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OWNER'S MANUAL

10 Horrible Excuses for Being a Lousy Boss

Are the "reasons" you aren't a better boss just excuses? Here are 10 things you should never say to yourself … and what to do instead.
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Do you have excuses--or more likely "reasons"--for not being a better boss?

See if you recognize any of these:

"I'm under incredible pressure."

Of course you are. Join the leadership club. Every boss is stuck in between, with employees the "rock" and customers, vendors, investors, and even you the "hard place."

If demands seem overwhelming and pull you too far away from your team, get your employees more involved in your projects and responsibilities.

They'll be glad to help, especially if they gain skills and exposure in the process.

"I don't get paid enough to deal with this."

You're right. Great leaders are chronically undercompensated and underappreciated, and that will probably never change.

But great employers see the satisfaction they gain from praising, developing, mentoring, and helping employees reach their goals as a part of their total compensation package.

If you don't see it that way, rethink whether you want to run a business--otherwise you'll always be unsatisfied.

"My employees work better when I leave them alone."

If that's true, it means you're the problem.

Great employees don't need (or want) to be told what to do, but they do need to hear they do a great job--it will help them learn about new directions or strategies. Everyone likes some amount of attention.

Just make sure the attention you give makes a positive impact.

"This process was created by someone who doesn't have to implement it."

Often true. For example, many human resources specialists have never worked in a shop-floor leadership role, but that doesn't mean certain initiatives are not worthwhile. You may not like creating development plans, but don't just go through the motions. Work hard to make sure your plans actually develop your employees. And if you don't like a policy or guideline, don't ignore it; work to make it better. It's every boss's responsibility to make sure company policies protect and promote employee interests to the greatest extent possible.

"I can't deal with all the politics."

Company politics can be a factor even for a business owner (theoretically) in total command of the operation.

Tough. It's your company. If the culture is bad, fix it. If politics keep people from doing their jobs or performing as well as they could, fix it.

Taking care of any problems that make it hard for your employees to do their best is your job. Do your job.

"If she gets too much credit, I'll look bad."

Don't be afraid your employees might outshine you. Your goal is to have employees outshine you.

Great leaders surround themselves with outstanding talent. That's how they become great leaders.

The better your team, and the individuals that make up your team, the better you look.

"I shouldn't need to praise people for doing their jobs."

Yes, you should. Praising employees is the courteous thing to do and, from a performance point of view, praise reinforces positive behaviors and makes it much more likely those behaviors will occur in the future.

By all means, expect your employees to do their jobs, but praise them when they do--because that's your job.

"Well, that's how I was trained."

Do you train employees by tossing them into the fire simply because that's how you were once treated? Whenever you feel something was "good enough for me," realize that it isn't good enough for your employees.

Determine the best way to train and develop employees and then make it happen. Any bad experiences you had should shape a more positive approach, not serve as a blueprint.

"I need to spend some time with employees … so hey, I'll go talk to Mike."

You need to get to know employees on a personal level, but do you typically gravitate toward the employees with whom you share common interests?

Every employee deserves your attention and respect. Take an interest. Ask questions. Find a common interest--even if that common interest is simply trying to help them reach their own career and personal goals.

When you make a sincere effort, they'll make it easy for you. People naturally appreciate people who are interested in them.

"Why waste my time? I know he doesn't like me."

Few things are more awkward than working with, or even just talking to, employees who you feel don't like you.

Reach out and clear the air. Say, "Mike, I don't feel our working relationship is as positive as it could be … and I'm sure that's my fault. I really want to make it better."

Then let Mike vent. Sure, you may not like hearing what he says, but once you do, you'll know how to make the situation better.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jan 4, 2013

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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