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  • Writer's pictureJohn Harper

It all starts with the Boss

So, if I were a fly on the wall and followed you for a week, what would we discover as the difference between what you think you did and what others saw?

I could have titled this article “How to improve employee engagement” or “It’s a great time to get rid of a Bad Boss” or “How to hire top talent,” or “The burden of losing employees” but what I am going to write about has to do with those items and so much more.

I was recently speaking with and getting to know a new client who is the CEO. We were discussing both leader selection and his leadership group. He very quickly came right out of the gate and said, “I know that half the reason people leave our company is because of me.” Sadly, statistically he is correct. More than 50% of bosses struggle with being “effective leaders”.

Identity vs. Reputation

I wrote about this concept in my last article, but I would like to expand on it. A divide often exists between identity and reputation. We frequently misjudge ourselves, either being too hard on ourselves or, in most cases, inflating how our capabilities compare to others’. Therefore, we tend to have an incorrect understanding of our own performance, whether it be interpersonal sensitivity, leadership skills, ability to judge character, problem-solving, sense of humor, etc. Without reputational feedback, our identities can easily veer off into the realm of fantasized talent.

Reputation > Identity

Reputational ignorance is often consequential because occupational success is largely dependent on what others think about you, whereas identity is mostly irrelevant.

You can’t change or modify people’s style or behaviour until you

have first understood their perspective

I see Identity and Perspective as synonymous. For example, ask an engineer and a marketing individual, “How much do deadlines mean?” I think you will get back two very different perspectives. Let’s use this concept of perspective for a few Leadership tips.


Ask the candidate the following questions and have him/her elaborate if need be. Ask these questions in this order…

  • What type of individual do you think I should be looking for, for this role? (This is his/her perspective.)

  • What would be the behavioural attributes be for a high performer in this role (e.g., being tenacious vs. knowing Excel)?

  • What are your top five behavioural strengths?

  • What behavioural areas do you think you need to improve to be a higher performer in this role?

These four questions will give you so much perspective for you to analyze and use in your decision process; remember, what people say about themselves is not always inline with what others observe.

One on Ones

Ask your employee…

  • What would you like to talk about?

  • What do you care about?

  • How happy you are with your role, your development and working here in general?

  • What needs to improve here?

  • How could your work be less stressful and/or be more enjoyable?

  • What is one thing I could do better for you?

Starting a New Job or You Now Have a New Boss

Ask your new boss…

  • How will you see me, and the role being successful?

  • What do you see as the top skills in the successful people you have led in the past?

  • How am I expected to behave?

  • How should we communicate going forward?

Real understanding of people's differing perspectives is core to achieving leadership results, whether it's with new or current employees. The average manager will not think this probing concept worthwhile.

ASK some questions

Follow @Leadership.Performance for tips & tricks for understanding behavioural tendencies and to enhance Performance

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