I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with clients who are struggling through challenges with a person who is making poor choices. Generally the conversation morphs into a guessing game style diagnosis of why:
One of my clients was recently struggling to gain control of his schedule. He was constantly handling home tasks during work and work stuff during his nights and weekends. He was trying to make it all fit into the appropriate segment of time but couldn’t make it happen and was feeling frustrated.
It suddenly hit me; some of us are not wired to work within the confines of pre-categorized windows of time. We aren’t meant to do a 9 to 5 job Monday through Friday. We, instead, seek to utilize a 24/7 schedule for all of life’s categories in an effort to use our available time most effectively.
I told him he was “blending” his activities across all available hours. If he could maneuver the time well that way and his employer was fine with it, it was okay.
The revelation was so freeing for him! He had the kind of job that allows for working any time anywhere and was wired to do more of a blend between work and life. He stopped fighting how he was wired and embraced it. It has worked great since!
If you are wired for blending and have the opportunity to schedule this way it can be a wonderful way to go. With each chunk of unscheduled time you can determine what should be done next from your entire list of tasks rather than choosing from one specific category.
If you are a morning person and have a creative flash of energy, get that article for work written whether it’s a Tuesday or a Saturday. If it’s Thursday at 2:00 PM and Costco is right there and your chunk of time will permit you to pop in to pick up a few things and then unload at home, go for it!
I tend to use the following criteria to determine the best use of my unscheduled time:
So many of my clients resist having correction conversations with their team members. And, yes, that’s what I like to call them. Whether you engage in the communication with the aid of a discipline form, a performance improvement plan or have them without documenting anything at all, ultimately, your goal is to correct someone’s behavior, attitude, work output or work quality.
So, if all you’re trying to accomplish is some correction, why do you avoid these conversations at all cost? The excuses I’ve heard run the gamut. Are any of these familiar?
I recently conducted a webinar for a large group and had this question come up. It’s one I hear quite often, actually. I can answer it simply but realize that execution can be a bit more difficult. The results are well worth it though, so give it a try.
I prescribe to the concept of taking preventative measures to avoid drama between co-workers. And when I say drama, I mean non-productive disagreement. There are times when co-workers will not agree over a best process or over the one year goal of a department. That kind of disagreement, handled professionally, is healthy for the organization. Disagreeing because one is having an affair with the other’s boyfriend, however, is not.
As a leader, you set the tone for your team. You can tell them up front what will be tolerated and what will not. Tell them that they don’t have to like each other but they do need to respect each other and that work time must be productive.
If it is a work related disagreement, encourage them to speak directly to the person they have an issue with and teach them assertive communication techniques. Communication must always be respectful and appropriate. When you first implement this new environment you can start by acting as a facilitator of appropriate conversations to model quality communication.
The other conversations that do not pertain to work must happen outside of work and any resulting conflict must not impact productivity. Period.
If they are not able to adhere to the above, walk them through your discipline process and out the door. Bickering with a co-worker may not be as tempting if the stakes become that high.
So often I encounter teams of leaders who feel they need no assistance with conflict resolution when it is so apparent that they do. “We are not angry. We do not fight. Everything is fine!”
The fact that they are not yelling at each other is not the litmus test that determines whether or not they are angry. More often it means that they are avoiding conflict, stuffing their feelings, and, as an alternative, building a wall of resentments between those with whom they live and work.
The anger management movement was certainly a step in the right direction. It moved us away from being overtly disrespectful to each other. But too many have gotten the wrong message. The goal of respectful, assertive communication somehow got lost along the way.
And, in its wake are a generation of people who feel that everything is great if they do not express anger or frustration, who choose, instead, to suffer in silence, hold tension in their bodies or eat away the pain.
And every conversation that ends with unspoken thoughts, unresolved issues or communication that didn’t actually happen adds another brick in a wall that sits between people and robs the world of a team’s best efforts.
Willful control should not be the gold standard. I say we move the bar beyond putting on a brave face, wearing a mask and smiling through the hurt. Let’s aim higher and shoot, instead, for anger elimination!
There are a few simple techniques that can change your perspective or get you into action BEFORE there is a buildup of anger or resentment. Get it all out and resolved respectfully so there is nothing to “manage.”
If you are like a lot of my clients, implementing just these 3 important techniques will help you eliminate a lot of your anger:
Recently, while home alone, I passed a mirror and realized that I had something in my teeth. Thankfully I caught it before I walked out the door! But, because I seem wired for turning every life experience into a teaching moment, it got me thinking; how many of the people in my life would be real with me if they saw a flaw that I did not?
It’s an important question because the reality is, in life; lettuce in our teeth is one of the milder issues. So many things can escape our notice. That outside, objective perspective so often provides a much clearer view. But will the people in our lives share what they see?
It begs the question; what kinds of people am I doing life with? I thought of several categories. Which best describe your friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances?
1. No laugh – No tell – No Gossip: This person sees the issue but diverts their eyes. They bury the secret deep. They never speak of it. Not to you or anyone else. So, on the one hand, they are not engaging in recreational communication at your expense. That is good. However, you are not receiving the benefit of their perspective.
2. Tell – Gossip: At least this kind of friend does tell you. But then they proceed to spread the good word far and wide. Talking to individuals not involved for recreation.
3. Laugh – No Tell – Gossip – Laugh More: This is the worst. They say nothing to you but tell everyone else they know to get a good laugh about it later at your expense. I have to admit, with some embarrassment, to an incident where I absolutely did this. I will give myself grace, however. It was high school and it involved our math teacher. His pants were split up the entire back and he had no idea. He kept walking around the room bending over to help various students with their assignment. I would not react the same now, but back then life couldn’t get any better.
4. Tell – Support – Done: These friends will point it out and then give you the response you need to work through it, whether it’s a good laugh at the object stuck in your teeth or compassion for the mess you’ve made in your life. And then it’s done. They will not speak of it to others. There is no need for gossip.
I think that any of us would prefer the friend who will point it out with compassion and let us work through it. Sometimes the lettuce is an attitude or a behavior. Maybe it’s a choice we’ve made. No one is perfect so we all experience moments where we need that clear outside perspective.
So, what kind of company are you keeping? Are there some relationships that need work or need to go?
And, perhaps more importantly, which kind of friend are you? To what lengths are you willing to go to be the got your back person to the people in your life? Sometimes it is scary to share what we see. So, what kind of friend will you be?
Creating the dynamic team of your dreams requires great communication both of expectations and of issues. Most employees will respond well to correction. They will appreciate the feedback, take it to heart and make the required changes.
Some employees, however, have no desire to change and will do whatever it takes to remain stuck where they are. I will term these employees “problem employees.” These are the team members who probably do not belong and will ultimately be walked through your discipline process and out the door, if you choose to follow through.
Problem employees will often use tactics to avoid owning their bad behavior. They are stuck in a rut and have no desire to change. Too often leaders become paralyzed by the resulting fear of experiencing these tactics. They adopt a keep quiet approach to the detriment of the team as everyone is robbed of the opportunity for constructive feedback.
That, obviously, is not the best strategy. Instead, let’s arm you with some tools to bust the 4 D’s of discipline avoidance so that you can move forward with the communication that must happen for your team to excel.