I just got back from this year’s Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM) annual convention where a few of my fellow Academy Leadership affiliates and I manned a vendor booth. Just like last year, as part of our setup we put up a white board and asked passersby to play the Bad Boss / Great Boss game. They would write a characteristic of the worst boss and the best boss they ever had, similar to what we do in the Leader’s Compass module of our Leadership Excellence Course. This spurred some great conversations with folks at the convention. It was fun to see someone walking by read the board and start smiling as they saw something someone wrote that looked familiar. Seems quite a few of us have similar bad boss and good boss stories.
On my way home I was sitting in the airport and noticed the person sitting across from me had attended the convention. I asked her what she thought of the convention and her immediate response was “It wasn’t very good this year.” She then told me about being asked to leave a breakout session because the room was full. Then she said, “Oh yes, and the food was terrible this year.” Why am I telling you this? Because a short while later, as we were lining up to board, I found myself next to two more individuals who had attended the same conference. However, this time they told me that the conference was great! They also didn’t seem to mind the food.
I found it an interesting study in human behavior. A single episode had soured one individual’s attitude and hence her perception of an entire convention. But that also happens with those we think of as bad bosses doesn’t it? A few instances of bad behavior can sour an employee’s attitude and their perception of an individual supervisor or even an entire company. As we’ve proven time and again, bad bosses are hard to forget. It doesn’t take too many episodes of micro-managing to be labeled “Micro-manager”. It only takes one or two times of not being honest to be labeled “Liar”. How about “Disrespectful” or “Unknowledgeable”? Does it take a long-term pattern of behavior to be placed in the “Bad Boss” column? Probably not. All it takes is something that creates a perception.
It’s difficult to overcome negative perceptions. However, having a personal leadership philosophy and publishing it to your folks will at least initially give you the benefit of the doubt. When you do fall short of your ideals, and you likely will at some point, fess up and apologize. It’s not a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it’s exactly the kind of behavior that earns you the trust and credibility necessary to stay on the good boss list.