Leadership Fails: Inconsistent Involvement

Leaders are busy. We have dozens of people and projects pulling our attention in as many different directions. Prioritization is key, and it’s not always obvious how to do it effectively. When it comes to leading our teams, ideally we are able to strike a healthy balance somewhere in between stifling and absent. Sounds easy enough, but finding that supportive sweet spot takes planning and practice.

I worked for a boss once who swung wildly between two poles: either she was an extreme micromanager or she was a disappearing ghost. One week she would be hyper-focused on our work, picking apart every minute detail, and the next week she would vacate the office and disappear completely from her leadership role. It was a little maddening for the team, as you might expect. We never knew which leader would show up (or not show up). Would we be getting detailed feedback that week or none at all?

Certainly different employees thrive under different circumstances. Some team members prefer to have a hands-on leader who gives them a checklist of items to complete, while others prefer the autonomy granted by a virtually absent leader. But most people, however, enjoy working on a team where the leadership falls somewhere in the middle.

What is your strategy for keeping in touch with those you lead? Do you have daily check-ins? Weekly? Quarterly? Keep in mind that not everyone will agree on how frequently they need or want to hear from their boss. You need to feel this out for each member of the team and adjust your style accordingly.

As leaders, one of the most important pieces of our communication strategy with our teams is consistency. If you (and your team) prefer a more hands-off leadership style with occasional check-ins as opposed to daily oversight, no problem. But make sure that is clear. Everyone should know the expectations. And be sure to make it known if those norms need to be adjusted, say for an approaching deadline or if the work is suffering in some way.

Consistency from the leader is essential for building a healthy team that feels safe and appropriately challenged. Inconsistent involvement from the leader breeds uncertainty and instability in the team. Uncertainty impacts the team’s ability to focus on the project by distracting employees’ thoughts, causing them to worry unnecessarily about the leader’s presence or absence instead of diving deep into their work.