Category Archives: Coaching/Mentoring

Lessons Learned from Bad Bossess and Misguided Leaders, # 2

Today I want to discuss leadership pet peeves number 2 from my post: and that is: A leader or boss who takes credit for the ideas or works of his or her subordinates. I worked for a boss who not only criticized my management style, but often would ignore or criticize my ideas.

 He would say, “it won’t work; it’s too expensive, the timing is not right, I can’t buy into that or I don’t like the idea.” However, within a few months or sometimes within weeks, he would present to the board of directors and/or to other leadership team members one of my ideas as his own. Other times, I have also seen one of my earlier ideas implemented by a sister organization, to the excitement of my superiors. I would hear occasionally, “Tony wasn’t that your idea?”

 You may be thinking why a leader or boss would reject an idea that could benefit the company and the people its serves. Some guesses are as follows:

  • The leader or boss sees his or her subordinate as a competitor; therefore, the leader’s insecurity is heightened.
  • The leader or boss has no confidence in his subordinate, does not see him or her as a credible performer and thus, the boss filtered what he or she hears coming from the subordinate.

The second bullet does not apply in this case because one of my former bosses took credit for many of my ideas.

Robert Verganti said there are many reasons why a boss may not accept ideas from a subordinate and one way to offset those reasons Verganti argued is to involve the chief executive at the incubator stage of your idea (

Another writer, John Baldoni, author of the book: Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up reported that he was conducting a workshop about leading from the middle when a participant mentioned he was “put in his place” when he presented new ideas to his boss.

Baldoni stated that when bosses reject the ideas of their subordinates the bosses are “very insecure in their positions and feel that creativity from below is a threat to their power Baldoni also believes that those bosses don’t deserve to be in positions of authority, but nevertheless they are and because of that many innovative ideas are lost.

Of course, I was reminded of this when one of my subordinates shared an innovative idea with me. Thinking that it was a great idea, I shared it with my superiors. The creator of the idea was in the room as I shared it and gave her full credit. Others quickly turn to H…to compliment her for the great idea. Her smile and glowing face was priceless. This reminded me of how I felt when I was not given due credit for my ideas.

The bottom line– it matters to the person who has the idea to receive due credit and recognition. In this ways everyone wins–the company, the customer and yes, even the boss wins because he or she will be recognized as the person who created an environment where ideas are possible. It is the bosses’ job to create an organizational climate where ideas can flourish and be shared.


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Lessons Learned from Bad Bosses and Misguided Leaders

It is sad to admit, but many of us have had bad bosses or have followed misguided leaders. Moreover, we have probably been in those situations more often than we would like to admit. However, I am here to tell you that although you experienced unwanted stressors, not all is lost. If we reflect on those experiences, we can come to believe and yes, say that bad bosses are not necessarily roadblocks to leadership development (Kouzes and Posner, 1995). Instead, the lessons learned will help us become a better boss and/or leader.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner (1995) believe that our best strategy for working with bad bosses or leaders is to treat them as we wish to be treated. We need to deal with them in an assertive, but not confrontational manner, and, at the same time, remain positive about ourselves. Kouzes and Posner argued that bad bosses “may not be pleasant to work with, but they can be great examples of what not to do” (p.331).

So today, I will begin to address five things I have experienced from bad bosses or leaders. I will also offer commentary on what not to do, or better yet, offer possible options to consider in your role as a leader or a boss.  Let us begin with my five bad leadership pet peeves. 

  1. A leader or boss who lacks strategic vision and execution skills.
  2. A leader or boss who takes credit for the ideas or works of his or her subordinates.
  3. A leader or boss who fears the competitive spirit of his or her subordinates and therefore, stifles the growth of new and potential leaders.
  4. A leader or boss’s leadership style that is not suited for the people or organization he or she is leading.
  5. A leader or boss who leads from the premise of what is best for him or her; not what is best for the organization.

 So not to overwhelm I will discuss one item per post. Let us look at number one.

 A leader or boss who lacks strategic vision and execution skills

How many great ideas have been stunted and organizations on the verge of decline or failure because of a lack of strategic vision and/or execution skills at the top? In most organizations, ‘the vision thing’ is one of the key responsibilities of the CEO or the boss. Vision requires knowing your organization, listening to your staff and to your customers. It also requires networking with your peers and studying both the industry and political tealeaves. What happens, unfortunately, is that after a few years on the job, the chief stops learning. He or she gets comfortable. They have arrived, tenure so to speak, and so they stop doing their homework or even worse, they refuse to learn new things. Continual education or lifelong learning has been forgotten or “I will get to it when I can” and can never comes.

 The chief becomes too busy. The chief will send someone else in the organization to the critical conference or training and he or she can be informed later. “I have been here a long time; I have seen it all.” “There is nothing new to learn; it is a phase or an old trick with a new name and a new twist.” Wrong.  Our world is ever changing and these changes affect organizations. In such a fast-paced global environment, the chief must pay attention to how the world’s changes are affecting the organization and influencing the customer that the organization serves.

 It is at this very moment that the boss should be envisioning where he or she wants to take the organization and how he will get there. However, in her mind, the whole idea of strategic planning is drudgery and ‘I am doing it because it is forced upon me by policy or by the board.’ Hence, a strategic planning process is conducted, but not much thought was put into the planning process and therefore not much will come out of it; like an inspiring future vision, a plan and the means to execute our vision/plan. The most likely scenario was an agreement to keep the same vision that has been around for many years, the one that has lost its purpose, outdated in a fast-paced competitive environment.

Strategic visioning and execution skills do not come naturally. It requires the chief to be a vigilant student and observer. It requires him to ask questions of his staff and his customers. It requires him to compare his organization to the industry standard. It will require the chief to do several things listed here:

  • subscribe and read industry trade magazine(s) and related trade and business magazines and newspapers;
  •  stay on top of current events by reading the local newspaper; especially for insight into local politics, local business trends, and the impact that the local community and its politic is having on your organization’s customers;
  • obtain feedback from your customer and make it easy for the customer to provide feedback. Give the customer an opportunity to give feedback at any time. Nevertheless, it is still critical to conduct formal feedback surveys, probably at least twice a year.
  • allow you staff to offer feedback, without repercussions, and be willing to try out some of their recommendations or suggestions and finally;
  • be willing to listen to your trade association members and the community at-large. It is impossible for you as chief to gather all of what is going on alone.

 With these various feedback mechanisms, a leader can begin to formulate ideas for a strategic vision. As the editors of Harvard Business Review OnPoint, remind its readers: “vision doesn’t come from divine inspiration. It comes from research, thoughtful discussions, reaching out, and looking inward” (p.2).

One way to look inward is to conduct a SWOT Analysis. SWOT is the acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threat. The SWOT strategic model is an excellent tool and can be used for early stage charting of the company’s execution process (who, when and how). The execution is all about accountability; it is not to point fingers, but to work as a team to live out the vision and to assure success in serving the customer. Nothing frustrates me more than to be given a clear vision of where we need to be, but little or no actions are taken to get us there. We are in a stalled mode. We have to process our strategy more. Let us together get on with it. External threats are real; timing for right opportunities is limited. Let us execute.

Execution in itself is a full topic; see ( and I hope to bring you an extensive topic on execution later. However, for now, execution consists of communicating the strategic vision to everyone. Breaking the strategic vision down into specific, measureable objectives and given the right resources to makes it achievable. Assign objectives to key staff members, track the objectives and have formal reviews to hold people accountable and to facilitate problem solving; again, this is not to point blame, but to work as a team to assure successful outcomes.

 Remember there are uncertainties in our world and gearing an organization for future survival takes a vigilant, studious and curious leader. Consider what happened on Wall Street and the many Fortune 500 Corporations several years ago. Although they employed the “best of the best” quick profits and greed overtook disciplined execution and strategic planning, which led to organizational failures and financial losses.

Organizational survival takes leadership that is ever vigilant, learning and studying business trends, industry directions, and economic and political pulses.  A bad boss often forgets this. A bad boss has no vision and blames bad execution or lack of results on others. A competent boss and a visionary leader will communicate the vision often and to many and will establish a mechanism to assure a successful execution process.


*Kouzes, J.M & Posner, B.Z. (1995). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Company.

 The Editors. (Winter 2010). Make a difference. Harvard Business Review OnPoint, 2.

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Leadership In Tough Times

Upward EdgeLast week I attended Cox Business Executive Discussion Series breakfast. The topic: Leadership in Tough Times. There were 5 impressive panelists from various industries: education, the military, shipbuilding and of course, small business. Here are some tidbits that stood out for me.

  • “Tough times come in cycles. In good times prepare for the tough times.” Edward L. Hamm, Jr. President and CEO of E.L. Hamm & Associates, Inc.
  • “Leadership is about being strategic. Give people experiences…get people to do things that they don’t think they could do.” Rebecca A. Stewart, Vice President of Submarines and Fleet Support, Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding-Newport News.
  • “Each organization needs certain type of leadership for the different cycles that an organization may go through.” Alvin J. Schexnider, President, Thomas Nelson Community College.

Another quote that I thought was interesting and it is right for this time and I will paraphrase here: “How to do more with less… less that’s more meaningful.”

The moderator for this executive session was Cathy Lewis, Host/Executive Editor WHRO. She asked each panel members, as well as, the audience to give their own definition of leadership. Well, this made me think. Several months ago I wrestled with my definition of leadership, to the point that I could not sleep. A result of that sleepless night in February, 2010, I gave birth to my definition of leadership and here it is.

Leadership is more than mouthy words, showy ceremonies or something you hope to do someday. Leadership is doing something now. 
Leadership is doing something your brain says is risky, but your heart says do it anyway. Leadership is doing what is right even at the cost of losing relationships and possibly your livelihood. 
Leadership is reflecting moral values and ethics. Leadership works to liberate the oppressed and to provide resources for the poor.

Leadership is action that is foundational, visible, transforming and life changing. Leadership has expectations and aspirations for real change. Real change can only come through practicing and living out what is in your heart and in your soul. 
Leadership is unlimited when you believe in something bigger than yourself.

Guess what; in a span of 90 minutes our distinguished panel members and our moderator came to the same conclusion. What is your definition of leadership?

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Executive Supervision, Part VI, Managing Oneself

Upward EdgeTo be successful at the highest level, the executive leader must learn to managing oneself. Managing people is hard, but a more difficult task is managing oneself. In this article we will discuss some invaluable tools that help the executive leader to manage oneself.

Tool number 1: Perseverance/Resiliency. We all are familiar with the phase, “don’t let them see you sweat.” The executive leader must learn how to deal effectively with pressures. Pressures from the job and pressures from outside the work world; both will have an impact on how the executive leader will treat his or her employees and perform his job. To be resilient the executive leader must find ways to maintain interest and focus on the task or tasks before him or her.

The executive leader must find a way to balance his/her personal and work life. That balance is often hard to come by in today’s world. Our many “successful role models” today spends an inordinate time on the job, away from the family and for some even overlooking their own health. The most recent example is the successful Florida football coach, Urban Meyer. In his drive for success, Meyer compromised his health to the point that he contemplated leaving the job he really loves.

Having confidence in your staff can help you persevere in a tough job environment. Delegate what you can and hold your staff accountable. You will be surprised how much your staff can and will do to protect you and relieve of your some of your stressors. And yes, they will complete the task. In these ways, you will find balance, stay focused and “never let them see you sweat.”

Tool number 2: Practice Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits. Most of us are familiar with Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits; if you are not, I recommend that you go on the FranklinCovey’s website and order the book. Most importantly, the executive leader must find some quiet time (quadrant II) to think, to re-create, to re-energize, and to empower himself. In her Pathleader’s blog dated December 29, 2009, Laurie Beth Jones writes that a Fortune 50 company conducted a survey of “Emerging Leaders” to ascertain what the emerging leaders wanted for their CEO and for themselves. The answer was time to think. “These leaders from tomorrow wanted their leaders of today to have, and MAKE, the time to think.” Therefore, as an executive leader find time to think and allot time for your chief managers to think also. I often sat aside, at least, 1 Friday afternoon/month to think. I also set aside quadrant II time with my managers quarterly to think and to re-energize and I explore with them in their individual supervision time with me methods they use to think. It is encumber of the executive leader to also practice good time management skills. A good source again is the 7 Habits, but you may want to explore other time management books and seminar. One of I would recommend is Harold Lloyd’s book entitled “It’s About Time.”

Tool number 3: Identify your strengths and core values. Your strengths are what got you to your high level job in the first place; so those strong skills and attributes are what you need to focus on to enhance job performance. Too often executives focus on their weaknesses to the detriments of the strong points that have, in the past, helped their company and their career.

A number of Gallup Research studies have concluded that “Strength Based Development” is a key in improving and accelerating job performance. A part of identifying your strengths is being yourself and being aware of your core values. What are you not willing to compromise as it relates to your company achieving its mission and/or making a profit? Therefore, tool 3 is being aware of your strengths; utilize those strengths to improve your performance and finally know your ethics. What are those things that are important to you that you are not willing to compromise even when the going gets tough?

Tool number 4: Appreciate your work style. You are most effective when you appreciate your own work style. Again this goes back to knowing your strengths. How do you get things accomplished; what do you need to make informed decisions and how does your work style mesh with others around you to accomplish the company’s mission? It’s also critical to know and appreciate your managers’ work styles. What flexibilities will they need to accomplish their tasks; when is it the better time to meet with your managers to get the best out of them. The key here, is not to be someone else or try to replicate someone’s work style; but to be confident in your own your abilities and focus on your strength to lead.

Finally, Tool number 5 is Look at all challenges as an opportunity. My email tagline is “Turning challenging opportunities into remarkable successes.” I have often said in other settings that challenges are a gift from God. “An opportunity to grow; to soar like an eagle; to be the leader that you know you are; to be the leader God has called you to be” (Upward Edge, October 7, 2009). Challenges give you opportunities to stretch and to improve services and/or products for your customers. It is important not to take on challenges all alone. Seek advice from your peers, from your customers and from your lieutenants. The bottom line is that we all improve when we are forced to change and are challenged by opportunities.

So now you have it. Managing oneself is about finding quiet time to build on the tools above. It’s about prevention, preparation, planning and building relationships to not only manage, but to sustain oneself in highly competitive and stressful positions.

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God Gives The Assignment

I am currently reading Henry & Richard Blackaby’s book entitled “Spiritual Leadership.” The subheading “God Gives the Assignment” touched my heart deeply. In this section, Henry and Richard Blackaby write that people “will not become spiritual leaders unless God calls them to this role and equips them for it….Spiritual leadership…is not a role for which one applies….Rather, it is assigned by God” (p.46).

They later write that “people may apply for various leadership positions, but God is the one who ultimately determines with leadership roles they will have” (p.55).

How many leadership roles have you applied for in your lifetime. I know; you didn’t get that dream job. The one you were sure that God wanted you to have. Or you did get “your dream job” but somehow it was not the right fit or maybe it was, but just for a season. God has that special assignment for you. Faithfully, I wait for the next assignment that God has for me.  Let’s pray.
God, I know there’s something else. My heart aches for such an assignment. I know your ways are not our ways. Help me to be patient, to have a willingness to learn, to build character, to gain the confidence and above all else, to be willing to take on the next assignment, large or small, in ways that touch hearts and minds to do your will on this earth. Amen.

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