Walking the Talk: Essential But Not Enough

Authentic Leadership calls for first line managers to demonstrate their commitment to core values in their everyday work. Doing so has a salutary impact on their own work engagement by deepening their commitment to those ideals. Doing so also provides a model of values in action to team members. It shows that these lofty words have real meaning in the practical context where they work. Living your values is a critical part of leadership.

But it’s not enough.

People do learn through observation, but it only goes so far. A lot more happens through dialogue.

First, engaging people in conversation deepens their connection with the team. Sharing ideas builds connections among people. Listening is an essential tool for first line managers. But to listen, they have to get something going. That is leaders don’t simply wait for members to strike up a conversation; they actively initiate dialogue.

Second, personal goals and aspirations are compelling. Without an active and ongoing connection with the organization, its values take a back seat. The most effective way of connecting employees with the organization is through conversation. The abstract concepts of the mission and the large scale scope of an organization’s work lack a personal punch. Conversations trump proclamations.

An example from a CREW group:

When asked for an example of incivility within her team, a nurse said that colleagues who took an unnecessary sick day showed disrespect for colleagues who had to carry the load. This statement prompted dialogue on nurses’ skepticism about a hospital initiative to reduce absences. During that conversation, attendance shifted from being a labor/management issue to a means of showing respect to colleagues.

1 Comment

  1. Using sick time unnecessarily is really a collegial problem and not a management problem. A few years ago I worked as a casual in a busy high-intensity unit and was struck by how the staff supported each other by coming back for overtime shifts, not because they wanted the extra money, but because they knew their colleagues would be shouldering the load without them.

    Add a few abrasive personalities to the mix, and an impotent management attempt at attendance management, and in a few years sick time abuse was over the top. Leadership changes and civility dialogues have, thankfully, turned the tide in that unit, but it took a lot of work.

    Nonetheless, it has been my experience so far, that regardless of the policies put in place by management, unnecessary sick time seems to be more about avoiding people we don’t want to work with, than for recuperating for short-term illness.

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