10 Misleading Myths about Being a Boss

 In Leadership, Leadership Development, management, Rick Conlow

Lack of skill and knowledge aren’t the only obstacles that keep a manager from becoming an effective leader. Prevailing myths become formidable barriers as well. A myth is a tradition, story or worldview about how things are done.  In my experience with bosses and supervisors, ten misleading myths exist.

10 Management Myths

1. “I can’t be friends or socialize with subordinates because I will lose my authority. Besides that, I’ll be asked to do favors or be accused of favoritism.”

The myth behind this belief is that the supervisor must remain aloof, objective and isolated. Frequently, this is based on the supervisor’s fear that the relationship will be used against him or her at some point, especially if there are tough decisions to make or performance problems to resolve. As long as your performance expectations are clear – both your expectations for your employees and their expectations for you – nothing will impede upon your relationship. Indeed, it is likely that if you are an effective supervisor, you will naturally build strong relationships with subordinates. Open communication has power in the workplace because it’s often so minimal.

2. “I have to be liked by my subordinates because the work atmosphere depends on me.”

It is not necessary to be “one of the boys;” essentially, this myth is the reverse of the maintaining-distance theory. Friendships form when common interests and mutual respect exist. There will always be others who you wouldn’t choose to be with if there was an option. But, in the workplace, you will have common goals and a vested interest in getting along. The key to this is developing explicit clarity in your expectations and your relations.

3. “You can’t be honest with everyone. The management of this organization believes that we shouldn’t provide information unless the person has a need to know. So, my job is to get people to do things, without always explaining the purpose to them.”

This is a mushroom-style supervision approach: keep them in the dark, feed them B.S., and can them when you’re ready. Ironically, what usually happens is that the grapevine satisfies people’s need for information, whether the information is true or not. While discretion is occasionally required, informed subordinates who trust their supervisor as a reliable source, tend to perform more effectively. In fact, many supervisors withhold information as a way to exert power. And if the employees catch on, they tend to get even, which completely disrupts the exchange of necessary information.

4. “Feelings and emotion have no place at work. The last thing we should ever do is get emotional. Logic and rationality will solve every problem.”

Feelings are real – they cannot be turned on and off like a faucet. The difficulty is that most people are uncomfortable dealing with strong feelings, which can lead to tension between people. If a person’s feelings are not accurately acknowledged, the feelings will stay with the person and manifest as a hidden agenda. This unfinished business will consume attention and energy, and the focus that’s needed to get the job done will be unavailable. If one individual has the power to pressure the other into attending to the task despite personal feelings, the person will perform until the other individual is out of sight. Then, they will likely vent the emotional buildup to friends, family members or third parties. Wasted time, energy, resources and emotional reactions are the consequences of unresolved issues. So, appropriately and professionally address tension and feelings. Schedule formalized feedback sessions, so that a space is created where these matters can be addressed regularly.

5. “At all times, I must appear competent, professional, and in control.”

When you transition into a supervisory role, it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to immediately morph into a perfect, omnipotent person with complete clairvoyance. Supervisors frequently pretend to present a flawless management image. And when they get caught, the credibility they were seeking disappears. It’s better to be recognized as an honest person who is dedicated to maturing through experience, rather than to be perceived as one who lacks integrity.

6. “You have to be tough to be effective. Although I occasionally push to get my way with my colleagues, there is no way I have what it takes to do that all the time. I’m not that much of a confrontational S.O.B.”

In reality, you don’t have to be a tough S.O.B. Current research indicates that the “rugged individualistic,” “the meanest S.O.B. in the valley,” is actually an endangered species. This sort of supervisor may see short-term results or earn a reputation, but this supervisor will not be able to sustain long-term success. Occasionally, you will have to deal with unpleasant situations, which will test your mettle. But, what’s required is emotional muscle to be authentic. Responding in ways that align with your personal and professional values will help you avoid being labeled as the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” of the office. Help your team succeed and they will help you reach your goals. Don’t let this or any other of the myths get in your way.

7. “I don’t want to be manipulative, and if I attempt to change the conditions to encourage someone to perform, I will be manipulating.”

This myth stems from the negative connotation of the word manipulate. A supervisor’s job is to appropriately and creatively manage conditions to encourage performance. The adverse effects of this responsibility emerge when a supervisor denies the value and integrity of the subordinates by trying to pull the wool over their eyes. If your intentions are to effectively create conditions that inspire your subordinates in unique ways that extract their potential – you are not manipulating, you are motivating.

8. “I’ll never make it as a performance manager.”

Millions have made it, so why are you so sure you won’t? When you move into a supervisory role, nothing should stop you from being effective if you treat every challenge as another learning experience. You will make mistakes. You will feel the loss of your previous life that had reduced responsibilities. But, what you are experiencing is a normal reaction to the unknown. Seek opportunities to learn; discomfort will be present. Just like any other acquired skill (e.g. riding a bicycle), you may be unsteady at first, but your skill will come with practice.  Keep this in mind, the greatest impact on an employee is the direct supervisor.

9. “I am what I am, I can’t change.”

If something is a myth, it usually means that there’s a misunderstanding buried beneath the belief. Dig deep to discover what it is, so that the truth becomes transparent. If you don’t change you won’t be able to lead as well.

10. “There is nothing you can do about a bad boss.”

Over 50% of managers fail according to research. Many more are less than perfect.  And, the #1 reason people leave a job is because of a bad boss. While bad bosses are difficult I have found that you can manage upward. You may not change their behavior but you can improve the situation. Start by doing a good job. Next, always have a plan that you review with your boss. Finally, no surprises. Keep your communication current and honest. For more ideas see this post,  6 Proven Ways for Dealing with a Bad Boss.

A genuine manager that is willing to change can shatter these and other myths. With a commitment to coaching, on-going learning, training, and the team’s success any manager can become an effective leader. Without it, these myths can overwhelm you. Remember this, “if you want your team to better, you have to be a better leader.”

By the way, do you want to elevate your performance planning with employees? If so, check out this complimentary guide: BlueBook Goalsetting Guide.

Need to deal with that difficult person or situation? See this book: Handling Difficult People and Situations.

Or, do you want a proven game-plan for your management career success? If so, check out Rick’s Superstar Leadership book.



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Rick Conlow
Rick Conlow is the CEO & Founder of Rick Conlow International, a consulting, training and coaching firm. He has helped over 200 companies such as Target, Costco, Andersen Windows, Spectrum, Northern Power, Meijer, Carpet King, International Truck, John Deere, Lowes Financial, and Canadian Linen improve customer loyalty, increase sales and add profits. Rick has been a general manager, vice president, training director, program director, and national sales trainer. He has authored 22 books, and regularly speaks at conferences and to audiences of all sizes.
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