6.3.11 Issue #482 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Haller, P.h. D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Tough Times Require Tough Leadership
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D., Leadership Coach McKenzie Management

Events are out of our control. Tornados. Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Nuclear meltdowns. The economy. We are vulnerable. It makes us anxious about the future.

In today’s increasingly complex world, even rock-solid workers are likely to have times when their lives are affected by crisis. At some point, you probably will be faced with an employee's family, financial, legal or health crisis. The skill and humanness exhibited by you, the leader, will be important in the final outcome. Balancing your interest in employees without getting too deeply into their lives requires good judgment and tact. It’s important to care about employees. People who are cared for in turn show caring to others. They work more efficiently and are more congenial. Effective leaders have empathy - the ability to understand and respond to others, to see the world from someone else’s perspective, to step into their shoes.

Perhaps you believe that work and personal life should be separate. You may have been told to keep a healthy distance from employees. Be careful - because the work environment has changed. Work is more than a job and a paycheck. It is a place where people spend 30, 40, 50, 60 or more hours together a week. Good leaders know more about their employees than just the work they do. And employees expect some compassion from bosses and co-workers. They need personal validation. Being impersonal signals disinterest and a lack of caring, and is as risky as being overly involved.

In his book, Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman describes empathy as the key to retaining talent. Although a positive relationship with a boss is not enough to produce worker productivity, it can significantly contribute to it. And the absence of sensitivity can lead an employee out the door. At the same time, you need to strike the right note in your interpersonal relations with your staff. It is important to be approachable and friendly, yet fair and firm.

It may be that you are worried about saying the “wrong thing,” such as:

  • You shouldn’t take it so hard
  • You’re overreacting
  • It could be a lot worse
  • You’ll get over it
  • Just pull yourself together

Those statements minimize a person’s pain and convey a lack of interest on your part. The impact is negative and potentially damaging to your relationship.

So how should you handle the situation?

1. Be Understanding
An emotional problem is really no different than a physical problem. Although we live in the 21st century, it often amazes me how little we have advanced from the Salem witch-hunts when it comes to our acceptance of psychological distress. Think about how you would respond if your employee had a broken ankle, or a surgical procedure.

2. Ask Employees How They Are Doing
Be concerned without becoming a therapist. Don’t get into the counselor role. Avoid giving advice or probing for details. Most people work through problems and issues very well on their own. Simply expressing concern is greatly appreciated and often enough.

3. Pay Attention
Show empathy by listening. Be patient. Refrain from interrupting. Nod appropriately. Maintain good eye contact and display interest in your facial expression and posture.

4. Be Objective
Redirect if necessary. The office is a place of business. Keep personal disclosures to a minimum. If your employee becomes too self-revealing or rambles, manage the time by gently redirecting the conversation to a close. You might say, “Sounds like you have a lot on your mind. You’re an important member of our dental team and I worry about you. I hope you feel better soon. (Pause) I’ll let you get back to your patients now.”

5. Meet With The Employee
If performance is being affected, meet informally with the employee. Show genuine concern and not “gossip” style interest. Offer help in finding professional resources when necessary.

Be curious about how your team is feeling. Morning huddles are excellent times to get a quick pulse on the mood and mindset of your team. Of course, keep quiet about personal problems employees bring to you. It’s important to respect confidentiality. Some subjects are not matters of public discussion in the workplace.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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