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Coach's Corner--June 9, 2008

Self-awareness can help bullying boss change behavior

The Client
Name:  Sarah 
Age: 50
Title: Marketing manager
Time at company: 27 years
Industry: Insurance
Issue: Developing a positive leadership style

Q. I’ve read the bullying boss columns (April 28 and May 26), and I’m concerned that they describe me. How can I recognize this and change my management style?

A. It takes courage to confront an uncomfortable possibility; this willingness to take a risk will help you move forward into a more constructive leadership style.

The inner game
First, focus on the person you know you are on the inside — your gifts, your hopes, and your vision for your life. If you’re mistreating people in the workplace, you may just have gotten out of touch with yourself, and getting that back will help you establish new, positive behavior.

 

Second, take an honest look at yourself. Rate yourself on your self-control, anger management skills, the respect you show others, and your ability to communicate effectively. Do you shout or berate others? Are employees intimidated by you? Are they unwilling to deliver bad news? Do you show other bullying behavior? Also, ask a trusted peer or mentor about specific issues and listen to their comments with an open mind.

 

Third, reflect on why you treat people this way. Perhaps you believe that your style will get better results than a more empathetic and engaged style. It may be representative of the culture in which you learned your leadership style. Maybe change in the workplace is making you fearful or you’re expressing anger that is unrelated to your team. Understanding the inner drivers will help you move away from dysfunctional behaviors.

 

Finally, draw your own conclusions about changes you’d like to make, and use these insights to promote growth rather than to beat yourself up.

 

The outer game

It’s time for action, which may push you far outside your comfort zone. Start by enlisting the support of others. Find a mentor or coach, let your team know your personal change goals, and seek support from your boss. If this will be a drastic change, others may be confused by the new you. They may also find it hard to trust you; try apologizing to the individuals you’ve hurt in the past to begin building a bridge to a new relationship.

Next, learn about the skills you want to demonstrate. Browse through leadership books for approaches you like. Study successful leaders whose style you’d like to emulate. And be specific about the skills you’re seeking to master. Rather than focusing on “I want to stop yelling at people,” work on “I want to learn to give timely and constructive feedback.”

The rest is practice, and possibly a lot of it. Don’t try to change everything at once — take on the most troubling behaviors first. Monitor your performance, perhaps using the same approach you used to understand your negative behavior. Continue to seek feedback from people around you, developing them into partners in your growth. And remember, you can still have high standards and will likely have to provide corrections from time to time. You won’t go from bully to pushover — you’ll go from bully to leader.

The last word
Congratulations on your openness to growth. Your transformation will create new possibilities for contribution for your team, your organization, and you.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted June 9, 2008
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