Rangatiratanga: encouraged to lead - wear your heart on your sleeve
You lead a team? Cool! Me too. I bet people have talked to you about dealing with the ‘hard stuff’. Staff who are late to work. Staff who routinely
miss deadlines. Staff who make excuses or say they didn’t get the email. You may have done a training course or two. Perhaps you’ve read some
books on performance management. And your HR department has a drug and alcohol policy.
What about the softer side? It’s not all about performance, it’s about people. Have the books and training courses talked about what to do when
a staff member’s loved one dies? Or their marriage breaks up after 25 years? Or their teenage son is having problems with the Police? Probably
not: we do the hard stuff, but not the tough stuff.
Why deal with the tough stuff? Your staff matter & the whole person comes to work. People need to feel valued. In a ‘Characteristics of admired
leaders’ survey, completed by over 75,000 people worldwide, caring was 15 th. It’s your role to care. We’re a caring profession – aren’t we?
Our world in 4 bullet points. Estimates suggest nearly 870 million people are suffering from chronic undernourishment. Human trafficking is the
third largest criminal industry in the world, outranked only by arms and drug dealing. The number of people trafficked each year is estimated to
be in the millions. Many people are under pressure at work and at home.
Those awful ‘Others’. We each have an other – a group or individual we don’t trust. We don’t like their lifestyle, we don’t trust their choices. We
blame the others when things go wrong. But they are probably in your community, and even in your library – so they need your best service too.
Think about this for a moment; who are your others?
Wars, crime, redundancy, disaffected people – our world needs some kindness… Hang on, won’t that make me too soft to be a good manager?.
Nice gets a bad rap. Nice isn’t about rolling over and giving in; it’s about playing fair, thinking of others, acting with kindness. Nice will get you
what you want.
Let me ask you some questions. Raise your hand if you can honestly answer yes to the following: I know the names of my staff’s kids or favourite
pets. I know how at least some of them have their tea or coffee. I would know, without looking it up, who to ring for them in an emergency (just
the name, not the number). I could name one key fear or major non-work goal for most staff.
Before we go any further. Let’s be clear about this – I’m far, far from perfect. Some days I bite back without meaning to. My level of knowledge
about my staff fluctuates. I don’t always hold enough team meetings or 1 on 1 meetings. I don’t always remember to celebrate our successes.
But when I am doing the right things, life is easier…
What does being kind at work mean? Sometimes it means being upfront about your own issues. When I’m busy my face says “bugger off” but
less tactfully. I tell all my staff that’s what my face says, but it doesn’t mean it. Otherwise they live in fear of disrupting Mrs Grumpy-face. BTW
there has been media recently about Bitchy Face Syndrome. My reaction – heck yes, I’ve got that one!
What else does it mean? It means paying attention. Employees don’t come to work wanting to annoy you, so look for hidden stuff. Is someone’s
work a bit off? Sit down for a quiet chat; you might be surprised what they reveal – a sick child, a money worry, a teenager who’s getting into
trouble. When they do open up – really listen.
Really bad stuff. What if they cry? Hand them a tissue. What if you cry? Get a tissue for yourself. Seriously, is it so bad for a staff member to know
that you care about them and their family. That you have more on your mind than just issue stats and door counts? No? I thought not….
I don’t know what to do… It’s all very well knowing that kindness matters, and that wearing your heart on your sleeve is okay, but what does that
mean in practical terms? Over the next few slides we’ll look at some specific actions you can take to start showing your softer side.
Show appreciation. Thank your staff. For routine work done well. For enthusiasm. For coming up with new ideas. Give verbal praise; thank them
in front of others. Buy a pile of cards and write thank you notes. Give them a small gift for doing something really special. Put a task in your
Outlook Calendar reminding you to thank people.
Room to grow. Give staff the freedom to follow their passions. Understand what they are passionate about and find ways to nurture that at
work. Could you give them an hour a week to work on a pet project or find a free course that they’d love to do? Show them that you know them
well enough to understand what drives them.
Ask hard questions. Schedule regular 1 on 1 meetings. Ask about their husband, or dog, or mother or…. Be prepared to dig a little deeper. If
there’s a problem, talk honestly. Give them a quiet space to talk about their feelings. If you feel sad or angry for them, tell them – really be there.
Ask for information. Find out each staff member’s birthday. Who do they live with – husband, kids, cat, dog? How they like their tea, coffee, milo.
If you give a small gift, do they prefer chocolate or something else? Keep this information somewhere and use it. One thing; this is not 20
questions, a bit of subtlety is fine ;-)
To get honesty, be honest. Tell them YOUR truths. I nursed my mother for 14 years. Staff knew when things were bad. Be open. If a news item
makes you sad, share that. Who knows, it might lead to an all-team project using shared values. Finding work hard? Say so - they can support
you, and you’re modelling good behaviour.
Wrapping it up. A little kindness never killed anyone. Being kind does not mean being a doormat; kindness opens doors. A team being managed
by fear is not really a team. Read The power of nice: how to conquer the world with kindness by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval.
With thanks to: My team - Kathy, Narlene, Sarah, Kay, Rob, Elsie, Cameron, Luana, Mollie, Shereece and Rachael. My manager Lynne and all my
co-workers. The awesome people in my personal learning network. And my very patient husband Tony who, at the end of the day, gets the worst
of me some of the time…