Readers offered suggestions and a follow-up question for some recent columns.
First, some suggestions for Len in Facilities Management, who is striving to improve morale among one of his teams (March 7). A reader who has walked in his shoes, Sharon Harrington, sent the following:
"Another approach that we found useful was to provide a periodic departmental 'open house' (with refreshments or other incentives), to showcase the services provided, as well as the people as individuals and their relevant skills. Often other employees are amazed to learn about the range of our responsibilities, what we do for them (visibly and invisibly), and what additional needs we can meet for them if asked. Or, if there is an employee newsletter, occasional articles about ways in which the facility team met internal customers' needs can also help raise awareness of the value of the team."
Planning for team retirements was the focus of another recent column (February 28).
QWhat happens, though, if top leadership isn't focused on this issue and other senior leaders see the crisis looming? How, a reader asks, can they gain the attention of their leaders to make the appropriate plans?
AAs a leader in your organization, start by determining how hard you're willing and able to push on this issue. This will be a factor of the level of risk you're feeling. If you see an imminent serious breakdown, that'll call for a different level of action. This also may challenge you to assess what your responsibilities as a senior leader in your organization are, and decide the steps you need to take to rise to those responsibilities.
For the best way to approach top leaders, think of how you've seen them deal with problems in the past. Consider factors such as their timeframes for dealing with important issues (deliberate vs. just-in-time), the degree of denial you've seen, and their preferences about hearing factual information vs. a more emotional approach.
Then gather concrete information that you'll be able to provide about the risks your organization is facing. If your top leaders are not perceiving an issue, you'll need specifics. For example, "When Andrea retires, we will no longer have someone in charge of the fleet. We need to make plans for reassigning her responsibilities, including training and transition time." Timelines, counting backward from the departure date, can also bring more urgency to the issue.
After you've prepared, decide to take the initiative. Talk to others at your level to build a coalition of concern, and don't just be quiet about the needs you see. It may push you a bit past your comfort level, especially if the retirees are not in your area of responsibility, but when you see a wider impact looming, it's incumbent on you to lead.
Readers, this is a situation that faces every organization, and I know that many of you will have dealt with this. Take a moment to send your thoughts on ways to get the attention of the executive team. Your ideas will be sent on to the questioner for their use, and will be published in a future column.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.