Do you work for a bad leader and plan to leave the sinking ship?
Go for it! But before you leave:
Take a moment and analyze what exactly the guys in charge are messing up.
A bad leader is the best teacher you will ever find. When everything runs smoothly it’s hard to say what makes the difference.
But the bad always stands out. Simply doing the opposite of it will already transform you into a decent leader.
Here are some invaluable lessons that I’ve learned about leadership before I decided to run my own one-man show.
Lesson #1: Your employees need to buy-in
The new top dog of the department was a tough guy. He had tier one consulting experience and was an MD in M&A for almost a decade.
Catch up with the top departments in growth and market share.
They said: “Do whatever it takes.”
What he did:
His new department was like a big family. Some people knew each other for almost two decades.
It was a clash of cultures, a performance-orientated investment banker vs. a stability-orientated corporate banking department.
Since he had no intention to become a family member, he cut all the crap.
He got rid of guys with over two decades experience on their shoulders. He replaced them with young and hungry guys. The change process was brutal.
To achieve his goals he developed a new strategy for the risk-takers:
– An 80/20 portfolio approach
– Identified growth targets
– Pitching only for lead positions and big tickets
– Always going for the status as relationship bank
– Always demanding a fair share of cross sells
– Strong focus on revenue-generating tasks
His strategy was legit and would have worked. But he messed up an important part. He didn’t get the top guys behind the strategy.
They didn’t understand why change is necessary. In their eyes everything was perfect.
The result: They refused to execute the new strategy. Everybody else followed the example.
Many of the good ideas fizzled out.
If your employees don’t buy-in, none of your shiny PowerPoint slides will become reality.
Having a corporate title doesn’t create loyal followers. Followership is not given. It is earned.
Change will only happen if your employees understand why it is necessary. They need to be involved. They need to carry it. They need to want it.
Implementing this mindset is your job.
– Be honest about the circumstances
– Communicate why change is necessary
– Describe how the situation will look after the job is done
– Describe why the end result will be better than the current situation
– Involve the top guys into the development of the strategy
– Delegate responsibility to the top guys and hold them accountable
– Be a model student of your strategy
– Implement some quick fixes into your strategy to make it tangible
Lesson #2: Your Credibility is as fragile as the New Guy
The new team leader had an outstanding track record, a decade of leadership experience at the largest competitor and a go-getter attitude.
Create strong relationships with the top players in the market. Bring in big deals for quick growth.
What he did:
From day 1 the cultural misfit was his biggest problem.
He wanted to do deals that nobody else was even considering. He underestimated the influence of the risk manager. He overestimated the influence of his position.
Within weeks he had lost credibility. “Just let him talk, he has no idea what he’s talking about.”
He adapted with time. He became a good leader. But his initial un-calibrated actions left marks.
There is this saying: “They come because of a company. They leave because of a person.”
It carries substance. Two talents left the company due to his actions.
As the new guy your credibility is fragile. If you talk or act against the culture and values of the company your employees won’t take you seriously.
Some un-calibrated moves are already enough to destroy your credibility.
– Don’t overestimate your position if you’re the new guy
– Step back for the first weeks and learn about the culture and values
– Get advice from the guys outside of your team to see if your ideas are feasible
– Announce small things, realize them, win credibility, and grow from there
Summary: Working for a bad manager is a tremendous opportunity for you. The bad always stands out. Analyze what the guys in charge are doing wrong and do the opposite once it’s your turn.
Questions: Have you ever had to work under a bad boss or leader? What lessons did you learn?