In this episode of Relationships at Work, communications and leadership nerd (and host) Russel Lolacher highlights the fourth of the seven deadly sins of leadership ecosystems: forgetting to follow up.
In this fourth in a series of seven, Russel discusses how not following up with action and intent can hurt employee trust and faith in leadership. He provides real-world examples of where leaders can take the opportunity to follow up and how best to make it part of our operations and culture.
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Welcome back to Relationships At Work – the leadership mindset guide for creating a workplace we love. I’m your host Russel Lolacher
I’m a communications and leadership nerd with a couple of decades of experience and a heap of curiosity on how we can make the workplace better. If you’re a leader trying to understand and improve your impact on work culture and the employee experience, you’re in the right place.
Every week on the show, I talk with a local or global leader on topics that are help to you to improve the workplace. We’ve tackled negativity, reimagining leadership, imposter syndrome, diversity, communication, empathy, activism, burnout, mental health, and so many other topics.
And now, as an added bonus, I’ll be sharing an additional episode pulled from the pages of our weekly R@W Note which you can subscribe to.
This mini-episode is a quick and valuable bit of information on top of our regular show.
So for our R@W Note I’m passing on to you… is a continuation of our seven deadly sins of leadership series.
This is no. 4 in that seven… to Lead is to Follow… UP
As I’ve said through this series, "I'm not worried about bad leadership. I'm worried about leadership ecosystems that allow and perpetuate it."
All organizations, even healthy ones, will have bad leaders. With studies highlighting how few or how late leaders get training in their careers, it’s not surprising. It’s actually to be expected.
The problem is how those organizations handle those bad leaders. That’s what scares me. An ecosystem that allows for toxic workplaces through inactivity, rewarding bad behaviour, etc. etc. Though these practices I highlight in this series are rarely intentional, they are still very effective.
So as I highlight them, I'll also share the things we can do to make sure they don't happen in our organization.
We’ve tackled previous sins of being too busy, fearing conflict and lacking curiosity.
So now lets get into, a lack of follow up.
Leadership needs to be intentional to be effective and to contribute to a healthy organization. A key way to demonstrate intention is following up on things.
Following up on survey results. Following up on comments made that seemed off. Following up on inappropriate behavour. Following up on concerns voiced by employees. Following up performance conversations.
Following up. Period.
In the context of following up in order to diminish the chances of allowing and perpetuating bad leadership and its impacts on our workplace, it's about not leaving something alone with out resolution or a plan to get to a resolution.
By definition, "to follow up" is to gather more information.
All those examples I gave earlier as things to follow up on… there is an opportunity in each one to gather more information that will help good leaders work to prevent bad leadership.
For example, it's about making sure problem leaders...
· Leaders may take training, but following up will help determine if it’s effective. Did it land how it should? Did they find it impactful and understood and how are they going to implement that learning into their relationships with their teams? And are they implementing it correctly?
· Leaders may say they'll professionally develop their staff, but following up helps you find out if they actually are. And how consistently and effectively. And what their plan is long-term for that development.
· Leaders may intent to provide a safe space for their staff, but following up with that team through check ins or skip level meetings with that team determines if it actually is. And what the leader is doing to ensure that it is and will continue to be.
This may sound like micromanagement. And maybe it is. Here’s the thing… good leaders don’t need to be micromanaged. Bad leaders do, until they can prove they don’t. It’s about making sure problematic leaders are being corrected and on the right path for the health of our organization. That’s the responsibility of great leaders.
When leaders don't follow up about bad leaders, they demonstrate to employees that they don't really care. And sorry, but “too busy” isn’t an excuse. It’s just another sin of bad leadership ecosystems. It says that the well-being of the organization isn't as important as they might say it is in emails and posters.
Good leaders need to follow up. And here is what that could look like:
1. Regular Check-ins: schedule regular check-ins to follow up on ongoing projects, discuss progress, and address any questions or concerns. These can be in the form of one-on-one meetings, team meetings, or virtual communication sessions. By establishing a consistent follow-up routine, both parties can stay aligned and updated.
2. Clear Communication Channels: establish clear, accessible and active communication channels for interactions to follow up with each other effectively. This can include email, instant messaging platforms, project management tools, or even dedicated communication software. As long as you both use it to keep in contact. It helps easily exchange information, seek clarification, and provide updates as/when needed.
3. Accountability and Action: Following up is not just about communication—it also involves taking accountability and action. Leaders should ensure that they address employee concerns or feedback promptly and take necessary steps to resolve issues.
Helping to steer bad leaders to better leaders isn't about just hoping they’ll get better on their own. Many of those bad leaders get into positions of influence without correction so why would they think they’re doing anything wrong? They’ve been rewarded for bad behaviour.
That’s on us to address. And it needs to be done with intent and impact, or nothing gets solved. And that is only done with following up to ensure the behaviours and values our culture needs are being followed. Not just said they are.
Problematic leaders need this kind of direction and support. It’ll help them be better leaders - for themselves, their team and the organization.