In the vast array of articles, books, and courses on leadership, authors and trainers alike often pose this question: Would you work for you?
The question presumes some act of perfect cloning in which I would be replicated with all my experiences, strengths and weaknesses and then would have to work for my clone. It is intended to cause reflection and help managers realize how much they would probably dread receiving poor behaviours they often dispense to others.
While the question is thought provoking for many, I believe it does not go far enough; nor does it apply to all managers to whom I have posed this question were themselves raised with a succession of C bosses – controlling, condescending, complaining, critical and careless. These manages sincerely believe these behaviours are appropriate to their job and have helped them get where they are today. In other words, they would work for clones of themselves and have in the past worked for close approximations.
The more potent question, which I believe reaches the widest spectrum of managerial orientations is: Would you want your partner, or your adult child in their first or second major work experience, to work with your clone?
Think about the first part of this question: If your partner works, you’ve probably heard venting or complaints about the boss, the job, colleagues, or customers. How did you feel hearing these frustrations, hurts or resentments? In those moments of well-intended listening, you likely wished your partner worked for a more enlightened, capable and caring manager, if for no other reason than to save you from hearing these complaints after your own long day.
Imagine now that your partner works with your clone. Would there be work anecdotes of new accomplishments, helpful coaching, works of encouragement, exciting opportunities and teamwork rewarded? Or would these anecdotes be about good work unnoticed, talents under-utilized, ideas unheard, micro-management, and acts of mistrust and insecurity?
Most parents likely would empathize with their adult child in the workforce. As an adult child of living parents, I often have shared work-related frustrations and joys with them. Whether by phone or in person, I knew they felt my experiences with me, sometimes more deeply than I did. In a loving and protective way, they shared my pain, my excitement and have only wanted the best for me in the world of work. Indeed, what concerned parent would not want the best for their child?
So, to help managers examine their workplace behaviour, again consider the question: Would you want your adult son or daughter to work with your clone?
What stories would they bring back to you if they had to work with someone who thought, behaved, and managed exactly as you do at work? How would those stores make you feel?
To benefit in a practical way form the new question, consider this idea. Make a list of five to ten positive practices, habits and beliefs you believe you display at work and that your partner or adult child would agree motivate encourage and help others at work to feel good about the job and themselves. Then make a list of five to ten negative practices, habits and beliefs you display at work, that your partner or adult child would agree demotivate, discourage and lead others to feel frustrated and ready to leave.
Finally, review the lists for validation and comment with two trusted peers, two trusted subordinates and if you really can take the honest truth about how you are perceived, your partner and a working adult child if you have one.
This might be the best feedback you ever get. It also may help those managers who are now C bosses that is, controlling, condescending, complaining, critical and careless, to become A bosses – advocating, advising, affirming, acknowledging and allowing.