3 Consequences of Promoting the Smart, Successful Jerk (with video)

Oh he’s good. Very good. He gets sh__ done. It’s hard to argue with the results. So what if he’s ruffling a few feathers… with his team, with his peers, with HR, with IT?  The better he does, the better you look. And so you choose to look the other way, shrug your shoulders and chalk it up to the cost of genius.

And that may work. For a while. If you’re lucky you can get him promoted and cross your fingers that someday he will be in a position to return the favor. Which of course is a roll of the dice with a guy like that. But then again, you certainly don’t want to be on his bad side.

Another shoulder shrug, and there you are defending his obnoxious moves, helping him to move on and get out of your hair.

3 Consequences of Promoting the Smart, Successful Jerk

  1. Everyone’s Taking Notes
    I’ve been in enough focus groups across enough companies to tell you–when you promote the jerk, people assume it’s the jerk behavior that sealed the deal. No one assumes they got promoted in spite of their obvious lack of couth. You’ve just sanctioned destructive behavior that people now justify to themselves as the “only way” to make it.
  2. You Instantly Tank Your Credibility
    Even if you spend most of your time leading as a Winning Well manager, you’ll lose the hearts and minds of those looking up to you believing it’s possible to get results–without losing your soul. Promoting a jerk who gets (short-term) results without looking at the impact on the relationships they need to sustain them, is a credibility busting move with the true A players you need for lasting success. The minute you’ve made the announcement, they’re looking around for a smarter boss to work for, who gets the bigger picture.
  3. You Fuel the “Why Bother?” Factor
    When the “witch” gets promoted, there’s going to be a certain segment of your box 9  high potential employees who are going to shout “No way. If that’s what it takes, I’m not interested.” They won’t say much, and they’ll keep up appearances–but the extra effort will likely go elsewhere. True A players are always working hard… it’s just a matter of where they’re investing their energy.

Don’t underestimate the consequences of supporting and promoting a high-potential jerk. Sure, it’s the path of least resistance. But can you imagine the impact of investing strategically in their development to help them grow past it? Recovering jerky A players rank among some of the best leaders I know.

Take the time to go there.

 

Is Your Boss A Gamer? Win Well Anyway.

Gamers are manipulators. They spend their days playing dirty politics, working one person against one another in their ceaseless quest for status. In their mind, winning is not related to organization results. Their meetings and efforts at delegation usually have two layers of meaning, with political subtext just below the surface.

Gamers attract a motley cast of sycophants, other Gamers, and the disaffected. Productive employees leave as soon as they can.

In unhealthy organizations, Gamers can hang around a long time as they manipulate the people around them in a warped Game of “Who will be the last one voted off the island?” Whether or not the Gamer experiences stress and discomfort depends on his or her internal values. Living and working this way is caustic to the people with any self-regard.

 

If you feel like this guy, you’re not alone. Winning Well can help you survive and even thrive despite a Gamer boss or toxic work environment by creating pockets of excellence. Chapter 22: What If My Boss Doesn’t Want to Win and Doesn’t Care About Their Soul or Mine? is particularly useful in this situation.

If you haven’t picked up you copy of Winning Well today, you can order it here. Already read it? Please help us spread the word with an Amazon review!

5 Reasons Your Great Boss Is Hurting Your Career

Like other good things in life, a great boss relationship, taken to extremes, can wreak havoc with your career. I’ve seen otherwise smart and talented people lose credibility by over-aligning with a great boss. Be sure to diversify your relationship investments. Perhaps you’ll recognize these career-derailing characters. Avoid these common traps.

Great Boss Traps

The Coat Tail Rider

On the surface it feels like the perfect symbiotic relationship. You’re her right hand guy. You work hard and always achieve results. She gets promoted to a new department, and she brings you over. It’s comforting for her to have a someone familiar she can rely on, and you get a promotion, or a new assignment. Win-win, right? Then it happens again, and again. Sweet deal?

Although it’s comfortable and feels like the fast track, beware of riding coat tails, particularly into more than one assignment. Your identity will become enveloped within your more powerful, great boss. People will begin to see you as a package deal. If her career derails, so will yours.

Also, the best leadership growth comes from working with a variety of leaders. Although the devil you know feels easy, you’re both limiting the growth you would get from working with a wider variety of leaders. Better to let your relationship morph into a mentoring relationship, or friendship, while you each continue to pursue the next steps of your career.

The Mini Me

Your great boss is successful, so you work to emulate his every move. You begin dressing more like him and picking up mannerisms. After all, it works for him, why not you? In fact, you may not even notice you’re doing it. Trust me, others do.

No matter how great a leader your great boss is, resist the urge to lead like him. Your best leadership will come when you lead from a place of deep authenticity.   No one wants to follow a copy-cat.

The Tag Along

Your great boss is looking to develop you, and has your best interest at heart, so he brings you along a lot: to the big meetings, to the charity fundraiser… to happy hour. When there’s a company function, there you are right by his side. You always find your way to his table at dinner.

After all, powerful people hang out with other powerful people, right? Be careful. Some such exposure is healthy but over-exposure will burn. Give your peers a chance for the face time. Be deliberate in getting to know other people at those functions. It’s harder, sure, but the widened network will be invaluable.

The Name Dropper

When you’re trying to get stuff done, it’s tempting to just throw around your bosses name. “Karin said this MUST be done by tomorrow at 5.” Weak leaders hide behind the power of other leaders. Even if your boss is the one asking for something to be done, resist the urge to use that muscle. In the long run you’ll have much more credibility when you own your asks.

The Good Soldier

Your great boss says jump, you say how high… every time. You trust him. Now of course, there’s a time and a place for good soldiering, but real leaders know when to question and put on the brakes. Sure your boss may reward you for your consistent execution of her directives, but she’ll be amazed when you challenge her with innovation and suggest creative, and better alternatives.

Work to build a fantastic relationship with your great boss, but beware of such co-dependencies. What feels easy and comfortable, could damage your career in the long run.

Boss Says and Other Stupid Games "Leaders" Play

Weak managers hide behind powerful. Wimpy leaders fear their own opinions. Teams can’t follow pass through. Be inspired by your boss. Understand their vision. Then, make it your own.

Never play, “my boss says.” Copycats don’t inspire vision, build trust, motivate greatness, or develop anyone.

Don’t enable teams to pull the “boss says” lever.

As Kouzes and Posner explain, “If the words you speak are not your words but someone else’s, you will not, in the long-term, be able to be consistent in word and deed. You will not have the integrity to lead.” -Kouzes & Posner, The Leadership Challenge

Watch a “boss sayser” closely. They likely wimp out in other ways too. Don’t count on them to tell the truth, up down or sideways.

Great leaders don’t play games.

Own Your Words & Actions

When the decision is unpopular or you disagree, it’s tempting to credit or blame those above. Don’t. Your team trusts you. Your boss is scary. Your bosses boss is even scarier. Big titles feel scary from afar.

  • Understand
  • Ask questions
  • Voice concerns
  • Work through your apprehension
  • Listen
  • Share pros and cons
  • Own it
  • Do what you say

Boss Says and Other Stupid Games “Leaders” Play

Weak managers hide behind powerful. Wimpy leaders fear their own opinions. Teams can’t follow pass through. Be inspired by your boss. Understand their vision. Then, make it your own.

Never play, “my boss says.” Copycats don’t inspire vision, build trust, motivate greatness, or develop anyone.

Don’t enable teams to pull the “boss says” lever.

As Kouzes and Posner explain, “If the words you speak are not your words but someone else’s, you will not, in the long-term, be able to be consistent in word and deed. You will not have the integrity to lead.” -Kouzes & Posner, The Leadership Challenge

Watch a “boss sayser” closely. They likely wimp out in other ways too. Don’t count on them to tell the truth, up down or sideways.

Great leaders don’t play games.

Own Your Words & Actions

When the decision is unpopular or you disagree, it’s tempting to credit or blame those above. Don’t. Your team trusts you. Your boss is scary. Your bosses boss is even scarier. Big titles feel scary from afar.

  • Understand
  • Ask questions
  • Voice concerns
  • Work through your apprehension
  • Listen
  • Share pros and cons
  • Own it
  • Do what you say

Unnecessary Roughness: What Happens When Leaders are Mean

A side effect of being a leadership blogger is that people go out of their to tell me stories of “bad leadership.” Unfortunately bad leaders are everywhere, and show up in all kinds of organizations. Lately my readers and others have been sending me examples of what I call, “unnecessary roughness.”

“It was Superbowl Sunday, 5 minutes before kickoff, and our sales director calls a mandatory conference call to discuss lagging KPIs.
“My boss knows I go to church, but always calls me on Sunday mornings at 10 am, just to “check in.”
“Our entire scorecard is “green” with unprecedented results, but our ops review was brutal. No one smiled. They kept drilling us all about really trivial areas where we “weren’t doing well.” Not one mention of the positive results.”
“I was 5 minutes late for a meeting, because I was wrapping up a critical conversation with another senior leader. He went crazy in front of everyone. ”

I imagine you have heard similar examples of unnecessary roughness in your world.

Unnecessary roughness comes in many shapes and forms. When I hear these examples, I always ask the same question, “why do you think s/he acted that way.” The most comment response (after he’s a jerk or she’s just a witch) is “because it gets results.”

The Pros and Cons of Unnecessary Roughness

Unnecessary roughness…

  • Drives short-term results
  • Creates compliance
  • Scares people into working harder
  • Reinforces your position of authority
  • Keeps them on their toes
  • Will ensure you never hear bad news
  • Will make you feel powerful
  • ? What would you add?

Unnecessary roughness also…

  • Creates paralyzing stress
  • Stifles creativity
  • Will bury problems
  • Will translate to customers
  • Causes people to work on the politics more than the work
  • Increases absenteeism and attrition
  • Is contagious
  • Teaches your team that “mean” is okay
  • ? what would you add?

And so my first point don’t be that guy. Take a good look in the mirror to ensure you have no signs of unnecessary roughness.

But what if you’re dealing with that guy? I bring this to the Let’s Grow Leaders community for your ideas and suggestions (please comment). I’ll incorporate your suggestions into a future post.

How do you cope with unnecessary roughness?