I find your lack of faith… disturbing.

-Darth Vader, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

I just ran across this article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “What to Do When You Have a Bad Boss.” The opening paragraph is as follows:

Despite the $15 billion companies spend annually on managerial and leadership development, bad bosses are common in the American workforce.  A study by Life Meets Work found that 56% of American workers claim their boss is mildly or highly toxic. A study by the American Psychological Association found that 75% of Americans say their “boss is the most stressful part of their workday.”

Read the rest of the article here.

My question is why don’t more managers and leaders realize this? Are they unaware of the situation surrounding their leadership or do they just not care?

It reminded me of a exchange I encountered while I was assisting an instructor for the Dale Carnegie Leadership Training for Managers program we were promoting.

A Leadership Development Encounter That Shocked Me

Here was the situation.

John, the instructor, was conducting a promotional session for the program. I had volunteered to assist him in as he facilitated the hour-long session. Typically, instructors will conduct these sessions as a prequel to the main class. These sessions gives participants a feel for what will be covered in the program. They also give potential enrollees one last opportunity to sign up for the program.

In this session, the theme John focused on was “people support a world they help create” from the course. It’s one of the tenants we base all our leadership development programs on. He was reviewing how managers can use the Dale Carnegie principles to get buy-in from their team. In fact, one of the principles we highlight in the program is to give honest, sincere appreciation for what our people are doing now. And in doing so, we can give them a target to live up to for future success.

During the Q&A session at the end of the session, one of the participants raised a  question. She said, “You know, we pay these people a decent salary. Why should management show them appreciation for a job we are paying them to do?”

I’m sure she wasn’t the only person who had that question. After all, these people are adults. The company is paying them to do a job. Why should management coddle them with silly trinkets and shower them with praise when they are already paying them good money?

Proper Leadership Development Involves Building People

We had a spirited discussion for about 15 minutes reviewing the merits of managers showing their team appreciation and building relationships. But overall, our team had a hard sell because I don’t think some of the managers in the room started out with the proper leadership development.

I’ve seen this happen on numerous occasions, and not just in the classroom either. Yes, I’ve had people who took the Dale Carnegie course because they needed leadership development after their promotion. But I’m sure we’ve all seen cases where a company rewards an exceptional engineer by making him or her a manager of a team of engineers. They end up either flounder in the position or they fail catastrophically. And the reason they failed is because the skills that made them a successful engineer were not the ones they needed to succeed in managing a team of engineers. They excelled in engineering, not in building people.

This article doesn’t address what poor managers and bad bosses can do to improve their performance. Rather, it focuses on the staff, why they continue to work for taskmasters, and what they can do to improve their situation.

As leaders, our focus should be on our people. We don’t directly build the future. Rather, we build people and give them the vision, tools, and the environment to build the future.

My suggestion to managers is to review this article.  And realize that your team could be actively looking for brighter opportunities if you aren’t performing a regular review of your own leadership skills and performance.