Why You Should Listen To A Therapist On Leadership
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Reading Time with Exercises: 55 minutes
My name is Mari Verano, MA, LMFT. I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California with a certificate in Neuroscience for Clinical Practice and over twelve years of clinical experience. I have a thriving therapy practice where clients wait years to specifically work with me.
This is why you should listen to me when I talk about leadership.
- I’m experienced in diagnosing an issue, the scope of the issue, and assessing the potential impact on a client’s life.
It is my job to give a correct diagnosis, intervene to reduce the symptoms of that diagnosis, and help keep clients (and the public) safe when symptoms spike to dangerous levels.
Similarly, effective leaders face reality. One of the top reasons why people quit their jobs is because they don’t like their supervisor, and many people don’t like their supervisor due to bad management—including their boss’s failure to acknowledge serious issues that everyone else can see.
Unhappy Employee: “They just let this person do whatever they wanted because this was their son. That spoiled little brat did whatever the hell they wanted and drove people who were actually doing their jobs out of here. Now I’m stuck doing whatever Daddy’s Little Boy wants although he doesn’t do shit.”
Happy Employee: “The CEO made it very clear that although his son worked for him, he got no special treatment. As a matter of fact, when his son showed up drunk to work, he immediately fired him. I happened to overhear him say he was sent to rehab. I respect that he followed through on what he promised.”
What is one thing that you are not fully facing at work or in your personal life?
What are the implications if you don’t fully face this?
- If the problem is out of my scope, I refer out or get help as soon as possible.
I am ethically bound to refer a client out to a provider with more expertise if the client is out of my scope of practice. (If I know I can’t help someone, I can’t fake it because this could be a life or death decision.)
Similarly, effective leaders hire consultants, read books, or meet with their colleagues if they encounter a problem they feel like they can’t handle alone.
Unhappy Employee: “My white, male boss pretended he knew everything. He didn’t consult the marketing specialist on our team–actually, he talked down to her because she was a Black woman. If we had listened to her, we wouldn’t have lost that much revenue this quarter. She was right, he was wrong, and he has too much ego to admit it.”
Happy Employee: “He was the best boss I ever had because he always hired people who were smarter than him in his areas of weakness, and he knew how to delegate.”
Name one area where you’d like to grow your expertise. Identify a resource that can help you (a book, podcast, mentor) and commit to learning from this resource five minutes a day.
- I teach others how to lead themselves.
It is my job to make myself obsolete. I cannot ethically continue working with a client when a client no longer benefits from my expertise. At that point, I put together a plan to end therapy, remind the client of the skills that they learned, and wish them well on their journey—or refer them out to someone who has more expertise.
Similarly, effective leaders teach teams their leadership skills, are not threatened by the growth of their team members, and are humbly aware that one day, their team members might outgrow them.
Unhappy Employee: “When the boss was gone for a week due to an emergency, everything fell apart. It was clear that she hadn’t taught the team her procedures and protocols–hell, an e-mail with a few instructions would have done wonders. We were like rats on a sinking ship.”
Happy Employee: “When the boss was gone for a week due to an emergency, we knew exactly where policies, procedures, and protocols were to keep the company running.”
What are some things you can do to help your team develop their skills?
- I am trained to be truthful, but compassionate.
I’m trained to tell my clients the truth, but not in a way that’s abusive or accusatory. I strive to treat my clients with compassion and have compassion for their unique identities while also bringing unhealthy behaviors to their attention.
Similarly, effective leaders know how to have the hard conversations with someone while keeping the focus on performance. They know when to be more “hard ass” and when to be softer. They are not 100% “hard ass” nor 100% permissive. They know when to switch gears.
Unhappy Employee: ”When the boss was unhappy with how someone on our team performed, we knew because we could hear the yelling from down the hall. I started to think, ‘No salary is worth my mental health.’ I was out of there within six months.”
Happy Employee: “My boss always tells me exactly what I did wrong, specific steps to improve, and how she can help me.”
How can you give difficult feedback with compassion?
5. I am ethically obligated to act if I suspect danger.
In California, licensed therapists are mandated reporters, which means that I am ethically bound to report suspected child or elder abuse.
Similarly, successful leaders know the “red flags” of employees committing unethical or illegal acts. They address these red flags as quickly and safely as possible.
Unhappy Employee: “I had warned my manager that this person was working under false credentials. I had called up the graduate school they had supposedly attended and there was no record of them. My manager brushed the matter under the rug until she found out this person was committing fraud. Sorry, but that was too little, too late. I’d already started looking for another position.”
Happy Employee: “My boss found out that the ‘star salesman’ had been stealing from under her nose for over a year. He was let go soon afterward. Everyone was shocked because this person was so charming and well-liked; however, my boss made it clear she has zero tolerance for anyone who steals from the company. We all walked away with a newfound respect for her.”
What are some employee “red flags” that must be immediately addressed?
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Disclaimer:This blog does not replace in-depth, individualized help from a health professional or provide any diagnosis or treatment. By reading, you understand this statement and commit to seeking psychotherapy or medication support if needed. You also understand that Mari Verano, LLC will not be able to intervene in a crisis or court situation. Please seek your own legal and/or crisis resources.