Here’s my test. I’ll start nodding and smiling and say, “Everything’s going well in your department, isn’t it?” They’ll say, “Yep. Yep. Yep.” A week or two later, I’ll look serious and concerned and ask, “What kind of problems are you facing in your department?” Now they’ll tell me everything that’s wrong.
With these spineless worms, I can telegraph the answers I want to hear. I might as well talk to a five-year-old.
My bosses always wanted the truth, albeit diplomatically. I’d contradict them if I thought they were mistaken. I wasn’t an ass-kisser, but I developed strong bonds with some great bosses.
Don’t believe this crap that you need to become a clone of your boss. Most top executives could care less whether their people share the same hobbies, eat the same food or shop at the same stores.
I may choose my friends based on what we have in common. But I don’t expect my employees to live in my image. They’re not my golfing buddies.
You’re underestimating your boss if you think you can forge a bond by pretending you have the same interests or backgrounds or biases. I’ve even had people start to use my favorite cuss words.
I don’t want a clone. I want straightshooters who’ll show maturity and not back down when I raise my voice.
So close, yet so far
I’m thinking of three of my best managers. I promoted them and they rewarded me by doing a superb job no matter what I threw at them.
Guess what? These three people were hardly my amigos. I had almost nothing in common with any of them, except work ethic. They proved themselves by taking responsibility without being asked. They bonded with me by letting their work do the talking, not by trying to make me think they were mini-me’s.
We couldn’t have been more different, but I still considered them my closest aides, my most valuable players. I can’t recall a time when they tried to b.s. me about anything.
Tying the knot
You want to get in good with me? Solve my problems. Don’t wait for me to put you on some committee and then take a year to make recommendations. When I complain about lower customer retention rates or ballooning expenses, figure out the causes and give me solutions.
Do that for me and I’ll watch your back. You can belong to either gender or any ethnicity, race or creed—and you’ll be my favorite. We’ll have the kind of bond that will help us both.
Don’t worry about the weasel down the hall who brags with the boss about his new golf clubs. Sure, he shoots the breeze better than you. But any half-competent leader can tell the difference between someone who’s desperate to make an impression and someone who delivers.