Managing your relationship with staff, Part II by Jamie LaRue

My previous post discussed managing the relationship with staff from the perspective of the director’s immediate reports. This post will discuss the more general role of setting an organizational culture.

First, directors should be aware that a new director means a new culture. While long range plans matter, while training programs provide some continuity, while Human Resources practices build employee expectations of the employer’s promises, almost all organizations promptly take on some characteristics of the new boss. The question is how purposeful those characteristics are, which itself is a measure of the mindfulness and emotional intelligence of the director.

Part of this near-instantaneous shift is simple survival. Employees look to the director to see what matters to him or her. It’s easy, at this point, to list all of the behaviors a new director should not adopt. For instance:

Nothing irritates staff like hearing how great things were at the director’s previous library. If it was so great, why did the director leave?

Along the same lines, directors who say “you” to mean “the staff” rightly perceive this as distance. A director who is committed says “we.”

Staff are alert to the general tone of comments about previous practices. While there are many gradations along this continuum, the two extremes are these: critical/negative on one side, appreciative/positive on the other. Adopting the critical approach is more offputting to staff. This isn’t to say that the staff have been behaving in ways that can’t be improved. But directors who begin by talking about all the things staff does wrong tend to provoke defensiveness and in some cases, hostility. By contrast, directors who begin from a standpoint of appreciative inquiry earn points for positivity, for early evidence of respect, and for friendly curiosity.

What employers are trying to figure out is the director’s values. What the director should be trying to figure out is how to signal an interest in an organization that is healthy, and growing in capacity. One of the most direct paths to this is to put the question on the table: who do we want to be? The second question: how do we want to be? That is, how will we treat not only those who use our services, but each other?

Read the full article @ LinkedIn

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