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Boss Taming on the UN International Peace Day

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21st September is the UN International Peace Day and I was fortunate last year to be at a European Parliament conference where a number of organisations pledged to undertake peace initiatives.   I met a range of people from different countries and institutions all focused on this theme.  Jeremy Gilley, the Founder of the Peace One Day movement was there and there were discussions about education, eliminating domestic violence, using ceasefire as opportunities for health initiatives, and reducing conflict, amongst many other ideas.  It might come as no surprise, however, that Boss Taming wasn’t on the agenda, as most of the people there were leaders in their organisations.

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I was discussing how this initiative started with my husband, Bob Hughes, who’s running a conference on employee engagement today, and we talked about the range of conflict in the workplace.  From outright bullying, harassment and prejudice, through to the simpler things, like misunderstandings or poor communication.  Peace isn’t some kind of abstract or utopian principle: people need to feel that they can get on with their jobs without stress or intimidation.

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”

Mahatma Gandhi

This quote is particularly apposite as Bob’s conference is with the Employee Engagement ‘Gurus’ – the experts offering workplace solutions to improve employee engagement and get better health, safety productivity, reduced staff turnover or absenteeism as a result.

We’ve had a lot of staff meetings in the office this week.  I suppose it’s inevitable as people come back from their holidays and we need to focus on our business priorities.  One conversation in particular reminded me that Boss Taming is a step by step game – that’s more effective when the team works together.

We were discussing a work schedule; with specific dates, themes and actions all spelt out in careful detail.  I began to feel out of touch with the purpose – and my role.  Why were we doing this?  What was expected of me?

I felt even more daunted when I realised that I was one of the potential success blockers.  If I didn’t deliver what was expected of me on time, then so many other people couldn’t do their jobs effectively.  Or rather, because they are highly committed people, they would move heaven and earth to get the job done – even if I had delivered my piece late in the day.

As the boss in this situation, I have two choices: I can use (abuse) my power and deliver whenever I like – the ‘muscles’ that Gandhi referred to.  Or I can reduce any potential for stress and pressure on other people by delivering on time – and get on with them better as a result.

That’s the boss’s perspective.  When we’re trying to tame our boss, what options do we have from that perspective?  I can only speak from my own experience:

  • Once I’d been reminded of the overall project purpose – and the benefits – the team really had my attention
  • This didn’t come from just one person – it was the whole team demonstrating their buy-in
  • We walked through the process together and the team members explained clearly what they needed from me

The big learning for me is that the whole team were a resource to each other; everyone was communicating well.  It wasn’t that one person said to me “Helen, you’re causing problems if you don’t do this” – everyone shared the understanding.  As boss, my role was to facilitate the conversation and be a player in the action, just like them.

I’m fairly sure they didn’t get together beforehand to decide to do a bit of Boss Taming on me – or maybe they’ve been reading my blogs and decided to do just that!  I hope that on the International Day of Peace the conflict in your life is low, that there’s peace and productivity in your workplace, and you have a restful weekend.


Author: Helen Caton Hughes

Leadership and Team Coach based on inspirational and practical tools. Works with leaders around the world; trains coaches to International Coach Federation standards. Passionate about finding best ways for leaders to inspire themselves and get the best from their teams

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