What to Do When Your Boss is a Wuss
I invited several top leaders, authors, and bloggers to share their wisdom with Leadership Freak readers. Thanks to Karin Hurt for sharing this insightful post filled with advice on dealing with a wussy boss.
Laura invited me to observe the spectacle. I watched as she carefully articulated her research findings and presented her “no brainer” suggestions to her boss, Mark.
The conversation was the equivalent to Laura saying, “I’d like to give you 100 bucks– No strings attached. I just found a way to save the money and I’d like to give it to you.”
And Mark saying, “Well, thanks for making the effort, but I’ll have to think about that for a while, talk to some other folks and see what they think, and then get back to you.”
Mark was clearly afraid to make a decision, even if it was obviously a good one.
Perhaps you’re dealing with Mark or his doppelgänger.
5 Ways to Help Your Boss Make a Decision
#1. Ask More Questions
If you’re met with resistance, stop selling and start asking.
- How do you think this change would impact the customer experience?
- Have you ever tried anything like this before? How did it go?
- What’s driving your hesitation?
- Who else needs to be involved in such decisions?
#2. Provide a Clear Path Forward
Be clear on what your idea would take to implement: specifically, who would need to do what — by when.
#3. Make it Reversible
Got a new process? Try it with one team.
Worried about the customer experience? Do a pilot.
#4. Include Others
If Mark suggests a need to socialize the idea with others, offer to tag along “Awesome, I’d love to join a quick call to help you socialize the idea.”
#5. Don’t Give Up
Give Mark a chance to sleep on it, and give it another go.
Your turn. How do you best help a wussy boss make a decision?
For me it is the client who’s pecking order seems to fail after you layout a “no brainer ROI project” and it becomes lost in corporate. 3 years later the client comes back and reinvents the wheel and unfortunately the ROI no longer exists. Seems like our world has the push comes to shove mode when they want it now, and planning has gone out the door with the “no brainer” running the show.
Tim, Thanks for sharing your experiences. That can be so frustrating. Getting to the right decision maker and helping them to decide is such an important art.
One thing I’ve learned when I have a wussy boss is to decide whether to take a new “thaing” to him/her immediately or build up the groundswell first. If I’ve done the groundswell first, s/he is usually thrilled about the new thaing and many times takes it as his/her thaing. And, as the proud owner of the thaing, WussyBoss asks me what I think and would I like to lead the implementation team. I’ve been doing it this way and haven’t ever felt like I had to climb Denali to get what I consider is a good result. Nothing to it!
V R. Love it. I call that the “squeeze play ;-)”
I have never heard the term “socialize the idea.” That is a new one…does it mean to take this idea to the team, talk it through, and get broader support?
Yes, Katie. Exactly. To share the idea with others to gain broader support. This can be done up, down and sideways. That way the boss sees “social proof” that your idea is a good one.
Huh. I hadn’t thought of that as “a thing” but it makes perfect sense. Thanks for your article – this was an interesting topic.
Just wondering, how should a boss balance getting some wisdom from other leaders even before making a “no brainer” decision and making a decision immediately when he may feel like it may not be a “no brainer” decision to him?
Carl, Great topic! I think that really depends on how important the decision is and what the impact is on results and relationships, up down and sideways. We dive into this a good bit in our book , Winning Well… it’s so important to include the right people in decisions… AND including too many for the wrong reasons can really slow you down.
Get either a new boss or new job.
Payrick. Perhaps. But I’ve found that bosses are quite trainable 😉
Sometimes your boss really is a wuss.
Sometimes they have a perspective you don’t, and your no brainer has ramifications you haven’t spotted. I know the common view is that everyone is in the “fail early, fail often” mode a la Steve Jobs, but there are situations where you actually do only get one failure and after that you never get a second chance. If your no brainer makes the company 100K, great, but if it generates a situation where if one thing goes wrong the company gets shut down, then it isn’t so obvious.
Mitch, So agreed. I’m not saying assume your boss is wrong or a wuss by any means…. it’s so likely they are not. You raise very important points here. In either case, it starts with asking great questions and really seeking to understand the other person’s perspective.
Very interesting. I find working with a Wuss frustrating and sometimes intriguing. Frustrating because the person was afraid to make,a decision, afraid of some other female managers and females that reported to her and everything was by the book. The individual comes across as weak, and as someone put it of her own shadow. Intriguing in the sense of watching how she copes in scenarios involving people she is afraid of. In the past we have had issues with other teams. Rather than go direct to the manager in question she will go to senior member on the team. One manager would continuously get her team to direct disgruntled customers on to this manager, I would hear her say, X is at her desk, get her to do it. It didn’t matter what x was doing but she would have to do it. However on another occasion I got a desk beside x, and she was rattling her fingers off her desk, I could tell she was frustrated about something. Turns out she was working on a project, she emailed the other manager for help whom emailed back with an unhelpful response. She told me she was tired of unhelpful people. I can take from that, that quite often this manager and others don’t help her and know that she is too weak to stand up to them. Sadly this lady is viewed as been weak and it’s sad to see that people use this to their own advantage.