I had asked the group to share their teachable point of view on leadership in the form of a TEDdy Talk (e.g. “learn to improve your speaking Karin Hurt style”.) Ultimately everyone would have their 5 minutes of TEDdy Talk fame, but tonight we were just practicing “Wow” openings. “Carrie,” who hadn’t said a heck of a lot before this, stood up and gave the most impassioned imitation of a horrible boss I’ve ever heard– as her “wow” opener. “Why can’t you do anything right!” She screamed (pretending to be her bully boss). “Everyone tells me you are smart, but I just can’t see it!”
And then she shared: “This was my morning today.”
The entire room fell silent.
After giving her a hug and a copy of my Overcoming an Imperfect Boss book, I realized I’ve never dealt with that. Close…but by that time that jerk surfaced her ugly head, I was too seasoned for that crap. This was “Carrie’s” first serious job and she knew it was wrong. She planned to leave my book on his desk the next day as a conversation starter. (I know… I’ve already said a little prayer.) Either way, growth comes through bravery.
My Best Communication Advice For Jerky Bosses
I know you’re out there. There’s a reason my “Dealing with Difficult People” course has a waiting list (note pretty much all anyone wants to do is talk about their bosses). But I also know there’s a bat’s chance in hell the bad guys are reading this.
So it’s up to the good guys to spread the word.
If you’re looking to help someone turn their temper into a productive conversation, here’s a process to leave subtly on their desk.
First, I’m going to assume you are right, and that your frustration is well-founded. Someone did something stupid after at least 17 times of you trying to help them. You didn’t START thinking they’re stupid, but now you’re starting to wonder. What do you do next?
Connecting gives your adrenaline time to chill. Remembering you’re talking to another human being will go a long way in ensuring a productive solution.
2. Acknowledge Reality
Don’t sugarcoat. State the problem and implications clearly. Most folks appreciate calm, straight talk.
3. Inspire Confidence
What you need right now is people who believe they can fix this, not bruised egos doubting their abilities. Be specific about why you believe they can do this.
4. Ask Questions (and LISTEN) to the Response There’s likely more to this situation than you understand. Slow down, ask open-ended questions and then shut up and really listen to the response. Repeat.
5. Link to the Bigger Picture: Explain why this matters. Provide context. People always work harder when they know why.
6. Set a Clear Goal: Be clear about what must happen next and by when.
7. Involve Them In the Solution: You need as many brains as possible to fix this. Include them.
8. End on An Encouraging Note: There’s a reason that half-time locker room speeches work. Be sure they leave inspired to go-get-this, not fearful of what will happen when they don’t.
No one wants to be a jerky boss. If you know someone who lets their reaction get in the way of their leadership, do us all a favor, and pass this post along.