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Coin-flip managers

Like asparagus on the dinner plate, touchy-feeliness in the work place is not welcome. You see it, you avoid it.

Last year I wrote a piece in support of touchy-feeliness during job loss ( Today, I revisit touchy-feeliness, with a different spin. 

In an industry dominated by degreed and non-degreed engineers, touchy-feeliness is not popular. It may be politically insensitive to broad brush an entire group of engineering folks, so let’s broaden it to say that the majority of American workers, me included, mostly seek to avoid touchy-feely situations.

But touchy-feely is not all bad.

I was reminded of this recently. At our Beyond Competency leadership education seminar an attendee told us he didn’t particularly enjoy education classes because they tend to be too touchy-feely. He told us he hoped our seminar wasn’t overly so, but was “worried it would be.” It was an honest comment and one I appreciated. Having worked in hospitals and with facility directors, I perfectly understood his sentiment. 

It also got me thinking about comfortability and balance, each of which is needed to be an effective leader, each of which entails a touchy-feely component.

Comfortability: We know that technical skills are no longer enough to survive in facility leadership positions. Effective leaders are comfortable dealing with a cross-section of audiences, from the C-level to the boiler room to the patient room. But that’s not enough. 

In an era of extreme healthcare change, leaders must be comfortable asking their employees an important question — how are you doing? While leadership demands are extreme and closing the office door to catch up on hundreds of unresponded emails is an attractive option, this question is crucial to employee engagement and retention. Engaging in honest, undistracted conversations is an important leadership component, with undistracted being an important component. Employees matter, show them you care by asking how they are doing.

Balance: Managers who work at the extremes of turbulence and placidity are exhausting to work for and often, employees find innovative ways to avoid being in their presence. Emotional balance is a critical competency for leaders.  

Have you ever worked for a coin-flip manager? You know, that manager whose behavior and attitude change daily and whose daily mood is as predictable as the flip of a coin. Each morning you hear their footsteps reverberating down the hall, coming closer, and you wonder, how will they be today? Your apprehension level increases as they approach, will it be a good day or bad day? Coin flip managers cause employees to leave organizations.

So however one defines touchy-feely, striking a comfortable balance, pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone while remaining true to your leadership roots is critical. Your ability to strike an appropriate balance enables employee growth and re-enforces their good performance.   

And to get back to our touchy-feely averse Beyond Competency attendee, he ended up being a great advocate for our class and participated fully with interesting perspectives. In the days that followed, he sent a thank you note.

The moral of the story? Have an open mind to touchy-feeliness, in whatever fashion it presents itself to you. You may find it productive.

Best regards,                                                                                                                                        

Peter Martin  



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