What Good Bosses Hate to See

The best managers hate to encounter surprises.

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Michael Wade
If I walked into a room filled with good bosses and I asked them what they hate to encounter, this is what would be said:

“Surprises. Can’t stand them. I want to know what’s going on. The one thing that keeps me up nights is the fear that someone will suddenly reveal that what was once a small problem has grown into a monster and, by the way, we need to talk to a lawyer.”

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“I know what you mean. I don’t even like good surprises! But to tie in with your point, I don’t want to hear overstatements. The minute someone starts puffing about how great we are, I begin to worry about two things: the person’s honesty and judgment. I mean we are pretty darned good, but we sure could be a lot better. Why hasn’t that person noticed? Or, does the person know and think that I can be swayed by a bunch of moonshine about our brilliance? Either way is bad news.”

“Gee, I wish I’d run into you two early in my career! Most of my bosses wanted to hear good news no matter what. I’ll tell you what I don’t like to see. I can’t stand people who are indifferent or, worse yet, kiss up and kick down. When I put someone in charge of a group, I expect that person to take care of that group. And no, I don’t mean giving away free office supplies. I want to be assured that they know and truly care about their people. The other day, I started asking a manager about some of his subordinates and it was clear he had no idea as to how much training they needed or what sort of problems they were running into. The guy was in a bubble.”

“Yeah, but let’s be honest. We all are in a bubble. What I hear everyone here saying is we want the facts, we want to know what’s going on, we want people who give a damn about their teams and, most important, we want to know that we can trust our associates. To be assured of that, we have to get out among our people. Now more than ever.”

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“Why now more than ever?”

“Because staffs are lean. Everyone is busy. And they have good excuses not to be taking time out to let us or their coworkers know what’s happening. In other words, it’s a prime season for a lack of trust to take hold because people are ignoring emails, not returning phone calls, and missing meetings. Just having an open door policy doesn’t work.”

“Hey, it never did. That open door only works if you walk through it and get to know people.”

“Speaking of that, I’ve got to run. Can we continue this discussion next week?”

Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.