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Why you don’t want a nice boss

Everyone wants a nice boss. And if a nice boss is one who respects me and my work, challenges me to get better and wants to see me grow as both a professional and a leader, then I’m for it too.


But too many people look at a hard-charging boss and jump to the conclusion that he or she is a tyrant.


Here’s what these people don’t get: just because you have a nice boss, doesn’t mean you have a good boss.


I’ve seen plenty of bosses who might talk the talk about demanding exceptional performance but, all too often, they just want employees to like them. What’s more, they want people to speak well of them, to be “friends” with them. This type of boss is afraid that if they set high performance targets and challenge their staff to meet and surpass them, their esteem will slip. As a result, they ease up on their expectations, sometimes without realising it. Not surprisingly, performance falters.


Some of the best leaders I’ve seen, whether in research or coaching, come to work with a razor-sharp focus on results. These immensely successful bosses don’t care much about being liked. Their expectations are both staggering and non-negotiable — and their teams know it.


Take, for example, US real estate guru Bill Sanders. “Everybody knew that Bill demanded results,” said Ronald Blankenship, former chairman and CEO of Verde Realty, a real estate investment trust and long-time associate of Sanders. “If you were going to work with him, you needed to be prepared to make that your primary focus.”

以美国房地产大亨比尔·桑德斯(Bill Sanders)为例。曾经担任房地产投资信托Verde Realty董事长兼首席执行官并长期担任桑德斯副手的罗纳德·布兰肯西普(Ronald Blankenship)说:“所有人都知道比尔很看重结果。如果你要跟他共事,就要准备好把这当做头等大事来对待。”

These great leaders are not afraid to lay down the law — they don’t hesitate for an instant. And paradoxically, their toughness, accompanied by their adherence to their unique and inspiring visions, often generates more esteem among their reports, not less.


In fact, it generates something greater than mere esteem among most employees: A profound respect, loyalty, even love.


Of course, being tough doesn’t mean being offensive. How do you know if you’re falling prey to the Nice Boss Syndrome? Consider these questions — and keep track of your yesses.


 ● During the past year, have you changed your expectations for someone more than once after he or she failed to perform or meet your standards?

 ● 过去一年内,在某人表现糟糕或未能达到你的标准时,你是否不止一次地改变过自己对他或她的预期?

 ● During the last year, have you failed to follow up and punish bad behaviour?

 ● 过去一年内,你是否未能关注并惩罚不良行为?

 ● Do you sometimes grant employees bonuses or other special compensation even after they have failed to meet their goals — just because they “tried hard”?

 ● 你是否在员工未能达成目标时依然向其发放奖金或其他特殊补助——仅仅是因为他们“工作很努力”?

 ● Do you fail to set clear, meaningful goals for your team members? Clear goals are specific, measurable, attainable, and come with a deadline; vague goals don’t.

 ● 你是否未能给自己的团队成员设定清晰而有意义的目标?清晰的目标必须内容明确、可以衡量、能够实现,而且还要附带截止日期;模糊的目标则不具备这些属性。

 ● Do you tend to withhold negative feedback for fear of upsetting or alienating someone?

 ● 你是否因为担心某人不高兴或害怕疏远某人,而放弃给出负面反馈?

 ● When you do deliver negative feedback, do you find yourself softening it?

 ● 当你给予负面反馈时,你是否发现自己会弱化这些反馈?

 ● Do your bosses or fellow managers perceive you as soft and overly accommodating?

 ● 你的老板或其他管理者是否认为你很软弱或过于随和?

 ● Do the people who work for you have a tendency to rest on their laurels when they do succeed (for instance, do they think that good work is enough, no striving for the next goal)?

 ● 当你的手下取得成功时,他们是否往往不思进取(例如,他们是否认为做好工作就足够了,而不会努力达成下一个目标)?

If you find yourself answering “yes” to three or more of these questions, you might be suffering from Nice Boss Syndrome. In that case, it’s time to change your ways. If you want to be respected, not just liked:


 ● Keep an “expectations logbook”, laying out performance expectations for each of your staff, your ongoing daily observations about their performance, and any actions you’ve taken to enforce your expectations.

 ● 罗列一份“预期日志”,列出你对每位下属的业绩预期、你每天对他们表现的观察结果,以及你为了落实自己的预期所采取的所有措施。

 ● For each of your reports, revisit the goals you’ve set. Are they ambitious or aggressive enough?  Are they clear and quantifiable? Don’t downgrade just because someone failed to meet a goal.

 ● 重新思考你给每位下属制定的目标。这些目标是否足够野心勃勃、咄咄逼人?是否明确且可以量化?不要仅仅因为有人无法达成目标而放松要求。

 ● Is there a way to “gamify” performance expectations and make them public or transparent among your team? Doing so might foster healthy competition while making it harder for you to wiggle out if you need to hold people accountable.

 ● 能否对业绩预期进行“游戏化”改造,以便在团队成员之间保持公开透明?这样或许可以营造健康的竞争环境,而且可以避免你在需要追究责任时摇摆不定。

 ● Practice delivering negative feedback: Avoid emotion and stick to the facts; flag that negative feedback is coming so it’s not a surprise; focus on how to do it better next time rather than just critiquing the past.

 ● 练习如何给予员工负面反馈:不要情绪化,而要以事实为基础;让员工知道你会给出负面反馈,避免让他们感到意外;把重点放在下一次如何改善业绩上,而不要过分批评过去的表现。

“Nice” bosses may feel good about themselves, but they don’t get world-class results. Demanding bosses do. And if you work for a nice boss, don’t get too self-satisfied. If you aren’t getting better at whatever you do for a living, and learning and growing in the process, you’re not just standing still, you’re really falling behind.


In the modern business world – where competition can come from anyone and anywhere, anytime – just getting by is not a winning formula.

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