March is the cruelest month
T.S. Eliot said, “April is the cruelest month,” but in central Pennsylvania, I think it’s March. It’s the third week of March and temperatures have swung from over 70 to below freezing. One day it snowed and the next it was over 50 degrees. March serves up a taste of summer warmth and then bitterly yanks the rug out from under you with another wintery blast. That’s cruel!
March is cruel because it’s unpredictable.
Emotionally unpredictable leaders are cruel. If people are dancing around you by saying, “She’s having a bad day. Or, he’s really stressed out,” you’re like March in central Pennsylvania. You have your good days and then “bad weather sets in.” You’re unpredictability makes you a cruel boss. Chances are you’re not planning to be cruel but emotional volatility is destabilizing your team.
Emotional unpredictability is a productivity bottle-neck because team members waste time and energy preparing for and overcoming the stress and pain you inflict.
In order to create stable, productive work environments leaders must be predictable.
How to become predictable?
Be transparent but not volatile. Tynan says, “A key skill for a manager is the ability to compartmentalize emotions…”
Determine to ask questions before making statements. If you haven’t learned yet, there is always more to the story so withhold judgment until the facts are in.
Find a coach, mentor or colleague who can listen to you vent. Stress is cumulative. That means the tenth small, unresolved, stressful event may erupt into the straw that breaks the camel’s back causing people to wonder why something so small caused such a big reaction.
Develop a strategy for dealing with relational tensions that includes asking, “What should this relationship look like.” Have relational targets.
A short, slow walk may help you become more predictable because it takes at least five minutes for adrenalin to leave your system.
What do you think? How can leaders become predictable?
10 Best questions ever
The power of calm
A taste of Friday
The whole world stinks
Dan, Wow March in PA sounds a lot like March on Ohio except it happens a day earlier here.
I think a boss can become more predictable by being honest and direct in their communication. If I ask my boss a question I would rather have an honest direct answer even is all they can say is “I can’t tell you that at this time” than to have some company speak answer that I know is designed to make me feel better for the moment.
Good example. Sometimes bosses don’t like to say, “I don’t know.”
I think often for a boss to become “predictable” in the way you describe it, they have to develop the ability to introspect; the unpreditable bosses I have witnessed did not delve that deep and/or take those risks. It all changed for one when faced with a life-threatening illness. But you’re right; the walking on eggshells while trying to figure out which way the wind was going to blow that day sucked a whole bunch of productivity and morale out of some generally good people with great potential.
It’s so true, sometimes a crisis brings clarity. Thanks for jumping in with a great illustration.
Emotionally unpredictable leaders are cruel, certainly, but all other types of unpredictability are cruel, too. Or if not cruel, then annoying! Examples:
“Staff meeting in 5 minutes – be prepared to discuss …[fill in the blank]”
“Drop what you’re doing. I need your assistance with [some project that isn’t urgent].”
“Good morning. Meet Sally Smith. You’ll be spending the entire day with her, training her and orienting her to our company. Let her pull up a chair at your desk.”
Perhaps you can tell that I don’t like surprises?
Thanks for expanding out thinking! I’m going to have to write a blog on the power of unpredictability… then I’ll run for cover 🙂
Thank you for commenting. I appreciate it.
Best to you,
I particularly agree on “A short, slow walk” – delaying a decision until it has been thought about with a cool head will bring out new perspectives.
Something I would think would make a leader predictable would be to “Be Fair” – If the manager has a method to take decisions – does not matter who is making the request, as long as the request has sound backing and any challenges raised against it can be countered, if you know it will see daylight, it would give a comfort working with him/her.
Thanks, good to see you. The “short walk” comment came from an experience I had when I was angry and ready to say some things better left unsaid. I was called away for a conference call. The 15 minutes away gave me a chance to begin thinking straight.
Thanks for adding.. be fair (consistent)
I’m late to the party – yesterday was nutty – but wanted to chime in on the discussion. Avoiding the tendency to go “guardrail to guardrail” (careening from overly controlling to overly permissive) is an important part of becoming less volatile. It’s also about picking your battles! I love your “short walk” concept – leaving my desk and taking a deep breath outside helps me keep my perspective. Thanks for including me in your post!
Love the guardrail to guardrail illustration. I’ve been there and done that! I appreciate the good word.
Picking your battles… that sure is a big one. Some issues aren’t worth our concern.
Great advice. As usual, I’ll also look at this from the other side of the street. Good bosses not only try to avoid unpredictability in themselves but they also watch for the same in their staff. Keeping an ‘open door’ policy and insuring that staff knows they can also vent to you develops trust and a good working relationship. Of course, you need to walk the fine line between boss and buddy. Balance, balance, balance.
I know you are working to keep a steady ship in a challenging environment. Your strategy makes a lot of sense.
If your people can come to you and vent, you are a special boss!
Thank you for contributing to the Leadership Freak community.
Best to you,
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Dan – Your how-to’s are really great! I have struggled in this area of my leadership for some time and these 5 simple things will definitely give me specific things to do INSTEAD of the things I usually do. As an extreme extrovert, I tend to process everything within sight and earshot of everyone around me. Although I am aware at those time that I am not really mad or upset, rather I’m just emoting while I work it out, I have learned that it can often be extremely disturbing to others around me and is frequently perceived by them as unpredictability, hotheadedness, anger, etc. this has caused distrust on the team and loss of credibility. The 5 how-tos are like a little toolbox I can use to help me with this – THANKS!!!
Thank you for leaving your first comment on Leadership Freak. You are encouraging me and Freak readers. Our real power is embraced in honest vulnerability. Your honesty is powerful.
I’ve noticed how others take everything I say seriously. Like you, I’m learning to speak more gently, to control my comments. Sarcasm is another problem. When others respect you, it can be hard for them to figure out if you are serious.
Best to you,