Leadership support is vital to the success of any project or process a team is executing. In fact, if your leadership is not supportive, I believe your potential impact decreases by a minimum of 50%.
As someone who coaches leaders and entrepreneurs on how to fix and grow their business, I have seen the effects on a team when their leader isn’t 100% on board.
It tends to look like:
- Incomplete projects
- Lost morale with individuals and teams
- Lost productivity
- Undermined leadership effectiveness
- Decreased trust and loyalty from team members to leadership
- And potential gossip
As a leader, you must understand that your team gets their energy from you. So if they believe that you aren’t sold out on whatever it is that you have them doing, then in turn, they will lose faith in it as well.
Too many times I see this leadership action masked as “trust” or “delegation” to team members. Leaders say that they are allowing team members the room to do what is needed.
This is shows an incredible amount of immaturity in a leader. If you trust your team to pull something off, then you inject your support and approval.
And proper delegation means doing everything you can to help a team member succeed. (I probably need to post about that as well. :-))
So if you’re seeing the issues that I listed above, take a hard look at what you’re doing as a leader. Perhaps you need to get in the game and support your team.
Question: Tell us of a time you experienced an unsupportive leader.
54 thoughts on “Do You Support Your Team?”
During a recent business transition, our leader seemed to be unsupportive. Even though he wanted to see the transition work, he rarely gave any indication on the progress and how we were doing. This came off as a lack of support for the project and you can see it in employee morale.
I work for the owner of a 350 person company. It is easy to see when he is not sold out on an idea. He sits in his office and sulks and seems to live for “I told you so”. It creates a terribiel environment with cynicism and lost time and energy. Sometimes the ideas are bad and should have been canned at the beginning; but to smirk and sulk about it is a bad idea.
Another great topic here…
Most of my career has been in a highly technical field. Lot’s of analytical types (not me though). Their first instinct is to point out what isn’t working and ignore what is.
Unfortunately, that makes everyone feel like they can never win. There isn’t any celebration; it’s just on to the next broken item.
I’ve had many conversations with these types of leaders about the “energy” they are giving to their team. However, they have a real tough time seeing it.
The key to this is the leader looking introspectively. Would they want to work for someone like themselves, day in and day out? Are they getting the results they want?
If the answer is no to either of these, then maybe it’s time to change their approach…
Yes, I can relate to this Bob. I am an engineer by background, and I work around a very technical team. I have come to realize that creating the right “energy” starts with me. It may take time to change and it may be discouraging at times, but it’s worth the effort.
Ha! How did you know I was talking about engineers??
How did you get to this “energy” epiphany? Did something specific happen? I’m really struggling to get through to these types of leaders. They want to know that 1+1 = 2 and in this case it’s more like 1+1 = 3 or 4 or -12???
I’d recommend reading a few of Jon Gordon’s books. His “positive” attitude and energy advice run through his writing.
Great reminder Jon! I just went to check out his site and totally forgot about this series of books. I remember hearing the podcast but forgot to do anything with it.
I think I’ll pick up the “Energy Bus” first. Thanks for that!
No problem, Bob.
Jon, we’ve got a great reading list that Lily set up, if you’d like to add some of Jon Gordon’s books to it. The link here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvTEDuvbYj4RdGxhRGM1R1RzVm5FOVZMMXR4MFY0V1E#gid=0
I’m an analytic, so I agree with your description of the analytical leadership style! It’s been really hard for me to learn how to give praise on things that are working, because as a recovering perfectionist who’s overly-focused on details, I always want to try to make things better.
When I first realized the effect this could have on those around me, I was pretty upset and frustrated because I felt like I was just trying to help. I’ve since come to realize that it’s a gift to be able to see how to improve things, but you have to use it the right way if you want to actually improve anything!
Thanks for sharing that Jaselyn! I love how you said you are a recovering perfectionist. Admitting it is the first step. 😉
So, what’s your secret? How do you hold back and what are you doing to make people feel appreciated and valued?
Take lots of notes! I write down my comments and observations before I share them, and I make sure to share everything positive I’ve noticed, whether it’s an improvement in something discussed before, or just something that’s working well, and then I pick only one or two of the things that aren’t working as well to share. It helps me to prioritize what really needs to be improved and what’s just a matter of preference for me (sometimes it’s hard to tell at first!), and it also helps me make sure that my ratio of positive to nit-picky is more towards the positive.
Of course, I do a lot of training, and so sometimes when someone is doing something for the first time, it can be hard to find the positive things, so in those scenarios, I just look for as much improvement as I can in everything, and only give one simple thing to work on. Any more and they get overwhelmed. Being appreciative for their effort a lot of times is the best way to go if there really is nothing that worked very well. (But that doesn’t happen often.)
Great tip! Reminds me of the saying about having two ears and one mouth.
I think writing has a powerful affect on a person’s ability to apply logic and wisdom to their thinking. So this makes perfect sense!!!
The next time I hear a technical leader bashing his teams performance, I’ll tell him to write it down and then write down what they are doing right to see if it still makes sense.
It’s helpful, I’ve found, to understand the team members’ personality profile, the DISC profile. I am better able to speak to them in a way they will both understand and appreciate if I know how they are wired.
agreed, I’ve noticed if I take notes, it helps me slow down my response and gives my a clearer picture when I do chose to respond with positive remarks and or questions that don’t tear down other team members. Thanks Jaselyn
Jaselyn – I have the same challenge! Some might think that I am never satisfied no matter how well they work- but the truth is I’m always wanting to for the team to get better. What I have had to work on is how to communicate my appreciation for the work they have done – alone with encouraging them to improve each day.
When I worked in a fast food place, the work that was done was related to the supervisor on duty. There were certain people that didn’t seem to care about what needed to be done, and just the bare minimum was done by the rest of the crew.
I’ve had that leader! It is demoralizing when your leader doesn’t support what you are doing. Makes you feel nervous and defensive, and makes you wonder why you are bothering to even work on the project or task. On the other hand, when your leader is supportive, it is energizing, and makes you want to work harder.
At one of my first jobs out of college, I worked in marketing at a bank, and I was named employee of the month one month. My immediate supervisor was instrumental in getting me that award, but the head of the department, when I was called in to be told of the award, said something like, “well, they tell me you are doing a good job, but I wouldn’t know.” Talk about taking the wind out of my sails!
Leadership support does matter!
Wow Carol, what a downer. I’m so glad that you are definitely a rockstar leader and I’m sure those experiences taught you what not to do.
Thank you Lily – and yes, I did learn from that. Funny that I remember it all these years later. Wait, that makes me sound old – funny that I remember it from just a couple years ago 🙂
Geez, not even pretending to be supportive…nice
Last year I spoke to a group of 150 managers. I gave each an index card and asked 2 questions. It was anonymous so I felt the answers were correct. #1. Do you feel your immediate supervisor is for you, against you or for themselves? Only 30% felt their leader was for them. #2. How long has it been since your immediate supervisor sat down with you one-on-one and discussed your progress, the vision of the company, made suggestions for improvement or solicited your input for improvement? I asked that this exclude the annual appraisal period. 65% said never. My favorite answer was “I don’t remember but my hair was a different color.” This organization may be the exception but I’m finding an extreme lack of engagement out there. Leaders need to lead like the Pope. Step Up or Step Down. In fact, just wrote a blog on that one. Chris, thanks for making leaders think. gg
One of the biggest messages that we can give to our team is that we are there to help them succeed. These words have to be backed up by action.
Wow Greg, that survey speaks volumes…
Amazing – only 30% felt their leaders were for them?
Greg, from my experience this is the rule rather than the exception.
Leadership, courage, standing up and doing the right thing are crucial. and it’s up to us.
I’ve had “that kind” of a boss (definitely NOT a leader), fortunately only once in my career. The team felt defeated and trapped. We had long venting sessions at the end of the work day. However, he was not detached, he was excessively controlling, especially of me because I was his direct report and the rest of the team reported to me.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have walked out a lot earlier than I did, but I would have also stood up for my team.
I’ve shared this here before. He’s the guy who would call me after hours, including on weekends to ask some dumb question about something that could wait until the next day. He even called my mom to find out where I was. It was not unusual for me to get a call on a Saturday night when I was at the movies with my friends.
The worst part about his style was that he lied to our clients, he lied to his peers and lied to us. I was physically ill for months. An unsupportive and/or controlling leader will certainly destroy a team.
I second that
What an experience, Lily – but it must have taught you everything you did NOT want to do as a leader…..
A challenge for me. Thanks, Chris.
I’ve seen full support and lack of support from the same leader. I think it takes real discipline to make sure we are consistent in the support we provide to our teams. It can become so easy to be distracted by the pulls and tugs of other tasks and activities. This is why we need to be intentional in carving out time to support our team. Regular one-on-one’s, team meetings, and a consistent open door policy can all help with making sure our team members now they are supported.
Look at your calendar. It shouldn’t take long to determine if you are supporting your team. Do you have time scheduled on your calendar to support your team? This is a good place to start.
I like this Jon! So simple and powerful.
Being intentional. so important!
well said Jon! Way to not to play the victim.
Thanks, Steve. I have a lot to learn.
Perfect, Jon! It is easy to be distracted or too busy to take the time for the one-on-ones’ – but you are right – they should be scheduled.
Only one time but I can’t write about it…yet 🙂
I’ve only worked for three people. My dad was one and one of the other leaders was outstanding.
I will say that it was one of the most frustrating and helpless times of my life. But it was also a great learning experience.
Hmmm, an unsupportive leader… I think the most unsupportive I’ve seen is just not being willing to take the time to communicate what he wanted. And then assuming that somehow (through osmosis, I suppose) we were suppose to know exactly what he wanted!!
Communication, that is most important aspect of being a supportive leader in my book.
Good point, Mark. I hate it when my leaders don’t communicate.
At least Chris doesn’t do that…he’s an overachiever…3 emails for the same post!!
Do you think he sends multiple emails to his team too?? haha
It’s all about repetition. Like when you’re talking to your kids…”Clean up your room. Clean up your room. Clean up your room.” Repeating it only increases emphasis – right?!?
haha, I guess. It’s my only recourse with my 4 year old…so I hope it works!
Right out of college I got hired at a big youth camp in northern Michigan. Then man who hired me(Richard) who is awesome, very energetic and love to encourage his people,decided to retire. Being a young 20 something, I just assumed every leader was like like Richard. NOPE I was way wrong…mind you, in my 20’s I was very hungry to win and be the best, a touch out spoken, not much of a filter when I spoke my mind.
This new boss, would have signs on his desk,”the BUCK stops here.” “I’m the general” ect. but the worst part of working for him, his fake, shallow listening skills. He’ll tell you what you wanted to hear but act indifferent. Unfortunately he was the first person to fire me, and unfortunately for him, he was asked to leave just a couple months later. —-here’s my clause, this man is not evil, or a terrible person, very like able and motivated. I had little clarity on my role and he was just not gifted on communicating those expectations which made my young career very difficult and led to my removal.
hummmm—I need to stop writing, this is a pretty big wound that I didn’t realize how deep it went. Thanks Chris and tribe for your questions and stories.
More, please! Your story is terrific, and it helps me very much.
Thanks Kathy. you know, as I look back, it hurts only because I didn’t understand my roll, I was the youngest by 10 years on the team, and I acted in ways I thought was the right thing to do. Instead in hine-site, I wasn’t asking the right questions, nor asking to be molded, I just assumed at a christian camp it would just happen.
So going back to what hurt, was realizing i really loved working there and I got see tons of kids lives change, but being told “you don’t fit with my team” just sucked, but at the same time “Pate’sScapes and Designs” wouldn’t have been birthed and this guy on the radio named Dave Ramsey wouldn’t have interceded into my life!
But when I did leave the camp, I was able to leave on great terms and come back a couple times as a volunteer to help out on some simple projects. Plus some of my dearest friends still lead with excellence at that camp and I can go to them for advice when I face challenges here at my camp.
So in all, I’ve chosen to learn from the wounding I took and the mistakes I’ve made. I’m going to make darn sure I chose to lead with integrity and treat people how I want to be treated so I don’t make the same mistake.
Thanks Kathy, it felt good to type this out.
Ooh, ick, Steve, I feel your pain. Whenever I revisit (in my memory) a job I loved working for an incompetent boss, I realize that the wound is still there. Sounds as if you learned some powerful lessons in how NOT to lead.
Ouch, great article Chris! I have been on both sides of this equation. Luckily enough, I feel like I learned something by not quite being the leader I should and it makes me better today. It’s definitely one of those lessons you hope you learned from someone else’s mistakes.
An unsupportive and disengaged leader can make it miserable for the team he or she leads. I learned much from a boss I had many years ago- but what I learned was what NOT to do.
The blessing of crummy leadership (an “unsupportive leader”)
is the unforgettable burn it sears into the memory.
This is what it looks like:
– The emotional reaction to a proposal: “I had to wait
two days just to talk to you because I am so mad,” and “I am so disappointed in you!”
– The faux-open-door-tell-me-your-troubles that leads to
cynicism and bitterness when, subtly, you are punished for opening your mouth in the first place. (We call this the “I do understand! That’s why you’re being punished in a passive-aggressive way” method first developed by Stanislavski’s cousin for the Soviet Army in the early 1980s. Talk to the 19-year-old Russian soldiers who were stationed in East Berlin because it was so far away from home they couldn’t survive going AWOL).
What happens in this environment is your teammates turn to
you, potential-leader, to listen, to understand, sometimes to take action. Then
you have a choice: do you let your own nascent cynicism and bitterness take you
into self-indulgent purgatory? or do you pray, and determine to be effective,
and do what you’ve been called to do? Do you show courage?
Choice is yours.
And yes, this is where I work right now.
Hang in there. Lead up and look for what is best for you. Sorry to hear that you go through this Kathy.
Kathy, you write well and tell a great story! I’m looking forward to hearing more about your choices and how they are turning out. Sounds as if you are handling things well.
I can relate to this right now. With out going into the whole story I can tell you last year my one “word” was AWAKENING. Figuring out that my roll wasn’t as important as I made it to be, my focus this year in my roll is to, “make what I do from good to great, and just focus on my roll.” -it has seemed to help me. Lean on your strengths, and bubble up with trust.
I as secretary to a CPA. He was horrible in many ways, but on April 15 I KNEW I had to leave. Tax returns weren’t ready, he was locked in his office, the clients kept coming to the counter to ask me if they could sign their returns or at least an extension, and he wouldn’t answer calls or knocks. Then, he left for lunch. At the end of the day, I left the office, and the next day he was furious with me for not staying late. Why would I stay late when he had done nothing productive all day, communicated nothing to me and let me greet his clients with nothing but apologies for his unprofessionalism?
To top it off, he had the worst body odor of anyone I’ve ever met in my life. I had to take deep breaths outside his office, then hold it while I went in to find files on his floor.
Oh ick. I haven’t thought about this in years!
I actually had a leader at a previous job say to the team something like, “I don’t like it any more than you do, but this is the way management wants us to do it.”
No surprise it didn’t work well. A little bit of passion behind the idea might have been nice. 🙂