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OH, SHUT UP AND STOP BLAMING YOUR BOSS

John H. Thalheimer

Your Manager’s Guide to Excellence @ the intersection of performance, accountability and inspiration
With over twenty-five years of experience working with supervisors, managers, and leaders to improve their performance, John Thalheimer understands the dangers of poor management, and the impact it has on organizations. His core belief is that every organization and every employee deserves great leadership. He works tirelessly to help supervisors and managers be the best leaders they can be through interactive workshops and seminars, individualized coaching, and business masterminds.

“My boss is an idiot*.”

I have heard this frustration many times in my career from well-meaning employees who blame their boss for their performance. Do not get me wrong, there are a lot of bad bosses in the world; I know this because I have worked with them, coached them, trained them, and in my early days, I was one. Bad bosses exist, but you cannot blame them for your performance.

We measure performance based on the effectiveness of behaviors in achieving desired results. In other words, our results directly correlate to the behavioral decisions we make every day at work. We make decisions about the effort we will apply to a task, the attitude we will have when we arrive at work, the quality of our performance, and how much that idiot boss will affect our day.

“How do I succeed when my boss is an idiot*?”

  • Understand What is Expected of You: Every role has specific results that your organization expects you to achieve. It is your responsibility to understand what is being asked of you. What results do you need to accomplish? What behaviors are appropriate and effective in your role? What tasks and responsibilities need to be completed for you to be considered successful? What knowledge and ability do you need to have to be deemed competent in your role? The best way to get these questions answered is to sit down with your supervisor and go through your job description, and have them explain what they expect of you in your role. If your supervisor is unwilling or unable to do this, talk to your co-workers, and ask them what behaviors, actions and attitudes are required for individuals to be successful in your role?
  • Be Self-Aware: In my management workshops, we discuss the Superhero SWOT analysis. Every person has a superhero within them; superpowers (strengths) they bring to the table, and Kryptonite – behaviors that hold them back. We also discuss future potential that they can tap into, and the pitfalls they must avoid to be successful. What are your strengths and potential pitfalls? For us to be successful, we need to understand ourselves and the legacy we want to leave behind. Introspection is beneficial, but we must also tap into our stakeholders to get their impression of our performance, and ways we might be able to improve. (Learn more about stakeholder centered coaching here, and how it can benefit your whole team.)
  • Create a Path: Once we know what is expected of us, and our strengths and weaknesess, we then need to create a path to close the performance gap. Four areas are important for improving our job performance; knowledge, ability, systems and attitude. Based on the feedback you receive from others, develop a path to improve in each area. In his book, Atomic Habits, author James Clear discussed the 1% solution. He says that, examining all areas of your job and improving each area by one percent, you will create a cumulative effect that will have a significant and positive impact on your job performance. (learn more here)
    • Knowledge: What do you need to know to do your job well?
    • Experience: What skills do you need to have to do your job well?
    • System: What process or procedure needs to change to make you more productive in your job? What resources, supplies or tools will help you do your job better? (And no, you can’t change your boss.)
    • Attitude: Is your attitude helping you, or is it negatively affecting your performance?
  • Make Better Decisions: Every decision we make either takes us closer to our goal or farther away. Yet, we make most of our choices at a subconscious level, either with our habits, or emotional shortcuts, or just by being lazy. We have a choice on how we respond to our idiot* boss. We can allow his or her idiocracy to get in our way, or we can choose to work around it.

We cannot change our boss’s behavior,

we can only change how we react to it.

  • It may not be your boss; it may be you. I had a boss who I thought was an idiot for the first year that we worked together, but as I better understood my job and what was expected of me, I started to change my perspective. The best way we can serve anyone is to ask them, “How can I best use my abilities to serve you?”

*Bosses: It is you. When I work with organizations, the majority of system issues are caused by poor management. Gallup Inc., recently completed a significant survey and had the same findings, “Seventy percent of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager. It is the manager.”

I don’t blame managers; most have no training on how to be a manager. I have heard that the average manager is promoted at the age of 30, but doesn’t receive training until they reach 42. Many are promoted to a management role without knowing how to lead a team, motivate others, resolve conflicts, hold employees accountable, or stand-up for their team. And when this is the case, the whole organization suffers.

Managers – stop blaming your boss, take accountability, and become a better manager. Take a workshop. Hire an accountability coach. Read a book. Do something to be better tomorrow than you were today.

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