During a conversation about Bob Sutton’s Good Boss, Bad Boss and what Guy Kawasaki’s summarizes as the “Good Boss Manifesto” in The Art of the Start 2.0, a participant asked me what I thought about one of Ally Bank’s “facts of life” commercials, which assumes that when you play golf with your boss, your boss has to win– even if you have to put his ball in the hole yourself. Here is Ally Bank’s short ad to which she was referring: Holing the ball for your boss
If you are tempted to adopt this short video as a parable illustrating the principles and facts of life, here are two questions you may want to ask yourself:
Are you willing to cheat because you have reasons to believe that it’s what it takes to be in your superior’s good books?
Where will you draw the line? Are you also going to lie about product development strategy, sales or accounting because he/she could be upset if things don’t go as well as he/she would like? Do you want to be part of a misleading culture in which your boss will provide, willingly or not, false information to his/her own boss and ultimately to the shareholders? Do you want to be caught in the spiral of potentially shady activities? If you have doubts about the ethics of your bosses or the quality of the corporate culture that they embody, leave before they neutralize you, destroy you or make sure that they fire you for not tagging along (and, if you can afford it, do not ask for a separation agreement).
What’s going to happen if you cheat and your boss finds out that you did?
In the visual parable, the ball runs way over the other side of the green… If your boss is a reasonable player, he/she will have doubts that he/she actually holed the ball. Two things may happen:
- If your boss is unethical, he/she may not like the fact that you know it and interact with him/her based on that premise. It’s not uncommon for unscrupulous people to extoll their respectability, care for their reputation… and resent that you have seen through them. Many bosses want you to tell them what they want to hear or see what they want to see, but they expect you to do this “unbeknownst” to them in order to make you the fall guy if anything goes wrong. No matter what you do, you will be part of his/her hit list anyway.
- If your boss is ethical, he/she will be horrified. If you make them win no matter what, how can they trust you when you report on the state of the business? How can they know that you are not ready to cheat for your own aggrandizement? This boss should sack you immediately.
Leadership is leadership whether or not you are the boss – it’s not about winning or losing but about pursuing shared goals based on mutual trustworthiness. Golf, just like life, can be exasperating. So play by the rules and remind your boss of a great aphorism by one of the greatest amateur golfer of all times, Bobby Jones: “I never learned anything from a match that I won.”