Emotional Intelligence

The Proficiencies of the best

The building blocks of memorable managers

Figuring out what separates a good boss from a bad boss is simple. Think of the best boss you ever had and think about the worst. Picture their faces, their voices, and actions. By looking at a few underlying traits it is clear what the good do, and what the bad don't.

Art Markam writes in his Harvard Business Review article (Can you be a great leader without technical expertise, 2017), team members respond well to bosses that understand the technical elements of the work being done. This is being Task Proficient.

It is one of the reasons I never opened my own Hair Salon. I consulted salon owners for years and knew the business like the back of my hand, but never opened my own salon. Day-to-day, the staff could take liberties with my lack of knowledge (not a good basis to harness respect). Also, I did not have a passion to learn the technical side of the trade. This lack of Task Proficiency would have been a poor business move.

Good business leaders need to be data literate. They will understand the metrics in a business and industry they can effectively measure, track, and respond to. A manager whom cannot do this will usually struggle or fail. Trend and pattern analysis informs decision making, creates an internal language amongst the team, and tells us if we are succeeding or not (our scoreboard). This is being Analysis Proficient.

In the real world there are limits to this analysis. Data can be incomplete, people don’t tell the truth on surveys, and quality of data can vary from different areas of the business (The limitations of data in predictive analytics).

Data is a reflection of what is happening. It is not ‘what is happening’. To get to the bottom of things, managers need to see, hear, and feel things for themselves. They also need to do something with all of this info!

During my Emotional and Social Competencies Inventory Accreditation, the definition of a manager was presented to me that stuck ever since:

‘A Manager gets results through others’

This is the true limitation of Task Proficiency and Analysis Proficiency. The ‘doing’ of a manager is more than just knowing how to do tasks and analysing the numbers.

Being able to Role Model behaviours. Being able to connect and manage the Self and Others through a range of crazy challenges. Being able to coach, confront, and manage conflict. Being able to build a unique culture of performance with momentum. This is being Performance Proficient.

Models - Play Beyond Targets - Pyramid PNG.png

 Imagine your team are the crew of a yacht. The manager is the captain. The captain needs to know every rope, knot, and crank (Task Proficient). They need to know the wind direction, wind speed, ocean currents, and resources (Analysis Proficient). But the running of the yacht comes down to…

·        how the Captain carries them self,

·        how keenly the Captain observes every detail,

·        how the Captain gains and gives constant feedback, and

·        how well they promote an environment where everyone feels safe, energised, and focused no matter what storm they are faced with.

(Performance Proficient)

Performance Proficiency requires 13 distinct skill sets. They are learnable, practical, and immediately applicable in the workplace. A leader will maximise these learnings by first being Task and Analysis Proficient. Put it all together with Performance Proficiency and there is every chance of being reflected upon as a ‘good’ manager by the crew!

If you or your managers are Task and Analytically Proficient and are ready to learn these 13 skill sets in detail, they are covered in the Play Beyond Targets Masterclasses. More info here.

How to do Negative

It’s one that can make us squirm more than Stephen King’s last horror story. You know, that chat you need to have with one of your direct reports where you have to point out a big fat negative in their work. Why is it so hard? I’ll tell you why….

  1. You hate the fact that you always have to be the bad guy.
  2. You can’t believe they have made the mistake after you clearly told them how to do it correctly.
  3. You are a nice person. They are a nice person. I don’t want to hurt their feelings.

Giving bad feedback is not an easy thing to do. If anyone says that they find this easy, they are either lying, or maybe they enjoy it a little bit too much. I am guessing you are neither.

No, giving negative feedback is a hard thing to do well as you are potentially hurting your relationship with the person in question, or you are disrupting the positive culture you are trying to create. There are so many aspects of this conversation that can go wrong, and that is never an easy situation to manage. But, there is a big BUT (that didn’t quite come out right… Anyway, here it comes.

BUT, being able to give negative feedback well is an absolutely critical aspect to being able to manage a team well. This is one of the key tools that you need to use to be able to build ability and confidence in your team. There are other great benefits including building trust and increasing closeness in a relationship. Here are some ideas on how to get better at delivering a negative.

  1. Earlier the better – delaying your feedback will reduce the effectiveness of your conversation. Details will be hard to remember, and the person will be less receptive. The term nip-it-in-the-bud can be utilised here. This also stops feelings festering inside of you which can build tension and increases the likelihood of the negative feedback becoming emotionally charged. Giving the feedback swiftly is the best way to go.
  2. Ask instead of tell – Allowing for self-assessment can be a great way to instil learning in the situation and disarm any backlash from the feedback. I find that if I point out faults all the time, it can beat people down, and then as the manager you can labelled as a tyrant. Instead, get the person to do a self-evaluation by asking them “what is out of place with this/what you did/how this turned out” or “how could have this been done better” or “I can spot a problem with this. Can you see it?”. This invites discussion, and gives the person a chance to figure it out themselves, rather than being told what they did was incorrect. It is a great way to turn a potentially negative conversation into a positive one.
  3. Specifics are critical – when giving negative feedback you will cause yourself a world of pain if you are being vague and inattentive. There is a lot of room for misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and confusion. We want to avoid all of these at the best of times. Critically when someone is completing a task poorly using details and examples is essential so be sure to have your facts straight. Preparation is your friend, as per any management discussion.

There are many more tools and ways of delivering negative feedback, but I feel that these are a good start.

One common requirement that needs to be used with any technique in this situation. It is acknowledging THE WAY we deliver our feedback is more important that what we actually say. So be sure to be respectful, keep the feedback as private as possible (no public shaming), and use an appropriate tone.

A positive intension will carry you through most of these important conversations, and like many things – the more you do it, the better you will become at it.

How to turn a bunch of dysfunctional individuals into a Dream Team

Yesterday, I had a training session with a client of mine. He was struggling with communicating his marketing and sales objectives to his team. Mainly because they are all different, and on their own agendas. Sound familiar…?

It struck me that this topic is very common, so I thought I would share a few key points I use to turn this scenario into an advantage.

Difference equals diversity, and this is a great base for a great team.

In team sport, you can’t have the same type of player across the whole field. Eleven Lionel Messi’s sounds mouth-watering, but who is going to lay the tough tackles, or be the huge presence in goal? What about the emotional side? If you have eleven stars, then how are they all going to get the limelight? They would rip each other apart within the first few weeks of a season!

Whenever I have taken over a team with large diversity, I have seen the disconnects and range of talents as an opportunity rather than a horrible stress.

No matter what the scenario, these same steps can be used to great effect:

1. Start with you, and what you need to do – Before giving direction to any group of people the manager needs to be crystal clear on what they are trying to achieve. An obvious start is with commercial goals, sales targets, and particular brand focuses important to the business in the next six to 12 months. Also, think about the customer experience that your brand is trying to achieve. Or, what you are setting out to achieve in your role over the next 12-24 months? Goals can come in many forms, but before any direction is given to the team, these goals must be set into SMART goal language.

 

2. What is their story? It is common to take employees out for a coffee or lunch and get to know them. Check in on them. Tell them about yourself. This is all very nice, but there are key points to cover here and one must always be prepared with an agenda, even when the tone of the catch-up is largely informal. Key areas to understand with each individual are:

a. What have they done (some info on their past)

b. What do they need and want now (both personally and professionally can be relevant, as well as physical and emotional)

c. What do they want to do/achieve/learn/gain in the next 12 months?

Let the conversation flow. Be curious. Get a full picture of the person.

3. Divide and Conquer – I know it sounds a little over the top, but this is one of the biggest mistakes I see seasoned (and junior) managers make with their team. If any of us try and set out new directives in a team environment with no warning or consultation, there is HUGE risk of Mutiny.

It is not a risk worth taking.

Investing some time into consulting each individual with what we want them to focus on is going to be a very powerful and positive discussion. Give context within the larger project that you want them to contribute to (i.e. set the vision). Highlight how this leverages their strengths, and gives them exposure to the things they want to learn and develop.

Also, be willing to be flexible and listen to any changes the person thinks would make the directive better. There is no need to be stubborn, or to set everything in concrete. In fact, the more that it seems like their idea, the more buy-in you will get to the overall strategy. WIN-WIN! Whatever happens, come to an agreement with each individual. Set the expectation clearly, and get ready to move to the next step.

4. Turn the troops into Lieutenants – No one wants to be a number. A part of the pack. A worker bee. It’s not fun. Turn your beautiful bunch of misfits into leaders. Each one of them will be a specialist, a department manager, an owner of a task or key element of the business. They can have a title. They can have status. They can lead the discussion, or give education, or command a section of the team meetings. It always astounds me how much people step up when given extra responsibility. An opportunity to contribute can be more valuable than cold hard cash to many of us. This is a great strategy for tapping into the wants and needs of the individuals while aligning this with the overall business goals that need to be achieved.

5. Round them up and take off – Now is the time to get the group together and openly talk about the new directives, what everyone’s role is going to be, and how progress is going to be tracked. As there are no surprises because of the individual meetings, the team will be ready to advocate the changes you are discussing. All the processes and systems can be made clear, trained in, and discussed. The initial meeting will provide a platform to gain momentum and buy-in from the group. This is built-on even further, again-and-again in future meetings.

 

I love under-performing, unfashionable, even rebellious retail teams. I love working with them, and turning them into monster success stories. Having said this, I know it’s tough. There are the big characters that aggressively push against your authority. Then there are the unmotivated “clock punchers” that seem impossible to talk to. Or the passive-aggressive’s. Maybe you have the “been there, done that” veterans that aren’t open to change. Or the young-hot-shot-know-it-all that is getting under everyone’s skin. It seems like every team has the hard-working unsung hero too, which can sometimes be harder to manage than it may seem.

Too often, these tough teams become a burden. They can fill us with dread and even despair. I get it – I’ve been there many times before. But, with a good solid plan, some determination, and a sprinkle of patience, these “Motley-Crews” can be turned into teams we love to work with that also deliver.

What are we so scared of?

THE DILEMMA WE PUT OURSELVES IN WHEN WE PERCEIVE THREAT INSTEAD OF POSSIBILITY

It was an important meeting. A meeting that would be the beginning of beautiful and important things. We would hatch fun and creative plans together. We would make an impact on the community. We would grow our businesses. The limits were endless.

We would talk all things of mutual benefit. Quoting big numbers, and breaking them down into practical milestones, and then into bite sized chunks we could then divvy up and assign to each other. Then, we would have further meetings, do work with each other, plan events, continue to build our relationship, and build a new world. A world of laughter. A world of success. A world of joy.

But alas, this is the meeting that never happened. It is the possibly that was shut down within minutes when the fear got in the way.

The fear of people stealing from us. The fear of people using us. The fear of being sold to. The fear of getting the raw deal. The fear of being inferior. The fear of failure. The fear of success.

Maybe it is all of these things, or maybe what has been proposed to us just isn’t interesting. It is not compelling. It is not useful, or of value.

This situation is such a tough one to crack. When working with other businesses (B2B), it astounds me how much push back there is to enthusiasm. When a small business, or a solopreneur approaches another business to do some simple cross-promotion, or to join in a partnership of some description, there seems to be a fear, or a scepticism that is stronger than any other force. But why? What is this fear? Where does it comes from?

The answer to this is probably quite complex. There are perhaps Ted Talks and Harvard Business Review articles proclaiming to tell us the core of this phenomenon. But of interest to me is the sheer volume of people that can’t see a good deal in front of them when they see it. The definition of strong business to me is strong community.

If I can help my next-door neighbour be a stronger business then that is good for me. If I can help my industry be stronger then that is good for me. Isn’t it?

The need to rid our instincts of fear is vital. The only way forward is to be brave. Be bold. Listen to offers. Be willing to be sold to. Be open to doing something new or different. Be ready to put a little extra effort in to try something new out.

This does not mean that the rules are off and a free-for-all is now the norm. No. All business decisions need to be analysed and every opportunity still needs to be deconstructed for fit and purpose. But, instead of rubbishing an idea, or an activity straight up, we need to propose ways we can do something. How about, we ask “how can this work?”

It is amazing where this sort of thinking can take us. It can even take us to a point where we realise that the person sitting opposite us cannot help us at this time, and we cannot help them. By exploring possibility and investigating the up-side, we can even say no, and shake hands with genuine pleasure and friendliness. Yes – it is possible!

We hear of luck in business a lot. We all need a little bit of luck along the way, right? This is countered by the argument that hard work and persistence brings more opportunity and therefore more luck. I feel that this sort of argument is bogged down by semantics. The core of it is that there are multiple opportunities which come to us every day. Opportunities to grow our business. Opportunities to answer our needs and help us smash through our obstacles.

The question is, will you let that fear drive your actions, or will you ask, “how can this work?”

I hope you do. It will most likely open many doors that were not there before. Just like magic. It’s exciting. Join the party.

The Value of Home - Turning Newbies into Leaders

The induction. Talk to any HR Professional and they will advocate a well-structured and comprehensive induction for all new employees. Some of us do it well, some do it poorly, or sometimes not at all depending on resources, circumstance, and our individual business culture. But, what can we do (no matter what) to increase the chances of a new employee becoming a long-term success?

In a time when Culture is King, many are grappling with how to translate culture into practical commercial success that is both meaningful and sustainable. It can quickly turn into a buzzword-centric topic which is forgotten completely in day-to-day interactions with peers and customers a-like.

The answer seems to reside in the value of making people feel safe and “at home” right from the start. This is a powerful trigger every single leader in a business can utilise to gain long term performance and loyalty out of new employees (and seasoned ones too!)

Daniel Coyle details an experiment in his book, The Culture Code. Coyle discusses an Indian Call Centre called WIPRO that was experiencing costly staff attrition rates. They took a group of new recruits and simply spent one-hour talking to them about their individual needs to perform better. They also gave them a WIPRO shirt with their own name on it. They found that the people in this group were 250% more likely to still be at the company seven months later compared to those that did not have the “one-hour chat”.

This demonstrated that people valued being treated as an individual and being heard from the start of their employment. It displayed that a business must show that they are there to “Serve You” just as much as the employee is there to “Serve Us”. The results spoke for themselves with staff serving longer and at a better performance level in a notoriously high-turnover environment.

When we feel at home, we feel safe. And when we feel safe our concentration levels are elevated due to less distraction and wariness. It’s like your first day at kindergarten – it’s a scary day with lots of anxiety. But if the teaching assistant relaxes you with warmth, attention, and care then it can turn out to be the best fun you’ve ever had.

Recently, I was struck by this idea when watching a Friday Night AFL match between Sydney and Hawthorn at the MCG. It was a cold wet night where Sydney won in a very close contest. The story of the night was that of Ben Ronke. In his third game, this little fresh-faced recruit kicked a game winning 7 goals and made 10 tackles – a new all-time record for the league. Not only is it almost unheard of for a small-forward to kick this many goals in a game, but no one had ever statistically done this in the history of the league!

The impressive part was in the post-match interview. Ronke was asked “What is it about this club that keeps producing such great young talent?”

He responded by saying “It comes down to the Leadership group, and even the up-and-coming leaders. You go to the club and you just feel at home straight away. They make you feel like you’re at home. That takes the pressure off of you and makes you feel comfortable, and with the support of the older boys – it goes a long way”

Wow! In a moment of pure honesty, this young athlete summed it up beautifully.

If we don’t invest individual effort into an employee we run the risk that they will merely exist in their role, and there is only a small chance of them becoming long term successful performers. To take this further, when a recruit is made to feel comfortable, but without an individualised approach then performance will ease off very quickly and revert to a relaxation mode. This is not sustainable either.

Leaders that show even the smallest of gestures that the business is there to serve the employee as much as the other way around, create an experience that is both comfortable and inspiring. This becomes a potent combination feeding the feelings of belonging. In turn, this creates performers that not only excel, but do it for a long time to come.

 

Inspire Me!!!

I have worked in the commercial side of business for most of my career. It was my job to sell the products or services, to track the results against targets, and to ensure customer service levels were of a consistently high quality. This initially taught me to know my numbers well, and to have a tight rein on my processes and costs. Then I started to discover that the people I was in charge of didn’t just do what I needed them to do, and they required all sorts of support. Stuff that I though only friends, and family, and spouses were there for. I mean, why do I need to be the shoulder to cry on? Why am I the one that needs to re-arrange things for their mum’s birthday? It was a long hard road, but I finally clicked that the people side of things was so much more important than the numbers, and a good mix of both meant that results started to follow. But then, to my surprise I found that there was another level. That to get the best results out of my people, and to achieve the business goals set, there was another frontier. Another element that needed to be considered. It smashed me in the face (not literally) one day out of nowhere.

I was in a National Management Meeting when the National Education Manager of our brand was discussing upcoming activity. He explained that there was to be a distinct direction that the next phase of training would take for our brand. It was all commercially minded and related directly to product. As a man steeped in the arts of sales and marketing I should have been dancing on the table after hearing this news. However, I will never forget what happened next. The Education Manager told us that this practical and commercially minded activity would be the best way to spend our company’s education budget as “Inspiration never put money in the till”.

It is at this precise moment that I had a flash of clarity. One of those out-of-body-experiences. I couldn’t believe it. My jaw dropped.

I found this comment astounding. Was I really hearing this? Did this person truly believe what they were saying?

I was speechless at the time, but I will forever be thankful for that day as it is a constant reminder to me of the direct link between how business results are achieved (almost always through people) and one’s ability to be inspired (or inspiring for that matter).

When I look at a business operation trying to overcome obstacles I appraise the owner/manager’s role and that of their staff. Often there is weariness. A tiredness. A lethargy. With this it is common to see a breakdown in communication and a stress on relationships as profitability is lowered and revenue results are below desired targets. When faced with this type of scenario we must acknowledge that there is a lack of inspiration within the business. So, what is inspiration?

Inspiration is something we cannot always touch, but most of the time we can feel it. It lifts our mood, lifts our energy levels, and increases our ability to focus on the key tasks that will drive results.

Inspiration usually comes in the form of new information, new knowledge, new imagery, new techniques, success stories, creativity stories, and beautiful meaningful words. It is helpful to ask ourselves some key questions regarding inspiration within our business:

  1. What inspires my people? As individuals and as a group.
  2. How often do I provide my team with sources of inspiration?
  3. How can I measure the effect of inspirational activities? Some may not be measurable, but most are.
  4. Where can I find inspiration myself?

This is a good starting point for analysing the current state of inspiration within your business, and to then start activating some inspirational initiatives.

Some good ideas to get started:

Team Meetings – schedule them regularly (once a month or quarter) and be sure to share inspirational stories from within the organisation, or from leaders in your industry or from any area of life.

Branding – what does your business stand for, and what is special about your business? Ensure this is displayed in your logo, mottos, and mission statements. Then plaster this all over the walls of where your people work. There is a reason why big corporations do this – it influences the mindset of the employees and instils pride.

Education – a consistent schedule of education for employees. Research courses, seminars, webinars, or activities that serve a purpose for an individual that will push them forward in their work. By paying for their time to do this, as well as paying for the chosen activity you will gain a huge amount of respect and loyalty from your team also. Make sure there is a distinct point to whatever you choose. Discuss it, agree it, and follow up with the employee to gain maximum value.

New’ness – the human condition is attracted to “new” in most contexts. Inspire your team (and customers) with new anything. It may be product, tools, processes, upgrades, marketing. Anything that surprises the team in a positive way and keeps things fresh.

 Connection – any opportunity to have a conversation. It doesn’t cost much, but it takes Want and a Desire to take some time out and relate with each other. I find that this is the best tool to inspire inspiration (so to speak). It is also almost completely free.

What other ways could you inspire yourself and your team? It is a great question to ask. I am completely convinced that inspiration puts money in the till and so much more! I am certain of it.

5 Tips to Turn Customer Complaints into Business Assets

Some people can be horrible to deal with. You are trying to be helpful, respectful, and patient but the more you try to appease them the more unpleasant they become. I once had a customer literally shout and chastise me over a staff incident for about an hour until she wore herself out and finally accepted my offer that I would investigate the incident and pass it onto senior management to be dealt with. I can see her face now, and it sends me to an energy draining place that leaves me deflated and beaten up. Have you experienced something like this?

Customer satisfaction is becoming harder and harder and to deliver. The contemporary customer has never been so empowered and informed, while the competitive climate of almost all industries has also elevated. Add in the time poor nature of many clientele, and it is pressure cooker that occasionally boils over and leaves us on the receiving end of some harsh critiques to put it politely. In my experience, this comes with the territory of running a business, no matter what your industry is. There are a few practical ways to turn such negative exchanges into a positive. Here are my top tips:

  1. Diffuse. Anger, irritation, sadness, despair… these are all strong emotions, and no matter how right or wrong you are, there is no talking to someone when they are over-ridden by these feelings. To best deal with this we need to find every bit of empathy we can muster. Seeing through the bile being spat out at you and being patient isn’t always easy, but it is an essential step to turning the situation into a positive one. Diffusing the exchange is key and using the AQUA tool is a good place to start:

A – Acknowledge – it will only elevate the problem if we dismiss the complaint.

Q – Question – showing empathy and using a few questions to get the person talking about facts is already starting to diffuse the emotion and will get the person speaking rationally.

U – Understand – show understanding by using caring body language, lots of eye contact, and simply be the authentic person you are. See yourself as a friend rather than a representative of your business. At the end of the day, you are on the same team.

A – Action – be clear and direct with what is going to happen next. Follow it up personally and instil confidence in the customer by doing what you said you would do.

 

  1. Side-by-Side. A lot of the time the real problem is forgotten and the abuse can start to be directed towards you. This is not good, nor is it productive for the customer. A great way to change the dynamic is to stand or sit next to the customer rather than directly across from them. The attention needs to be directed at the problem, both conversationally and physically. Using your notepad or the product in question, you can start to write and point to the problem and keep referring to it. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the customer is directing their energy at the problem instead of you. In fact, at times it may give you a chance to join in and direct your own emotion at the problem too! All of the sudden, everyone is working on the problem together and collaborating rather than fighting.
  2. Getting the complaint is a good thing. According to the retail professionals at the Australian Retailers Association HQ, Australian businesses lose 13% in sales per year due to customer dis-satisfaction. That is a huge number. Imagine the positive impact on our revenues if we avoided even half of these loses. How can we make an impact on these losses if people keep the problems to themselves and simply do not come back to shop with us? Seriously, what can we do? Absolutely nothing. By that stage, the horse has well and truly bolted. We must have ways of intervening before this and getting the truth from our patrons. Feedback forms, Net Promoter Score Surveys, Suggestion Boxes, Follow-up e-mails/phone calls/text messages are all methods to get this info. There are many many more, but my advice is to use the most personal process available to you. If you deliver a service that runs over an extended time, then be sure to check in as often as you can while being appropriate. Getting the complaint is a huge win. You can do something about it and turn things around.
  3. Better than getting it right in the first place. I have had a few situations as a customer where I have lodged a complaint and the way it was addressed either killed the brand off for me forever (i.e. I never went back), or it turned me into an even bigger follower than I was before. Sounds mad, but every complaint is an opportunity to create some of your best long term customers. As we discussed before, complaints are usually laden with emotion. It is all about how we feel as a valued consumer. When a complaint is received the first thought must be – how do I WOW this person? I want my complainee (is that a word!?!) to feel that they are the most valued person in the world. I want them to think that my brand is full of wonderful caring people that really do care. Now, I know, this is tough, but if you are prepared with tools, processes, and actions ready to go, then it becomes a lot easier to nail. It is also viable, because you have crunched the numbers on what resources you can afford to use over a quarter or year. No matter what, you want these customers to be raving about how special you made them feel when talking to their friends over a coffee or glass of wine.
  4. Be willing to fire clients. Some people are terrible to deal with and always will be. It’s not that they are terrible people, they are just not our sort of people. They don’t get us, and we don’t get them. This is ok. The reason why this is an asset is that we can draw the conclusion that this is now one less person to throw resources into. We can now concentrate on the customers that we love and that love us. I would always rather have 500 diehard fans than 10,000 marginally interested ones. We must sometimes understand that subtraction is better than addition for our client base. When we receive certain complaints, or repeated problems with an individual customer then this is a flag to fire them and move on with serving those that you love.

What does sacking your boss look like?

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”.

Check yourself - no one else will

It is true what they say. Being a small business owner is a lonely existence. To offset this loneliness you can always take comfort that many other people in your network are going through the same thing. You can also gain support through the many business communities and on-line groups that exist.

The fact always remains that you end up spending most of your time by yourself. Even for business owners that are surrounded by their teams, or family and friends on a daily basis can feel isolated. The feeling of loneliness often comes from the feeling that no one understands, especially when all they do is give advice that is either irrelevant or unhelpful. Frustration becomes a daily habit and it all becomes a big struggle.

As a business owner myself I am quite familiar with this feeling. I also see it every day in my work as a consultant. The Business Owner’s common reaction manifests in some of these behaviours:

• Frustration – resulting in the staff being “ridden hard” and usually unfairly.
• Irritation – leading to unpleasantness and resentment back towards you the owner.
• Lowered trust – staff are given less slack as the owner over-compensates and then gets labelled as a “Control Freak”.
• Poor customer service – staff are talked over, or corrected in front of customers.

These are a few of the many reactions that are common within a business operation. The crazy thing about it is that these actions are usually a contradiction to the standards that the owner is trying to instill in their team culture.

So, why does this happen?

The short answer is that there is simply no one more senior to correct you. To guide you. To keep you and your behaviour in check.

I love this quote that I’ve seen on meme’s a few times:

“DISCIPLINE IS WHAT WE DO WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING”

It takes a lot of focus and self-control to be able to constantly check yourself. The consequence of not checking yourself results in the team receiving mixed messages from you. You are also going to be your own biggest enemy in regard to achieving your own goals.

I often see behaviour in small business owners that makes me ask the question “if you hired a manager that did that then would you sack them?” Of course, this is a big wake up call to change behaviour immediately.

Leading by example is effective – we can all agree on this. To do this CONSISTENTLY a good idea is to act as if you are employed as a manager rather than the owner of your own business. It is a great way to ensure that you check yourself and maintain a positive behaviour that is in line with the culture you want your team to buy into. This in turn will be a key driver for you and your team – both short term and long term.