HR has a duty to help senior managers set the right example

HR has a responsibility to help senior managers to understand the impact of their behaviour and mood and to encourage them to project confidence and set a positive example, to stop the spread of fear, claims a business coaching specialist.

Performance Consultants, a provider of executive coaching, leadership development and coach education, claims that concerns about downsizing, redundancies and financial viability are paralysing organisations at a time when they need their employees to be productive.

“Senior managers can do much to either fuel or prevent the spread of fear,” said Neil Twogood, Chief Operating Officer at Performance Consultants. “Everyone watches the boss, so if that person is paralysed by inner doubt, the likely result will be widespread fear and anxiety in the team as well as stress and procrastination.”

Senior managers therefore have to manage their own fears and project confidence, high energy and a positive attitude. But to set the right emotional and behavioural chain reaction throughout the organisation, they have to be authentic – and this is where HR can help.

“Their actions have to match their internal feelings,” said Neil Twogood. “They can’t simply put on a brave face. If they act buoyant and upbeat when in fact they are fearful and anxious, people will detect an imbalance and they will come across as insincere. HR can play the vital role of a trusted advisor holding up a mirror to help senior managers understand that their mood sets the tone for everyone else in the organisation. HR can also help senior managers to appreciate the impact that they are having, which may be different to the impact they would like to have. If they have fears, they should acknowledge them. But they should be aware that their mood is contagious, so they should try to retain an encouraging air of sincerity, optimism and realism.”

To overcome the procrastination and indecisiveness that can result from fear, Performance Consultants advises that senior managers should understand what options are available to their team, or the organisation, and the risks attached to each of these. They should examine the situation objectively, gather information, involve others and decide on the best course of action.

“Senior managers need to recognise what they are fearful of and how valid that fear is, based on the data they have,” said Neil Twogood. “Most people are frightened about what they imagine might happen. But fear can distort your whole perception of reality. With the negative coverage of the credit crisis that we see every day in the media, it’s easy to extrapolate a seemingly logical sequence of events into a fearful scenario. Senior managers should try not to blow events and their consequences out of proportion. They must link this grip on reality to an understanding of their own emotional state and the emotional state of their employees to ensure their words and behaviour resonate with staff. This will lead to improved performance.”


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