Recently at dinner, the discussion turned to whether or not you should take a job that you really wanted knowing that the new boss wasn’t going to be particularly fabulous. Needless to say, there was not consensus among the group, as several people expressed concern that one person could be a career derailer, while others shared their own positive experiences with less than stellar supervisors. We all ended up reflecting on some of our own past managerial mistakes, those we watched our friends make or endure, and the lessons we learned along the way.
There are some “not so great” leaders that definitely teach people how to empower others because they let them make lots of decisions. It doesn’t matter that they do this because they have no idea what to do themselves. In the end, you can learn the art of empowerment from someone who is reluctant to decide, and as you move forward as a leader, this will serve you well.
You could learn to make fast decisions because you might watch your boss go from zero to one hundred or from black to white in a split second. We have all been envious of the speed with which some managers could become decisive and move on. It doesn’t matter that the reason for this might be due to a leadership style based on fear where they were simply demonstrating the fight or flight mechanism. We agreed that under those circumstances, we learned to never dwell on decisions, to implement, and adjust as needed. You will learn to think faster if you work for someone like this.
Some leaders will help you learn to look at both sides of the situation because they always play the fence. That’s okay too! You will learn to analyze all points of view before developing a solution. Working for people like this will teach you to become a more reflective leader, and you will develop a great habit of routinely seeking out others who have a different view point.
You might learn about taking accountability and risks if you work for someone who routinely passes the buck. You will learn what it should really mean to say “this is your decision and I support you”. People are reluctant to take risks only when they are fearful of repercussions. Bosses like this can help you learn how to and how not to foster innovation.
The greatest lesson you might learn is to look inward first for mistakes and to humbly accept them, regroup, and move on from them. You will learn this because you might work for someone who is always asking you what went wrong. This is a fantastic gift. It will help you understand that in all situations you as a leader do play a role in the outcome.
Should you take a job knowing your boss might just be mediocre? Of course you should if you are confident in your skills and your ability, you have a great network of support, and you are willing to view some of these experiences as valuable learning opportunities. You will develop some think skin, become a stronger leader, and you might end up teaching your own supervisor how to be better along the way.
There is nothing like a broken rib to teach you some lessons. Yes, I heard my mother’s voice while I was standing on my tip toes to reach something on the top shelf… right before I fell off the chair.
Fast forward two weeks, and I am in Costa Rica where I was determined not to let this rib deter me from working on a new venture. And for me, there is no such thing as a trip to Costa Rica without at least some time in the water surfing.
If you have ever had a broken rib, then you know it hasn’t healed after 17 days. I knew it too, and yet I still attempted to carry a 7’2” board half a mile to the beach. So when my friend offered to carry the board, I readily accepted.
But did I stop and listen to what I was feeling? Not so much.
Once in the water, my friend was clearly showing signs of worry and tried his best to discourage me from going further. He adamantly asked “how are you going to paddle out or stand up with a broken rib?” I was quick to answer “I am going to compensate with my left arm and I am sure I will be fine.” I actually laughed when he said “you are just going to be swimming in a circle!”
Did I stop and listen to what I was feeling when I realized that every time my right arm stroked the water I was wincing in pain? Nope! I was sure that I was capable.
But then something happened, and I started to question whether anyone is ever compensating effectively or if that’s just what we tell ourselves to get by or feel better about our decisions? I had the “opportunity” to ponder this shortly after a 15 foot wave crashed on me, and I was holding my breath for longer than I ever thought possible.
In this moment, that seemed like an hour, I thought about every single time I was ever out of balance and yet told myself that things were fine. I could suddenly remember all the times I “compensated” for one of my own shortcomings or for someone else’s. In this moment, I wished I was “just swimming in a circle” instead of searching for air.
As I sat on the beach later that afternoon, I asked myself some questions –
When I am trying to compensate, do I really know why? Am I sure it is worth it? Do I really know if I am doing it well versus just thinking I am? What do other people think and am I listening to them?
In this situation, it was worth it for me. The reflection afterwards was very rewarding. However, it made me realize that the value is really in asking the questions ahead of time and then making a decision.