I was writing a blog about the successful ways of destroying morale, and it crossed my mind that many of the attributes I included I had experienced first-hand from managers. But then it got me thinking about the kind of manager I had become directly because of those experiences.
You may have heard people say that they learnt how not to manage, by being managed badly. I know I’ve vowed that I would never treat anyone the way I had been treated before. And I tried to stick to that vow (although in hindsight I have to admit I wasn’t always successful, whilst I was personally learning about different communication styles and motivational needs).
What I then did was ask around to find out what others had experienced from bad managers. Things that came up included: shouting at them in front of clients, threatening them with their jobs, bribing them to be on their manager’s side in an argument, telling them that they’d never amount to anything, taking credit for their ideas, managers trying to make people clones of themselves (even though their employee had completely different values, skills and experience), blaming them for mistakes that their boss had made, being two-faced.
And the next question was then, what did you learn from those bad bosses that actually helped you in your career?
Well, apart from the “how not to manage”, some of the positives that came out of the experiences were quite surprising and maybe a little controversial.
- Empathy for team members trying out new skills
- Clients can often spot who made any mistakes and then alternatively come to you as the more valuable source of information.
- You become invaluable to your boss as you have more knowledge and successful results than they do.
- You get asked along to meetings that you might not otherwise have had the chance to, as you have the information and knowledge required to answer questions etc.
- Learning the skills to manage upwards – this was vital to me, as I learnt to coach one manager on the benefits of having someone with different skills sets to them and the rest of their team, as they didn’t understand them or know how to capitalise on them.
- Stop taking things personally – this is more difficult for some personality types (looking at MBTI), but bad bosses don’t have the effective communication skills and aren’t self-aware enough to understand the impact of what they say or how they say it.
- If the boss leaves, and you take on the manager role, you look brilliant in contrast!
- Never to over-promise on project deliverables, rewards or promotions.
- Listen to team members to find out what motivates them, what de-motivates them, what ideas they have for improvements etc.
- To think before you speak, and to leave enough time to calm down before responding to an angry email/letter (especially if it’s from a client!!)
- Treating everyone fairly.
That’s quite a long list, and I’m sure we could have come up with more if we’d had more time. But what I wanted to point out was that you can learn from everyone, the good and the bad. If you’ve had a bad boss, you can decide to look at the positives and see what you can learn from the experience, how you can manage the interaction better, and build on the leadership skills that improve your team’s working environment in the future.
Have you turned around a bad experience into a positive skill?
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