Before You Update Your Resume, Try Some Agile Thinking about Your Boss…and Take This Quiz!
Effective or ineffective leaders dictate not just how happy you are in a job, but the overall nature and success of your products. But leaders are, like the rest of us, human. Your very human leader has strengths and weaknesses that can be both a help and a hindrance. And nowhere do those strengths and weaknesses become more apparent than when your organization is trying to make a cultural change—for example, when they are going through an Agile transformation.
We feel your pain. So, relax, pause for five minutes, and take our problematic leaders quiz. (Or, if you are a leader, take our quiz to see if you fall into any one of these stereotypes…)
Take the Quiz!
Who doesn’t love a quiz? Get a pen ready, then jot down which letter corresponds with your answer. We get that there may be a blend. We’re shooting for archetypes, so go with your gut and have fun.
1. How likely is your leader to stick with the game plan after a huddle?
- Ask me this question again when they call me at midnight asking me why the thing we talked about this morning isn’t done yet.
- They spent so much time talking about their fantasy football league and showing us pics of the new car: I’m not convinced that they absorbed anything.
- They blazed into the meeting 30 minutes late and we are apparently making a brand-new product that has to launch by (—>insert name of industry conference here<—).
- I won’t hear from him/her until the next huddle. I never really get any feedback. I feel like I’m basically running my own country.
2. When you discuss results, the kinds of questions your boss asks are:
- My boss doesn’t so much ask me questions as hurl disappointment. It always sounds like the team and I have made mistakes before I even get through the latest demo.
- Personal. My boss likes to ask a lot of personal questions during a meeting like about the weekend or what the team and I are doing for lunch. Popular subject: Is it Taco Tuesday yet?
- We almost always discuss something that is completely unrelated to what we’re working on. The questions are creative and interesting. But they have nothing to do with what I came prepared to discuss.
- My boss doesn’t care about progress. I won’t really hear from them until we have direct results to discuss. I never really know where I stand until we’re already in beta, or if something obviously goes off the rails.
3. How does your boss celebrate milestones with you?
- Celebrate? What is this “celebrate” about which you speak?
- They’re overly congratulatory. I feel like they need higher expectations. I know we do good work, and praise is great, but this boss is way too likely to pat us on the back too soon.
- Milestones? We don’t do those here. As soon as I’m ready to present milestones for project A, I feel like they’ve already moved on to something else, so we’re never on the same page to celebrate any of our accomplishments.
- It’s hard to read how this person feels. Are they happy? Disappointed? Thrilled? We may get a “good job” email or a brief toast here and there, but nothing major.
4. What is the single word that describes how you assume your boss wants you to feel about them?
- I legit have no idea
5. When it’s time for you to run the meeting, your boss:
- Is there 10 minutes early and yells at me for being late.
- Praises me and the team before we present anything.
- Forgets what the meeting was about, often misses them completely.
- Takes notes, doesn’t say much, has a poker face the entire time, leaves as soon as we’re done.
6. Let’s talk about deadlines. When you have a deadline coming up:
- They never let me forget about it and assume I/we are going to miss it.
- Doesn’t seem to know what’s really at stake if we miss a deadline.
- Moves the deadline back so we can focus on something else that’s suddenly due tomorrow (and I assume that deadline is equally negotiable).
- I don’t hear from my boss—ever—when a deadline is approaching. I sometimes question whether or not they’re aware of our progress.
7. The one positive thing about your boss is that they are:
8. What is your boss’ reaction when he sees you or a member of the team leaving early?
- Demand to know where we’re going and if we’re working from home that night or not.
- Honestly, I wish this person would do a little bit more to keep folks focused. I feel like the team is getting away with too much and I don’t know how to control it.
- My boss is probably (as I take this quiz) getting ready to climb Kilimanjaro or is scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef and doesn’t really pay attention to the day-to-day.
- I’m pretty sure that we can come and go as we please, as long as the work gets done…but my boss has never said as much, so I’m basically guessing.
9. What word sums up how you believe your boss sees you:
- As an assistant
- As a friend
- As a collaborator
- As an employee
10. What does your boss do if you give them advice?
- Ignores it.
- Hangs on it like it’s gospel.
- I think they absorb it, and then the next time I bring it up, it’s like I never mentioned it at all.
- I feel like I have to coax everything out of them, even if it’s really simple feedback.
Okay, now it’s time to add up your answers.
SCORE: Mostly A’s
The Visionary Genius
The problem: The Genius is a demanding perfectionist who’s likely to be an utter workaholic. The Genius gets confused when you do things like go on vacation, leave early for a kid’s soccer game, or stay home when you’re sick. The Genius is also probably pretty good at doing the work (writing code, etc.), or at least THINKS they’re good at it. Ever come in on a Monday to find out that the Genius has broken what you spent 60 hours building the week before? These folks are controlling and have massive expectations of everyone.
The rub: The Genius is effective. Sure, they’re irritating, but they’re also impactful. Are they easy to work for? No. Do they innovate and come up with amazing ideas and deliverables? Here’s where you have to reluctantly agree that the answer to that last question is: Yes.
The solution: We’re not suggesting that you remain in an abusive situation. These are not easy people to work for. The best option here is to analyze the actual track record. WHAT WILL THEY ACHIEVE? If they are really on track to be the next Jobs, then you may want to stick this one out for as long as you can. It won’t be easy, but it’s likely this person has quite a reputation in your industry. The more you link your success to their success, the more you could be an attractive hire for nearly anyone in the future.
These types are known to hire good, talented people, but then impose excruciatingly high standards for them. They often need to learn not to let perfect be the enemy of good, and trust their teams to prioritize and tackle the right projects. They might spearhead bringing modern work practices to your organization, but resist learning it themself…and that’s where you might need to nudge them if they have any hope of supporting high-functioning teams.
SCORE: Heavy on the B’s
The problem: This person wants to be everyone’s friend. No one has any expectations for success because there’s no accountability or respect. Without accountability, nothing is getting done. Ever. The Buddy is passive and unlikely to take responsibility for stalled progress. That probably falls on your shoulders. The Buddy wants or needs more praise from you, not the other way around. It’s hard to nail them down, not because they don’t care, but because they are deeply concerned about what your opinion of their leadership style is.
The rub: Here’s the thing: you LIKE this person, and you like them a lot. It’s really hard to criticize this person because, hey, they’re NICE. They’re also fairly democratic. If they see good work, and if you give them good work, they’ll mostly leave you alone.
The solution: Project managers and product owners often take up the mantle of decision-making with the Buddy CEO. That gives a lot of power to teams, but those managers also have to make sure their priorities are aligning with the organization’s overall business goals. Getting everyone together to outline those goals and the overall vision will appeal to the Buddy CEO, and might also give your teams some badly needed direction.
SCORE: A lot of C’s
The problem: Every new idea is a shiny new object that needs to be conquered, and it needs to be conquered quickly. The issue with the Idea-holic is that they don’t know that every good idea isn’t the GREATEST idea. They also can’t ever seem to connect the dots. Are their ideas often disconnected to each other? Does the team even have the skillset to execute the newest shiny object?
They get bored easily, shift from one project to another. It’s impossible to nail them down to get feedback because as you move through different project stages, they’ve already moved onto the next big thing.
The rub: Let’s talk about those ideas for a second. They’re all really good ones, aren’t they? Even if they’re not all good ones, they all deserve to be treated like they’re good because there’s always something worth exploring. Right? No one is saying that this person is easy to deal with (also: they’re not). The massive challenge is managing the project queue so you can keep up with them, finish things in a meaningful way, and make sure that what you’re doing is actually effective, while also working with stakeholders to navigate around this person to extract the best value from their truly innovative mind.
The solution: This is the kind of leader that needs to learn how to respect the backlog. In a modern, agile organization, whoever manages that backlog sets the priority and the pace, and leadership needs to learn how to respect that backlog, even when they have a brilliant idea. (“It can wait until the next sprint.”)
SCORE: Heavy D’s
The Ultra Delegator
The problem: This leader is likely to happily delegate, trust you to get stuff done, assume that the right people have been hired to do the right job. They are just not likely to stop and tell you what you’re doing wrong, or pat you on the head for doing a good job. The person is all business, all the time. The Ultra Delegator is more likely to trust you, but may not give you the kind of feedback you need. They are also likely to do crazy stuff like actually read the reports they get, believe the data (financials especially), and live and die by customer behavior. This person will address problems only when they are evident. And that COULD be a problem. How do you know what you’re doing is working until you, and your boss, both discover at the same time what is actually broken?
The rub: The biggest challenge of dealing with an Ultra Delegator is that they trust you. Wait, that’s not a bad thing, though—right? But what if you’re wrong? If you’re used to micromanagement and heavy-handed oversight, maybe you need a deep dive into how to be a more effective self-managed team. You may also need coaching FROM them so at least you’ll know where you stand.
The solution: YOU are the solution. This person trusts you to be a self-managed leader, to walk out of the room with your marching orders and walk back in to report progress only. This might be new to you, and maybe even a little disconcerting at first. But it is a common thing to see in organizations that have embraced modern work mindsets, or that are farther along in the process of an Agile transformation. If that’s the case, getting some further coaching or training for yourself might be in order.
Leaders vs. Leadership
Leaders are people, but leadership is cultural. If you accept the former and attach yourself to the transformation of the latter, you may not need to dust off that resume. In fact, there’s potential to flex your leader’s strengths and get the most out of them for both you and your organization.
Taking responsibility for your business culture is the very hallmark of leadership.