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Are You Turning Into Your Old Boss?

The popular Progressive commercials with Dr. Rick tend to hit a bit too close to home sometimes. Focused on the concept of “helping new homeowners avoid becoming their parents”, it’s also very relevant to us as organizational leaders. When we are young and starting our careers, we are aspirational. We embrace change and learning. We are humble enough to learn from our mistakes and are bold enough to encourage our peers to look at new ways of thinking and problem-solving. However, as we move later into our careers, we can lose that drive and turn into our “old bosses”.

In part, this is a good thing. If you had the fortune of working for someone who was a great boss – someone who supported your growth and development, challenged the organization to try new things, encouraged continuous improvement and fostered overall growth, then, by all means, absorb and embrace those traits. However, many of us have worked for a myriad of superiors who may have fallen short of those aspirational ideals. Maybe we rarely got to see positive and healthy leadership skills. Maybe we learned in an environment of trial-by-fire. Or lived in a highly-competitive, non-collaborative culture.

No matter what the circumstance, as leaders, we need to learn from the past and not fall into those traps that we much bemoaned when we were younger. We may become tired of dealing with the same, recurring people challenges. We may not want to go through the process of getting “folks up to speed” yet again. We may not want to push back on internal resistance or fight to support a new innovation that the board of directors is resisting. We might not want to continue to learn, and now that we’ve found “the best way”, to keep things in maintenance mode. Or we may not want to take a risk on something new, as we get close to retirement or the end of our tenure.

But this is exactly what we need to do. This is the thing we need to push back against – the traits that every revolutionary and lauded industry leader, who has a series of attributed quotes and case studies to their name – is the complacency they resist each and every day. Often times, they continue this behavior following their quote-unquote “retirement”.

When we were younger, we looked at our jobs as an opportunity – an opportunity to make an impact on our world. To make meaningful change. To get rid of bureaucracy, red tape, and inefficiencies. To make things simpler, easier, and more meaningful – both for ourselves and our customers. We wanted to use our knowledge and skills to advance and modernize the company. We didn’t see why something was operating inefficiently and ineffectively simply due to the fact that people didn’t want to change, or that it was too much of a hassle for the organization to undertake. We simply saw the opportunity to make things better.

As we get older, we can’t let this drive and passion slip away. It’s important to take time to rekindle that fire we all once had. Lest we forget, how easily we can turn into our parents – or in this case – our old bosses.

Andrea Olsen

Andrea Olsen

About the Author

Andrea Olson is a speaker, author, behavioral economics, and customer-centricity expert. As the CEO of Pragmadik, she helps organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to Fortune 500, and has served as an outside consultant for EY and McKinsey. Andrea is the author of The Customer Mission: Why it’s time to cut the $*&% and get back to the business of understanding customers and No Disruptions: The future for mid-market manufacturing.

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