3 Ways Lazy Leaders Drive Their Star Employees Crazy

If you are a star performer at work, chances are you want your boss to help you out sometimes, but you would rather have them out of your hair the rest of the time. Good leaders figure out who the stars on their team are and give them what they need and, otherwise, let them be. Lazy leaders don’t do that, and that can drive star employees crazy, and may even drive them away from the organization.

Here are three things star performers wish their lazy bosses would stop doing:

1. Stop Micromanaging Me

Lazy leaders often spend more time than they should managing their star performers. They don’t do this because the stars need their help; they do it for other reasons. The first reason is because working with stars is a lot easier than working with other people. Stars already know what they are doing and how to work with others to get it done, so their leader doesn’t need to chip in any additional effort or give uncomfortable feedback. Lazy leaders are lazy, after all.

By spending time micromanaging their star subordinates, lazy leaders may feel like they can closely associate the good results with themselves as much as the star performer.

The second reason lazy leaders like to work closely with star performers’ is to share in the credit for the good results. Lazy leaders may be insecure and feel threatened by the abilities of their most talented subordinates. By spending time micromanaging their star subordinates, lazy leaders may feel like they can closely associate the good results with themselves as much as the star performer.

2. Stop Ignoring Problems Elsewhere

Lazy leaders love resting in the comfort of inertia and the status quo. Within their own teams, lazy leaders spend too little time managing the people on their team who are not pulling their weight because it is hard work. Giving feedback to someone that they are not meeting expectations is uncomfortable, and lazy leaders run from discomfort.

Gathering feedback and ensuring it is grounded also takes effort that lazy leaders don’t want to take on. They fear that once they start identifying and addressing problems in one space, other problems may start surfacing in other places that they have to address. With external issues outside their team, lazy leaders do not spend the time clearing obstacles with leaders of other teams that work with their team. The things they could do to provide their team with “air cover” like calling in favors or escalating issues, requires effort and can be uncomfortable. Lazy leaders would rather just leave it to their team to figure out how to get difficult things done themselves.

Lazy leaders would rather just leave it to their team to figure out how to get difficult things done themselves.

3. Stop Holding Me Back

Lazy leaders may be lazy, but they aren’t stupid. They realize that they overly rely on their stars to get the results they need from their whole team.

Root Square 0415

If they lose a star, they will have to get someone else to step up to fill the huge gap in hard work and results their star left behind. Their worst fear is that they will personally have to do the work.

To minimize the risk that one of their stars leaves their team, they do many things to keep them from moving. The lazy leader doesn’t widely advertise their star’s potential to other team leaders for fear they will recruit them away. They don’t encourage their stars to do activities outside of their team, such as industry conferences or cross-team task forces, for fear of letting their secret out. They dismiss the importance of such external efforts to make the star feel like they are better off not “wasting time” on them. They also don’t provide their stars with objective long-term career coaching because they know things like additional education could take the stars away from them.

In their new book, Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results, authors Victor Prince and Mike Figliuolo lay out a strategy for leaders to identify who their stars and other types of employees are and how to best lead them. By reading it, leaders will know what to do with stars… and stars will know if their leaders aren’t doing what they should.

Victor Prince & Mike Figliuolo

As the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Victor Prince helped build a new federal agency and led a division of hundreds of people. As a consultant with Bain & Company, he helped clients across the United States and Europe develop successful business strategies. Today, Victor is a consultant and speaker who teaches strategy and leadership skills to clients around the world. Mike Figliuolo is an honor graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He served in the U.S. Army as an armor officer. Mike also spent time in corporate America as a consultant at McKinsey & Company and as an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. As the founder and managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC, he and his team deliver training on leadership, strategy, communications, and innovation. He is the author of two books – One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership and Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results.

  • The first thing that came to my mind while reading this article is that anyone who answers to that description cannot possibly be considered a leader in the first place. However, I was very impressed by how well you described my manager. :-) The problem is, a manager like that will also be too lazy to read any book that asks her to reflect on her way of being and to do something about it.
    What this article brings up for me, though, is the question: just how is it that lazy managers even get to the position of manager? Maybe more important is understanding why any organization on the planet would want to keep such a person in a management position, when we know that we need good managers if we want our employees to feel engaged in their work. Employee engagement is essential for increased morale and productivity, better customer service and customer satisfaction, higher sales, less absenteeism, and lower turn-over rates. Recruiting good employees is time consuming and expensive; losing a star employee even more so.
    The solution is to give supervisors or managers who are like mine about three months to get it right. Make them go through the 360, and discuss the results with them. If they are humble enough to admit they have some work to do, give them the coaching and training they need and keep measuring their progress. If no significant improvement is evident, let them go. Who would you rather lose–a toxic manager or a star employee?

    • Victor Prince

      Great points Jody. (Sorry I am just seeing this now.) I wrote this from a provocative angle exactly to try to raise questions like that. Our book is aimed at helping managers figure out how to lead people exhibiting different types of performance patterns. But I think it is also a useful lens for people to figure out if their manager is leading them well. I believe leaders work for their teams, not the other way around, and team members deserve to get the right leadership they need.

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