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 #179: Let the Three Good Things Game Lift Your Work-Mood

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When things are going well, and your employees are all exceeding your expectations (except for Sam, but then, hey, “into every life” and all that), you’re in a great mood, flying high, life is good.

When things aren’t, you grind your teeth, your stomach is a mess, you can’t sleep the night through if you can even get to sleep in the first place, and you wonder why oh why did you ever accept that promotion to the supposedly magical land of manager-hood?

Time to play the “Three Good Things” game!

Research by Joyce E. Bono and Theresa M. Glomb shows that when people at work were asked to find three good things from their day and then write about them for about ten minutes that night, their stress was reduced, they had fewer mental and physical complaints, and they felt more positive about their work.

I don’t care how crappy a day it was, you can always find three things to be grateful for. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re still breathing. Hey, that’s a plus! Maybe it’s that most of your employees were where they were supposed to be, and on time, even if what they were doing wasn’t up to par. They showed up! That’s step one. Maybe it’s that you figured out what the problem was that was slowing up production. That’s going to be even more important in the weeks to come.

Not bad, altogether. And with the simple expedience of finding three positive things in your day, no matter how seemingly small, and why they mattered, your stress level diminished. Which means more room was freed up in your brain for creative thinking. Which means tomorrow is likely to be a more productive day.

Three things! When you’ve mastered three, go for four or five or ten. Your stress level will diminish accordingly, and your happiness factor most definitely increase.

Management Success Tip #175: 3 Steps to Getting Employee-Resented Tasks Done: Give a Reason, Get Real, Give a Reward

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Into every manager’s life must fall those tasks you hate to inflict upon your team, yet must get done. Mainly because they’ve been inflicted on you by your higher-ups . . . or just because it’s that time of year.

It’s tempting to say to your team “Just do it!” and stuff your ears with cotton wads so you don’t hear their grumbling. It doesn’t work well with your kids, you should hardly be surprised that it doesn’t work well with your team either. Oh, they may do the task, but half-heartedly, not thoroughly, and with zero enthusiasm. Which disinterest may then bleed into other parts of their work, which is a shame, because they’re usually high-functioning.

There’s an easy 3-step fix: give them a reason, get real, give them a reward.

Give them a reason: “The image library has to be labeled and catalogued because it eats up far too much of our time to search haphazardly.” “Corporate year-end report must include our stats; if we don’t provide them, corporate will  send in an outside consultant to dig them up and that will mess with our work flow.”

Get real: “I don’t like having to do it either! I don’t like having to ask you to label and catalogue; it’s boring, mind-numbing and tedious. And yes, I’ll be taking on a chunk of it to do also. I’m not asking you to do something I won’t do.” “Yes, pulling the stats together is a real nuisance, but having an outsider poke around in our work is even more of a nuisance. Let’s get organized and get this done as painlessly and quickly as possible.”

Give them a reward: “When we’re done, I’m treating everyone to lunch/giving you all Friday afternoon off/tickets to the ball game/etc.” In a word, whatever works. Whatever pleases your team and is meaningful to them.

People respond to honesty and shared endeavor. And if you can find a way to kick in your sense of humor, so much the better.

Management Success Tip #171: Fix Your Attitude Towards Your Employees Before You Try to Fix Poor Performance

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Pop quiz: what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your employees?

Pain-in-the-neck? Burdensome? Constant source of aggravation? Bunch of whiners? Lazy? Unmotivated?

Or: Pleasure to work with. Eager beavers. Full of good ideas. Helpful, cooperative.

Probably a mix of both. Hopefully with more of the “pleasure to work with” thoughts than the “pain-in-the-neck” variety.

But here’s the thing: people can sense what your attitude is towards them. And when you look at an employee and think “pain-in-the-neck,” that employee may not know precisely what you’re thinking, but he or she can indeed feel that they are somehow disapproved of. Which in turn greatly diminishes their desire to do a good job, or improve present performance.

Does this mean you have to like all your employees? Heavens, no! But it does mean that your focus on whatever you can appreciate, what you can value, about each and every one of your employees, will have significant impact on how they respond to you.

Make the effort to find one thing you can value about every single one of your employees. Then focus your attention more on that attribute, skill or quality, than on whatever it is you don’t appreciate.

You’ll find that even your “pain-in-the-neck” employees will begin to show improvement, and your “pleasure to work with” ones will positively shine.

Management Success Tip #160: Put the Ultimate Success Mind Set to Work for You: Calm, Happy and Energized!

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You may not have a sign on your desk “The buck stops here,” but that is the truth of your job. How well those who report to you perform, whether or not you meet your quotas, deadlines, or client expectations – all these are your responsibility, and certainly, you have the skill set, the aptitude for it.

But is your mind-set up to the challenge? Because research which surveyed 740 leaders nationally and internationally, found that 94% of them stated they perform best when calm, happy and energized – as opposed to (for example) depressed, frustrated or anxious.

Now that sounds like common sense, doesn’t it. After all, who’s going to perform at their peak when depressed, frustrated or anxious? And yet, ask yourself, how do you come in to work every day: worried? stressed? anxious? Uh-huh, I thought so.

So how can you get yourself into that “calm, happy, energized” place without living in massive denial or on major meds?

Simply put, start by recognizing when you’re not. Check in with yourself: if you’re anxious or frustrated, you’re not calm. If that’s common for you, take up a mindfulness practice, yoga, whatever helps you maintain calm more often. Happy is largely a matter of reflecting more on the glass half full than how utterly depleted it looks. And energized is easier to springboard off of calm and happy, than it is off of anxious or depressed. Healthy eating and exercise habits help too.

Beyond that, reflect on the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer (with or without the word “God,” whatever fits for you): “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It’s a great re-focusing and calming affirmation.

Management Success Tip #151: Great Bosses Don’t React, They Respond!

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There is a world of difference between being responsive and being reactive. When you’re reactive, you live in a knee-jerk chaotic environment, where you’re pulled every which way by whatever situation happens to hit in the moment. No thought, no plan, no strategy. Not only does this lead to ineffective management, it’s extremely detrimental to your employees!

Want to win the “Worst Boss Ever” award? According to Karin Hurt, leadership consultant: “Be Reactive – Respond to the biggest fires first with full on urgency. Pull as many people into the mix as you can. When you’re stressed, make sure your team is stressed right along with you.”

A stressed team is, by definition, a poorly functioning team with low morale. Relieve your team’s stress by responding, not reacting.

To respond means to take a pause before leaping into action. Think through the impact and consequences of a number of alternative approaches. Consider what you’re doing before you do it, not once you’re in the middle of doing it.

Your team will thank you for it!

Management Success Tip #145: Telling Your Employee to “Calm Down” Won’t Work: Compassionate Listening Will

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There are few situations managers dread more than having to deal with an emotionally charged up employee, whether that employee is frustrated out of their mind, angry, tearful or hysterical. Emotions! It’s challenging enough to have to deal with our own emotions, or those of our loved ones – dealing with somebody else’s in the workplace is downright awful.

That being said . . . there are times when you must. When an employee comes to you with something that has them significantly riled up. At which point, the most natural thing in the world, is to say “Calm down.”

Whereupon a new eruption occurs – of tears, anger, whatever. Usually immediately. Which makes perfect sense; after all, most people don’t enjoy being in an emotionally volatile state, and if they could have calmed down, they would have.

By saying “Calm down” you are denying the employee the legitimacy of their emotion. Or, perhaps more accurately put, what they perceive as the legitimacy of their emotion. Bottom line, you are denying their reality. That never goes over well.

Instead, call on your inner Zen-master, and with as much neutrality as you can muster, simply listen. Allow your employee to vent their frustration, anger, tale of woe, whatever it is. (As long as the venting is purely verbal – if you believe you or others are in danger, take whatever steps are appropriate at your company, i.e. call Security).

Only once the person has expressed their anger or angst, will they be able to calm down. And they will do so, quite naturally, on their own.

So, as unpleasant as it as, as demanding as it is, simply listen until the wave of emotion has passed. Then, a conversation can begin: “I can see that really upset you. Let’s talk about how we might be able to resolve the situation.”