|Barbara Mintzer's Newsletter
The Power of a Vision... a Leader's Journey
I had a very interesting experience this past month that I'd like to share with you. I think we can all learn from it. I was hired by the Director of Nursing of a hospital to come in and "fix her staff." She did not like the attitude of a number of the people on her staff; some of them were starting to come in late and call in sick; and she accused others on her staff of being insubordinate. "Please get them to see the light" she pleaded with me. Well, I spent four hours with her staff and what emerged was a description of a complicated relationship between a leader who was not in touch with herself nor her affect on her staff, and staff members who were acting out because of their own frustration at this situation. There was quite a bit of guilt in the room as well, as they all agreed that the DON was not a bad person. She was trying to do her best, but she could not communicate effectively with her staff, and it was causing major problems. While her staff was not at all blameless, I would like to focus this Newsletter on the role and responsibilities of the leader in the staff/leader relationship. In another Newsletter, we will look at the role and responsibilities of the staff in this relationship.
Why are some leaders able to motivate and inspire others to do their best, while other leaders find it so difficult to communicate effectively with their staffs? I believe the answer lies in four core competencies that leaders must possess to be able to make an impact on others. In this Newsletter we will discuss the following core competencies:
1. "To thine own self be true" is a very powerful statement. Until we know who we are, flaws and all, it will be very difficult to come from integrity when we communicate with others. Our staff sees through us. If we are uncomfortable with who we are, or we do not feel qualified for the leadership position we hold, that comes through. Self-knowledge is our ability to recognize our flaws and limitations as well as our strong points, and our ability to balance them out.
I will share with you what I am going through and perhaps it will shed light on your situation. I am a perfectionist. I believe if something is worth doing, it is worth doing perfectly. Now, this helps me in my career as a professional speaker, because I do whatever it takes to present a program with maximum value for the attendees. I push myself very hard to be the best that I can be, and that works for me. However, when my need for perfection rules my expectations of others, I am in big trouble. I recently had an assistant leave, stating she always felt that what she did was not good enough. Well, in my defense, I did compliment her on a good job, but I was VERY quick to point out when things were not perfect and I am sure my disappointment showed through. I felt terrible when my assistant left, as I really did like her and she did do a good job ... she just was not perfect!
I have had time to think about this incident and I realize that I cannot put my expectations of myself on others or I will always be disappointed and others will find it unrewarding and difficult to work for me. This incident gave me an opportunity to look at my need to be perfect and what causes me to drive myself as hard as I do. I am now working on my own plan to let up on myself before I hire anyone else. I know the way I treat others is a reflection of how I treat myself. How about you? Are you having problems with your staff living up to your expectations? Are your expectations for others realistic? Can you communicate your expectations in a way that is clear, concise, and reasonable? If you honestly don't know the answers to these questions, sit down with your staff and ask them for their feedback. You may be quite surprised, positively or negatively, at what you hear...but be willing to hear...and be willing to acknowledge how your communication impacts others, and make some changes, if necessary.
2. We all get in bad moods, but can you manage your moods by keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check. I remember a young fellow at one of my seminars telling me that his day was always determined by whether his boss had a fight with his wife in the morning. If his boss was in a good mood, it was a productive, positive day. If his boss was not in a good mood, i.e., he fought with his wife, the entire staff knew it. Everyone was so nervous and tense, nothing productive was accomplished. You owe it to the people who work for you to create an environment that is conducive to performing one's work. On the other hand, I knew of a manager who so wanted to be liked by her staff, that she took them into her confidence, and inappropriately shared information with them about her personal life. Her staff was not her family; the information she told them had nothing to do with the work they were hired for; and it became a very awkward working environment. She did not understand the concept of boundaries and what constituted crossing them.
Whether you like it or not, you are a role model for your staff. Take that seriously. Put the shoe on the other foot. If you were on the staff, what traits would you want in your leader? What traits would he/she have to exhibit to earn your respect? If you made a mistake or your performance was not what it should be, what words/actions from your leader would inspire you to be better and try harder? Take the time to think about this...your answers to these questions are good indicators as to how your staff woul like to be treated by you.
3. We live and work in a diverse society. Many teams consist of people from different countries, different cultures, different work habits, and "a good day's work for a good day's wage" can mean different things to different people. Your ability to sense others' feelings and perspectives will go a long way in helping a diverse team work as one cohesive unit. It is very important that teams respect the diversity of their members, and the differences should be valued rather than demeaned. A number of years ago companies were hiring people to teach diversity training, however, that trend has subsided. That is too bad because in the last five years with the fall of the stock market, many older people who would have ordinarily retired, are now back in the workforce. So you have diversity in age on some teams, and the young and the older can learn a tremendous amount from each other. Older workers can teach the younger generation the value of a solid work ethic and appreciation for one's job. Younger workers can share their knowledge of technology and other innovations that older workers were not a part of.
The respect or lack of respect for diversity comes right from the corporate culture. You are part of the corporate culture. Your team will take their cues from you. Think about it ... in what ways do you show respect for the diversity of your team? Are you keeping any personal biases and judgments regarding members of a certain culture to yourself? Does your team play on a "level playing field" i.e., does everyone get the same opportunity without anyone being the scapegoat on the team? Can you honestly say you do not play favorites with members of your team, even though you may prefer some over others? Take the time to reflect on these questions and be honest with yourself in your answers. Team diversity and how you manage it will be a benchmark of how you are judged as a leader.
4. What do you do to influence others? How do you get others to do what you want them to do? Years ago leaders used to rule by fear. "If you want to keep your job, you'd better do what I say" was not such an unusual way of motivating others. And it worked, for awhile. When you lead by fear, people will do what you want. However, when push comes to shove, and you are in a situation where you need their loyalty and commitment, they will never be there for you! Today's worker is more educated and more sophisticated and has a choice of jobs. Today's worker is more likely to leave an environment that uses fear as a motivator, and companies that still rule by fear will lose their best and brightest to companies that have managers who understand the principles of respect, collaboration and relationship building. Practice the leadership style that stresses values and integrity and builds trust in an organization. Help your people to exercise their creative potential and be the best they can be. You will be richly rewarded.
"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
We've had a lot to think about in this Newsletter. If you have any insights, feedback or experiences you would like to share, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to hear from you and all requests to remain anonymous will be honored. If you wish to pass this Newsletter along to a colleague who may find it of value, feel free to do so. If that person would like to receive the Newsletter, e-mail me with the address, and I will put it on my database. NOTE: National Nurses Week is right around the corner (May 1-12). If you are looking for a speaker or a special program to honor your nurses, please call me (805) 964-7546 to discuss the possibility of customizing a program just for them.
About the Author
Barbara Mintzer is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant with over 30 years in business and health care. She speaks from experience! Her how-to programs provide participants with immediately applicable skills and strategies for getting buy-in and commitment from staff and staying on top of their professions in today's competitive and constantly changing workplace. Barbara presents keynote talks and breakout sessions for international, national, regional and state Conferences. She also conducts management retreats and in-house seminars. She facilitates panel discussions and roundtables at the same meeting...a good investment for your meeting budget. To explore the possibility of having Barbara speak at your next event, or work with your staff/leadership team, please contact her office.