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Boss Taming – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of leadership

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My alter ego is an ‘Emma Peel’ figure from the ‘60s British TV series The Avengers.  I see myself jumping into a red Mini Cooper, probably emblazoned with the motto “Coach on a Mission”.  I pack my Boss-Taming kit in the tiny boot, and deal with the good, the bad and the ugly of leadership.

The boss tamer's top hat

The boss tamer’s top hat

This is a longer blog than usual.  So I’m going to share it over three days – and give you time to think about the different elements.

My Boss-Taming kit doesn’t have a magic wand in it.  I use approaches intended to get you thinking and increase your understanding.  My aim is also to inspire you to try something out – or try something different – with your boss.

Learning from experience is great too.  Not everything translates from one situation to another.  But let’s give it a go.

Over the last month I’ve had the pleasure to work with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly bosses.  I’ve seen the impact when good leadership works.  I’ve seen the wreckage when it doesn’t.

The Good Boss – Co-create

A fantastic corporate group I’ve been working with over the last few days.  They’re a young group with all the challenges that brings.  They’ve evolved into a high performing team with a nice balance between the exacting standards they work to, and the culture of freedom the leader creates in which they can be themselves.

Of course this team has its issues.  Where’s the next challenge for the boss?  Who’s going to step into his shoes when he moves on?  Like many people who love the hands-on element of the job, the Deputy doesn’t necessarily see herself as the future CEO.  The team dynamic will change when these key figures make their next career decisions.  And change brings its own challenges – and opportunities.

What I like about this team is the way the boss co-creates roles with his team members.  Rather than being prescriptive about the job-description and looking for the ideal person to fill that role, he’s taken people who have the broad skill-base needed, and the attitude he’s looking for.  He figures out that he can fill any aptitude or task gaps when the core team members are in place.

So where’s the ‘boss taming’ in this?  It’s in knowing that –

  • You can take the time to identify your strengths
  • You can develop them with energy and commitment
  • You can have a conversation with the boss
  • And, most importantly, you can apply your strengths within the job framework you currently have.

Because your boss will listen to your ideas, passion and commitment.  In fact, he’s positively dragging it out of you.

What might ‘co-creating’ look like?

  • Your boss takes time to discuss your contribution to the team
  • You get a chance to talk about your strengths
  • You’re willing to listen to suggestions for improvements
  • You’re both keen that you take on a ‘stretch’ challenge – that will benefit your development, and your organisation.
  • There’s give and take: you’re not a push-over – you really add value.

Co-creating the role means that team members can influence the sharing out of tasks.  Naturally, this works best when we back up our negotiating and influencing skills with demonstrable performance.  This is about growing the trust our boss has in us by delivering on our potential and on our promises.

So that’s part one of the good, the bad and the ugly of boss taming.  We seem to be working at a positive leadership level – where everyone steps up to their responsibilities.  Not so bad at the moment.  What could possibly go wrong…?


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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