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Thanks, Sincerely, For Your Leadership

July 30, 2010
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Thanks, Sincerely, For Your Leadership

How often do we stop and thank our bosses?

This is one of those style and leadership questions that doesn’t get much coverage in our training programs, mentoring and business readings. I generally do thank mine in response to an event of some sort, probably two or three times a year. Here are a few categories of behaviors and talents that I am sincerely thankful for:

1. Caring
In a recent blog comment , a reader pointed out that caring and competency can be independent. The presence of both leads to trust (leadership). Competency without caring can lead to respect at best. True caring is easy to detect, and usually represents effort and risk taking on the part of the boss. I am thankful for caring.

2. Competency
Being a competent boss means assuring that information flows on a timely basis. Whether that translates into weekly one-on-ones, directed emails, phone conversations or voice mails, etc. It also means continually thinking through decision rights issues. Is the right person making the specific, critical decisions? Are the right people being truly consulted on those decisions prior to commitment? Are the right people being informed, in a timely, "no surprises" manner? This is real, draining work. Although it's hard to get this right all the time, I truly appreciate when my boss invests in getting this done well.

3. Coaching and feedback
Anybody have a boss walk through your strengths and areas for growth? I am thankful when I have a boss who is sufficiently educated, self-aware and secure to have these discussions. In my experience, bosses are either delightfully qualified and interested, or they're hopelessly incapable. The later simply don't have the necessary talent and truly shouldn't try. (They often have other talents) I am thankful and indebted to many past bosses for coaching that continues to serve me, many years after we parted ways.

4. Committing (being responsive)
A real relationship builder is " Is the boss available when needed?" I am grateful when my requests for help receive a prompt response, say within hours or a day. I know that I am committed to a lot of important people; when I am fully booked and possibly a bit tired, I still make the extra effort to ensure I am responsive. And I appreciate when that commitment is reciprocated to me, especially from my boss.

So, should we thank our bosses for the leadership they show us? Of course. And how often? That depends upon their ability to lead . . . and our ability to recognize true leadership.



Doc Benjamin,
Thanks for your comments. Both, 1) "Select and groom for replacement", and 2) "Listen, Mine for conflict, then be Definitive."

A friend and Colonel puts it this way: "You will know what I think, and then I'll do what you say."

There is a subtle or not so subtle erosion of organizational health when the CEO doesn't regularly ask for input from their staff. The "you will know what I think" creates an appropriate and clear responsibility on the part of the directs to be informed and thoughtful. An organization rots from the head when this cultural value is not followed, from the top down, including those subordinate executives and managers.

This failure to instill an expectation of real listening is a sure fire method to create a passive-aggressive culture.

Did that capture what you were saying?

  (graphic above comes from Neilson, Pasternack, and van Nuys' The Passive-Aggressive Organization, published in HBR and provided by Booz Allen Hamilton, here.)

You are describing a very unhealthy behavior. This blog post was about some of the practices that are associated with healthy organizations (those four behaviors that I am thankful for.). PAOs are common, as the linked article clearly describes and the pie chart contextualizes. Listening, true empathetic listening, is fundamental to all four behaviors.

Your comment underscores that observation that organizational health is a real thing, and it's more important to assess and manage, than the second leading approach to management, ie hiring the most talented people you can. Smart people in an unhealthy organizational culture are uniformly unable to express their smarts. As you pointed out, the cultural health behaviors, one way or the other, good or bad, flow from the CEO.

Dr. Bormel,
A very good post. Too often, I think we forget to reinforce those who lead with something as simple as a "thank you."

Two points. A good boss is a confident leader, confident in his or her abilities and those of their staff members. Therefore, a good boss will search out and hire individuals who could eventually replace them, and make clear from the start that should be a goal of every new executive hire.

Additionally, good bosses position themselves as the "final authority" when it comes to critical business decisions. They should welcome suggestions and lively debate, but successful businesses are not democratic. Leaders make decisions and stand by them, as well as their people.

Thank you for continuing to provoke thought.

Doc Benjamin

Dr. Bormel,
I do believe you've capture the essence of my thoughts, and the pie chart you posted is very interesting.

Unfortunately, I have had the distasteful experience of working with two organizations that were passive aggressive. What I found in each was that the CEO not only did not listen, he ultimately ruled by intimidation. This attitude was eventually adopted by most members of the senior management team (I use that word "team" loosely) and led to severe talent losses, which in turn led the organizations into decline. A vendor once asked me if one of these CEOs actually had a "death wish" for the business.

It was all quite distressing, but I learned a good deal about how not to manage others from those two non-leaders. And I learned very quickly.

Doc Benjamin