Frequent follow up, trust and culture

Lee  is the Tel Aviv based manager of Paul (USA), Lars (Denmark) and Shaul (Tel Aviv).

Lee has asked all of her three direct reports to submit a report within 2 weeks detailing all known risks in the next two quarters. These risks are to be discussed at a critical meeting with investors in one month.

Lee is very anxious; on one hand the risks must be transparent, because any big surprise will mean her ass is on the line. On the other hand, too much risk may mean the end of funding. As a result of the pressure she is under, Lee has not been sleeping well, so she decides to call all three almost on a daily basis to see how their risk analysis report is coming along.

Shaul has no problem with Lee’s frequent follow up. It is a sign that she cares. As a result of Lee’s intensive follow up. Shaul and Lee have had some interesting chats which have shed light on risks that are more red herrings than real risks.

Lars resents daily follow up. He feels that Lee may not trust him; Lee’s style projects the constant hounding he feels from his anxiety driven pushy boss. Lars is working very hard on his document and plans to get it to her before schedule, especially if she leaves him alone.

Paul wishes that his former boss James had not been replaced by Lee when James quit. James trusted people, or replaced them. But Paul has worked with Israeli managers before. He knows that they love to dig into the details. He also knows that Lee trusts him. He also recognizes that Lee is stressed out. So when Lee calls Paul to follow up, Paul asks Lee how high her blood pressure is, and then asks her if she wants to fly over to San Francisco ‘and do my work instead of me’. Lee lays off nagging for a while, but wishes that Paul was “not so American”.

Frequent follow up can generate a feeling of mistrust on the part of the employee. But also frequent follow up can indicate caring and generate informal dialogue. Often frequent follow up is a sign that the manager is under a feel of stress.

I am sure that some people are asking themselves, ‘how can frequent follow up indicate caring?’ It goes like this. The boss give you a task, you have many tasks. You may think, does the boss really want this done? Is she/he serious about this?  The boss nags. Now my priorities are clear. I need to do it. And I will use the frequent nagging to my benefit to discuss the issues with her. That will prevent rework of my report.

Got it? 🙂 If not, keep reading my blog. Merci!

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6 thoughts on “Frequent follow up, trust and culture

  1. Very astute, Allon.

    I once worked for a boss. He got around the possible issue of nagging by converting nagging into a formal, pre-emptive report. Called the Staff Action Situation Summary, each of his subordinates was required to give him a daily summary of key accomplishments and issues on a daily basis. The outline for each was issue, factors bearing upon the issue, action taken with rationale and whether the issue was resolved or not -and why.

    This was a pain. But I grew to like it as I got feedback from my boss as to what were priorities and how he thought. So, I was able to say abreast of his thinking – even, towards the end, proactively deal with issues that concerned him.

    As I went on, I adopted his technique albeit I got my reports verbally in “stand-ups”.
    I found the “real time”: more useful.

    Cordially,

    Ed
    Drive On!

  2. According to my experience the solution to this “nagging” that may be interpreted as mistrust is to set a routine schedule of meeting (weekly or daily or monthly)and adhere to it even if there are no issues to discuss.

  3. Would it be helpful for Lee to be upfront about her stress over the situation? That might defuse the perception of nagging…

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