Beth Nilssen
October 10, 2018 / Great Advice

What swoops, poops, scoops, and disrupts the group?

Have you ever had a boss who drops in on a project only when there’s a problem, makes a lot of noise, and then departs without offering anything constructive? (They might also scoop in to take the project away from you.) If so, then you know the answer to the headline question: the annoying Seagull Boss.

The vivid metaphor that compares bad bosses to seagulls---they fly in, make a lot of noise, poop on everyone, and then fly away---is certainly entertaining. But the reality is far from amusing. I first read about seagull managers in a blog post, A Bad Boss Can Destroy Everything. I learned later that the concept was popularized in Ken Blanchard’s 1985 book, “Leadership and the One Minute Manager.”

MORE: A Good Franchisee Can’t Act Like a Seagull Manager

So how do you know if you or one of your managers is a seagull boss, and what do you do about it? 

(Oh, and why does it matter? It matters if you care about the engagement of your employees and your ability to retain them. Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace reports notes that about half of American workers have left a job to escape a bad boss.)

Here’s a quick quiz, which is adapted from an article on how to manage bad bosses. Ask yourself these three questions:

  • How do you like to communicate?

  • What’s a communication priority for you at work?

  • What are your pet peeves?

Take a minute to answer these questions and imagine you’re sharing your answers with someone who works for you. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Okay, what did you come up with? Were you able to answer these questions succinctly? Did you communicate clearly to the person listening? Do you think the person listening actually heard what you were saying? 

And, fair is fair. Here’s how I answered these questions:


I like to communicate either face-to-face or on the phone. I believe that hearing how someone says something is just as important as what they’re saying. I like to communicate through conversation so that it’s give-and-take. And, while it’s incredibly convenient to use all the new technologies available these days (e.g., texting) to get quick responses, it leaves too much room for misinterpretation. Face-to-face or on the phone is always my preference.


A priority for me at work is to communicate clearly enough so that everyone is on the same page regarding goals, and understands the metrics for reaching them. When you set expectations clearly in advance and follow up on them, you leave little room for confusion. Also, I try to be as transparent as possible. In the absence of the full story, people make up stuff. So, whenever I can, I share what I know. 


My pet peeves are people who don’t use their turn signals when driving, children who whine (especially my own), people who use the elevator to go up one floor (when clearly they are physically capable of taking the stairs), and people who obliviously drive slowly in the passing lane. 

Oh, you mean pet peeves at work? Got it. It annoys me when I hear someone complaining about something that could be fixed with a quick conversation. Griping often causes unnecessary drama that could easily be resolved by picking up the phone and communicating directly with the person involved. 

How does this connect to franchising and behaving like a seagull? Quite directly, actually (well, except for my pet peeves, perhaps). A good franchisor provides its franchisees with the organization’s goals, the means to reach them, and the metrics to measure them. They do that with clear, frequent communication and feedback that describes expectations and limitations, provides direction and support, and finds ways to acknowledge and celebrate. 

Because of the clear line between the franchisor that controls the overall brand and the franchisee who is an independent business owner, there’s no swooping between the two.

That being said, all the means and metrics in the world aren’t going to amount to success if the person trying to implement them is a seagull. After being at our annual convention for franchisees and their salon teams a couple of weeks ago, it’s clear to me that the most successful teams in our organization are led by engaged, empowering managers and franchisees. Not a seagull in the group! 

If you’ve read this far, you may be in the midst of a seagull-manager situation, and you might be considering a change in your work situation. Have you thought about what it would take for you to build a successful franchise business? Give me a call. I’d love to help you answer those questions--face-to-face or on the phone.

Beth Nilssen By Beth Nilssen on October 10, 2018
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