Bad bosses buy donuts, not development opportunities

By Beth Caron

At Great Clips, we know that being a “good” boss is just as important as being a “good” employee. It’s why we put so much emphasis on helping our franchisees learn the best practices of being a franchise owner of a manager-run business. In our business category of walk-in hair care salons, so much is dependent on how the customer feels when they come in for a haircut, and if it’s not a well-led business, well, the customer can usually tell.

A boss, in my mind, is someone you obey because you have to; a leader is someone you want to follow. I got to thinking about this after reading Jone Bosworth’s e-zine article, Very Bad Bosses (and What They Can Teach Us About Leadership).

Bosworth, a former public sector executive, is now a leadership development consultant. She has a particular interest in helping women develop their capability to influence others.

I like the fact that Bosworth realizes that some current definitions of good leaders are nearly impossible for one person to fulfill.

“Can you inspire and hold accountable? How to balance production with seeing people holistically? When does authenticity blur into sharing too much? What happens when you don’t get enough time with employees for them to see you as a person too? If leadership isn’t about popularity but is about influence, what’s the line between the two? Does leadership mean you have to be perfect?”

We do have, at Great Clips, a strong culture that encourages and supports leadership at all levels—franchisees, general managers, managers and stylists. We don’t live by, as Jone calls it, “The Very Bad Bosses (VBB) Playbook.”

In fact, I’m confident that the process we follow during Recruitment and Qualification of prospective franchisees allows us to learn enough about a candidate that we’d be able to see what their leadership style is—and to identify any red flags. But, it’s certainly worthwhile to learn about the characteristics of VBBs, if only to reflect on our own experiences with one (or more) bad bosses in our lifetimes.

Here some of Bosworth’s observations about VBBs:

VVBs buy you donuts, not developmental opportunities. They don’t help you grow.

We take personal and professional growth very seriously at Great Clips, for franchisees, managers and stylists. A good leader is always learning and gives that opportunity to employees, too. That’s why so many salon managers come from the ranks of stylists.

VBBs need hearing-aids; they listen poorly

One of the key factors in employee engagement is whether or not the employee feels heard. We know that one reason Great Clips is so successful is that we stress the need to listen to customers, and make a personal connection. That’s equally important to remember when managing salon employees. 

VBBs are ego-tethered. They take credit for success and finger-point for failures.

It is important to give credit, and when offering criticism, to do it in the context of what was done correctly and how whatever mistake may have been made could have been done differently. Everyone, or almost everyone, has tender places in their psyches. Harsh criticism that damages self-confidence  probably won’t make an employee more effective the next time.

VBBs seem to be playing a game of Clue. They withhold what their priorities are and what success looks like.

Can you imagine how bad it would be if you didn’t know what your boss wanted you to do? Chances are, that lack of information and good judgment would only trickle down to the customer. We encourage our franchisees to set high expectations and to make sure their managers know exactly what those are. I really believe that knowing where you’re going makes it so much easier to get there.

Have you ever had a VBB? What did you learn from him or her?

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