Hey Boss, You’re Driving Me Crazy! Fives Ways You’re Getting On My Last Nerve

Congratulations, you’ve finally done it!  You’ve worked  your way to the top – or at least one more rung up the ladder.  You are officially Bosslady -or- Bossman.  You’ve got the new business cards & computer case to prove it (they’re both super cute, btw). New office, new desk, a new title and most importantly new responsibility to GSD or Get Shit Done.


Part of climbing the proverbial ladder is learning how to effectively manage down or ostensibly, how to become a leader, not a boss.  As you grow in career(s), gaining a greater understanding of how to take care of those under you – (you know, the ones holding steady the ladder you are scaling), is perhaps one of the most important parts of your growth.


True leadership isn’t easy but it’s essential.  Good leadership can turn a dysfunctional production family always at war and always flying by the seat of their pants into a cohesive unit ready to take on even the most complicated project.


Here are a few common mistakes made by newbie and seasoned leaders that are relatively easy to avoid.


Sharing information with employees makes them feel invested. - Glen Mazzara, the dude who showran The Walking Dead


Hoarding the Vision:

First, you have to make sure you have a vision. In the heat of production, it’s usually creating and installing a team that actively supports the crew, rolling with all of the punches along the way. If you are an administrator, maybe it’s creating an smooth-running office that allows all parties to work efficiently and effectively, minimizing the daily roadblocks of office life.  If you are a creative worker, maybe it’s inspiring flexibility and creativity in the office. Whatever it is, think about your vision. Then SHARE IT!

It is the absolute worst when your boss or teammages bark orders at you without giving you a sense of the background, goals, and deliverables of your tasks.  Unless you are a super secret spy agent or in the special forces, your employees should not be confined to a need-to-know environment.  When you share your vision your employees can use their individual strengths and unique skills to add to the outcome of your final project.


First, get yourself a vision. Then share it.

For example, I was once the production manager on a show that contained a lot of canned storylines, celebrities, and last minute changes.  One producer was a nightmare and a classic vision hoarder.  While setting up the logistics for shoots, I’d ask what the scene was about and without fail she’d say, “You don’t need to know”.  Why would you not want your counterpart in logistics to understand the full scope of your scene and vision? On this very show, I saved the asses of other producers just by knowing their vision by anticipating a need they hadn’t thought of or clearing a roadblock they didn’t know existed.  I would find out later that this producer was worried I was after her job; so she hid vital information from me and my team in an effort to retain a sense of control over her own insecurities.  Luckily, the showrunners and other producers understood what was going on.

The bottom line is you need to have a vision and you need to empower your team to help you realize it. A true leader should inspire their team to accomplish things they didn’t know they could.


What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate:


We all love a good ensemble show.  We love to see teams clicking and GSD. Whether its Toby and Josh struggling through a political nightmare in The West Wing or Tom Cruise leading a team of fighter pilots in Top Gun, we all love feeling like we too could be a part of a cohesive force for awesomeness.  Well, Bosslady, now it’s your job to make that happen.

Communication is vital, mmkay?

It’s not just about communicating the overall vision. In accepting your newfound bossdom, you also need to accept that it is up to you and you alone to establish a proper communication style for your team.  And it starts with how you communicate tasks to your individual teammates.  Your underlings can’t your mind. The more you tell them, constructively, what shines and what doesn’t about their work the more likely you are to find your right hand men and women.  Give your team a chance to get to know you and what makes you click; soon enough you’ll find that they are one, five or even 100 steps ahead of you.  The more feedback you give, without being over controlling, the more likely you are to find the Sid to your Nancy.


Respect My Time:


We all get it.  You’re getting emails 24/7.  The higher up the ladder you go, the more vital information you’re getting looped on – no matter what time of day it is. It’s stressful and, especially for the more mundane tasks, you can’t wait to scrape things off your plate. But before you forward these emails to your minions at 11pm or 6am, think about what type of work-life balance you are creating.  It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your team in the loop.  It just means that you should always ask yourself whether that information

Emails! Everyday! All the time!

would be better shared in the morning, over coffee?  Would overall department cohesiveness be better served if you discussed the night’s happenings at a morning meeting when you are all together and focused, as opposed to your team reading emails in a hurry as they get their kids off to school or their fling out of their house.


It all depends on your team, however. You might have a right hand person who flourishes just being in-the-know.  Perhaps they like just getting forwards so that they feel like they are existing in your world and have time to think of ways to alleviate some of your headaches.  It all comes down to you taking the time to both identify the type of work environment you enjoy and the type the best benefits your individual teammates. I’ve managed and been managed both ways successfully.


Unrealistic Expectations:


Okay.  Look bossperson, I totally understand that you are super important and don’t have time for the pile of shit work that you just plopped on my plate. No problemo. That’s literally what you pay me for. But remember, I can only focus on so many “Must Do’s” at once.  In the US, it is a badge of honor to be constantly busy and frazzled.  Sidenote: It is NOT like this in much of the world,  developed and undeveloped alike.


Before you slap another shrimp on my barbie, ask me about my workload.  Talk to me about

YOUR priorities.  Help me help YOU.  You may find that I am struggling on a problem that has little significance to your goals while

ignoring a task that is of vital importance. Perhaps your priorities have shifted and in the mix of it all, I fell out of the loop.  Regardless, as a leader and a boss, it is your responsibility to have a solid grasp on the commitments of your teammates.  That doesn’t mean I want you breathing down my neck, it means I need to you have an idea of what’s going on in

my work world so you can direct me where to put my energies. Set me up to shine and I will have your back for life!

“Use me... Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.


Don’t Underutilize Me


Every single employee you have is different.  We all come from different backgrounds and have varying interests outside of the office.  Take a few moments to find out what makes me tick.  Where do I see myself in five years?  What hobbies am I just dying to talk your ear off about? Perhaps hidden in one of my idiosyncrasies, I have a superpower to offer our team. Let me engage my passions, when appropriate, in the workplace and soon enough I will feel comfortable enough to bring my whole A-game to the table.


Non-union reality television producing is ripe with opportunity for these types of employee engagement.  I once worked a huge show where we were filming basically 24/7 reality and BTS, even though this style of shooting was unnecessary not in the original plan for the production.  We were in need of more AC’s without the budget to do so. Luckily, I knew my team well.  One of my PA’s very much wanted to be a camera person, but just hadn’t broken in yet.  BOOM Camera PA.  All on that same show he got his first official AC credit and made great connections. On days where he was not needed in the camera world, he would work for me as a PA – with an extra pep in his step. With PA’s especially, use them wisely. If you have a great artist, put them in charge of making the office signs.  If you have a kid who loves to cook or back, BOOM give them some leeway with crafty.


While the reality TV world is the most obvious place to put this suggestion into action, it’s relevant to all businesses.  One of my best friends is the Office Manager for a huge marketing company.  She’s uber creative and asked her bosses if she could head up an employee program called, ___.  Once a week, an employee gets 1.5  hours to share their outside hobbies with their workmates.  They’ve had craft beer making, ice-cream making, etc etc.  Employees have even gotten side work from their show-and-tells. But the most powerful outcome of this exercise is the employees now feel more connected to their employer and its brand.  They have brought a portion of their home that brings them joy into their work environment to bring joy to other teammates.  Let people use their passions and they will, in turn, become passionate about the team and the company. This is not just important for overall job satisfaction but for productivity and turnover as well. This same best friend is also passionate about coffee, so she began a local-sourced coffee and beer bar for her company.  She was already in charge of making sure the kitchen was stocked, so it only took a few extra phone calls and conversations. Boom! She had something completely unique which not only promoted local businesses, but made her officemates feel appreciated.


Studies show that employees who are passionate about their company …..

President Bartlett in the West Wing – world’s best leader! Bartlett for Prez 2020, y’all!


At the end of the day, being a great boss is about striving to be a good leader.  Motivate your team. Support your team. Listen to your team.  As The West Wing ‘s President Bartlett would say “You have help.  Listen to everyone. And then you call the play.”


TL;DR: If you follow the pathology of what drives me crazy about working for you, you’ll see it all comes down to communication and empathy.  If you want to succeed in being an inspiring leader instead of an ornery boss, if you want your team to be a cohesive unit that functions as one organism instead of a disjointed machine with too many cogs for its wheel, you need to have a vision, communicate that vision, and have a solid understanding of the work lives your underlings are living. Only then can you adjust your tasks and priorities to meet your overall goals – that, and you’ll feel and function better when even your employees enjoy coming into work on Monday.


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