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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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    Published on July 17, 2018

    How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

    How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

    I’ve never believed people are born productive or organized. Being organized and productive is a choice.

    You choose to keep your stuff organized or you don’t. You choose to get on with your work and ignore distractions or you don’t.

    But one skill very productive people appear to have that is not a choice is the ability to compartmentalize. And that takes skill and practice.

    What is compartmentalization

    To compartmentalize means you have the ability to shut out all distractions and other work except for the work in front of you. Nothing gets past your barriers.

    In psychology, compartmentalization is a defence mechanism our brains use to shut out traumatic events. We close down all thoughts about the traumatic event. This can lead to serious mental-health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if not dealt with properly.

    However, compartmentalization can be used in positive ways to help us become more productive and allow us to focus on the things that are important to us.

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    Robin Sharma, the renowned leadership coach, calls it his Tight Bubble of Total Focus Strategy. This is where he shuts out all distractions, turns off his phone and goes to a quiet place where no one will disturb him and does the work he wants to focus on. He allows nothing to come between himself and the work he is working on and prides himself on being almost uncontactable.

    Others call it deep work. When I want to focus on a specific piece of work, I turn everything off, turn on my favourite music podcast The Anjunadeep Edition (soft, eclectic electronic music) and focus on the content I intend to work on. It works, and it allows me to get massive amounts of content produced every week.

    The main point about compartmentalization is that no matter what else is going on in your life — you could be going through a difficult time in your relationships, your business could be sinking into bankruptcy or you just had a fight with your colleague; you can shut those things out of your mind and focus totally on the work that needs doing.

    Your mind sees things as separate rooms with closable doors, so you can enter a mental room, close the door and have complete focus on whatever it is you want to focus on. Your mind does not wander.

    Being able to achieve this state can seriously boost your productivity. You get a lot more quality work done and you find you have a lot more time to do the things you want to do. It is a skill worth mastering for the benefits it will bring you.

    How to develop the skill of compartmentalization

    The simplest way to develop this skill is to use your calendar.

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    Your calendar is the most powerful tool you have in your productivity toolbox. It allows you to block time out, and it can focus you on the work that needs doing.

    My calendar allows me to block time out so I can remove everything else out of my mind to focus on one thing. When I have scheduled time for writing, I know what I want to write about and I sit down and my mind completely focuses on the writing.

    Nothing comes between me, my thoughts and the keyboard. I am in my writing compartment and that is where I want to be. Anything going on around me, such as a problem with a student, a difficulty with an area of my business or an argument with my wife is blocked out.

    Understand that sometimes there’s nothing you can do about an issue

    One of the ways to do this is to understand there are times when there is nothing you can do about an issue or an area of your life. For example, if I have a student with a problem, unless I am able to communicate with that student at that specific time, there is nothing I can do about it.

    If I can help the student, I would schedule a meeting with the student to help them. But between now and the scheduled meeting there is nothing I can do. So, I block it out.

    The meeting is scheduled on my calendar and I will be there. Until then, there is nothing I can do about it.

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    Ask yourself the question “Is there anything I can do about it right now?”

    This is a very powerful way to help you compartmentalize these issues.

    If there is, focus all your attention on it to the exclusion of everything else until you have a workable solution. If not, then block it out, schedule time when you can do something about it and move on to the next piece of work you need to work on.

    Being able to compartmentalize helps with productivity in another way. It reduces the amount of time you spend worrying.

    Worrying about something is a huge waste of energy that never solves anything. Being able to block out issues you cannot deal with stops you from worrying about things and allows you to focus on the things you can do something about.

    Reframe the problem as a question

    Reframing the problem as a question such as “what do I have to do to solve this problem?” takes your mind away from a worried state into a solution state, where you begin searching for solutions.

    One of the reasons David Allen’s Getting Things Done book has endured is because it focuses on contexts. This is a form of compartmentalization where you only do work you can work on.

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    For instance, if a piece of work needs a computer, you would only look at the work when you were in front of a computer. If you were driving, you cannot do that work, so you would not be looking at it.

    Choose one thing to focus on

    To get better at compartmentalizing, look around your environment and seek out places where you can do specific types of work.

    Taking your dog for a walk could be the time you focus solely on solving project problems, commuting to and from work could be the time you spend reading and developing your skills and the time between 10 am and 12 pm could be the time you spend on the phone sorting out client issues.

    Once you make the decision about when and where you will do the different types of work, make it stick. Schedule it. Once it becomes a habit, you are well on your way to using the power of compartmentalization to become more productive.

    Comparmentalization saves you stress

    Compartmentalization is a skill that gives you time to deal with issues and work to the exclusion of all other distractions.

    This means you get more work done in less time and this allows you to spend more time with the people you want to spend more time with, doing the things you want to spend more time doing.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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