Rule #1 - Don't Stand Behind a Pie Ducker in a Food Fight

We've all had the experience of working together with our boss or a co-worker developing an idea we have into something our firm can actually act on. Oftentimes, that can mean that you need your boss's help to push your plan up the ladder--sometimes even up to the CEO or even the board of directors.

Then, when the day comes where you actually get to present your plan to the leaders of the company, your expectation is that your boss or co-worker will have your back. He or she will be there to support you when any objections start to fly. You feel emboldened by knowing you are there as a team.

But imagine your surprise when, as the objections start to fly your way, you suddenly find yourself flying solo. As you look to your boss for their support, you suddenly find that they are making a case against your plan or simply sitting there silently. A sickening feeling comes over you as you realize that not only is your plan dead in the water, but you've just been left out to dry. You've been abandoned and betrayed. What happened?

As soon as the pies started to fly, your boss ducked. Instead of working together to advance your plan, with your boss promising to support you, you're now the one with the banana cream pie all over your face. In short, your boss is what we might call a pie ducker.

Now I can imagine that some of you managers might be thinking that this kind of behavior is a developmental opportunity for leaders on the rise. And certainly, learning how to pitch a plan to senior leaders and deal with objections is an incredibly valuable skill to hone--especially early in your career.
The catch for leaders is to understand the timing of putting people into those positions--especially when your subordinates think that you'll be there supporting and protecting them. By changing tactics, and ducking once those pies start flying, you'll risk losing the loyalty of your team.

Great leaders understand that if they want to keep their team aligned and committed to them, they might have to risk taking a pie in the face now and again. In fact, great leaders always take the pie in the face and deal with the team afterwards as a coaching opportunity.

Pie duckers, on the other hand, demonstrate that their loyalty is to their boss (i.e. their career advancement)--not to their team. In the case of our example, the leader was more than willing to support the objections rather than stand up for the plan championed by his team - a project that he or she endorsed and helped develop! That was like a stake in the heart. How do you think the team's morale was affected after that meeting?

So ask yourself what kind of boss or co-worker you have: are they someone who is willing to stand up and support you and your ideas? If not, you might need to do some coaching upward to explain what your expectations of them might be moving forward.

Or, if you're a leader, ask yourself if you're willing to take a pie in the face for your team. If you're not, you might want to check your assumptions about the loyalty of your team to you. They might not have your back when you need them. You might think about taking a few pies in the face for the team - and winning some loyalty points.


Jim Schleckser
jimschleckser@incceoproject.com