First, the latest issue of the T T Mitchell Consulting Healthcare Newsletter, CFO Issues, is available.

Let me ask you a question. If you're a leader in some capacity, how do you affect people you interact with?

It's a question many managers can't answer, or may be fooling themselves by answering incorrectly. I would bet that 95% of all managers who might be asked this question would say that they have a great rapport with those who work for them, but then I would bet that at least 50% of those employees would answer it a different way.

As a consultant, I could probably get away with doing some things that many who are employed already, no matter their level, would feel uncomfortable doing. There are consulting companies whose job is to go into other companies and look for ways to reduce expenses, and often it means slashing staff. No one is ever happy about it, but these companies don't care. Often, the top dogs of those particular companies have either already been relieved or might be on their way out, so it's the board that hires these people, and since the board doesn't always know hardly any of the employees, they have no emotional investment with the employees, and neither do these companies. This isn't meant as a denigration of the companies (though it might be a slight indictment against those types of boards), because they're only doing the job someone hired them for.

I like to go the other way as much as possible. If I make someone feel bad, I do it with kindness and reality. I'm glad to not be in a career where my main duty is to let people go. I do end up, every once in awhile, being responsible for other people, which suddenly means I'm a manager. Some might think it's a fine line to walk between being easy on people or being courteous, but I don't. I feel that the nice approach works best; that, plus I find that if I can strike some sort of emotional bond with people, they respond better, and will attempt to work better with me because they don't want me to look bad. In other words, I try to open up the lines of communication because I don't only want to hear about good stuff, I want to know about the bad stuff also. Actually, I really want to hear more about the bad stuff than the good stuff, because the good stuff can take care of itself.

So then, how does one know how they've touched people in positive ways? On two of the consulting gigs I've had, I've been thrown a going-away party and given gifts. On others, I've had people come up to me to thank me for this or that, tell me they wish I wasn't going away, and give me good tidings on my next bit of adventure. On my present contract, which ends next week, I had 4 different people come to me yesterday, since they'll be on vacation next week, to say they've enjoyed working with me and wish me well. And, at my last full time job, we all threw a party for all of us, exchanged information, and two years later when we met up for a lunch, there were 11 former employees of mine who showed up out of 18 I'd worked with on a Saturday; I'm thinking that wasn't a bad sign.

Of course, it's not about being nice when you're leading people; it's about getting results. However, I always feel it's best to get results where one can share the attention, and it's best to get results that will last longer because people not only know how to do their jobs, but they feel good about it. True, sometimes you have to give bad news, but if delivered correctly, one can only grow. And, if they appreciate how you did it, the business relationship grows.

And wouldn't you rather have people you work with like you rather than fear or hate you?