You can be tough without being a jerk

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I will agree that there is way too much “shiny happy
people holding hands” management advice out there. If you’re the boss, you’re
responsible for your team’s performance, so you need to be tough. What I don’t
agree with is the “jerk-like” behavior that some writers seem to think means
that you’re tough.

Over at Forbes, for example, there’s a post titled “Peacetime CEO/Wartime CEO” by Ben Horowitz. It’s the kind of
post people who haven’t been to war write to establish the fact that they’re
tough, too. Here’s some of the Horowitz’ advice.

“Peacetime CEO strives not to use profanity. Wartime CEO sometimes uses
profanity exclusively.” And

“Peacetime CEO does not raise her voice. Wartime CEO rarely speaks in a
normal tone.”

Meanwhile, at HR Morning, there’s a review of a book with the pugnacious
title Bare Knuckle People Management. I haven’t read the book, only the review which is titled “Finally! Some real-world management advice.” This one includes
advice like “Team-wide rules s*ck” and “Own your own sh*t.” Spare me!

You have to be tough, but not anything like that. You can safely forego the
cursing and shouting. You don’t have to stomp around the office either. Being a
tough boss means taking away people’s excuses for substandard behavior and

Make your expectations clear and check to see that they’re understood. Make
them reasonable for your team member’s capabilities. Make them possible by
assuring that the resources are available to get the job done.

Then hold your people accountable for their performance and their behavior.
Deliver consequences that match up to what they’ve done.

Boss’s Bottom Line

Being a tough boss means being clear about what you expect, taking away all
excuses for sub-standard performance, and holding team members accountable for

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