Meet our Exhibitors: Kat from KHD Consulting

We seldom speak about the importance of health and wellbeing of the leader for organizational performance and inspiring leadership. However, if your leadership team crumbles under stress or your manager “checks out” from exhaustion you will soon have a tsunami of disengagement, discontent and disillusion in the organization.

I’ve spent most of my career working with and supporting individuals and organizations serving in the international development and business field.  Working in international development comes with its own set of unique stressors and as does international business.  Both operate in the global intercultural and cross-cultural field requiring you to be adaptable to new environments, communicate across cultures, and, in different languages. International staff and their families often relocate multiple times with the added stress of adjusting to a new country and culture, finding suitable schooling for children and meaningful work for dual career couples. Some will serve in high risk duty-stations where they are confined to living and working in a compound under constant threat and with their families far away in a safe place. This just to mention a few of the challenges that my clients have grappled with. In addition, many who serve in international development do so because of a deep conviction of “doing good”.

The downside of a career in international development is the higher risk of burn-out and health problems in general. In addition marital stress and divorce and common issues in global families.


What does all of this have to do with leadership?

Leaders can also burn out – exhausted leaders make poor decisions, can’t motivate.  Exhausted and disengaged leaders are absent leaders, even if present.  I’ve met leaders who were so tired and disengaged they did not realize in how bad a form they were.  As a coach my role was to help them re-connect with themselves…..

Likewise, I’ve worked with staff in teams led by absent-even-if-present managers.  Managers who did not respond to requests, who did not manage, but reacted when forced to. Often the issue was demotivation because of organizational change or burn-out from workloads too huge. Managers are especially susceptible to burn-out and exhaustion simply because of their location in the organizational hierarchy between senior leadership and staff. They are the enablers and enforcers of the vision communicated or dictated by the senior leadership. They are also the gateway between the doers (staff) and leadership with the important role of keeping the communication channels up and down open to facilitate development and performance improvements.  In times of change and restructuring they are often the bearers and implementers of bad news which means that they will be on the receiving end of the wrath of staff.

Unfortunately, many organizations fail to understand the importance of supporting and developing their managers. Coaching is often reserved to the senior leadership. Developing your senior leaders is important but to be a truly thriving organization that high performers want to stay with you need to give equal attention to your managers.

A healthy and thriving organization has a holistic approach to developing and caring for all their staff, regardless of role and placement in the hierarchy. A holistic approach means having policies and programs in place that allows staff to stay healthy, to prevent burn-out and exhaustion.  This includes reasonable workloads, boundaries between work and personal time, opportunities for all staff to learn and influence their job responsibilities.   Having policies in place is not enough.  Senior leadership and management must model the holistic approach, by having boundaries and respecting the boundaries of their staff. Leadership needs to work and live the organizational policy, otherwise staff will not feel empowered and safe to work in a sustainable manner themselves.

Healthy leadership and a well-supported management are keys to a high performing organization.  An organization made up of people who feel heard, respected and supported is more successful in reaching their long-term goals than one where staff are pushed to their limits and disrespected.  They will burn-out leading to absenteeism and disengagement and conflicts.  A human-centered organization needs leaders who embody holistic wellbeing and success.

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