Flurry and Fizzle: Inconsistency Builds Management Distrust

At least once per week I get an email looking for help with a management issue. The person lays out a problem, I ask a few questions, and then make a suggestion or two. Pretty basic. Occasionally, I receive a question with an answer that would be of general interest and/or is too complex for a simple email. When that happens I use it as the basis of a blog post, changing the details to protect anonymity…

Recently I received the following request:

I started a new management job last year. The problem is I am not well liked by my staff.  Last week I was told I could lose my job because my team wasn’t behind me.  I need some ideas.  Thanks.

How would you respond to this request? Where do you suggest this manager start? There are clearly some relationship problems to address. What threw me was that this question came from someone who had been receiving my weekly tips for over two years. That is over 100 tips! I knew he had been exposed to the basics of building great relationships. An idea or two wasn’t going to help. Something else was going on. I needed more information, so I wrote back:

You have a big challenge ahead. In order to make any suggestions I need to know what you have tried so far and what result you got.  The more specific you are the more I can help.

I am expecting a response that describes maybe three techniques that he has tried for at least a month or two. With that list I might be able to make a recommendation. With information about his specific attempts and his perspective on the responses of employees I will have a better sense of what is going on and a better chance of helping him. I look forward to his response.

What I receive back is a long list of weekly tips and the message:

I tried them all. They work for a day. People just don’t seem to trust me.

His response is perplexing. If people respond positively once to a new behavior, they aren’t likely to stop responding positively. The tips are designed to offer a way of working that builds relationships and trust. They require consistency. For instance,

Tip #14 – Do You Trust Your Team

Demonstrate that you trust your people and you offer recognition based in respect. Trust that they will get the work done, and they will. Give them new responsibilities with guidance, but don’t micromanage. Your confidence in their abilities will motivate them to achieve more. Trust your team and in most cases they will live up to that trust.

How does trusting your people work only for a day? It seems this manager is taking a superficial approach to these tips, use once and toss, and that inconsistency is a recipe for disaster. What kind of relationship would you have with a supervisor who asked your opinion one week and never again? It reminds me of the employee who said her boss went to a recognition workshop, came back, said good job, and checked her off his list.

I wanted to know more so I sent him a relationship assessment with instructions to complete it and send it to me. I received an enthusiastic thank you and then nothing more.

Frustrating. It seems he is skipping from idea to idea looking for the magic wand. His inconsistent approach is known as Flurry and Fizzle or Flavor of the Week.

Sometimes I wonder, is there some management philosophy out there that states:

Do something new. In fact, barrage people with the flavor of the week. Then stop – cold. No explanation.

Flurry and Fizzle/ Flavor of the Week is a terrific tool for building distrust. Unfortunately it seems to be human nature to think that new is better than consistency. We have to remember that the opposite is true. Mundane concepts like respect and validation applied consistently make a big difference. Flashy, single application, cure all your ills solutions don’t exist.

How about you? What are you doing to fight Flurry and Fizzle/Flavor of the Week in your organizations?

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