AFTER THOUGHT : Meeting People’s Needs

My boss sets one course of action in meetings but appears to do whatever he likes afterwards. As result, staff are becoming more and more demotivated. People are reluctant to attend meetings as they are becoming waste of time, and productivity is taking tumble. When I point out what’s happening, my boss denies it. What should I do?

It sounds like you need to get new boss. I know this is glib answer but the prime reason people give for leaving their job is their boss. You are describing situation where your boss is undermining his/her own credibility by saying one thing and doing another.
Leadership isn’t based solely on person’s role. It has to be earned. Being able to engender trust in others is an essential leadership trait. This comes from demonstrating consistent honesty and integrity in personal behaviours. When making decisions leader needs to listen to the viewpoints of other people and involve them in the process.
The leader may need to sum up the overall picture and various views and make clear decision on the next course of action. Once this has been decided they need to follow through on the decision otherwise the message to others is “your involvement in the decision-making process was not important and neither are you”.
The end result will be people becoming disengaged and asking themselves “why do I bother?”, which is exactly what you are describing.
A second major attribute of good leader is an ability to be self-aware. This is challenging for most human beings but the more we can see the reality of our own thoughts and situations the more we will be able to recognise what is really happening, make appropriate decisions and continuously learn from experience.
In this case it doesn’t sound like your boss is able to learn quickly enough nor see what is really happening. Having tried your best you can do one of two things. Change bosses, or dive to the bottom of the pool and wait for your boss to move on, which is very likely given his/her current behaviour.

I like to have an open door policy at work but recently the number of direct reports has escalated. I’m now finding it hard to be productive while still remaining accessible.

Being readily available to people who work with you can be very positive experience but it does also require some discipline. Your open door policy means issues can be dealt with quickly before they turn into something else and this can be particularly effective if you are good coach and mentor. It is also motivating for staff as they can gain quick access to you.
However, without some control an open door policy can become stone around your neck that prevents you from doing the other things that you need to do. You need to consider what is reasonable balance between your time working directly with your staff and actually getting on with other parts of your workload. Then work out if there are any particular times during the day when it is more appropriate for people to be able to see you and when it is not.
You might, for example, choose to have an open door during the first half of the morning and afternoon with the other halves being spent on specific personal work. If this is feasible talk it through with your direct reports so that they are clear on the rules.
If you need to be more flexible in balancing your time, you could work out signalling system that makes it clear to others when you are available and when you are concentrating on some personal work. This can be as simple as shutting the door to your office or if you are in an open plan situation putting something on your desk that has been agreed as the ‘do not disturb’ signal.
A common attribute of truly great leaders is their ability to ‘be there’ for people when they meet with you. To do this you need to be in the right place for yourself and therefore it makes absolute sense to recognise your need to get the right balance.
A final thought would be to re-examine how many direct reports you have now. More than six to eight and you will start to feel the pressure no matter whether you have an open door policy or not. If this is the case maybe it’s time to look at restructuring your role which may have grown too large for you to be effective.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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