I have always been fascinated by how some people thrive and enjoy the world of work, the glint in their eye clear for all to see as they live and breathe genuine engagement. Having spent the last ten years in the field of talent and leadership development it’s all to clear to me that the stars who have confidence in their abilities but who are also skilled at applying emotional intelligence in their pursuits, operate at the top of their own personal performance curve.
Talented professionals create positive organizational cultures and inspirational leadership. When the person is managing a disability/impairment they can become the stand out talent whose awe- inspiring achievements truly shift previously limiting mindsets. However, not everyone is ready to sell his or her full story in a public way. For more, who are at various stages of working out their journey in managing a disability, having access to a great manager and other enlightened HR colleagues may yield transformational breakthroughs.
When managing a disability or long term health condition your manager is an important part of your team. The refrain “people join organisations but leave managers” gets to the core importance of having a good relationship with your manager in order to thrive. From my experience of managing two long term health conditions for most of my professional life, and with my hat on as a coach of mangers and leaders, a couple of my managers have been true catalysts of my success.
As management development gurus like Daniel Goleman will attest, a highly functioning individual who is emotionally intelligent is self-aware yet also works out how to manage and focus their talents. Resilience, managing emotions and self-belief are key. Some people get this without any nudges or prods. Most people benefit from some friendly coaching tips from a manager as they hone their expertise. It’s extremely engaging to work with a manager who knows how to stretch and encourage your progress enabling you to be on the front foot as challenges arise. An effective and organisationally astute manager (or indeed mentor) can also tip you off on future opportunities for progression.
How I’ve succeeded has still been down to me but here’s what I really appreciated about the great and the good managers I’ve been fortunate enough to work with:
- They were interested in me as a whole person neither avoiding talking about my disability nor being fixated on it. I felt supported in how, when and who I shared my story with.
- They made it clear that the organisation was more interested in what I could do rather than in what I couldn’t.
- They encouraged me to be candid and solutions focused about where I needed help even when I didn’t realise I was soldiering on excessively. These were the building blocks for my way of being resilient and adaptable as my health conditions (MS plus visual impairment) fluctuated.
- There was an interest in keeping up to date on any adjustments I needed, being prepared to step in to encourage things to happen so that I could perform at my best – an A3 printer and Zoomtext software where quite non-standard for our IT department.
- Disability related challenges were seen as an opportunity for learning and progress in getting my team to work together more closely My expertise was showcased for others to learn from me whilst I benefitted from less experienced colleagues boundless energy and keen eyesight when having to wade through organizational charts of 200+ people on one page or produce the packs that accompanied my leadership training sessions
However, not all my managers have been as enlightened as I would like. When a manager is out of their comfort zone (they are human too after all!) you may need to take more of a lead in raising their awareness of what is required for you to be at your best.
Here are some elements you may want to prep them on:
- I’d like you to understand how I manage my disability / impairment at work. The practical adjustments that enable me to be most effective are [provide details].
- The support / guidance I need from you to be at my best is [insert your requirements].
- I’d like to keep you in the loop on my adjustments. It would be helpful if we could do this [state if there are any outstanding adjustments that are affecting your performance and any help you need from your manager to accelerate progress].
I’ve also readily appreciated it when senior leaders are curious of my progress and the HR, Learning and Development, Diversity and Well-being experts are joined up. These professionals can also help get to the crux of your strengths and work out how to most practically put them to good use. It’s good for as many of these people to have you on their radar so that they have you on their mind at meetings where succession planning for key roles takes place!
Caroline Dove, Personal Effectiveness & Leadership Coach, Success Inspired Partners
Caroline partners with professional coaching clients (senior leaders, managers and team members) to build their capabilities to thrive in work and life in a sustainable way. She draws on a range of leadership and personal effective tools that bring their strengths and abilities to the fore in a way that intuitively puts each person in their best resourceful state of mind. Please take a look at http://www.success-inspired .co..uk for more information.
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