I’ve worked with far, far too many people who have absolutely sucked at their job. I wanted to write this post and say, “how not to be inept at your job” but “inept” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. I’m guessing like me, you’ve known a few people (or a dozen) who have absolutely sucked at their job.
But as much as it’s frustrating, soul-sucking, and outrageous to work with someone who absolutely sucks at their job, it’s even worse when that person is your boss. Yeah…it’s one of those posts. As a bonus, if you see yourself in any of these points, I’m sorry? I guess…
In fact, that’s what I’ve taken from every bad boss I’ve ever had. I keep trying to learn what NOT to do so that no one ever thinks of me as a horrible boss. Sure we’ve all got places to grow and things to learn, but these points are philosophies. They are strategic principles for leadership; just put in a really negative way as I’ve seen them play out in horrible bosses I’ve had.
1: The Boss Who Tries to Focus on Everything and ends up Focusing on Nothing
In High School, my sister ran track and she was actually pretty good. So a few times I went to watch her track meets. Which, is actually just as boring as it sounds. I remember one meet she’s running her race and my Dad is shouting at her, “remember to focus on your form.”
Then she comes around again and he shouts, “watch out for your breathing.” She comes around again, and realizing how ridiculous he was being shouts, “just…focus on EVERYTHING.”
You’ve probably seen this too. This is honestly the sneaky kind of bad boss because when you look at them from the outside it seems like they accomplishing a lot. They quote numbers and figures, goals and targets, they may even say a lot of the right things like, “we’ve got to build a team culture” or “let’s get really focused this quarter.”
Then turn around and propose 12 new projects. One thing we harp on a lot here at strategic.li is that FOCUS is power. You see that in the classic 80/20 rule. It says, 80% of your results will come from 20% of your effort. Those stats may not always hold true, but the principle is universal.
The most success will always come from figuring out what the one or two things are that are truly important and blocking out all the others. If your boss never seems to make progress, if they are always busy but always coming up short, if there is a whirlwind with no results this is probably why.
Honestly, of all of these, this is the most heartbreaking to see. These people generally hard workers. They tend to grind and really work to get things done. But when you split your attention in so many different places you’ll never see success.
If you want to make progress on a journey you have to put one foot in front of the other in the same direction again, and again, and again until you get there. If you’re stopping to take steps in a new direction all the time not only will you get lost, but you’ll actually find yourself farther away from your destination than before.
My advice is simple: discover what the key action is that leads to progress and make it the bedrock of your energy and action.
Discover the key action that leads to progress and make it your bedrock
If you want to lose weight, the key action is diet. You can run all day, and stay in the gym, get tons of great sleep and take all the right supplements reading all the latest science on fitness. But if you overeat every day you are still going to GAIN WEIGHT.
So if you want to start a weight loss journey but the majority of your energy into learning how to eat right period.
The same is true here. Do you want to grow? Do you want to gain traction? Figure out what is the one key action that lets you take a step toward your goal and just keep doing it until you get there.
Hey, I get it. Sometimes that one key action isn’t always obvious. If you aren’t sure what it is, or you’re saying, “there isn’t just one!” Then my advice would be to take a step back and do some research. Take time to figure out what that key action is or could be and test your theories until you find it.
No matter how complicated or hazy your area is there’s always one key action that leads to success. If there wasn’t no one would have ever achieved it. So that’s actually a key way to supercharge your success; learn from others. If you don’t know yet ask someone else.
So all that being said what do you do if your boss is focusing on too many things?
I would say, help them focus. Many bosses I’ve worked with that have had this weakness actually do want to focus they are just bad at it. Often they really want someone to help them, but that definitely can take guts to have that kind of a conversation with a supervisor.
But on the flip side, you could just become the most valuable person on the team…so there’s that. If you’re the man, or woman, who can get the team focused and achieving you’ve just made yourself Midas with the golden touch AND if you can do it while not even being in charge, you might as well be a god in human form.
2: The Boss Who Never Changes and Get’s Complacent
I read a statistic once that said that after 3 months on the job 80% of employees never get any better at their job.
You know, that might be made up but I believe it. Once we learn the job we kind of just keep doing the same thing. It’s actually built into us as humans. We are hard-wired to conserve energy so as we get better at something we give it less thought and energy. Eventually tasks we do often enough become automatic.
But this happens at work too! This is the reason many professions are required to go to conferences or get recertified because as a society we’ve realized that even a doctor or a teacher needs to learn new tricks.
Sure heart surgery probably doesn’t change all the much, but don’t you want your doctor to know all the latest medical science going into that surgery? I definitely do.
For some reason though, for all other professions, we’re just ok with employees becoming complacent and stagnate. One of the most frustrating things I’ve dealt with in my time “on the job” so to speak is bringing up new information to a boss who just doesn’t care.
They’ve done it that way for 10, 20, 50 years and they couldn’t care less about new and better ways of doing things. For them, there’s just no incentive to change I guess. It’s like the old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Yet in this instance, it isn’t broken, it’s just entering into a really long slide into obscurity.
settling in and doing your job the same way for decades, doesn’t read or learn new skills, doesn’t keep up on where the industry is going, new things are hard
Never changing on the job leads to a long slide into obscurity.
But to defend myself a bit on this point. I’m not just talking about new just for the sake of new. That’s nothing but fad chasing. Instead, I’m talking about staying up on current trends and better ways of doing things. In the same way that sports are always evolving with methods and equipment, your market is evolving.
The longer we wait to get caught up the further behind we get. The time to do it is not when you realize things have changed because then you have to learn all the lessons everyone else has already learned. The time to do it is now.
Learning leads to more passion. It helps guard against burnout, and most often it leads to greater levels of efficiency and new methods that can lead to more success in the long run. Make learning a way of life, not just something that is “wasted time.”
That’s often the attitude I get from this kind of talk. That it’s nothing but fad chasing that wastes time. Sure, it can be that sometimes. We don’t always know what new idea will gain traction and lead to breakthroughs, but learning isn’t the same as fad chasing. Learning is about growing and working on yourself as a person in every facet of life, especially at your job, where most people spend the majority of their time.
The interesting thing about this one is that I’ve found when you have a boss who doesn’t want to learn or grow, they often won’t stop you from doing so. So take advantage of that, don’t hesitate to ask to attend conferences and buy books. Ask to get training to make yourself more valuable don’t be afraid to level up even if your boss won’t.
Become the guru of new. Be the go-to person on your team or in your department for where the market is going and what’s new and upcoming. It will have an impact. In fact, it may even lead to new ideas that your boss will use even though they are “new.”
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Those are the first two, and it’s sort of taking a bit to get here so let’s break this list up into two parts to keep it a little easier to digest. We’d love to hear from you. Do you have a bad boss story you want to share?
Does your boss fit one of the stereotypes we’ve mentioned so far? Tell us in the comments below so we can laugh at your torture. But seriously, there’s strength in knowing that others are suffering too.
Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon with the final 3 reasons and my “big conclusion.”