Here are three words every leader ought to know: health, equitability, and advocacy. Over the years, those have become the issues to which I pay the closest attention.
HEALTH: Do things “feel” healthy? Often, leaders pay so much attention to necessary bottom lines and issues, that they can fail to adequately assess the life-giving or life-quenching aspects of the institution’s culture. Granted, this is more art than science AND it’s a little like trying to describe the colors in a sunset. But, questions like the ones below can help you take the temperature of your team:
- Do your people enjoy coming to work?
- Do you hear laughter and appropriate humor?
- Do you find yourself worrying more about winning a point or an argument than whether the healthiest solution was reached?
- Are expectations clear?
- Is communication open and appropriately transparent?
- Are there many “taboo” subjects?
- Is the spotlight on team or individual victories?
- Are those I supervise honest with me about the good AND the challenging?
EQUITABILITY: To be honest, this was the last one of the words I learned to gauge AND value. Equitability means, as far as possible and reasonable, everyone should get what they need to be the healthiest and most effective. If you find those with positional authority, tenure, political clout, or just squeaky wheels always jumping to the front of the line for dollars, resources, time, and attention, then something is out of whack. At every level, each team member ought to have the ability to appropriately access what they need in order to accomplish their task. If you ask someone to staple; they need a stapler without having to nag or plead. If someone is expected to meet a team deadline, they ought to receive information, resources, and work from teammates in a timely manner, as promised. If someone ought to give feedback, they should be able to do it without shouting. Often loud, powerful, and insistent personalities eclipse softer, less-powerful, and less-insistent ones. One of the sacred duties of the leader is to attend to the creation of an equitable culture. Certainly, not everyone gets everything they want when they want it…that is not the nature of equitability. Rather, true equitability is achieved when the allocation of resources, time, and attention is dictated by need and fairness AND where everyone is given the proper forum to be heard.
ADVOCACY: Dictionary.com defines advocacy asSimply, those in leadership positions are responsible for the care of both the institution and the employee. This is an important tension. As an agent of the institution, the leader is bound to support the health and well-being of the whole. The leader is also obligated to care for the health and well-being of each individual. No matter where your supervision falls on the org chart, you bear the commensurate weight of acting on behalf of both. I have found that it rarely hurts to err on the side of employee care. This can be tricky. While you can’t damage the whole, everything seems to flourish when the team knows that the leader is going to stand up on their behalf.