My boss is the worst

Aug 07, 2022

Tom Godin

People don’t leave companies, they leave managers – so make sure your managers have the skills they need to succeed.

You know who’s the worst? My boss. Ugh. Clueless about people. They [insert long list of flaws here], and they do it all the time. I enjoy what I do. I like my colleagues. I can’t take the BS for much longer, though.

“People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.”

This was a central message of the 1999 title First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. The authors worked for Gallup and they based the book on a massive Gallup survey on the topic of management. I recommend the book without reservation.

Of course, people leave companies, and professions, through no fault of anyone. But they also leave companies – often it turns out – because of their relationship with a front-line manager or supervisor.

The book’s second core message is that different jobs require different “talents.” “Talent” is “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.” An example that has stuck with me for decades was in nursing. Patients graded nurses with greater empathy as better compared to those with less of it. Think of two nurses, both equally skilled in giving shots. One nurse tells the patient “this won’t hurt a bit.” The other: “this will pinch a little for three seconds.” Empathy separated the great nurses from the others.

We talk a lot in AEC about architects, engineers, and other technical professionals who are excellent at the craft but struggle after promotion to a management position. They struggle in part because they are still learning the skills required to move projects from start to finish. This includes – of course – the skills needed to lead and manage people.

“Our managers would be better if they had some training.”

Well, that’s true. Many people and project management skills can be taught. Zweig Group offers courses that move people along in that direction. I recommend those without reservation too.

But the training won’t land as well if the person isn’t right for it. Hire for talent. Then develop the skills. This applies to management and supervisory roles too.

In an ideal world, you’re selecting employees for those roles because they’ve indicated interest in doing the job and they have demonstrated the “talents” it requires. For a people manager, has the person already motivated and coached others to improve? Held someone accountable? Created an atmosphere of trust with colleagues? Look for the talent. And then help them develop and hone the skills.

For the record, my boss is not clueless nor is he the worst. I’m hoping that he reads this to the end. If I remain reachable at the email address below, you’ll know he did. Please check in with me, both out of concern and if I can help you with anything.

Tom Godin is a strategic planning advisor at Zweig Group. Contact him at

2022 ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala Registration is open for the annual in-person conference in Las Vegas, September 14-16. The 2022 winners of the Hot Firm list, Best Firms To Work For, Marketing Excellence, Excellence in Client Experience, Rising Stars, Top New Ventures, and the Jerry Allen Courage In Leadership Awards will be celebrated at the iconic black-tie awards gala. Register now for the AEC industry’s top learning and networking event of the year!

Click here to read this week's issue of The Zweig Letter!

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.