You are the leader; you hold all the cards, but when you can support your people, you will empower them to become more effective humans and therefore empower them to be more effective employees boosting the performance of your entire team. How does that sound to you?
However, if you do the opposite, you will end up with direct reports constantly running in the opposite direction.
Here are some of the typical thoughts of a disempowered leader when it comes to their direct reports:
· “I have a lot to do and I just need to keep people focused on their tasks to get things done. I really want them to just shut up and do their job.”
· “Building relationships is not part of the job. It’s really that simple, right? All this bullshit about culture and psychological safety is just a bunch of coddling. Psychobabble, right? I never needed coddling to get the job done.”
· “They get the same amount of training I got when I was doing their job. They don’t need more training, they just must suck it up, figure it out on their own, and get it done, just like I did.”
· “It’s not my job to kiss anybody’s ass to get work done.”
· “As far as good ideas go I’ll do the thinking around here, they’ll do the doing, thank you very much.”
· “There’s nothing I can do about Fred mouthing off in the lunchroom or yelling at you again. He’s been doing that for the last 20 years, that’s just the way he is, so do what we’ve been doing, just ignore him.”
And yes, it’s unrealistic that they all come from the same person, but I’ve heard these exact statements come from various supervisors’ mouths, all of whom were in charge of other people at their workplace.
Here are some key examples of supervisors going wrong.
They don’t emulate the behaviors they want from others.
They blame the people that work for them for their problems. They are inconsistent and unpredictable when giving directives. You never know how they will react; they can’t walk the talk regarding dignity and respect.
Nobody wants to work for a supervisor like this: They create their hell and bring it wherever they go, exposing you to the same dread. People do not feel safe working for a supervisor like this. When we’re not feeling safe or feel disempowered, we, as a necessity, have to go to the amygdala, and our toolbox is essentially fought, flight, or freeze.
They don’t protect the culture, so they’re not protecting you.
They ignore destructive behavior and conflicts between team members. They don’t hold people accountable. This supervisor always looks away from problems as their way of solving them. You would think the bullies would get their attention, but they don’t, and as a result, there’s lots of fear to go around.
Nobody wants to work for a supervisor like this: and the moment they can move on, they will. If there’s anything that will ensure you cannot hold on to your best talent and employees, this type of supervisor is the number one reason.
They treat their direct reports like mushrooms.
That’s right—they keep them in the dark and feed them shit. When you’re not being transparent, your team will feel less valued, and when people don’t feel valued, they aren’t going to give you an excellent work product.
Nobody wants to work for a supervisor like this: a boss who doesn’t value them and is holding back information; the lack of transparency is devastating. When people are not given the big picture and start feeling that you’re not being fully transparent with them, it makes them very nervous about the potential of being rejected from the group.
They don’t support their people with timely decisions and problem-solving.
When people don’t feel supported, they don’t know what to do next. And they learn over time that their supervisor is not the person to ask when they need help. If productivity is so important, why aren’t they making more decisions to keep things from getting stalled?
Nobody wants to work for a supervisor like this: Supervisors who are not supporting their direct reports by ensuring that problems are getting solved and roadblocks are removed means you are constantly working in a very frustrating work environment. Seemingly a constant flow of emergencies. It’s incredibly stressful for people not to be supported by their supervisors in decision-making and problem-solving.
They don’t give their people the training they need.
When people are not getting the training they need, they feel incompetent; when they feel incompetent, they fear being humiliated. This is a fact. People who work for a supervisor like this know that the moment they mess up because they don’t know what they’re doing, they will be held responsible for something beyond their control to change.
Nobody wants to work for a supervisor like this: Having expectations placed on you concerning outcomes that you cannot influence because you don’t have enough training is a challenging work situation to sustain yourself in. It sends an apparent message from the leader to the follower: I do not care about you.
They attempt to increase productivity by simply working people harder.
That’s right, crack the whip harder. They increase direct supervision because they don’t trust your decision-making, or they don’t train you to make better decisions and then micromanage the hell out of you. They just don’t get it.
Nobody wants to work for a supervisor like this: These are the types of supervisors people refer to as jerks. Short notice, no planning, unclear objectives, and unachievable deadlines create misery. This sad story turns into a tragedy because it’s all preventable.
They don’t want to hear your opinion about anything.
They don’t think the people that work for them have a brain in their heads; all of their direct reports feel undervalued and disrespected at a human level, not just an employee level. Given the training otherwise, everyone in the group could be solving problems and developing and innovating new ways of doing things that could increase productivity.
Nobody wants to work for a supervisor like this: Go to work and constantly feel undervalued? That’s exactly what’s happening here. Everyone in a supervisory position should know by now you want every brain in the game and need innovation to stay even. These types of supervisors are still out there. I can guarantee you.
They don’t mentor their direct reports.
Every supervisor should appropriately mentor their staff by encouraging them beyond a standard level of performance by raising their sights and assisting them to increase their level of performance to above standard or outstanding. Many supervisors need to give supportive feedback; this disempowers the organization, the supervisor, and the employee in question. Everybody loses.
Nobody wants to work for a supervisor like this: The supervisor not appropriately mentoring their direct reports makes for a horrible workplace. People want to excel; show them how. The supervisor not appropriately mentoring their direct reports makes for a horrific workplace. When individuals suffer from less-than-standard performance, which remains uncorrected, that usually means other people are doing more work; they shouldn’t have to. This builds resentment.
They don’t help people recover after making an error.
They see people making the same mistake twice as something typical. They see different people making the same mistake as usual. And they see typical as unavoidable. When you combine the two, it means the way they see the world is that most errors are inevitable; it’s just the way it is. Instead, they try to punish their way to success.
Nobody wants to work for a supervisor like this: Quick to punish mistakes or errors that, in hindsight, one recognizes could’ve been prevented? Prevented by whom? Prevented how? Pray to tell a better training program, perhaps? When people work in an environment like this, they become extremely risk averse, and their work patterns become robotic. Doing the least amount of work possible is risky because doing “more” is extraordinary.
They don’t recognize good performance.
They don’t see the significance of recognizing excellent or exceptional performance. They think saying good things about someone inappropriately inflates the person’s ego. They believe saying good things about a person’s performance is like treating them like a child. There’s more, but you get the picture. The fact is every direct report that is recognized for exceptional or excellent performance will repeat the same routine.
Nobody wants to work for a supervisor like this: Did someone go beyond the call of duty? Has someone become the very best at a routine task? Did someone do an exceptional job responding to an emergency? Did someone do an excellent job responding to a customer complaint? From a sense of fairness, shouldn’t supervisors feel that these people deserve something more?
If you’re reading this article and can see some of what you read in your group today, you need to think about your next steps to improve your group. If you’re a leader who cares about mission success by ensuring your supervisor and team get precisely what they need from you, reverse engineer everything you’ve read here, and your group becomes extraordinary.