Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Leading And Managing With Heart

February 9, 2004

What makes a good organization? What makes a well-functioning civic or service group? How do people work together to accomplish common goals?

1. Caring leadership. Leaders make a difference. Good leaders generate trust and respect. They do this by being honest, good, fair, reliable and consistent. They set the example for others to follow.

Good leaders care about others and their needs. They recognize the need for feelings of importance, accomplishment, meaning, recognition and appreciation. Regular recognition and appreciation help team members understand how much their contribution is valued. Leaders care how the organization impacts the well-being of the people in it.

Good leaders recognize value in other people's ideas and facilitate interactions that draw out the opinions and creative problem-solving capabilities of everyone. The leader's trust and respect for others opens the door for others to be involved, committed and active participants in the group effort. Innovation, trust, caring and respect are the glue that makes everything work. These attitudes start at the top.

2. Common vision, goals and planning. Good leaders have vision and communicate it effectively. Vision, goals and plans define what jobs and responsibilities need to be filled. Goals also set criteria for measuring success and taking corrective action.

Goals and plans define future needs for specialties and skills within the organization. A program for growth and development helps prepare associates to willingly measure up to their present responsibilities and to prepare to meet future needs.

3. Growth and development. Work fulfills important personal needs. Work, as much as possible, should be exciting, enjoyable, stimulating and challenging. People thrive on responding to challenge. They need to grow into greater responsibilities.

Everyone should be a learner and continue to expand their horizons. Organizations need to encourage and support training and development experiences. Individual and group goals can dovetail and play to a team member’s strengths and interests. Hopefully, team members see future roles and niches for themselves within the organization that match their personal needs and goals. The organization benefits by increasing the specialized capabilities of its members.

4. Communications and problem solving. Challenges, opportunities and problems are shared freely. Unity is created when team members see themselves as problem-definers, problem-solvers and decision-makers. Commitment is grows stronger when team members are included in the goal selection, planning, and implementation process. Better solutions to problems happen when everyone contributes their ideas.

Effective personal and group communications allow conflict to emerge, discussion to flow and for ideas to build upon one another. The best ideas win.

The atmosphere should be open, challenging and respectful. Discussion should be kept within a favorable framework of goodwill and a manageable range of emotions so that conflict doesn't become counterproductive.

5. Personal responsibility and accountability. Group goals are accomplished by everyone doing their part. There is work to be done, roles to be filled, assignments to be completed, deadlines to meet, and results to be evaluated.

Jobs and assignments are undertaken with clear understandings and commitments. This isn't a heavy-handed process but one governed by comparing outcomes with desired results. People evaluate themselves by criteria they help develop. Leadership is three quarters "show the way" and one quarter "follow up."

Managing with heart. Jack Rosenblum, EdD, JD, of Deerfield, Massachusetts has coined an acronym HEART for communication skills that captures how employees and associates want to be treated in relationships.

"H" stands for "hear and understand me." Good listening involves showing interest, curiosity, openness to new ideas. Body language and tone of voice that indicate attentiveness, concern and interest help. People show respect by observing basic conversational etiquette of honoring each others’ right to the floor and drawing them out so they feel completely understood.

Don’t interrupt. Validate his or her point of view whenever you can honestly do so.

"E" stands for "even if I am ‘wrong, don’t make me wrong." People can disagree without being disagreeable. Don’t kill the messenger because you don’t happen to like the message. How a person feels about you after a conflict discussion is more important than what you were able to solve. Don’t use sarcasm, blame, find fault or personal attacks. Agree to disagree.

"A" stands for "appreciate the greatness within me." Abundant appreciation and recognition put the total relationship in a positive context. Be grateful and acknowledge the admiration and positive regard for the contributions others make. People need to feel how special they really are.

"R" stands for "recognize my positive intent." Most people aren’t intentionally trying to inflict harm or hurt. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Don’t focus on the mistake. Stay with the intent of their actions. Don’t overreact to offensive or provocative statements or quibble with "untrue" details.

Don’t question their motives or commitment to change. Don’t tell them what they "really" think or feel.

"T" stands for "tell me the truth with compassion." Be sensitive to moods, needs and responsibilities before confronting a serious topic. Be tactful and tentative in the way you talk about something that might affect other’s feelings.

Shield your associates from your anger, harsh judgments, and pointed criticisms by taking time to set your own mood and thoughts before confronting an issue. Be sensitive to their need to disengage and process emotional information before pushing for a solution.