The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

May 4, 2011

The Follower-Worthy Boss

By Steve Motenko

What makes a boss follower-worthy?  The question might as well be, “What makes a leader effective?”  Too big a question to answer in a blog post – libraries are filled with answers to that question.

So just to seed a discussion, here are my two biggest pet peeves about non-follower-worthy bosses.  If you recognize your boss in either of these two scenarios, god help you.  If you recognize yourself, please, for your employees’ sake – change your ways.  Now!

1.  The boss who promises but doesn’t deliver

Charlie is a good ‘ol boy.  He’s so charming, everybody loves him.  Great listener.  You couldn’t believe your luck when you found out he was going to be your new boss.

And within a few weeks, you came to realize that any time he tells you he’ll do something, you’ll leave that meeting with a smile on your face – what a great guy! – and a sinking feeling in your heart.   That thing he said he’d do?  Ain’t gonna happen.

You think maybe if you start sending Charlie reminders – but how long can that last before he either gets angry, or defensive, or embarrassed.  And who wants to see their clueless, well-meaning boss embarrassed?     So eventually, like all Charlie’s employees, you give up.  You resign yourself to either doing it yourself, if you have the time and the authority – or just seething in frustration that it’s not gonna get done.

If you happen to be Charlie, I’d suggest one of four things is going on with you:

  • You don’t know how to organize.
  • You don’t know how to say no – probably because you lack confidence.  “If I promise people stuff, they’ll like me.”  I really don’t understand how Charlie can believe people will continue to like him when he never follows through.
  • You don’t know how to manage time.  Can be a discipline problem, a motivation problem, or just lacking the skill to prioritize and calendar.
  • Inability to live in reality.  Charlie’s got 473 things on his to-do list today and he thinks he can get them all done.

2.  The boss who assigns but doesn’t check in

Melanie is a go-getter.  She inspires people with her work ethic.  She’s articulate, energetic, visionary – a natural born leader, it seems.

Problem is, when it comes to anyone else’s work – notably the folks who report to her – she’s clueless.  “Oh, THIS is a great project!  Dave, I’d like you to get this done by a week from Friday.  Great.  Meeting adjourned.”

Problem is, Dave is already inundated with other projects Melanie has given him  – projects that she’s never checked in with him on.  So it’s on two levels that she doesn’t check in.  She doesn’t check in to see if he has time – given his other priorities – to tackle the new project.  AND, once she assigns him a project, quite often she never checks in again – doesn’t ask if it’s gonna be done on time, doesn’t ask if he needs help … in fact seems to forget the entire conversation in which she assigned the damn thing!

Melanie’s vision is a set of wings.  Unfortunately, there are no legs to land on – for her or her employees.

Charlie and Melanie – get your acts together, would you please?  You are not follower-worthy.  You’re ruining work for your employees, and you’re contributing to the demise of your organization.

What makes a boss follower-worthy to you? And what keeps a boss from being follower-worthy?

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About the Author

Steve Motenko is an executive coach, leadership trainer, and co-host of The Boss Show, a weekly podcast on workplace dynamics. Steve and his Boss Show co-host, Jim Hessler, are co-authors of Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guide to Building Your Leadership Platform. Steve lives on Whidbey Island, Washington, with his wife and dog, whom he loves, and a cat he tolerates usually pretty well.

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