Everyone Has to Change…Except the Boss!

By Mary Anne Kochut, Special to Overdrive and Managing Director of Champions for Success

Everyone has to change–except for me–I’m the boss!  How many times have you heard a boss say, “You’ve got to change ____” (fill in the blank), and it’s the same thing they are guilty of?

Over my thirty years as a corporate trainer in numerous organizatons, I’ve heard these same concerns expressed by participants over and over: 

• I wish my boss was here.

He/she really needs to take this
• This is really great stuff and I wish I could do it on the job, but my boss has to approve everything
• If only my boss would let me do this
• I like my job and the people that I work with; it’s just that my boss is ____

What always left me puzzled was that there were numerous occasions when I would meet the boss and they would make similar comments about the issues they were experiencing in their organization and expressed things like:

• Our team has poor communications
• People don’t handle conflict well
• Our industry is different
• Some people have difficult personalities
•  These people just don’t get it
• They’re just not motivated and I don’t know how to motivate them

Physician Heal Thyself…

Then, after making these statements they want me to customize a program suited to their needs and issues, to  fix these problems in their people. They’ll send their employees to classes to learn improved communications skills but won’t attend the classes themselves because they don’t want employees to feel uncomfortable because the managers are in the room. If that’s the case there is a real problem in the organization and it’s most likely with the leadership–not the employees. Where is it better to learn to improve communications than in a class designed to acquire and develop communications skills and techniques?

The time has come to get rid of this organizational segregation and level-conscious discrimination! If organizational leaders want to improve the effectiveness of their organizations, employee morale, and engagement, they’ve got to be willing to let go of some of the behaviors that are perpetuating the problem. If leaders want high performing teams, they need to be a part of that team and allow the winning, high performance behaviors to emerge within the group, and this starts with communicating at the same level.

There’s an old adage that goes; “If you keep on doing what you’ve always been doing you’re going to keep on getting what you’ve always been getting.” What typically happens is that the organization makes a huge investment into the change initiatives, nothing changes and the leaders blame the training for not working and seek another training solution. Organizations invest thousands of dollars in these strategic initiatives, and continually reinvent the wheel as they move from one program to another. They may see some pockets of change within the organization. However, there’s often a major communications and organizational effectiveness disconnect.

The Difference Between a “Boss” and a “Leader”

Typically these leaders are stuck in a command and control mindset. There’s a common graphic that’s been making the rounds on the internet over the last few years, the source of which, as far as I’ve been able to determine, is “unknown.” However, I think it makes the point very well.

The Boss
• Drives employees
• Depends on authority
• Inspires fear
• Says I
• Places blame for the breakdown
• Knows how it is done
• Takes credit
• Commands
• Says go

The Leader
• Coaches employees
• Depends on good will
• Generates enthusiasm
• Says we
• Fixes the breakdown
• Shows how it is done
• Develops people
• Gives credit
• Asks                                                                                                

This simple graphic identifies the critical components needed by every leader in any organization. It’s a common, no-nonsense approach to leadership that applies to any enterprise,  ranging from a small business to a multi-million-dollar corporation.  If you’re a leader in an organization, a manager or a small business owner and the way you manage your people is  by doing any of the things on the left side of the chart– or maybe you’re thinking to yourself that is the “right” way to be a boss– if you want real change to occur in your business or organization, then where the change is needed most is with you and your behavior.

The time is gone where the boss gives the orders and the employees follow them.  In the 21st Century, leaders need to motivate and inspire the members of their staff. It may be necessary for managers and owners to develop improved communications skills, listening skills, assertiveness skills, conflict management skills, etc. The people who need to be in these classes are the leaders first and then the staff members. Change management initiatives can be successful… however, that’s only when the person at the top – the leader is open to the feedback and willing to change themselves the most. Once they can shift their own mindset, then and only then, can the needed change in the organization occur.

Categories: Best Practices Guest contributors LEADERSHIP


One Response to “ Everyone Has to Change…Except the Boss! ”

  1. Madimetja on

    Thank you so much for this birlliant article. I have been in the “Boss”” situation myself for last two years, it is the most stressful situation you can ever find yourself in. One comes accross things like “lets get something straight you report me i dont report to you”. We are talking of an emplyee who shall have taken the innitiative to solve a problem and that how the person is repramanded. Things like ” in all the communication with the outside people i must coppied”. Like: “i am the only one accountable to the funders, Like: i know it all i have been there”. i am talking of The Boss that just joined the organisation in last two years, finds people that have been running the organization and telling you know nothing. In the last 12 months of his tenure 10 people have resigned some of them could not even complete their probations. It is a sad situation indeed.


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