Management Lessons from the Road: They Hear You

I am fortunate to view public administration from two perspectives—I teach in higher education and I run a nonprofit organization that provides an array of human services. Over the years, I have had interactions with students, employees and former employees that have given me pause. Here are three examples, all variations on the same theme.

  • Before beginning an activity in my management class, I gave a series of instructions. Two students looked at each other and began to laugh. As uncomfortable as it was, I waited until after class to ask them what had gone on. Apparently, after each step of the instructions I asked, “Does that make sense?” I use this phrase often. The two students laughed because they had just been discussing that having taken two courses with me, they find themselves using that phrase in their work and at home with their families.
  • A director recounted to me a coaching session she had with one of her employees where she asked, “What do you need from me?” She said she begun to ask because she remembered how supported and valued she felt when I asked her the same question at the end of her supervision meetings with me.
  • Over lunch with a current supervisee, she stated “…and I KNEW what I needed to do. I heard your voice in my head reminding me that…”

Managers influence their employees in many ways. It may be something you have taught them. Your behavior and demeanor provides a model for them. We know these things. Sometimes we forget that our employees are also listening to us. Very carefully.

Here are two things to remember when talking with your employees.

  1. You are always a role model. When you are a leader, a teacher or a supervisor, there is never an interaction with your students or employees when you are not. Whether you are in the cafeteria discussing the latest episode of Arrow, at the front of the room training, or behind closed doors discussing performance outcomes, what you say and how you say it matters.
  2. An interaction may seem insignificant to you, but may mean a great deal to them. I assure you, I do not remember saying whatever it was that my dedicated and skilled employee heard echoing in her head. But she does.
  3. The negative things stick, too. Good, bad or otherwise, they hear you.

What is one thing a supervisor has said to you that still resonates?

Submitted by Robyn-Jay Bage


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