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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Care and Feeding of your Team

This is an expansion on People First in case you missed that post.  I don't know who wrote it, but I'm sure you have heard that "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  Some leaders subscribe to the Machiavellian principle of "It is better to be feared than loved".  I was horrified to hear this quoted by one of my colleagues in a meeting.  The reason that I was horrified was that he was misquoting Nicolo Machiavelli.  You can read the relevant chapter for yourself here.  As Machiavelli discusses the pros and cons of whether it is greater for a Prince to be feared for loved in running a kingdom, his final conclusion is: "a wise prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of others; he must endeavour only to avoid hatred."  The modern day translation is:  When you have to exert your positional power to get something done, do so in a manner that does alienate your team. 

In leadership you sure can't plan on making everyone happy.  That is not a realistic goal.  However, being overbearing, rude, or mean is not called for either.  We are dealing with human beings and that means complex interactions at times.  Then, of course, you will have the unusual circumstances to deal with.  With this posting I want to give some examples of best practices for the human side of relating to your team.


In my work, my team members have been placed at significant risk to their emotional and personal lives.  If you get a call that one of your team members has been in an accident or killed it will be one of the worst days of your life.  Believe it or not a lot of eyes will be on you as to how you handle the situation.  All of the other employees are consciously or unconsciously wondering to themselves how you would handle it if it were them involved in this crisis.  Thinking back over the situations that I have encountered and what I feel I have done well and what I could have improved upon, I have put together some key points:

You are notified that an employee has been killed or died:
  1. Go to work.
  2. Notify your supervisor.
  3. Call for assistance from your Employee Assistance Program or a Counselor (Hopefully this has been prearranged)
  4. Determine how notification is going to made to the next of kin.  Assist with this if requested by officials.
  5. Notify your staff on duty and develop a plan for your off duty staff.
  6. Identify someone on your team to arrange staffing coverage for vacant shifts created.
  7. Make yourself available to your team members as they grieve.
  8. Identify the most gifted planner on your team to plan a memorial service or to liaison with the next of kin to notify other employees of the funeral plans.
  9. If the death was on the job, notify OSHA.
  10. If there are death benefits for the employee, assist the family with the death benefits.
An employee is involved in a wreck in a company vehicle and is seriously injured:
  1. Go directly to where the employee is, avoid the temptation to go look at the company vehicle first.  (This is highly symbolic to the remainder of team about your priorities)
  2. Make sure the next of kin has been notified.
  3. Notify your supervisor.
  4. Notify your risk manager or insurance company.
  5. Identify someone on your team to arrange staffing coverage for vacant shifts created.
  6. Obtain FMLA paperwork for injured team member.
  7. Visit team member while recovering in the hospital.
  8. If the person goes home from the hospital, you can call to check on them.
An employee approaches you with a financial crisis:

  1. Listen to his/her concerns.  This is very embarrassing for the employee.
  2. Guide the employee to emergency resources.  This needs to be worked out in advance.  There  is a 100% chance of need due to divorce, theft of money, repossession of cars, disconnection of utilities, etc.  Some programs are available through EAP's, Credit Unions, or possibly through the ability to "cash in" Paid Earned Time.  Pre-Planning is the answer to this situation.

Your employee comes to you and admits to taking drugs on the job.

  1. You have to follow your organizations policies regarding drug-free workplace if they exist.
  2. Arrange for self-referral into a treatment program (Have this information in advance).
  3. Notify your Human Resources department (follow their instructions).
  4. Notify your supervisor.
  5. If the employee holds a professional license, follow appropriate procedures to notify the license issuer.
An employee is hospitalized

  1. Go visit the employee unless you have word that the employee is feeling very ill and does not want visitors.
  2. Call, send a personal note or card.

Some workplaces lend themselves to tighter knit teams than others.  The important thing is whatever life events you can acknowledge, make sure you are consistent and can acknowledge for all of your team members.  With 400 team members now, I try to keep up with my management team.  If they are each taking care of their teams then all employees can be recognized for significant life events.  Here are some ideas.

Birthday Cards or at least e-mails
Monthly Birthday Cake for everyone who has a birthday that month
Baby Showers
Wedding Showers

REMEMBER:  Employees don't leave organizations, they leave Managers.  If you take the opportunity to show you have the capacity to care.  People will follow you with loyalty.

Leaders have no one to lead if no one follows them.

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