Lead or Leave: How Not to be a Bored (or Boring) Boss

Dec. 21, 2006
Career consultant John McKee offers advice on tackling one of the biggest obstacles to corporate and career success: ennui.

Today, I am going to talk with you about a huge problem facing North American businesses. It appears to be getting worse, too. It's boredom.

Managers who have people reporting them but who fail to deal with boredom can unintentionally shoot themselves, their employees, and their companies in the foot.

Everyone, both staff and managers, complains about boredom, but then waits for the guy or gal 'upstairs' to fix it. If you can get to the heart of what is making your operations boring, it will enhance your career, show off your innovation, and improve your upward mobility.

Over the course of my career, I have visited many different facilities. I've observed that can often size up the organization's culture just a few minutes after entering its premises. When I see and hear a lot of activity, it usually follows that this group has neater ideas and better results than others. When I enter a place that seems like a library or a museum, I am never surprised to be asked to help with problems involving a lack of innovation or growth

Most organizations are stifled and stifling. Many of their managers and employees are bored, disengaged and cranky. Their management in most cases made bad decisions, promoted poorly, and or gave raises inappropriately. And everyone could see it. Even if at one time the climate was invigorating or stimulating, their management have taken all that away. All that remains are a bunch of bored and uncaring human beings.

Even if this description fits your organization, the good new is that you can change this, and quickly. When you do, there will be an immediate lift in attitude, job satisfaction and business results. You can make that happen and when it does, you'll see good things written on your annual assessment report card.

This as an executive success secret that is so obvious, many execs no longer see it: Most people in the business world are bored, unchallenged, stale and really not making much of a contribution, given how much they get paid.

If you don't believe me, take a look at any young hyper growth organization you choose. Those entities often don't pay a lot but when you talk to the staff or management, Man, are they gigged up!

Here are a few ideas to try to break through the lethargy. I've seen these used successfully in various types of organizations. They will help you get some enthusiasm back into the lives of those for whom you are responsible.

Remember, it's the good leaders who motivate change, cause growth, and make the place fun and challenging. All that stuff from the textbooks of a few years ago, about real change being motivated by crises or fear is bunk. Would you treat your own loved ones that way?

Become a good leader. If you have the guts, tell your team that you intend to make it a better place to work. They'll tell you when you're doing it right or wrong and give you an enthusiastic thumbs-up along the way.

Don't get carried away with charts and reports to track your positive results to provide further motivation for your troops. Solid communication is rooted in emotion. Emotion is the best thing to guide people and nothing replaces in person meetings or one on ones to really get folks fired up again. None of us want or need something else to read or look at. We all need human contact from a caring boss. That would be you.

If your business unit looks like it's in really bad shape; don't waste a lot of time trying to change it with incremental shifts and overhauls. Go radical. Take a chance with some big ideas and changes like office setups or cross pollination between groups that don't usually talk to each other. Get buy-in from your boss or HR department first.

If you are bored or things feel stale, go somewhere else or change vocations. Chances are you're going to live till you're nearly 100; don't spend most of that time cranky. If not for your health and happiness, consider everyone around you.

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John McKee | John McKee