Watch out for loaded questions: An agency story
Trying to coordinate teams of people working at different times in the community (as opposed to a central office) and trying to keep them all on the same page is a big challenge for managers in the world of disability supports. A regular team meeting is one way of trying to build a sense of team camaraderie and coordinate everyone’s efforts. Managers work hard to make these meetings happen.
Many managers are disappointed when attendance is not strong. I got into this subject with a front line manager recently after he brought it up at a workshop. What came out of it was one of those “what not to do” leadership lessons:
The manager explained that when it came to the meetings, he gave his team proper notice, pay, and tried to make sure the meetings were fun. He then went on to say “Unless my team members make the effort to reach out to me, explain why they can’t make it and make efforts to get the info direct from me or others, I write them up the same as if they completely failed to show up for a scheduled shift. Everyone knows I am serious about these meetings.”
What he did not say was what I know about him from being in several workshops with him. This fellow really cares about the people his team supports, has a truly amazing sense of humor (I would want to be in his meetings strictly for the entertainment value) and is a very strong leader who cares about his staff.
I got the sense we were not getting to the bottom of this issue. He is a successful leader who had tamed the meeting attendance issues years ago. Why were things slipping on him?
I pushed a little harder and what came out was that a new Program Director (PD) had been hired. The previous PD had covered the house while the meetings happened. Everyone, including this manager, appreciated that, and respected the PD for allowing them all to get together and not worry about what was going on at the house.
The new PD however, “won’t do that”. I could see that the manager was put out about it. The mystery was solved in my mind.
The lesson here is not that the PD should cover the house, although that may be the solution. The lesson here is that the PD should have been far more careful how she handled the question, “could you cover the house while we have our meeting?” This was a loaded question and by not understanding the ramifications of her answer, she missed an opportunity to keep one of her best managers fully engaged. There were plenty of other positive ways to handle the situation as opposed to just saying “no”.
What do you think?
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