Seven Things You Must Have Whenever You Hold a One-to-One With Others
If you manage others, you’ll almost certainly need to act at some stage in a counselling role. This could be in a professional capacity, such as in giving help on career moves or in a more direct way, such as on personal matters. The following seven dispositions will ensure that any helping intervention you make will result in professional and effective outcomes.
Warmth is the ability to positively relate to others. Any counselling relationship that hopes to help others won’t get off the ground unless there is warmth present from the start. A cold hostile attitude on your part will simply close people down. Instead, drop your critical judgments and believe that what you are engaged in is of value to you, the other person, and the organization you both work for.
If there is one disposition that ensures a successful helping relationship, it’s empathy. Carl Rogers described empathy as “entering the private perceptual world of another person and being completely at home in it.” In other words, you as the counselling manager need to get on their wavelength and know what they’re going through. You then need to let the other person know that you understand what they’re going through which requires the ability to put into words what you believe their mental and emotional state to be. Once you can do that, you open the door to solutions and can both walk through it.
A counselling relationship is a helping relationship. It is not about discussing why things happened which is always speculative and personal, but what and how things happened, which is factual. One word that describes this approach is specificity, in other words, the need to stick to specifics. So, if one of your team comes to you with a problem, avoid “Why?” questions such as “Why did it happen?” and concentrate on “What?” questions such as “What are your options?”
When you take on the responsibility of helping other people with their problems, you owe it to them to be genuine. Entering a counselling relationship and feigning interest is not just misleading, it is downright dishonest. When you are genuine, you are honest, open, truthful, trusting, and understanding. You are fully yourself with your own limits and faults. In being genuine, you are able to model behaviours that encourage the same thing in others.
Confidentiality is a key requirement in a manager who counsels others. You should not undertake counselling if you have an urge to share private information with others either for personal gain or to impress. Of course, there may be information that crops up during a counselling session that needs to be passed on. To make sure you don’t find yourself in a difficult position, you should agree the limits of confidentiality at the start of a counselling relationship and re-visit the agreement at any point during the discussions.
There is a certain point in the helping process when you have enough emotional involvement to understand others. Any more and you are too involved, any less and you are not involved enough. This point can only be experienced through remaining sensitive to the client's situation. It is the point of professional distance. This point allows you to understand others but also to remain distant enough to offer objective insight, suggestions and support.
Being involved with other people’s problems can be both mentally and physically draining. It can lead to burn-out which, although temporary, will make you unable to help people further. Some kind of self-renewal is therefore essential for people who regularly counsel others. Self-renewal can be any activity that brings you back from a feeling of tiredness and inadequacy to a feeling of being able to care and help again. For some, this can be a good long walk in the countryside; for others having someone else to talk to.
When people at work have problems, so does the organization. Helping them through these problems to resourceful solutions is more and more the role of managers and team leaders. Develop these 7 dispositions and you’ll be able to practise this role with confidence and success.