Management Success Tip #180: What To Do When Your Boss’ Tirade Has Frozen Your Mental Assets

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Your department didn’t achieve this quarter’s quota, despite your best efforts and those of your team. Your boss thundered into your office, slammed the door, and proceeded to chew you out in loud unmistakable terms. You knew the entire department could hear him clearly through the thin walls, and tempted as you were to mumble “Could you please keep your voice down?” you were pretty sure your request would have the opposite effect.

As your boss charges back out of your office, you sit there, humiliated, embarrassed and utterly beside yourself. You have to come up with a plan, with some way to rally your by now distressed employees, but your brains have disappeared to some faaaar corner of your head, no thinking possible given your level of stress.

For there it is. You cannot function when stress has frozen your mental assets.

Here’s a way out.

The acronym RAIN, a technique originally developed by Michele McDonald, is a simple yet very effective way to handle stress. It helps you shift your perspective of whatever happened so that you can unfreeze your terrified mind and meet the current challenge.

  1. Recognition: Consciously pay attention to what is happening in your body, and what you feel like. For example, “My heart’s beating really fast and my stomach is in knots. I feel like an idiot.”
  2. Acceptance: Acknowledge that you are stressed. Don’t fight it. The quickest way to get your body and mind to relax past your stress, is to accept it as your current reality. It’s uncomfortable, possibly frightening, but it’s the body’s natural reaction to a threat, and not the end of the world.
  3. Investigation: Sort out what thoughts and emotions are present. What stories you are telling yourself about what just happened? Or the possible consequences? For example, “I’m humiliated. The whole department heard me get an earful. Everyone’s gonna think I’m stupid. A failure.”
  4. Non-identification: Now, the last and critically important step, is to realize that although you are having thoughts of being stupid, of being a failure, the thought does not equal the thing. “Right now I feel like I’m a failure” is very different from “I am a failure.” Separate the thought from the thing, and it becomes much more manageable.

Ah . . . much better now!

Management Success Tip #162: Get the Best From Team Conflict: Bring Out Your Inner Referee!

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Conflict is challenging for most people. Yet the ability to hold different opinions and argue for them is one of the best ways to ferret out those ideas that will benefit your company, and which lack sufficient potential.

As David Burkus states: “If you team always agrees, that might suggest that people are self-censoring their ideas, or worse, not generating any new ideas at all. Research suggests that teams that forgo traditional brainstorming rules and debate over ideas as they’re presented end up with more and better ideas. As a leader, it may seem like your job is to break up fights, but don’t be afraid to act as a referee instead — allowing the fight over ideas to unfold, but making sure it stays fair and doesn’t get personal.”

There you have it! Let opposing ideas come forth, encourage the many voices on your team, and bring out your inner referee as needed. As long as a fight is fair, that no one feels you are taking sides, that you are weighing the pros and cons judiciously, and encouraging your team to do the same, not only will dynamite ideas emerge, but your team will have the satisfaction of a thorough discussion.

Yes, adopting the referee role is more demanding than simply imposing your will, but the results are well worth the effort, both in team satisfaction and solid, business-worthy ideas.

Management Success Tip #157: Appear Confident During Crises without Channeling Your Inner Action Hero

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If managing employees was easy, business would practically run itself. Not! Management is usually about putting out fires with brief respites in between, which is why, as one of your colleagues says “They pay us the big bucks.” Yeah, right. You wish!

Meanwhile, sometimes the hardest thing to do while in the midst of putting out another of said fires, is to do so with confidence. Yes, you know what you’re doing – for the most part – but how well it will work, over the long haul as well as the short, etc., isn’t all that certain.

And yet, according to Georgina Stewart of Lead Change Group: “If you are not confident in yourself, the plan that you have formed or the actions that you are taking – how can you expect others to be confident in your ability? At the very least we ask that you appear calm, collected and confident at all times as causing others to panic on top of the situation you are already in will simply cause more stress and will burden you further.”

No, you don’t have to channel your inner Action-Hero, you just need to appear calm, collected and confident so as not to sow further panic in the ranks. And that is largely a matter of body language.

Stand straight, walk tall. Wipe the frown off your forehead, and as best you can, keep a neutral expression on your face. Think before you speak, and speak deliberately.

Here’s the thing: even as you adjust your body language for the benefit of your employees, science tells us that adopting such postures will help you feel more confident, and that, in and of itself, is worth the effort.

Management Success Tip #144: Use Targeted Questions to Get Employees Past the Fear-of-Change Boogeyman.

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Change upsets us. We grow used to a certain way of doing things, and even when it’s not terribly efficient, we’re usually more comfortable with that tried-and-true way, than we are with something new, even if it promises to be way more effective.

So it’s no big surprise that some of your employees buck that change you so desperately need them to accept.

Kevin Eikenberry offers a number of ways to approach their resistance, the first of which are:

“1. Understand the source of the reluctance. People have a reason – rational or emotional (or likely a combination of the two) – why they don’t want to make a particular change. The first mistake leaders make is assuming you know why. Even if your people have shared their reasons in the past, it is important to ask them about their concerns and reservations this time. Do this in as authentic and non-threatening way as you can. Your goal it to truly understand what they are thinking and feeling about the change. (In order to do that you must . . .)

2.  Shut up and listen. Your goal isn’t to convince them or influence them at this point. Your goal is only to listen to their responses. Respond only with follow-up questions designed to truly understand where they are in regards to the change.”

How common-sensical is that! Ask, with a genuine intent to find out what’s really going on, and then listen, again, with a genuine intent to discover the source of the resistance.

Once you address your employees’ concerns, regardless of how meaningful or absurd you believe they are, your employees will be far more willing to go along with your so ardently desired change.

Management Success Tip #137: Don’t Fight, Flee Or Faint – Clarify For Success!

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Differences of opinion are a necessary catalyst for growth. Managers who discourage opinions that differ from their own, either overtly (“I don’t want to hear it! We’re doing it X way, and that’s that.”) or covertly (“Mm-hm, that’s interesting,” aka shining you on), miss out on the opportunities afforded by a multiplicity of ideas.

You are not the sole authority on your business. Hard to hear, I know, but often there are employees and co-workers who are more in touch with certain aspects of the business, or the economic environment, or even social media – who could add great value, if you’d only let them.

Humans have basically three knee-jerk reactions to our opinions being challenged: we fight, flee, or faint.

We fight: defend, get aggressive, deny any other possibility.

We flee: ignore the challenge, leave the room (literally), “forget” the comment

We faint: make nice, give in to “please,” go along to get along.

A compelling alternative to all three of these instinctive reactions is to follow Judith E. Glaser’s recommendation:

“Clarify the conflict by talking through each partyʼs stance. For example, “You seem to be suggesting that we really need to focus on elevating our gross revenue before we invest in a new IT strategy. Is that right?” or “It seems like weʼre envisioning two different levels of risk. Tell me more about what youʼre seeing as the downside.”

Requesting clarity is a great way to bypass defending, ignoring or pleasing and get to the real heart of the matter: what is of value in your employee/co-worker’s opinion?

Because that is what is important to your success and the success of your business.

Management Success Tip #105: Engage Your Employees With Honest Admission of Mistakes

Employees are engaged when you are trustworthy, authentic and straight-forward with them.

According to Julie Winkle Giulioni, two of the most powerful things you can say to employees that demonstrate your candor are:

I was wrong. When supervisors share their vulnerability and admit mistakes, it has a powerful effect on their employees. Rather than undermining respect or esteem, it actually inspires confidence. It creates an environment in which failure isn’t fatal, experimentation is encouraged, and problems are openly addressed, helping others learn and grow.

I’m sorry. Apologies are powerful… for both those on the giving and the receiving end. Recognizing a problem, misstep, or misunderstanding and correcting it is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard for many… which makes it all the more impactful. Apologizing when appropriate communicates your humanity and a sincere commitment to your relationship with others.”

Neither “I was wrong” nor “I’m sorry” make you appear weak or less authentic. On the contrary, your calm, factual accountability engenders respect, and encourages your employees to do the same.

Management Success Tip #101: Hear Your Frustrated Employee Out Before Offering Solutions

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One of most managers’ least favorite things to do is deal with an upset employee. I don’t mean a politely upset employee, I mean an hysterical, ranting, out-of-their-ordinary-mind employee.

Mark Goulston M.D., business psychiatrist, has some wise words for how to help someone vent:

“It’s hard to know what to do when someone is ranting. A lot of people will try to jump in and give advice. Others freeze up and just sit there silently. Neither of those approaches will help the person get the negative emotions out and move on (which is what she needs most). Next time someone is bending your ear about a problem, try asking questions.

“Start by probing into what she’s most frustrated about. If you ask about her feelings, it often sounds condescending. Asking about frustration is less judgmental. Listen and gather more details about the problem. Once she’s vented her feelings, she’ll be in a better place to think about potential solutions. When people are upset, it matters less what you tell them than what you enable them to tell you.”

Truer words were never spoken! When we’re in the grip of heartfelt emotion, we need most to be heard. Facilitate your employee’s appropriate disclosure of what’s frustrating him or her, and once heard, your employee will be far more receptive to a rational discussion of what needs to be done.