work for. The good news is these are actually the same people.

A bad boss may not be what you think

When talking about transforming a bad boss, I am not talking about people guilty of harassment, bullying, fraud, or legal or moral corruption. These people are toxic to an organization and should not be tolerated.

Very few managers and supervisors though get up in the morning and think, “I am going to see how I can defraud the company or whom I can make miserable today.” As a group, leaders and supervisors are well-intentioned people who simply haven’t learned to be effective leaders. They may respond to the world, situations, and individuals in a style most comfortable to them. While that strategy and skill may have made them star performers in the past, it can make them ineffective leaders.

Most managers want to do a good job, but the system and processes too often fail them. Thus, the solution to a bad boss may be to provide ongoing training and development on how to respond in a style that is not as comfortable to them but is best for the situation, their team and the company.

For example, your best salesperson may be assertive and independent, but that does not mean they can, without training and development, manage other salespeople and get them to perform at that same level.

What makes for a “bad leader”?

Leading people is hard work because it requires a broad range of competencies. Some likely come naturally while others do not. I have yet to meet anyone who was naturally good at all the competencies required to be an effective leader. To be effective, leaders must develop competencies outside their natural approach by making these competencies habits.

For example, some managers tend to make decisions without the input of their team. Others may naturally seek input but have difficulty making a decision on their own. Still others may be great visionaries but have difficulty executing on their ideas. High-performing leaders need to be able to do all three of these things and more. They must be able to read the needs of the situation and respond accordingly.

High-Performing Leaders Need Agility

To enable leaders to stretch beyond their comfort zone and gain the competencies they need to perform at the highest level, we use the Everything DiSC Agile EQ Model. This model helps leaders develop an agile approach to workplace interactions and teaches leaders how to navigate a broad range of approaches, empowering them to meet the demands of any situation. It helps leaders develop the skills that don’t come naturally to them into habits.

How to start creating good habits

Pulitzer-prize-winning reporter and author Charles Duhigg in his book “The Power of Habit” provides a framework for understanding how habits work and focusing on the patterns that shape aspects of our lives. In this framework, he identifies three components of habit formation: The cue (event that triggers an action), the routine (the action taken in response to the cue), and the reward (the benefit received as a result of taking the action).

To replace an ineffective habit with a more effective one, it is necessary to identify the cue, the action you want to take instead of the current action, and the reward you would receive for taking the new action.

For example, a manager might want to develop the habit of asking for input from their team members rather than always telling them what to do. In this case the cue might be identification of a change that needs to be made. The new routine would be asking the team for their input on how to best accomplish the change rather than just telling them what to do. The reward, in this case, may be a more engaged team and a better outcome. Knowing your cues and the new routine you want to establish enables you to develop a plan of action.

agility unlocked

Agility unlocked

By combining this habit building approach with the Everything DiSC Agile EQ model, organizations can help “bad bosses” transform into high-performing leaders with competencies in even those areas that don’t come naturally. Here are five steps you can take to begin the process in your organization:

  • Develop cultural guidelines around the organization’s expectations of leaders, such as showing respect and empathy, making decisions confidently, and holding people accountable.
  • Help leaders create self-awareness by understanding their strengths and weaknesses. Multi-rater assessments, such as the Checkpoint 360 assessment, are a great way to do this as are personality assessments like Everything DiSC®.
  • Encourage leaders to Identify trust-building and emotional developmental traits that are outside their comfort zone and need to be built into habits. Encourage leaders to pick one competency that does not come naturally to them and develop a plan for building that competency into a habit. Once they are successful, they can pick a second competency to develop.
  • Ensure leaders are implementing stress mitigation strategies. Stress mitigation is critical because excessive levels of stress triggers the primitive brain. When this happens our tendency to fight, flight, freeze, or appease kicks in. We lose the ability to think creatively, and problem solve. Whether it’s exercise, yoga, meditation, breathing, dancing or some other hobby or activity, encourage managers and supervisors to find what works for them and engage in the activity regularly. Not only is it good for the leader it is good for the organization.
  • Provide ongoing feedback and coaching. Provide ongoing feedback to the leader on how they are doing, especially when you notice them taking the new action. The feedback becomes part of the reward to the leader for navigating outside their comfort zone and developing a new competency.

If you are looking for ideas and a plan on how to develop a leadership effectiveness program for your organization, contact our offices.

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POSTED ON: Leadership