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When the Boss WAS the Problem

You wouldn’t have wanted to report to me as your supervisor. I can make this statement with a high level of certainty because so many of the people who did report to me tried to get reassigned elsewhere. 

I had been promoted to as a supervisor in a major national corporation because of my ability to produce results as an individual performer.

It was a classic case of one day not being able to spell supervisor and the next day I was one. A typical dynamic still happening often today.

It wasn’t a conscious choice on my part to be a particular type of boss. I did what I thought supervisors were supposed to do. This was based on my own conditioning and personal experiences from my own previous supervisors and bosses. This means I saw my primary role was to give the orders, tell my team what to do and how to do it. 

Seem familiar?

I was not only good at giving orders, telling people what to do and how I thought they should do it. I may have been even better at continually pointing out individual’s weaknesses so they could fix them.  If someone was even performing at 95 percent, I thought my job was to continually point out the 5 percent they weren’t doing. And, I was really good at pointing out that 5 percent.

The team did produce some reasonable results.  We managed to make numbers good enough not to get anyone’s negative attention.   Because of that, I thought I was a good supervisor. I actually thought morale would get better when my team members finally listened to me and started doing a better job. 

“What was your experience from leaders you had reported to?”

The cost of the approach I used didn’t really show up until two years later when I left the corporation to start my own business.  I thought I’d be rich in no time.  After all, I was so good at being a boss. 

Six months into opening my first retail business it was failing. The issue was obvious; like at the corporation, I didn’t have the right people working for me.  I knew because, as with my old job, I had to correct them constantly.

They just couldn’t get it right. I was coming in before them in the morning and leaving after them at night, 7 days a week. Often, I was still taking work home. I was sure I wouldn’t be as stuck as I was if I had better people.  I was stressed and exhausted!

Then one day I had a realization – a light bulb went off. It was not an “Oh boy!’ moment, a realization I was glad I had come to.

Yet, I had to own the truth of the realization that there was actually one common factor with all of the poor employees that worked for me. This was true in my old job as a supervisor; as well as, now with my own business.

They all had the same boss – me.

In that moment, my personal awareness increased. I told myself the truth that I was the reason that my job as boss had been so hard. I was the reason that I was getting the poor results I was getting.

For the first time I became aware of the negative effect my mindset of constant criticism was having on the people who reported to me.   For the first time I remembered, and realized, the role and cost constant criticism had played in the home I was raised in. And it was constant.

More on the inherited philosophy behind the action is included in our new book, Unlearning – Change Without Resistance.

Bottom-line, within only three years after my own transformation-in-thing, my own unlearning, the business had a total of three retail locations; and, was doing well. All with the same employees.

It was amazing how good my people were at what they did, when I got out of their way.

“If your people felt safe enough to answer honestly, what might your people say they’d like you to do either more of, less of or differently”

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