When I speak and write about the role of leadership I often talk about the importance of caring leadership. I believe that the best leaders care about their employees. And that among other things, they are supportive in times of personal, health and family crisis.
However, this does not mean that I am my employees’ therapist!
A regular question I get from leaders is how to manage the balance between being a caring leader and not becoming employees’ “go-to person” for support.
In my experience and observation, leaders in fact are rarely an employee’s “go-to person”; we are more likely one of many people in a person’s life whom they go to for support. I make this point because when employees are going through a crisis I think sometimes caring leaders can get sucked into feeling it is their responsibility to help them, when in fact it isn’t. And usually there are other people and resources in this person’s life.
I do not have the time to be meeting with the same person over and over again around personal issues. However, I can be empathetic and caring without it taking up my entire day. I have found that what is mostly needed from an employee’s perspective is an acknowledgement of what is going on in their life.
If your employees are seeking too much of your time as their therapist, be honest and frank about your limitations, while being sensitive. Offer feedback along these lines:
“I’m glad you feel you can come to me with this issue. I see this issue is causing you significant stress. While I want to support you through this, I do have limitations in how much time I’m available to meet with you around this during work hours. I encourage you to seek the support of your friends and family and professional help if needed. I will however, touch base with you from time to time to see how things are going.”
You can be caring leader without being a therapist! Your time is better spent leading the whole organization – this is your expertise and your role.
ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership & Workplace Performance and the Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute
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