How Bad Bosses Could Learn from Good Teachers

Surely no-one sets out to be a bad boss?

Who wants to be known as a poor manager? But managing a team and business is a tricky balance to strike.

The British school year’s started. Some teachers are making fond, lasting memories. Some are not. So, what qualities might bosses borrow from top teachers?

I remember 4 truly notable teachers:

1. The history teacher with the quick ironic wit.

This wit kept us awake for learning dull lists of dates. The razor sharp tongue and swift sarcasm amused us.  Miss D’s lines cleverly entertained whilst belittling our misdemeanours and ignorance.

In a boss we might:

  • Seek a lightheartedness at work with good humoured banter.
  • Appreciate intelligence to accompany wit, demonstrating both command and an inspiring astuteness whilst having a laugh.
  • Not want jokes unkindly at another’s expense.

2. The form tutor and geography teacher whose passion for the topic made learning appealing.

Mapping gas and energy fields and river systems in Europe seemed easy and interesting. A glance in one’s direction determined that discipline was restored in seconds, such were the clear boundaries. Apparently Mrs M had to be strict from the start with our spirited class!

We seek a superior who:

  • Sets boundaries. Like sheep, we  need herding.
  • Gives direction and routine – we’re creatures of habit (e.g. in a training room after lunch everyone reliably returns to their pre-lunch seat).
  • Has a personality that oozes passion about their specialism, inspiring action in others.
  • Doesn’t flip from stern to unstructured or from fun to miserable in a disconcerting fashion, keeping us on edge.

3. The genteel maths teacher with plenty of patience.

Not soft but oozing such humility, we didn’t want to disappoint. Even ungrateful students were offered extra tutoring outside of class.  I beat predicted grades,  finding a new favourite subject.

Translating this into management:

  • A boss who patiently lets us learn and respectfully listens is encouraging and often highly aware of what’s going on.
  • Who wants to disappoint a boss who wants more for and from the employee?
  • We don’t need a boss too busy to either make time for us or go the extra mile.

4. The geography and PE teacher whose friendly, easy-going demeanour made it easy to take advice.

Taking time to know pupils, Mr W was also fair and saw things from optimistic angles. He was a great sports team coach. Thanks to him I chose an appropriate university course.

From a boss we want:

  • A coach who unites a team by pulling together and making more of individual and collective strengths.
  • A superior who sees what we can’t, balancing wisdom and authority with interest and humanity.
  • Someone who oversees in such a way that we’re inspired to expect more from ourselves.
  • We don’t need someone who treats us as “one size fits all” robots.

Unfavourite teachers were more numerous, including being known for having favourites, being scary and shaming, doing away with discipline or being bland.

In the same vein, who wants a boss who:

  • Says inappropriate things
  • Fails to listen
  • Is mean or whose sense of humour is at someone’s expense
  • Disciplines, or has favourites, without fairness
  • Doesn’t discipline
  • Is vague, personality-free or about whom it could be said “I don’t know what he/she does”
  • Succeeds in being forgettable

From trainers we need it too.  There’s relief and thanks when we halt occasional participants’ “mucking about” – because others want to get on, do well and learn. People rely on someone setting the scene.

Be a teacher, boss or trainer, the job is facilitating learning.

Many of us go through the motions, doing a pretty good job. If school students got to feed back openly, perhaps all teachers would more likely make the grade?

But bosses can seek staff feedback. Especially when 80% of people quit jobs because of boss problems (Chandra Louise Management Research). Plus, as most of us choose our jobs, perhaps the propensity for satisfaction is higher whereas we couldn’t necessarily choose teachers, topics and schools?

We can rarely exhibit all admirable, inspirational qualities all the time. But to be a “best boss” we do need basic standards, humility, humour, passion, discipline and listening…

A great boss encourages and enables learning and performance in the way top teachers make topics tempting and possible to learn.

Other articles you may like:

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