There is a game I play in emotional intelligence workshops. It involves the group visualising the best boss they have ever had and then describing them. Then we do the same for the worst boss they have ever had. The results usually end with a lot of laughter and it can be quite therapeutic for all concerned. There is nothing better than visualising that boss that made your life hell and openly getting all of your angst out in a safe environment where anonymity is your closest best’est friend.
It is a wonderful way to understand the perceptions of a workforce and their needs from a given manager. As we discuss this in the workshop it becomes blatantly obvious that the technical ability of a boss is only a small factor of what makes a boss or manager great to work with.
Such discussions are valuable, not only because we gain insight into how we can be better managers, but also because it helps us understand what we want in a manager (i.e. Culture). A big part of this is to recognise that no one is perfect. We must acknowledge that even though our boss may drive us up the wall sometime, they still display many of the positive aspects of a good manager. It is easy to pick holes in someone that is usually doing a tough job in tough circumstances (ie. Managing in a difficult business culture and/or industry).
This aside, many of us have left a job before (or are desperately in the process of looking for a new one) because our boss is a proper “insert expletive”. I went through a period in my career where my boss did not appreciate my role, did not back me up, and gave me loose inconsistent direction. The whole experience was a horrible one. Then I started talking to others. I quickly realised that I was not the only one. This is a rampant disease that has spread across our modern working environments.
The story then completely changed for me. I was reading a book about working for yourself, and the concept of “firing customers” came up. The concept is that if you currently service customers that do not align with your values (as an individual and/or business), then they can continue to buy from you, but you will not service them as a part of your customer service cycle. Fundamentally, you are telling them to start using another vendor without having a messy confrontational conversation. A good example of when to use this is when a customer is refusing to pay an old overdue bill. This customer is basically telling you that they do not value you, your product, or your time. I say “flip” them, get on with servicing people that do, and basically fire them!
So how can we do this with our boss? Well, it’s simple – we quit. Usually we mentally check out three, six, or even twelve months ahead of our departure from the business while we’re hunting for a new opportunity. This may not be a big revelation to many, but the key point here is that in quitting you are basically firing your boss. Think about it. It is very rare that you leave a really good supportive boss. The only reasons for this tend to include personal reasons or moving to a new location. But here is the kicker. How many people have quit under your management?
You may have had someone leave you because they could earn more somewhere else, or because the “growth potential” was bigger somewhere else. But, deep down there is another truth. Was it really about their unhappiness in their role? A role which you had a big impact on. Was their daily experience within the workplace somehow a negative one which you were unable to make into a positive one?
Que the excuses. It wasn’t my fault. It was the senior management’s fault. It was a tough time in the business. The market had a down turn. No one was happy.
Guess what; good bosses deal with this sort of stuff. The difference is that they can manage themselves and their teams through it with skillful precision to ensure no one quits. To ensure that their people do not fire them.
That’s right. For a boss to be fired is the exact same thing as someone quitting their position. This is what firing your boss looks like. If you have had many people fire you, then it is a signal to start changing your management approach. Gain insight from peers that have kept their teams together. Source training which can be beneficial for your people management. Maybe start by analysing your self-management abilities. It is also critical that you understand where and how your boss or partner is helping or hindering you in regard to this. Replacing staff is one of the biggest strains on a business. It is disruptive to service levels, it is the biggest HR cost a business can take on, and it is certainly no fun.
The other side of the coin is being the boss that rarely gets fired. This is a very satisfying position to be in, especially as it is quite rare and extremely difficult to achieve. Working towards this goal is such a great undertaking with a great deal of satisfaction associated with it. There is a lot of pride and happiness that comes with being called “a great boss”.