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Unpredictable Leaders Make Employees Crazy

Two recent client events brought to light the importance of building a reputation as a leader who’s consistent and predictable. First, we led a strategic planning retreat with the senior team that lead a division of a global manufacturing company. These team members were wounded because everyone on the team reported to a manager who was moody, inconsistent, unpredictable, mean, and petty. A portion of the retreat was spent discussing the most effective ways to deal with and survive working for a crazy manager.

The second event occurred at an association conference. A participant came up to me after my presentation on Effectively Leading Organizational Change and asked, “What would you do if you worked for a moody boss who yelled and swore at you on a regular basis?” My answer was brief. I would work hard to find another job because life is way too short to work with jerks. Sadly, this participant went on to add that she’s paid about $25,000 above market and she cannot find another job with a comparable salary. So, the way I look at it, she’s paid the extra $25,000 to work in a hostile work environment because she’s unwilling to accept a lesser paying position where employees are treated humanely and love to come to work.

If you’ve ever worked for a moody or inconsistent boss, you’ll recognize some of the following behaviors:

  • Blowing up or becoming angry over a little mistake or problem
  • Emotional unpredictability: Not being able to control their emotion or mood
  • Treating people disrespectfully
  • Not communicating needed information so employees are capable of making the right decision
  • Not valuing people’s contributions or recognizing success
  • Failing to admit when they are wrong or make a mistake
  • Making decisions or passing judgment without having all the facts
  • Not listening
  • Lying or clouding the truth
  • Providing feedback that lacks specifics and is difficult to act upon
  • Being unavailable and unwilling to allow the decision to be made without their involvement

One of the least discussed characteristics of great leaders is consistency and predictability. When leaders are predictable and consistent, you know what’s important to them, and you know how they make decisions. You’re more confident working for this leader because their predictability allows you to be engaged and make decisions.

The following are ten actions leaders can take to help them become even more predictable and consistent:

  1. Discuss with team members how you arrive at decisions for reoccurring situations. Use your team’s or organization’s mission, vision, or values as a guide.
  2. Be approachable. Thank people for bringing information or concerns to your attention.
  3. Act on people’s feedback or request for support.
  4. Empower the team. Encourage team members to take initiative and make decisions.
  5. When employees make the best decision they can make based on the information at hand, support them, even if the decision isn’t exactly the decision you’d make.
  6. Build trust. Look for opportunities to admit you’re wrong or when you don’t know something.
  7. Over communicate. Communicate so the right hand knows what the left hand is doing and there are no surprises.
  8. Focus on a fewer number of the most important issues for each employee or team. Less is more when it comes to predictability.
  9. Keep commitments. If you agree to a course of action, follow up and see it through to the end.
  10. Be consistent in your mood, your decision making and how you treat and value people.

The above ten actions will help you be a more predictable leader. Last, when others in your organization are not consistent or predictable, take a stand for what’s right. When crazy, moody managers treat people poorly, coach them, counsel them, hire them an executive coach and when that doesn’t work, fire them and share them with your best competitor. One of the greatest gifts a leader can give their team and organization is to create an environment where all employees feel motivated and engaged to do their best work.

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