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Monday, September 2, 2013

The Don't-Quote-Me Gang

In working with mentees over the years, one frequently noted workplace frustration I hear from them is when they describe working for/with folks in leadership positions who seem unwilling to "own" or put their decisions in print.  It is extremely frustrating to not be able to get a straight answer from those leaders, even if the answer is simply (and often most appropriately) “it’s your call.” 

Leaders who operate in that don’t-quote-me type of mentality seem to want it both ways – the title and the money that goes with leadership roles, but none of the accountability that accompanies those roles.  Faux leadership seeks to dodge bullets, to stay below the radar, and to live a Teflon-like existence.  That same mindset also gains for them the general disdain of those who find themselves down the chain of command.  Their subordinates constantly feel as if they are walking on a tightrope, with no safety net or support from “the boss” in place.  Those willing to step up and make tough decisions often get bloodied up (while the boss is conveniently well-distanced from the catastrophe and/or the accountability). 

This sort of don’t-quote-me leadership tends to foster a state of inertia in the organization.  Team members who don’t feel empowered and supported frequently exhibit very little in the way of boldness and risk-taking in the interest of pushing organizational objectives.

Having witnessed this dynamic time and again, I determined NOT to treat the folks with whom I work in similar fashion.  A far better approach, I think, is to give them autonomy, give them authority, invest in their development, and coach them in the ways of right thinking and service orientation.  As my friend and mentor, JK, is fond of saying, “If they act within policy and law, support their decisions.  If you don’t like their decisions, discuss it privately with them and coach them up.  But never publicly cut their legs out from under them.” (JK would have said it in a much more entertaining way).

You can quote me on this.

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