Over the past few weeks I’ve had multiple conversations with people about their frustrations with their boss and their attempts to change the boss’s behaviors. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
1. Bosses are human.
2. Humans are not changed by other people. The only person who can change that person is that person.
3. Rather than changing your boss, work to increase your understanding of your boss and then interact accordingly.
If your boss does things that totally frustrate you and does them consistently, realize that those behaviors are not likely to change at all. Anticipate that the boss will continue to behave that way. Rather than be totally frustrated, just ask yourself what you can do when your boss continues to do what has frustrated you in the past.
If your boss is doing something illegal, then that’s a different story. That you need to report or you could end up in jail as well. That’s not the scenario I’m referring to right now. I’m talking about the legal things your boss does that frustrate or anger you.
Assuming that those things are going to continue to happen, what can you do to be effective in the situation without trying to change your boss? That’s the question I encourage you to place your time and energy into answering.
I was grilling some hamburgers yesterday. To light the charcoal I have this nifty device where you pile charcoal into the top half and fill the bottom half with crumpled newspaper. After I light the newspaper it burns away very quickly, but somehow the device creates massive heat and lights the charcoal. Then the pile of charcoal gets hotter and hotter and stays hot when I spread it out around the pit. And then it cooks our meal.
Leadership is very much like this.
Something set you on fire. Your parents perhaps or maybe a teacher or a coach or a boss or a friend or a book. Then you stayed lit for a very long time. And over time you made and continue to make your impact on the world. Take your time and be patient. Just like that charcoal, you have the capacity to make an impact built into you. Sometimes it requires perseverance before you start to heat up other situations and make a lasting impact for other people.
Visionary leader. Practical leader. People leader.
What type of leader are you?
A few days ago I gave a ninety-minute presentation at a very large healthcare organization. I challenged the audience of three hundred of their top executives and managers to really dig into the details of providing effective leadership for their workforce of nearly 30,000 people.
When I was all done I sat in the audience and watched the next four hours of the meeting, and I asked myself what had been accomplished during my session. No decisions were made. No new strategies were developed or tactical redirections decided upon.
Instead people sat and thought and exchanged ideas with one another. As I thought about that I smiled. What we had done together was to go back to the basics of leadership. We had thought about what needed to be done and why and how it could be done.
In other words, we focused on being thinking leaders. That’s the starting point of effective leadership. After you carefully think, then move into action. Actions and decisions are important, but clear thinking is the starting point.
Leadership is often portrayed as a macho activity by a swashbuckling executive knocking heads, screaming out orders, and taking no prisoners.
The reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. Effective business leadership is more like drinking a glass of lemonade, stepping back from the chaos, really thinking about what needs to be done and why and who needs to be communicated with and in what sequence to talk with them.
If you’re obsessed with drama and creating theatrical performances, then I think you should stick to performing on a stage. If you want to be an effective business leader, I encourage you to have a glass of lemonade, relax, stay calm, and really think about what is best for the organization.
Change is constant.
That’s true, but there’s a big difference between a major change and a temporary change, and it’s important to know which one you’re dealing with.
A temporary change is when something is different for a short period of time and then things go back to the way they’ve been for a long time. My twelve-year-old son, Ben, broke his pinkie a month ago. Tomorrow the cast comes off. And he’ll be back to his usual constant physical activities.
When your business deals with a temporary change, even a really painful one, you can deal with it and then go back to the old ways of doings.
However, a major change means that after you deal with it something will be significantly different on the other side. This requires great leadership and perseverance and innovation. These times of major change, which Andy Grove called inflection points, are opportunities for you to make your lasting mark as a leader.
What are you dealing with today? Is it a temporary change or a major change? Be prepared to deal with both situations.