I think that team members don’t always appreciate the pressures that their leaders are under.
We are all busy, but their workload tends to be significantly higher. And things get even more difficult when they have to lead unwanted change, mediate disputes between team members or deal with performance concerns.
And, if they are new to leadership or to your workplace, there is often a steep learning curve.
It is no wonder that leaders are over-represented in claims for stress-related leave. So, I think leaders need our support. Yes, certainly from their senior leaders, but also from their team members.
Here is my view of five things team members can do to support their leaders:
- Empathy: Leaders need understanding and support just like the rest of us. They need empathy for the pressures they are under and the challenges they are dealing with. It’s great when they have a relationship of trust with certain team members where they can access support over certain issues when it is appropriate to do so.
Empathy is also the ability to place yourself in your leader’s shoes, appreciating their perspective when it comes to workplace changes that you may not necessarily like. Leaders also need understanding, for example, when they were not able to consult with the team over certain decisions due to the pressure of time or not wanting to burden team members with further meetings.
- Cooperation: Yes, leaders want people to feel free to share their views. And team members are right to want their voice heard in some decisions that affect their work. But team members do need to pick their fights carefully. And, dare I suggest, there are many occasions where team members simply need to cooperate with change.
This is particularly the case with fait-a-compli decisions made by head office, senior leaders or funding bodies. Or personnel related matters where leaders are not free to share confidential matters behind certain decisions.
Team members do not necessarily have to like a certain decision. But leaders do need cooperation from team members and discussions focused on the future, perhaps finding ways to make a certain decision work.
- Solutions: On the one hand, I think we all need to vent from time to time. And most leaders are happy to hear concerns and know they need to empathise with the challenges of team members. But I think leaders like when there is a time limit on complaining. And they also prefer reasonable limits on who team members vent to. One or two supportive colleagues may well be fine. But venting to the entire staff or criticising your workplace on social media, probably not.
Leaders prefer viable solutions to complaining, particularly solutions that take into account their or the workplace’s needs. Certainly, team members’ ability to empathise with the perspective and needs of their leaders and think creatively will help.
- Professionalism: Leaders love team members who consistently act in professional ways, irrespective of the challenges they are dealing with. Such team members perform at a high level, are open to feedback, share their opinions respectfully, and are respectful and helpful to colleagues and clients, despite the pressures.
However, many leaders regularly deal with team members who are often negative and disrespectful, who are taking their personal misery out on their colleagues, who are escalating a conflict with a colleague rather than doing their part to repair a relationship.
It will save your leader a lot of grief if more team members acted in professional and collegial ways. I often say that part of being a professional is acting in certain ways, irrespective of how you are feeling.
- Positive feedback: Even high-performing leaders need encouragement. Many leaders say to me that the best way their team members can encourage them is to let them know when they are happy at work. Such leaders say that knowing their team members are happy helps them to feel like they are doing a decent job. For others, a simple, genuine thanks can go a long way.
Here I am reminded also of the responsibilities of senior leaders and board members to get alongside of leaders who report to them, encouraging them with the challenges they have, celebrating their wins, as well as checking how they are going and asking if they have what they need to do their work well.
So, team members, how would you rate yourself with the above?
If you can help your leaders to feel less stressed and more in control, you will not only feel good about your actions, I assure you that their improved well-being will flow to the rest of the team.