How Bad Managers Prepared Me for Entrepreneurship

By: Veronica Thraen

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They say everything happens for a reason. Some people don't buy it, but I do... now.

Everything that I experienced during the course of my career was preparing me for something bigger and better. I endured many layoffs, was overlooked for promotions and, most frustrating of all, toiled under bad managers. I often wondered, "Why do these things keep happening to me?"

Don't get me wrong, I've had some wonderful managers over the past 20 years - knowledgeable, supportive, effective communicators, mentors, and leaders. But the bad managers stick out the most in my memory - the ones who have constant turnover in their departments, take credit for others' ideas, micromanage to a "t", and provide little or no direction.

Let me share how I turned these situations into a positive for me as a business owner today.

Micromanagement

There's nothing worse than feeling like your manager doesn't trust your capabilities. I had one manager who felt the need to attend my daily project status meetings when I could have easily provided an update at the end of each day. The same manager also went as far as reviewing my meeting agendas and minutes with a fine-toothed comb, pointing out that I should have used "and" instead of "but" in a sentence. Really?

But what I learned was this: perfectionism is unattainable and will hold you back in business. Allow your team to do the job that you hired them to do. How else will you be able to grow your business or your team if you are so focused on all of the minute details?

Reveling in Mistakes

I've certainly made many mistakes over the years but I never expected my manager to relish them. It felt like he wanted me to fail so that he could share it with everyone. I became terrified of making more mistakes because I didn't want or need the ridicule.

Just as I discovered with micromanagers, no one is perfect and making mistakes is a great way to learn. I continue to learn something new every single day and I really enjoy it!

Criticism

While overly critical managers were the most daunting, I also became more determined to succeed. I've had managers raise their voice and criticize me in front of others on a regular basis. I was also once told that I was "too nice" to move into an executive role. Criticizing, belittling or bullying - whatever you want to call it - it is unprofessional, inappropriate and does not motivate a team.

I learned that I'm never going to make everyone happy, not everyone is going to agree with my opinions and I am not going to be the best fit for every job, environment or project. It doesn't mean that I'm incapable of doing the job that I love.

No Direction or Guidance

Having an absent or disengaged manager--one who provides little or no direction or guidance--can be a recipe for disaster. Even though some employees do require more direction than others, everyone requires clear expectations up front- the team cannot read minds!

Not having proper direction and guidance in the beginning of my career pushed me to find the answers on my own - to come up with creative ways of getting a job or project done. I was able to help teams become more efficient and productive with the use of process, forms and templates - all without any training or knowledge of project management methodology.

So, what did I take away from all of this? Never allow someone to affect you in a negative way and stop you from accomplishing your career goals. Keep going!

I want to thank those managers that told me that I was "too nice" to move up the ranks, micromanaged me to the nth degree, reveled in my mistakes, deterred me from creativity and criticized me in front of others. You have made me stronger and more determined than ever to persevere!

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Veronica Thraen is the Owner and Principal Consultant at Maven Project Management, a technology project management consulting firm in Phoenix, Arizona that helps growing organizations put processes and tools in place to keep projects on track for long-term growth and success.

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