Each month, "The Balance Sheet" provides questions and answers from experts on a topic that's important to you as a manager. Please feel free to share this information with other colleagues who also manage people.
Q. How can supervisors gain a better appreciation for the impact their behaviors have on those under their supervision?
A. The simple answer is: by having a close working relationship with your employees. Part of that relationship involves “checking in” on communication, interaction and mutual understanding. More broadly, learning about emotional intelligence (EI) is a way to appreciate human interaction and impact. In this context, you’re able to monitor your emotions and recognize the emotions of others and label them properly, and use this information to guide your behavior and thinking. Many resources are available to introduce you to EI skill-building. BJC EAP can point the way to these resources. Another awareness to appreciate is the “trickle down” effect of supervision. The supervisor-supervisee dynamic is so strong that it can affect family harmony. Supervisor interactions at work have been shown to create conflicts at home, and even lead to domestic violence. This indirect influence is referred to as “social undermining” and has been well-documented.
Q. I know that leadership has little to do with what I know or say, but instead with what I do. Can you give an example of one critical mistake that’s common in leadership failure and how BJC EAP can help leaders be successful?
A. Successful leadership is first grounded in competence, so there must be a foundation in your ability to do something well. But where are you leading your employees and the work unit? One common key failing of leadership is the failure to establish a vision. Effective leadership requires a vision about where you want to go. Without this vision and a set of goals to match, you lack something to rally your employees around. You can’t point to the mountaintop and get people behind you. This lack of vision can cause a leader to drift, making day-to-day decisions that feel unconnected to something larger. It becomes difficult to organize details, and the leader feels unsure of what he or she is trying to accomplish. Problems will mount, such as unhealthy coping behaviors. The leader will use fear to control employees, insisting on the importance of his or her role, but may actually feel insecure, withdrawn, depressed and resistant to see the growing negative reality. BJC EAP can help a leader face changes that must be made, examine personal issues making problems worse, overcome fear and offer support as a turnaround plan is implemented.
Q. I know supervisors are supposed to inspire employees, but this must mean more than giving a rousing speech or walking around catching employees doing something right, right?
A. Right! Inspiring employees is a supervisory function, but contrary to popular belief it is not just about giving a speech, praising an employee or acting optimistic. Inspiring people is about creating an urge for them to do something, especially something creative. The best way to do this is by modeling behavior that inspires. Consider, which would inspire you more: Listening to a motivational speaker give a speech or watching them perform what they preach all day? It would be the latter, of course. So, to inspire employees, consider modeling the following behaviors along with the attitudes that accompany them: passion for work, commitment, effort, integrity, teamwork, good communication and vision. Show these positive behaviors consistently and you will be an inspiring leader.