Employees know when they have a “nice” manager who isn’t really in charge—and in the end, it makes them feel unsafe. Dr. Henry Cloud literally wrote the book on this topic, but I wanted to share a cast of characters to help represent some of the boundary-challenging habits I’ve seen that can undermine the good manager.
Please don’t be too alarmed if you see yourself in one of these descriptions—that was one of my intentions. I wanted to make it easy for you to identify yourself. After all, you can’t craft a solution until you identify the real nature of the problem. My intention in using the labels is to keep things fun and light, but also to be clear. Okay, here goes:
The In-Director. You believe people don’t like to be bossed around, and you don’t want people to think you’re bossy. So you don’t give super clear direction—but then you’re disappointed in the results.
The Punch Puller. You are afraid of damaging the relationship or demotivating the employee, so you don’t give constructive, developmental feedback when needed. Even when you are forced to give feedback, you fail to make clear requests.
Ms. Max Flex. You are so sympathetic and so empathetic to the needs of your employees that you—perhaps inadvertently—put their needs ahead of the team or the business.
Captain Empowerment. You have such a high value for fairness that you treat everyone the same way regardless of their competence or skill levels. Your mantra is “You can do it!” despite ample evidence to the contrary—and you think if you believe in people enough, they won’t let you down.
The Freedom Fighter. Your own need for freedom blinds you to the fact that not everyone has the same needs. You give people way more rope than they want and the result can be frustration—or even failure.
Horton the Elephant. Maisy the flaky bird flies south for a nonstop party while Horton sits on her eggs through rain, hail and snow. Are you Horton? Simply too patient for your own good and letting your people take advantage of you?
The Wuss. You let your need to be liked get the better of you, at great cost to your own success. You may suffer from aspects of some or all of the above conditions. What you know for sure is that you tolerate way too much and let your people walk all over you.
Is There A Cure?
The good news is that all of these behaviors stem from your being a generous and kind person—but they can really hurt you and your team. Stay tuned and I’ll go into a little more detail about each one over the next few weeks. In the meantime if you recognize yourself, one of your direct reports, or your boss here, note examples of these behaviors as you move through your days. The more specific and concrete you can be about behaviors that aren’t working, the easier it will be to shift them.
PS: Are there other behaviors you’ve seen that I’ve missed? If you have an idea for a different challenge or label, I would love to hear it. Just add it to the comments section below!
About this column
Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard, and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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