Leadership Assistance Program

One day an employee showed up at my office and spent 5 minutes sharing some very personal medical problems.  I listened, and her greatest fear was not about the procedure, but how to tell her actual direct boss because the solution would require her to miss work.  She was worried about losing her job.  I calmed her fears, and she was then able to go have a discussion that she should have had several weeks before, but couldn’t.

This ever happen to you?  While health issues are serious things, it felt good to be a trusted.  It also took me back to some coaching training I had years before that taught me to listen well, and to know where there might be boundaries to be drawn.  Some conversations stay within boundaries, but there are things as leaders that we need to direct people to get help.  Sometimes Leaders need an Assistance Program.

When I was a leading HR in an organization we implemented an employee assistance program.  EAP’s require organizations pay a monthly or yearly fee per employee and the employees and their families have access to basic personal counseling services, referral help for substance abuse issues, career counseling, and other forms of assistance.  It is confidential for the employee, and the employer only gets a report on the number of people who have used it and basic service information.  I remember getting the first usage report and our usage was a couple percentage points above their norm.  In people terms it equated to two individuals receiving help.

I was grateful that those 11 individuals had received the help, and that the leaders of those people had also benefited from this safety net.

Leadership is about being there for your people, and it is also about knowing when you need to get assistance.  Celebrate being asked to be part of a tough conversation, but know the limits of your burdens/responsibilities. 

Gallup research shows people are happier/more engaged if they have 1 to 3 best friends at work. 

Friendships is another form of Leadership Assistance Program – and it is a free.