Yikes, My Boss Confuses Me!

I hate to say this, but I hear this a lot.

Leadership confusion comes in many forms. But most often, it boils down to one thing: inconsistency. Teams respond to leaders who comport themselves with consistent behavior they can count on and trust. Alternatively, if the leadership behavior varies based on mood, pressure, or just the day of the week…people start to feel orphaned.

Orphaning your direct reports means you are not providing guidance and not acting as a resource as they work through their day-to-day issues. Instead of feeling backed by your leadership, they have a sense that they must figure things out on their own, alone. Is that the feeling you want your team to have?

It comes down to being empathetic and relational… consistently. What a leader cannot do is act empathetically in one moment and then be distant in another. That leads to confusion. A client of mine recently experienced this situation.

He observed that his Sr. Vice President ostensibly declared that he cares deeply about the team’s development. However, when urgent client work arrived, he would introduce the work and then leave his team to figure out most of the details without any guidance. His defense for this orphaning was that he was testing them to see if they could figure out what needed to be accomplished.

Please don’t do this as a leader.

If you do, you sabotage all your initial efforts of empathy and care. You are in a leadership position for a reason. Someone believed that you were the best person to guide your team towards success AND that they could learn from your experience. If you aren’t sharing that with your team, they will likely make it up as they go along, making mistakes you could have helped them avoid.

It is better to guide your team socraticly with tailored questions that allow them discover what needs to occur from your observation vs. abruptly orphaning them in the heat of the moment.

Ultimately, you want your team to feel like you have their back and not that you’ve turned your back!