Within a few moments of my first “official” meeting with my new boss, I knew I was in trouble. My boss, (we’ll just call him Joe), called me into his office. He had a big stack of Flex Magazines on his desk and pushed them towards me. “Go through these magazines and get familiar with this stuff.” Then he showed me one issue that had Phil Heath on the cover, an athlete that had an endorsement contract with my new employer. “Read up on this guy, he’s our top athlete.”
Makes sense right? He wanted me to get to know my new industry, and get to know it’s top influencers. That seems appropriate. Except that I had actually worked for Flex Magazine for nearly two years. And I’d done contract work directly for Phil Heath for four years. In fact, it was Phil Heath that initially connected me with my new employer and gave me a recommendation for the position. It was all there in my resume. Uh oh. Something was definitely not right.
Over the next few months I got to know Joe as a leader and was astonished by his many, many faults. He had a team of about 10, and after 8 months in his position he still didn’t know everyone’s names. His feedback on packaging/design often was so general it was worthless; “nope, that doesn’t work. Start over. We’ll stay here all night if we have to.” He routinely yelled at employees, in public. And what bothered me the most about him was that he believed he knew everything about, well, pretty much everything. If that’s somebody you come across outside of work, that person is an annoyance and you avoid them. However, when its your boss there’s no escape, and its very demotivating. You know the type. They don’t listen to your suggestions, even if you are more informed about something than they are. They often make poor decisions based on very limited information. They micromanage, rather than trusting their team. I saw all this in Joe, and witnessed the true cost of Joe’s leadership on those around me.
It was a rough stretch, and it ended poorly, (which is another blog post altogether.) But here’s the kicker… Now that I am in a leadership position myself, looking back, I learned more from Joe than from any other person I had worked for up to that point.
I learned what NOT to do, by observing his many faults, and the problems they created for everyone around him.
Here’s a few things I learned from Joe:
- Never yell at your employees or teammates. If there is an issue so major that your voice needs to be raised, do it behind closed doors. Regardless though, yelling at an employee is almost never an effective way to get the outcome you want.
- Know your team. Know their birthdays, know their interests, know their values. Remembering an employees birthday and giving them a card and $30 gift certificate on their big day is such a small gesture, but goes so far.
- Give your team members opportunities to earn your trust, and then TRUST THEM. If you didn’t think they were capable of doing their job without your constant supervision, why would you hire them in the first place?
- Value the opinions of those around you, regardless of their title. Good ideas can, and do come from everywhere.
- Own your mistakes, do not deflect blame on your subordinates. Ultimately, any mistake they make make is on you, in the eyes of your superiors. When you say, “sorry, my fault,” the people around you will respect you for it, and be much more likely to follow your example when they screw up.
- Give praise often, for things both big and small. A “good work” from a boss can make somebody’s day, and a happy employee is a more effective, efficient team member.
I’m glad to say that once Joe and I parted ways I ended up at a much better company, working for an exemplary director, Ryan Keller. I respect him and am constantly learning from his leadership. But I’ll never forget Joe, and what I learned from him!
Postscript: Joe was fired. He botched so many projects that I’m amazed it didn’t happen sooner, but apparently at a video shoot he picked up a speaker and threw it at one of his subordinates. That was what sealed the deal. Also, word on the street is that his assistant had to go to counselling for PTSD and is suing him and the company we both worked for.