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Seven Useful Lessons You Can Learn from a Bad Boss

Seven Useful Lessons You Can Learn from a Bad Boss

Why you can trust poor leaders to be sound teachers

    Macho, insensitive bosses share certain characteristics. Their behavior is arrogant, quick-tempered and controlling. Their motives are typically selfish and manipulative. They show little concern for others and few signs of understanding why others don’t trust them. Most of all, they are quite unaware of their failings and the impact they have on their subordinates. No only do they see no need to change, they often make their high-handed behavior a source of pride.

    That’s why you can trust them to be some of your best teachers about productivity and success.

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    Before you decide that I’ve lost my mind, I’ll explain.

    Most human beings are amazingly consistent in the way they behave. That’s why we can say of some action, “That isn’t like you,” or “It’s so out of character.” Without that consistency, such a remark would be pointless. And amongst the most consistent groups of all are those who spend least time in any kind of introspection: the extreme extroverts, the loud, slap-you-on-the-back hearty types, the arrogant, the pompous, the selfish and the self-centered — the people who, if they become bosses, are most likely to prove to be bad ones.

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    Powerful lessons from powerful (and hopelessly unaware) people

    Bad bosses can become useful teachers precisely because their behavior tends to be so consistently bad. You can be fairly sure of their motives and intentions, which allows you to compare cause (what they did and probably why they did it) with effect (how it turned out).

    The pompous boss, convinced of her superiority and the rightness of whatever she does; the lazy boss, sure that status confers the right to live off other people’s efforts; the rigid, controlling boss, firm in his belief that all subordinates are incompetent without his oversight; all of these (and many more) hold to their actions so tenaciously — and are so blind to what they are doing — that they will provide some of the best lessons in what not to do that you will ever be offered.

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    Here are seven of the lessons you might come across, beginning with productivity:

    • See how much effort bad bosses have to use to make things happen their way; effort that would be unnecessary if they behaved better — all that time spent micro-managing and checking; all the ranting and raving to reduce others to obedience; all the lies and stratagems needed to manipulate others instead of asking them openly.
    • See how others react to them; how people become adept at sabotaging their efforts and undermining their success. Even when they dare not oppose the boss openly, subordinates will show great ingenuity in finding other ways to frustrate them.
    • Look at the effect bad bosses have on trust — how this type of behavior ruins relationships with customers as well as employees. Once discovered, as it always is in the end, cynical manipulation renders future trust impossible too.
    • What about the impact on motivation? Consider how you feel if you find yourself going along with the boss’s bad behavior. Do you feel motivated or depressed? Does it make you want to exert yourself or limit your output to no more than is needed to preserve your safety and career prospects?
    • Rigidity next. Most macho bosses see changing a poor decision as an unacceptable sign of weakness. How many times have you seen a bad leader produce disaster from what could have been a triumph, simply because he or she refused to admit to — and change — a bad decision?
    • Take some time to consider what survival in the lifestyle of a bad boss demands. Is that how you would be willing to live? Are the rewards they get worth what they have to do to get them?
    • Most important, observe the way bad bosses are regarded by those above them. Are they genuinely fooling the top dogs about their weaknesses? Or are those executives simply playing the same game — but far better — manipulating middle and junior managers to enhance their own positions, then throwing them to the wolves when they become too much of an embarrassment?

    I’m sure you can think of many more situations where a bad boss has taught you a valuable lesson. Observing and learning from others’ mistakes is as important as learning from your own — and a good deal less painful.

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    Besides, the macho tough guys can never admit to being wrong. They can’t learn from their own mistakes. Since you can, it’s an advantage you can use for all it’s worth.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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