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.

People are not like plants – how to treat them like people

Plants are not People

I am reminded this time of year of a basic truth in most of us – we like to put our energy into fixing things. I have a vegetable garden, and 5 weeks ago I put seeds into pots and started to grow them indoors. Each morning I look at the progress represented by 22 little pots and only about 5 showing signs of life. Yes, I am not a very good gardener. I only wish the bare pots would tell me what they need.

How does this relate to leadership? Often I go into organizations with the goal of helping a leader look at their team, have a conversation around team potential vs business strategy, help the team members think about their own development needs to meet the strategy, and then leave them with action items/goals to help them successfully hit the targets in the plan. In every team are people that are not growing. Leaders tend to worry about these people and put some direct energy (talking) and lots of indirect energy(worry, frustration) into fixing them.

The traditional solution? Gallup once made the statement “Put most of your energy into your best people”, which also can sound like the GE mantra of ‘cut your bottom 10%”. These statements sell books but implementing is risky and hard for leaders, people, and cultures.

The reality . . . .

Plants are not like people. Plants cannot tell you what they need more of to grow.

People are not plants, they can tell you what they need to be successful if they trust you AND if you ask.

 

The solution . . .

What if in your one on one conversations and performance conversations you asked?  Recently I helped a leader of a small organization implement a performance evaluation that focused on asking – and I call that a performance conversation. He was amazed at what he heard from his people.

People are not like plants, so lets stop treating them like plants . . . . and to some people, stop acting like a plant and blaming the gardener.