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Gary B. Cohen

It is not about reform, it is about effectiveness. Mean, disregarding behavior is not effective to increase alignment, engagement and accountability. The ways exceptional leaders move people and their organizations forward to by asking? Exceptional leaders spend between 70 to 80 percent of the time asking rather than telling. When surveyed 97% of leaders when they follow would prefer to be asked and only 32 percent actually ask more than they tell. If your so called bad bosses want to join the ranks of the exceptional leaders they just need to treat others as they want to be treated the golden rule or treat others the way the others want to be treated the platinum rule and they will be largely successful in building alignment, engagement and accountability. In the book Just Ask Leadership ( published by McGraw Hill I outline the effects that exceptional leaders have in using questions.

Harris Silverman

It seems to me that there are two ingredients to this. Firstly, something has to happen to actually make the person want to change. Whether it comes from outside, such as pressure from above or feedback from peers and/or subordinates, or from within, namely a maturing or evolution on the part of the individual in question, nobody can change or be made to change who doesn't have a readiness and willingness to do so. Secondly, some sort of coaching is generally necessary to keep the person focused and to show him/her the way to go. Often people who have these kinds of issues don't even know how else to behave. Unfortunately, very few companies and managers have the time to devote to really working with someone on an issue like this to the extent that is necessary.

Harris Silverman

Trish Fairbanks

I think in order for the bosses to change there needs to be investments made by all parties: the company, the boss and the subordinates. If I had a "bad boss" I would have to seriously consider if I really wanted to take the time and possible backlash of reporting them to a higher power. And does the company want to invest the time and energy it would take to reform them and/or fire them if they are not open to changing? It seems to me that managers and bosses attain their positions and are never actually trained on how to lead their staff in a constructive, efficient way. Perhaps a required management program should be installed in companies so that the supervisors are explained what is expected of them and what is not tolerated by the company. This combined with 360 reviews could form a strong group of bosses and a staff who is happy to work for them.

Mike Thomas

I believe that bosses can reform, but it's rare in my experience. Feedback from a respected source - supervisor, staff, coach - begins the transformation I think.

It's upper management's reinforcement and reward for appropriate behavior, coupled with intolerance for bad behavior, that makes any change permanent.

Esther Derby

What stands out for me is that the bosses who changed did so because they received feedback and coaching (which does not require a formal performance management system).

Too many managers (and even managers of managers) don't know how to offer effective feedback or are afraid to do so for fear of the other person's response.

Effective feedback requires:

-A contract for the conversation (which is implied if you are a manager--it's part of your job to give feedback). If the person hasn't agreed to listen to what you have to say, it's not likely to have an effect.

-A description and/or examples of behavior stated in a way the other person can recognize himself. Labels, negative language and evaluation make it less like the person will recognize himself.

-A description of the impact, which provides the reason to change. If there's no impact, feedback feels arbitrary.

I'm guessing that in these situations, there was also a discussion of consequences if the behavior continued. But in my experience, most people understand the reason to change after they grasp the impact of their behavior.

Feedback is often enough. But most bad bosses got that way because they witnessed that sort of behavior in the workplace or at home. Then they need coaching to develop a different repertoire.

In the end, it's about gaining some self-awareness (through feedback and coaching) and doing some self-management--because if you can't manage yourself, you shouldn't manage anyone else.

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