Gary Winters

Coach  Workshop Facilitator Author

Follower Fatigue

Organizational leaders are facing a real threat to their ability to rally their people: follower fatigue. The past two or three years have been witness to an unprecedented wave of crises that have reduced everyday folk to a state of resignation, apathy, and/or bitterness.

We’ve all had to find our way in the midst of:

  • The worst recession in modern times
  • The collapse of the housing markets
  • The titanic struggles of huge organizations to stay survive and the debate over whether we should save them (too big to fail?)
  • The worst unemployment (and under-employment) figures in memory
  • Massive increases in reported instances of fraud
  • The impact of terrorism on our way of life, our laws, our politics, and our traditions
  • The eruption of the worst environmental disaster ever in the Gulf
  • Far too many political (and other) leaders exposed as hypocrites and cheats
  • The rise and increasing popularity of fringe politics and paranoia

Indeed, it’s difficult to find much good news over the past two or three years, and I believe that “ordinary” people are really struggling to find leaders and organizations to believe in and trust.

Think about it. How much do you really trust…

  • Your elected officials?
  • Your bank?
  • Your oil company?
  • Your food suppliers?
  • Your broker?
  • Your realtor?
  • The people you’ve admired in the public eye – sports figures, entertainers, and the like?

Honest, dedicated, everyday leaders are struggling in every organization I visit. From CEOs and city managers, to directors, managers, front-line supervisors and team leaders, they face a crisis of confidence and a crisis of trust. Fewer and fewer people are willing to rally behind whoever is “in charge” anymore.

We just don’t believe in our leaders and the psychological contract we make with organizations like we used to. It’s the dirty little secret – the elephant in the room – in most organizations.

We’ve been lied to, stolen from, ignored, manipulated, had our trust violated, and been used in so many ways it’s impossible to keep track of all of them.

It’s with great skepticism if not cynicism that employees listen to their leaders talk about their vision, mission and values. And who can blame them? Everywhere you look the cultural glue that holds us together is drying out and chipping off.

As a people, we’re wounded and suffering. That which has sustained us in the past – looking to and following leaders who could forge a path through the wilderness – doesn’t seem as viable anymore.

Every leader is doubted, viewed with suspicion, and taken with “a grain of salt” nowadays. The art of leadership has become much more complicated.

Whatever your position of authority and leadership, you simply can’t count on people to automatically believe you, trust you, or follow you, just because you’re “in charge.” Those days are over. People are increasingly, and consciously, acting in their own self-interest, finding their own way, and rejecting their allegiances to something bigger than themselves.

  • They don’t believe it when they hear that “we’ll keep layoffs to a minimum.”
  • They don’t believe it when they hear “we’ll never sell the organization.”
  • They don’t believe it when they hear that their retirement program is “safe.”
  • They don’t believe it when they hear “people are our most important resource.”

If ever there was a crisis not just of leadership, but for leadership, it’s now.

Leaders must recognize that their “followers” aren’t going to respond to slick mission statement “sound bites” anymore. They aren’t going to place their trust in their organizations like they used to. They aren’t going to assume that if they perform well, they will be well-rewarded for that performance.

What people will respond to is truth, honesty, transparency, and leaders who engage in straight talk, who are willing to lead from principle rather than policy, who are empathetic and encouraging. What we want from our leaders these days – more than ever – is the sense that they can be trusted.

Just as all great leaders recognize that they stand on the shoulders of people who have preceded them, they must also recognize that they inherit the terrible reputation that dishonest, self-serving miscreants who enjoyed positions of power have passed to them. Maybe it’s not fair, maybe it’s unfortunate, but it is, as they say, what it is.

Leadership: it’s a tough job, and someone has to do it. Those of us doing it have to do a better job than we’ve been doing.

I’ll close with this thought: you don’t have any “followers” anymore.

You have people – passionate, jaded, caring, wounded people to lead. What hasn’t changed – what will never change – is our search for meaning, for things to believe in, for connections to something larger than ourselves. That’s the real challenge for leaders. Can you help your people discover (or uncover) what matters to them most of all?

“What ELSE Your Boss Never Told You” is the sequel to the very popular “What Your Boss Never Told You.” Packed inside are more tips, techniques, and insights about the challenging, but rewarding leadership position.

“What ELSE Your Boss Never Told You” is written in a conversational tone, as though you and the author were enjoying a cup of coffee and talking about the issues that emerge for new leaders. It stands alone, and/or could be read before or after the first volume, “What Your Boss Never Told You.” You can start with any chapter and read in any order you like.

if you search for a book on management, you’ll find a staggering 600,000+ books currently available. How can you narrow that down? “What Your Boss Never Told You” is the best place to start.

No textbook here – this book is short and sweet. It’s designed to help you “unpack” your new job and be effective from the first day with your new team. It contains twenty-one chapters filled with the wisdom Winters has gathered from real managers – effective, successful leaders in organizations much like yours.

Leaders make decisions every day – big and small. Most know that if they include others in the decision-making process, the quality of those decisions – and the commitment to them – will likely improve. That said, they also know it’s impractical, if not impossible, to include others in every decision they confront.

“To Do or Not To Do” tackles the question of when to make decisions on your own, and when to involve your team. It gives you a deceptively simple but proven method to determine, when you are facing a difficult decision, how to decide how to decide.

Far too many meetings are dreadful, mind-numbing, energy-draining, productivity-sapping, colossal wastes of time. As someone once said, “To kill time, a meeting is the perfect weapon.”

Here’s the deal: if you’re willing to learn and apply the techniques in “So, How Was Your Meeting?”, you’ll call fewer meetings, while vastly improving the ones you do lead. They’ll take less time, have more balanced participation, produce better decisions, and result in concrete action items for follow-up afterwards.

While there are thousands of books written for people about to retire, this may be the only book for people who manage soon-to-retire employees. Written in a casual, conversational style, “Managing the Soon To Retire Employee” will give you everything you need to know to move forward with confidence and grace.

You can be successful with Sooners. It won’t happen by chance, and it’s not a matter of pulling some management “trick” out of your hat. But you can learn how to do it, and you can apply what you’ve learned right away.

Managing friends or former peers can be awkward. When you become the boss, everything about these relationships can suddenly be uncomfortable. There’s a new set of ground rules to establish – as manager, you are going be accountable for the work performance of friends or former co-workers on the team, and they are going to have to adjust to the fact that they now report to you. Everyone involved can feel awkward and hesitant about the future. 

Have you been approached by management with an offer to promote you to supervision? Or, are you mulling over the possibility for the future? Find yourself not sure whether to accept the promotion?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. Help! They Want to Make ME a Supervisor will help you sort out a very big question: Should you accept the offer to become a supervisor? Once you’ve read this book, you’ll be confident that you’ve made the best decision for you and for your organization.