Human Resources Insights
Leadership with Heart
Do you have the heart of a leader? Hopefully you do. If you do, what does it look like to you to apply heart to your work and life? Drop me a line at the email below and tell me what your heart-felt leadership looks like. I, like many HR professionals, am a people person and I spend my personal and professional life observing and evaluating people. As an HR practitioner it is my job to assess situations, analyze behaviors and evaluate people and the decisions that they make/made. It is a fascinating field. Imagine trying to figure out why someone would risk his or her financial future stealing a frying pan.*
To do my job, I oftentimes have to think outside my frame of reference—sometimes putting myself in other people’s shoes—and try to understand the way in which they think and/or react to a situation. I observe their facial expression, watch their demeanor and also assess their honesty and sincerity all at the same time in which they are explaining why they behaved the way they did. As is always necessary, I listen carefully to find the truth sometimes hidden among the many things they say and the way in which they say them. It is important that I don’t prejudge them because, as we all know, we—as human beings—all do things for a variety of very good reasons, which, frankly, others might find difficult to comprehend.
What do I mean when I talk about having heart? To have heart means that you care about people. I believe that the characteristics of a leader with heart include empathy, ethics, strength, wisdom, confidence and compassion. I believe that you have to care about people before you can do right by them. I remember a case where a young woman was accused of taking a petty cash fund from the office manager’s desk one day. She was shy and naïve, and very inexperienced for her job and situation. She also seemed to have more than her share of drama in her personal life—later I found out that she and her young son were victims of an abusive situation at home. When we conducted our investigation, she vehemently swore that she had not taken the money, even though she was the only one with access a key to as well as being responsible for these funds. Of course, she was suspended while we conducted an investigation and I spent many hours talking with investigators about the facts. One afternoon I met with her and began asking her questions about her job and her co-workers. I will never forget how she explained to me in great detail and care that this job was one that she truly loved because she was treated with respect by everyone, allowed to contribute each day and was part of a team which felt like family. She explained to me, in a soft and emotional voice, that she would never jeopardize this situation because it was a blessing and her ticket out of her nightmare of a home life. I was mesmerized by her expression and carefully chosen words, and knew immediately that she was speaking the truth. I just had to listen closely and with my heart. As it turned out, one member of the night crew came forward a couple days later to confess that he had seen another night crew member sneak into the office and steal the money with a duplicate key that the co-worker had had made.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am objective and I do embrace the importance and value of rules, procedures and intellect to the overall cohesiveness of our society and our workplaces. But I also believe that we must never lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with living, breathing and fault-prone “human beings” and that people, when faced with a choice, will opt to do the right thing almost all of the time. I believe that until we can walk in another person’s shoes, we can neither understand them and their decisions, nor can we judge them based upon a set of rules—our rules—that may not apply in their world.
[*In one situation, an individual actually put not only his job, but his future on the line when he attempted to steal a fry pan from his place of work by hiding it down his work pants. As we all know, theft can be a career ending move in any industry but is a particularly bad move if you want to continue a career in the hospitality industry.]
I would appreciate input from my readers to help drive the direction of my column this year. Please send your HR questions and concerns, or share your thoughts on your human resources challenges via email to the following address. Send input to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your comments, questions or concerns will help determine the direction for my next month’s column and earn you a copy of my book. Be sure to include your mailing address when sending your responses.