Managing a Bad Manager (Or situation)

I received the note below, via email from one of our very cool subscribers a few weeks back:

Good morning, Mr. Buzzello;

In your years of coming up through the ranks, I imagine that you couldn’t know how you were going to get to the top, only that you were going to get there someday. I’m assuming it was no rosy path (I did read your fantastic book, Drawing Circles, and look forward to it being a movie someday). I’m also sure that you had managers and hierarchy (at times) that were poor leaders, not business savvy, and/or were directly affecting your performance and growthHow did you manage that type of leadership, and what is your best advice when placed in that position? Could you write a blog and/or give me some wisdom on your approach to this, and the outcome that resulted?—MC

Great question…and I was running out of ideas for blogs, so, thanks! LOL. Not really. I have like 10,000 more blog ideas in mind…just very little time to actually write them.

First, a note, for those of you that care…the screenplay adaptation of, Drawing Circles, is well underway. The two guys mostly writing it are very talented. It’s very weird to think that your little work of fiction could possibly become a movie!

Okay, as for this dude’s great question—his initials are “MC”. (I don’t want to out him, since his current or past hierarchy obviously sucks) I had to think hard on MC’s question. MC’s question asks me to recall and focus on things that didn’t go well in my career, like poor leadership or a bad manager, and it’s not my nature to think back or dwell on a lot of bad stuff. Oh…don’t get me wrong; I’ve had a TON of bad crap happen. If you read Drawing Circles, you’ll figure out that the book ISN’T really fiction, and you’ll agree that the stuff that happened to the main character (based on me) was horrific.

Let me try to pick off a few answers out of MC’s question…

First and foremost, there was never a doubt in my mind that I’d succeed. When I was 17 and selling cars I sure as hell didn’t know HOW I’d reach whatever “the top” is. By the time I turned 18 I had starting selling those $39.00 accident policies down the street. It was then, that I received my first clue. That crazy bald guy I write about in my first non-fiction book, The CAP Equation, named Bud Cole, coerced me into buying the book, Think and Grow Rich. It was during the second or third reading of that book that I realized that I could become anything that I really THOUGHT and BELIEVED I could become.

So, YES, MC…

I really didn’t 100% know how the hell I was going to become financially free, but after reading that book I knew that it was 100% possible, and that many other people had overcome more incredible stuff than I would to become wealthy. That was enough for me. Then after I read that first book, I read another, and another. In fact I have never stopped reading. I still read every morning when I wake up. I make sure that I plant productive thoughts in the garden of my mind to begin every day. I do this because it establishes my energy—it makes me want to pick up the phone and call somebody and sell them something. I do this because it keeps me focused on the work that I need to do. I plant these positive thoughts in my head because, when you expect good things to happen, it puts God and the Universe on your side and it attracts the small victories you’ll need to get closer to accomplishing your goals.

“I plant productive thoughts in the garden of my mind to begin every day.”

Let me take a minute to address MC’s, “rosy path.”

No sir. It was no, “rosy path.” It was more like an obstacle course in the heavy fog, littered with deep pits of quicksand filled with hungry crocodiles. I was young and impressionable, from a lower-middle income family, and I had NO formal education. I wasn’t your best bet for somebody that would become successful and eventually financially free. In addition I had chosen an industry (100% commission, cold-call sales) where most people fail miserably. (90%+ failure rate over 1st 12 months)

But I had one edge over almost everyone else around me. I had simply made a decision to win. My plan was as naive as that. I had simply resolved to figure out how to say the right things, in the right way, to enough people so that I could make a living in commission sales. I knew, instinctively, that if I figured this out, I’d never have to punch a clock. I’d have complete control of my time and I could write my own paycheck—decide what I was worth in the marketplace.

“But I had one edge over almost everyone else around me. I had simply made a decision to win.”

Something funny happens when you say to yourself, “I WILL WIN.” It changes everything for you. This kind of powerful affirmation helps you mentally burn the bridges that may lead you backwards towards those convenient excuses for not doing the work. When you cast off the boats you have to stay on the island and survive. You have no choice. This kind of thinking eliminates those bullsh#t reasons that we may otherwise use for not achieving something.

I’m not saying that it was pretty. It wasn’t. It probably won’t be pretty for you. You will make a lot of errors and you will get bloodied up like I did. But if you have simply made the decision IN ADVANCE to win at your chosen game, then you will get up, dust yourself off, and tweak what you are doing or saying.

So MC, the decision to WIN always overcomes whatever small things may be thrown in your path on your way to financial freedom. (Like a bad manager)

But let me get to that, “poor leader” thing that MC asked about.

Yes. There were times in my life that I was in a position to have to answer to a bad manager or poor leader. I’ll tell you what my position is on this and try to give you my best advice if you are in this position. However, I will begin this little diatribe by warning you that you may temper my advice if you’re W2. (Versus 1099) You may not want to get your butt fired by shooting off your mouth if you need the gig to pay your bills. The first thing you need to know about me is that I am not patient and I don’t suffer fools very well. That said; allow me to give you some unvarnished advice in the way of the following bullet points, and I’d probably suggest you execute them in this order:

  • Go Upline

If you are part of a sales organization, or any structured environment, there is usually a hierarchy. You should know who’s in your hierarchy and be willing to swim upstream to seek out mentorship from somebody you admire and trust. Hint, hint…If you can’t find anyone in your hierarchy that fits that description, you may be with the wrong company.

  • Create Your (informal) Peer Advisory Board

This is a big one and it’s actually pretty easy to do. In sales, entrepreneurial and leadership roles, the person in the role usually feels isolated in their daily activities, to some degree. If you identify people that you admire and you approach them correctly they will usually agree to collaborate with you in terms of industry information, strategies and even specific tactics. I think you should start doing this even if your manager doesn’t suck. Simply identify 4 – 6 really talented and nice people and plan to talk with them or meet with them periodically.

  • Get fed EXTERNALLY

Find great content online to study or if you’re really serious about changing your income and your life, consider getting a personal coach. I’m not saying it should be me. I don’t do a high volume of personal coaching and I will have to interview you first to determine if I want to coach you. If you want to email me, hit me at and I can tell you how personal coaching works. But that’s not my point. My suggestion is, find external sources of training online, in a book or through a group or personal coaching outlet.

So, the above three bullet points are designed to help you out-grow your bad manager and stay within your current role or position. However, if you do all of this, and things don’t improve for you, then you may want to consider…

  • Ask to be re-assigned

Complain. Loudly. Yeah. Why in the world wouldn’t you? What have you got to lose? Listen, if you are going to take the personal initiative to do everything I outlined above, and things don’t improve for you (or your bad manager becomes even worse because you are out-shining him) then you are probably going to have to walk away anyway. You have nothing to lose. So, be vocal—ask to be “traded,” but do so politely.

  • Move to Another Area

If you 100% LOVE your company or organization, but your manager sucks and they won’t re-assign you. Then consider moving. Of course, you have to be able to move. If you have kids, dogs and a spouse with a good job, it may be tough. However, you can’t stay in a bad situation that’s getting worse. That doesn’t make any good sense, and those that do so and just complain about it (and stew in their own juices) are kind of stupid and I can’t help them.

  • Leave

Yes. I said it. There are times in your career when the company you are with has Jumped the Shark, and if you don’t know what that means (and you SHOULD) then Google search it. Figure out what it means as applied to business and organizational culture. When you take the “L” out of Lover it’s “over.” Like Kenny Rogers taught us, “You gotta’ know when to hold em’ and know when to fold em’, know when to walk away, know when to run.” The reasons you won’t walk away from a bad, or even a mediocre scenario in your personal or professional life is either fear or laziness.

Either way, if you choose to be lazy or scared (and it is a choice) you are screwed, so take action.

Okay. I hope I answered MC’s question. Thanks for asking MC. You rock!

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 Joe Buzzello is a nationally recognized expert on the roles of direct selling, entrepreneurialism and leadership. He has built legacy sales teams and experienced unprecedented success in individual and business-to-business markets as well as the network marketing industry. Joe has held executive level positions for Fortune 500 companies, but he has never strayed far from the art and science of selling, which he loves. In early 2014, Joe began writing, speaking, and coaching through his platform, and The CAP Equation©.


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