Coaching Vs. Counseling for the Introverted

A life coaching client said to me regarding his experience with prior counseling, “I do a lot of talking but don’t feel it changes anything. I’m an internal processor, not an external one. I like to think and pray on it.” When he shared this thought, I saw some past correlations in my practice with other clients.

Reflecting on clients I’ve come to know well and understand as introverts have also commented, “I’ve been to counseling for years, and never made the progress that I’ve had in a few coaching sessions with you?” When I asked one why he thought that, his response: “We have a dialogue, you give me different perspectives and tools, then I can go off, think about it, and have work to do. I like having goals because it helps me see the progress I’m making. I didn’t get any of that in counseling. I basically answered questions and wasn’t even sure what I said was true at the time. I needed more time to think about it.”

Why Coaching May Be More Effective Than Counseling

Coaching is different than counseling, and I believe for people who identify with introversion, coaching can be more impactful process, because it enables the client to do most of the work outside of the session and at their pace. Coaching is future focused toward change and allows the client to process thoughts and feelings in the environment that serves them best. There’s plenty of work to be done outside the session, but during it, the coach provides perspectives, insights, and tools, as well as serves as a brainstorming partner.

Counseling, on the other hand, demands to know your thoughts and feelings right there to questions asked by the counselor such as (1) what do you think of… or (2) how do you feel about…  As one introverted coaching client told me, “I would get asked questions and feel like I needed to respond. I wasn’t in touch with my feelings and wanted to go off and think about it. I wished my counselor would’ve just sent me a list of questions that I mull over before showing up. I would’ve felt better prepared and that I got my money’s worth.” Additionally, my clients who’ve shared their experiences with counseling said they got insights into their feelings, but then was left with the unanswered question of “what do I do next”.

Many counselors never see or interact with their clients between sessions. Coaches usually make themselves available in multiple capacities in between. Counseling has its place and benefits but don’t discounted that life coaching can be more impactful, especially for clients who prefer introverted processing.

There’s an expression that rings true: not everyone needs a counselor, but everyone can benefit from a coach. And this may be especially true for those who self-identify as introverted.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

The Power of the Growth Mindset and Risk of Holding onto the Fixed

People talk about wanting more knowledge, additional talents, and greater personal strengths. They may also talk about working on their character, understanding their core values, and identifying their personality preferences. I bet rarely will you hear people express a desire to expand their “growth mindset”. You may wonder (1) what is a mindset and (2) why is it important to understand it. Because mindset can predict behavior and future results.

Have you ever been in a situation and asked yourself (1) how can he think that way or (2) why did she do that? No one intentionally chooses an illogical action or makes an illogical decision. Although there may be an untold number of factors, one contributing explanation could be a difference in mindset between you and the other person.

Your mindset is a reflection of your belief system. Think of mindset on a continuum, anchored on one end by “growth” and “fixed” on the other. Are there different areas of your life where you have a different mindset approach? Answer the questions below and self-assess where on the continuum you may fall today. 

The Growth Mindset

  • I’m not discouraged by failure. In fact, identifying with failure isn’t difficult for me, because I think of it as learning.
  • I have a passion for stretching myself and sticking with it even when things aren’t going well.
  • I routinely take inventory of my strengths and weaknesses and aren’t afraid to acknowledge them to others.
  • When I reflect on my setbacks, I turn them into future successes through perseverance and resilience.
  • I get excited to see how I improve when I continue to press forward.
  • I surround myself with people who are smarter than me, so I can learn from them.
  • I love to be challenged and learn new things.
  • I like hard problems.
  • I readily admit when I’ve made a mistake.
  • My failures don’t’ define me. I can always change if I choose to.
  • I feel comfortable sharing my honest opinions, even when it’s not popular or part of the group think.
  • I can easily forgive people.
  • I prefer to be acknowledged for my commitment and effort rather than my results.
  • I welcome coaching, because I want to improve.

The Fixed Mindset

  • I look for opportunities to confirm my level of intelligence, character, and talents.
  • I’m concerned whether people consider me successful.
  • I strive to be accepted.
  • I sometimes avoid situations where I believe I will fail and be judged.
  • I believe talent is something people are born with. Practice can only improve talent so much.
  • My intelligence is something that I can’t change much.
  • I find it difficult to admit mistakes.
  • I look for ways and people to validate me.
  • I make safe choices where I have a reasonable opportunity to succeed.
  • In situation I can influence, I’m usually the smartest one in the room.
  • I like easy problems.
  • I typically transform failure (I failed) into an identity (I’m a failure).
  • It makes me feel better to hang out with people who are worse off than me.
  • I blame my failures on other people or situations, rarely taking responsibility for my failures.
  • I believe if you are talented or smart it should come naturally and take little effort.
  • Effort is required for those people who don’t have talent.
  • I don’t usually seek feedback.
  • I feel uneasy or uncomfortable with people give me feedback.
  • I do things for the sake of receiving praise.
  • I find myself judging people.
  • I don’t see the benefit of a coach.

“The worst fear of the fixed mindset person is to try and still fail without the ability to make excuses or blame others.”

Growth Mindset Benefits

What are the benefits of the growth mindset in companies? Studies show that employees have much higher trust in their company and leaders, and have a greater sense of empowerment, ownership, and commitment when led my leaders with a growth mindset.

In business, fixed mindset leaders can damage company performance. At the extreme, these leaders become so concerned with their reputation for personal greatness, they may set the company up for failure after they leave. What greater testament to their greatness than for the company to fall apart after they resign. They don’t want great teams; they want to be the smarter person in the room. The fixed mindset leaders have a strong need to prove their superiority and fail to develop and empower employees.

The fixed mindset leader causes a cascade effect. They become controlling and everyone starts worrying about being judged. Their direct reports stop learning, taking risks, and wait for the orders to come down from above. And then they wonder, “Where’s the talent?”

You Choose Your Mindset

The study of mindset provides thought-provoking insights into the impact on relationships, business, and life success. The good news is that you may now have a fixed mindset, but it doesn’t have to stay fixed. You can choose to move toward a growth mindset, and the mindset you choose will profoundly affect the way you lead your life.

If you’d like to learn more about mindset, check out Dr. Carol Dweck’s Mindset: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfill Your Potential. And if you’d like to do a deep dive, we can schedule a coaching session.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

What You Want from Your Leaders

You spoke. My informal LinkedIn poll asked: in your opinion, what behavior undermines a leader’s influence the most? I had colleagues betting on which of the four answers would rise to the top. A few said they couldn’t choose, because they were all important. No doubt.

Where does your choice align with the following results?

  • Micro-managing your work: 27%
  • Under-appreciating your value: 23%
  • Not providing clear direction: 21%
  • Failing to meet commitments: 29%

Although these are only a handful of leadership behaviors, what conclusions might be gleaned from the limited data.

  • With the highest percentage of votes for “failing to meet commitments”, what is this behavior really measuring? I’d propose it undermines the foundation of trust in any relationship. The resulting mindset: if I can’t count on you to do what you said you’d do, I can’t trust you.
  • “Micro-managing your work” received the second highest number of votes. Again, what does this behavior imply about the leader’s relational influence? I’d suggest that direct reports would infer that their leader didn’t trust them to deliver the quality of work and/or meet important deadlines.

As a leader, when was the last time you evaluated and then developed a plan to expand the trust factor with your direct reports, your teams, and even your family members? Trust is the foundation of every relationship in your life. Without trust, anything you build on its shaky foundation has a high risk of toppling. If you value leadership, you’ll spend some time exploring the value of trust in what you do, what you say, and how you lead.


About the Author:Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

How to Succeed with People without Trying Too Much

A Leader’s Perspective

Intrigued? Sound a bit counter-intuitive? Because we want to be liked or successful, sometimes we just try too hard with people. And trying usually shows up in selling oneself, which is the opposite of how to succeed with people. There’s a better approach to connect with people and achieve more success in leading them.

Most people focus on making a good first impression, and yes, first impressions pertaining to appearance, body language, and facial expressions are important. However, first impressions extend into those first few words spoken. If you’re like many, when you initially meet someone, especially someone important, you might start talking about yourself, a project, or chat about the safe topics like the weather. Instead, focus on the other person. Be a study of other people and help them FEEL accepted and valued: understood, needed, and affirmed for who they are. When you turn the focus on others, and genuinely engage to talk about themselves, you win a friend, ally, or colleague.

You may not feel skilled at this point in making people the center of attention. I wouldn’t expect you to be if you haven’t practiced it. I only wish these relationship skills were taught in high school or college. If so, we’d all be more prepared when we stepped into the real world. At first, you will likely have to be intentional in how you connect, but don’t worry, with practice, it will become second nature.

Some concepts you need to keep in mind:

  1. People can spot fake. Understand who you are, and if you’re not happy with how you show up, develop and take action in changing your attitudes and behaviors. Always operate within your authentic self.
  2. Build trust across all your relationships. Trust is both the foundation and mortar in every relationship. Trust starts with you, and if it’s an area you’d like to learn how to deepen it, reach out for a conversation. It’s an essential element worth exploring if you need help.
  3. Engage people beyond the surface conversation. People love to talk about themselves, so ask lots of good open-ended questions that stimulate thought, make people laugh, or put people more at ease.
  4. Ask people for advice. People love to be asked what they think and believe as long as they know their response will land on non-judgmental ears.
  5. Find common ground. What do you share in common? You might be interested what you learn when you ask meaningful open-ended questions.
  6. Identify people’s strengths, then find opportunities to leverage those strengths as well as promote them.  

Overall, people are complex, because they are a mixture of core values, personality preference, motivations, and external pressures. However, as human beings we all share the deep desire to FEEL loved and accepted for who we are despite being a work in progress. We acknowledge that not everyone has to like us, but we want to FEEL valued.

When you interact with others, how do you make them FEEL? If you’re a leader, inspiring people is less about logic and more about how you make people FEEL. If you’d like to explore specific situations or relationships, or need a tune-up, schedule a coaching session. I can help.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

The 4R’s to B2B Selling Success in the Virtual World

How difficult are you finding it to connect with new clients in this business environment that continues to go more viral? If your job focus is new business development, landing new clients has become more challenging. In the 3-R Strategy for B2B Success, the new selling world requires a story that answers one or more of the key selling drivers of RISK, REGULATION, or RETURN. The 3-R strategy brings a technical solution with your product or service. Many would have you believe that relationship doesn’t matter as much as it once did. I’m not sold on that conclusion.

At its most fundamental level, sales is one person saying “yes” to another, unless of course we are talking about an online auction facilitated exclusively by a software program. The human factor hasn’t yet been eliminated from the selling equation. Therefore, selling success in the new virtual B2B world is still focused on leveraging the 3-R strategy on top of the fourth R, otherwise, known as RELATIONSHIP.

How Relationship Building Should Pivot

Gone or minimized is the in-person, face-to-face relationship building meeting, replaced by the virtual call. [Note: If you’re still showing your clients a dark screen during Zoom, turn on your camera.] Building trust, demonstrating competence, and growing likeability on-line requires a more knowledgeable and intentional strategy.

I know this firsthand, because I’m an independent professional coach and consultant. Having already developed an in-person relationship before COVID, it’s easy to continue the relationship virtually. However, it becomes more challenging to make new connections and establish new clients.

Virtual selling requires different or exaggerated techniques. The most effective relationship builders have a strong command of people skills and interpersonal intelligence. They know that communication comprises 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, and 7% words. Unfortunately, virtual meetings significantly cut peripheral vision, so that both parties can miss key body language signals, and depending on visual screen quality, critical feedback on facial expressions may be overlooked. Today, salespeople no longer have the handshake in their toolkit that helps convey likeability and confidence.

Virtual Selling Strategies

Below are a few of the new or expand skills that the best salespeople deploy in virtual selling: 

  • First impressions are made within the first few seconds. We decide whether we believe, like, and trust someone before ever having heard their voice. Whether conscious or not, we are intentionally trying to assess and decide whether you are friend/foe, winner/loser, ally/enemy in the most primitive of terms. The best salespeople show and use their hands in virtual calls take up as much of the screen without appearing be under the microscope, sit erect and keep shoulders back, and look straight into the camera at eye level.
  • The most effective salespeople avoid the small talk and focus on stimulating conversations starters. Why? Because it increases the dopamine and pleasure centers of the brain. The best salespeople ask questions that allow clients to share about themselves. Fresh questions might involve some homework to find some interesting topic to open the conversation. A powerful conversation starter might be, “I saw on LinkedIn that you’re involved with Habitat for Humanity. How did you get in involved with that organization?” or “Your company appears to be a disruptor in the industry. I admire what they’re doing? How did you come to work for them?”

These are just two selling strategy examples that help build a relational foundation to do business in these virtual times. If you’d like to explore some of the other powerful relationship building strategies over video conferencing techniques, reach out to schedule your coaching session.


About the Author:Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

The 3-R Strategy for B2B Selling

The new virtual work world is forcing a pivot in selling strategy. In the past, most salespeople focused on building a relationship first with the expectation of a product sale later. Unfortunately, the days of private, face-to-face, distraction-free conversations in the privacy of a client’s office are minimized or even over for some. If you can still get your foot in the door and build a relationship first, go for it! However, don’t be surprised if you need to use some of the 3-R strategy to build your sales portfolio.

Today, you’ll likely be growing the relationship in parallel with another selling strategy. What’s this new selling strategy? A focused conversation around the 3 R’s: RISK, REGULATION, and RETURN. Salespeople shouldn’t focus on selling product but instead solving problems around risk and regulations and finding those opportunities for a meaningful return on investment. Why the important distinction? When you focus on the product, you may not truly understand its value. Value is variable and contextual.

The selling environment is changing with studies showing that buyers are doing more research on their own before approaching a seller. They are not relying on the seller’s expertise like they might have done in the past. Many of today’s buyers are driving the buy-sell process to a simple impersonal transaction. However, it’s still important to know your audience. There are still buyers who consider the relationship as a factor in their decision-making. A one-size approach does not fit all.

Regardless of how much your client values the buyer-sell relationship, a “coaching” seller can’t go wrong if he or she:

(1) has a working knowledge of the buyer’s industry to understand regulations, trends, and talk the lingo,

(2) asks open-ended questions that bring the buyer to a higher level of thinking about an issue impacting the buyer’s business,

(3) listens and learns of the buyers’ pain points, thoughts, and ideas,

(4) discusses and recommends solutions that drive on the 3 Rs.

The best sellers help buyers see problems they weren’t aware of or from a different perspective as well as highlight opportunities to save money, reduce risk, and meet regulation. If you’d like to explore specific sales situations, brainstorm selling approaches, and perhaps develop an inventory of powerful questions that can make a difference in your pivot sales strategy, reach out to schedule your private coaching session.


About the Author:Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

The 4Ps of Success: Purpose, Passion, Pursuit and Persistence

People often ask, “Is there a formula an entrepreneur follows that helps assure success?” An established company may focus on the 4Ps of product, place, price, and promotion; however, in my experience the 4Ps that a self-made person drives on are purpose, passion, pursuit, and persistence.

Becoming an entrepreneur who plans on making a living as a self-employed entity truly needs a business plan. This plan goes far beyond the requirements that might be asked by a venture capitalist investor. Speaking as an entrepreneur, starting a business is rough and not for the faint of heart. As the old saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That’s the mantra of the successful entrepreneur.

What does that really mean in today’s business terms? Although I haven’t studied the statistics in the coaching profession, I imagine they would be similar to real estate. My realtor friends say that 90% of licensed agents quit, because the walk is too long before seeing any sustainable income. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation on the 4Ps.


Purpose: I was called into this profession while still working in Corporate America in the chemical industry. I had a deep desire to apply my skills, knowledge, and competencies to help other people be successful in their lives. This was truly a calling. I had a deep sense of purpose.

Passion: This purpose was fueled by my passion. What’s my fuel? Feedback from my clients describing how I had a hand in changing their lives for the better. Their words are the premium unleaded that fills my tank after driving on fumes. After nearly 40 decades of work, there’s nothing more rewarding than knowing you changed a life.

Pursuit: People may not know what I do, the value I bring, or that they even need my services. Days of frustration naturally come with the territory. Clients don’t line up at the front door after hanging up the “open for business” shingle. An entrepreneur must be a go-getter and connector. The law of pursuit is critical to success, just like it’s critical in all relationships.

Persistence: I know some entrepreneurs who have purpose, passion, and pursuit, and yet, don’t have the staying power for the long-haul. Although there’s always exceptions to the rule, many entrepreneurs underestimate the time and effort it takes to achieve critical business thresholds. Studies show that people don’t accurately estimate schedule or fully absorbed cost. I believe people don’t identify all risk factors, calculate and apply probabilities, and/or know how best to mitigate risk. Hence, one of the best tools of the entrepreneur is persistence and resilience.


The 4Ps are fundamental not just in business but in life as well. These 4Ps apply to my life coaching clients who are identifying purpose with passion and receiving coaching accountability for pursuit and persistence. Of the four 4Ps, which ones are missing or shining dimly in your life? Which ones need more attention to propel you forward? If you’d like some help mapping out your 4Ps in life, reach out for a conversation.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Virtual Leadership: Remote Working Best Practices

The new virtual work world has created new work rules, which in turn should cause virtual leaders to pivot. The days of having a private, face-to-face, distraction-free conversation in the privacy of a manager’s office are minimized or even over for some. Now many leaders see their people through a computer screen, and only if the camera is on. You could say virtual leaders have lost their peripheral vision.

What does that mean for a leader? It means that a virtual leader can’t see what’s going on in the shadows. Virtual work calls for the leader to shine a spotlight in more dark spaces. Yes, there’s plenty going on in the shadows of the people you may be talking with on Zoom that’s affecting their mindset, attention, focus, and engagement.

Virtual leaders, whether of their staff or teams, need to adopt new leadership skills, because the demands and pulls on people look different than when they worked in the office. People are more stressed out, burned out, pulled away, and working in ad-hoc home offices. Before virtual work, employees were already complaining about death-by-meeting. Just when they thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. Many say they’d trade a virtual meeting for an office meeting any day.

Virtual leaders have a greater responsibility than ever before to run productive and meaningful meetings as well as lead people through the distractions. Below are some of the best practices of the best virtual leaders.

  1. Check in on people through a call, email, text, or card, having nothing to do with work. This helps to compensate for the hallway and water cooler talk where people connected beyond the scope of work.
  2. Call a virtual meeting, only when it’s the best choice of communication, feedback, dissemination of information, or problem solving. Our work culture has gotten lazy in thinking through how to best communicate, and they readily adopt a “let’s call a meeting and get everyone together”.
  3. Clearly state up front the meeting objectives and the decisions that need to be made before adjourning.
  4. Invite only those who contribute in some way to the meeting’s objective. Others who need to know the decision can be informed later by other means.
  5. Distribute a meeting agenda beforehand, so all attendees can prepare and focus on the objectives when they sign on.
  6. Ask attendees if there are any issues or distractions that may come up during the virtual meeting. If so, give them permission to leave the meeting at their discretion. This shines the spotlight in the dark places that distract attendees and shows empathy and support as a leader.
  7. Give attendees permission to drop visually, if connectivity bandwidth becomes faulty.
  8. Manage the meeting to the designated schedule.
  9. Invite people to engage in the conversation. People are more apt to speak up in a face-to-face meeting and tend to be more reserved in virtual settings. Ask specific people what they think.
  10. Ask how the meeting could have been improved before adjourning. The best question: “What could we have done more or less of to make it a more effective meeting?”

Many of these virtual leader best practices are powerful even outside of the remote work environment. However, the new normal requires leaders to show more empathy and respect for people’s distractions and time. The best remote leaders also ask their employees what they need more or less of to be successful in their jobs and working in their home environments.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Your Core Values: How They Show Up at Work

Our core values, whether we realize it or not, drive how we feel, what we think, and more importantly what we do. If companies operate by a standard set of values, stated or not, how do your core values align with your employer’s? Where do they complement, co-exist, or rub each other the wrong way?

Most people haven’t intentionally thought of identifying and unpacking their core values. However, when they do take the time, my clients have light bulb moments: “Ah-ha, that explains it.” The opportunity to express core values is a significant contributor toward your feelings of fulfillment and ultimate success at work, and on the flipside, the suppression of your core values can produce feelings of dread when you think about another day of work.  

We all have triggers that let us know something’s not right. Perhaps mine are like yours. When I can jump out of bed early on weekend mornings but need 3 or 4 hits of the snooze bar during the work week, that’s my signal I need a core value check and possible adjustment.

Wearing my hat as a life coach, clients ask me for help in changing careers. Our first step is to separate work from the company. For instance, one of my clients wanted to get out of sales, because it was too frustrating. After we unpacked his current situation, he concluded that he loved sales, building relationships, and the thrill of the hunt. What he also realized was how his employer tied his hands, dictated his process, and his current boss knew only how to supervise account managers but had no skill in leading business development.   

Once my client clearly understood that three of his top five core values were leadership, creativity, and independence, he agreed that sales/business development was the right career for him. He just needed to find a company whose values aligned with his, so he could perform at his best. Instead of switching careers, he switched companies by learning how to interview for the right company culture and boss for a win-win.

If you don’t know what your top core values are and how to unpack them in a meaningful way for future decision-making, reach out for a coaching conversation.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Everyone Should Work for a Bad Boss … at Least Once

heather-ford-6fiz86Ql3UA-unsplashYou’ve likely heard the statement that employees don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses. Despite how troubling this can be for those playing the character in a story ruled by a “bad boss”, I also subscribe to the theory that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You can become the hero of your own work story.

Bad Boss Benefits

Since working for a bad boss isn’t life threatening, I believe working for one in the early stages of your career helps bring gratitude for the good bosses you’re sure to have later, and more importantly, the experience builds your muscle of resilience. Bad bosses provide an opportunity to strategize and build stamina as well as develop skills in communication and conflict resolution. They also help you get clarity on personal boundaries.

You may say, “This all sounds good in theory, but you have no idea how bad a boss can be. I work for the worst of the worst.” After I share my brief story, you be the judge. Regardless of which one of us claims the prize, you’re obviously a survivor of a bad boss. My hope is that your bad boss experience allowed you to take away some valuable insights into who you are and how to lead better.

My Bad Boss Story*

I was in a position for nearly a year, when my boss moved into another management position, leaving the opening to be backfilled by Mr. Smith*. I’d casually known Mr. Smith for several years as a colleague at the same site. He had quite the reputation as a bully, and his views of women were a bit disturbing. I felt fortunate not to report through his group, especially after hearing some of his beliefs during lunch table conversation: “Women have to work three times as hard to get the credit that a man does.” He didn’t say it as if it was an injustice, but rather that women were intellectually inferior and had to put forth more effort to produce the same results.

Fast forward into the story six months. One employee from Mr. Smith’s previous department told me people had waged bets on who was going to survive: Mr. Smith or me. And the odds were not in my favor.

Now back to the beginning of my story. Several days after the announcement, I walked into my office to find a FACT Sheet tucked neatly into the corner of my desk blotter. In case you think I might have made this up, I’ve included the original note with my bad boss’s name blacked out for privacy. The FACT Sheet was a black comedy note, more ominously black than funny. What would you think if you found this note on your desk?

FACT Sheet

….Mr. Smith’s people are more apt to gain or loose body weight in an undesirable fashion

…Work priorities change on a minute by minute basis

…Work priorities are inversely proportional to the order you accomplish goals and complete tasks

…Long term health risks include hair loss, anorexia, obesity, insomnia, paranoia, mental and physical burnout

…Mr. Smith is ALWAYS RIGHT

…If Mr. Smith is wrong, see above

…Most people have a better chance of seeing God than an easy day in the Mr. Smith’s group

Although I knew it wouldn’t be a best seller, I soon started a journal because of the deteriorating relationship with Mr. Smith. I tried forcing clarity of priorities, definition of work quality, deliverables, timing, and expectations. Nothing seemed to work. It was like trying to reason with the unreasonable.

I swore to myself I wouldn’t give up; I was cutting my teeth as a manager. I knew if I could survive Mr. Smith, I could survive any boss. At this point, I didn’t know about the big bet against my survival. If I had known, it probably would have incentivized me even more.

2020-08-30_155112I never thought to go to Human Resources. The HR staff knew of Mr. Smith’s reputation, and I didn’t want to be considered the trouble-maker. I needed to figure this out on my own. Mr. Smith’s bullying style was not so much verbal abuse as it was written beratement, accusations, and name calling through the email system. On some level, I appreciated that Mr. Smith hid behind the email system, because it made for perfect journal documentation.

Deep down inside, bullies are cowards and deeply disconnected from people. One “undisclosable” email was the straw that broke the proverbially camel’s back, and I found a voice that I didn’t know I had. My response to Mr. Smith’s email was that I wasn’t going to tolerate any more of his abusive emails, and I demanded an in-person meeting. He sheepishly agreed to meet, and I firmly told him my boundaries going forward. All disagreements were to be in-person, behind closed doors. I demanded clarity in writing from him and boundaries on my decision-making. I told him in no uncertain terms how I expected to be treated. I also asked him to write down what he expected of me—everything. He could always add more to his list later.

You could say that I gave the bully a bit of his own medicine. I would say I gave it to him firmly and respectfully. I said I was here to serve him and help make this team look good, and these were my boundaries in how I expected him to treat me. I would do anything he asked to the best of my ability as long as it was not illegal, immoral, or detrimental to the company. Guess what happened next? I never had another issue with Mr. Smith again. I was a bit worried when the next performance cycle came around. What would be on my appraisal? Answer: HIGHLY EXCEEDS.

Bad Boss Lessons

Today, reflecting back on my bad boss story, it’s more comedy than it is black. More seriously, the daily hardship in working for a bad boss was a blessing in disguise. I got to strategize, try different approaches, learn how resilient I was, and ultimately, I got clarity on what I was and wasn’t willing to tolerate in a work relationship. I consider that a win.

Now that you’ve heard my bad boss story, what’s yours? It’s not that I want to take home the trophy, but I hope in the retelling of yours that you can see the good things that came out of your experience. Perhaps you needed to report to a bad boss, because you were becoming stagnant and needed a kick in the butt to go look for another job. Maybe you were getting complacent in the quality of your work. Or just maybe you needed to get clear on your boundaries and find your voice.

Nothing excuses the behaviors of the bad boss, but bad bosses will be here until end times, and it’s only a matter of time before you work for one. Better to have the mindset that you can learn something from the unpleasant process by stepping through it.

*Some details and his name were changed to protect the identity of my bad boss.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com