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 #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 #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.”

Management Success Tip #139: Lead with Authority And Compassion: Disagree With A Respectful “No”

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You want happy, engaged employees – not just because it’s the right thing to strive for, but because it’s been demonstrated, time and again, that happy engaged employees lead to a thriving business.

You’ve noticed that people don’t like conflict. Heck, you don’t like conflict. Now you’re in a pickle when you feel you must disagree with something an employee did or said. On the one hand, you don’t want to be confrontive, on the other hand, you disagree.

So you waffle. You pretzel yourself trying to find “likeable” ways to disagree, which generally leads to confusion. The employee doesn’t know what you’re getting at, and by this time, you hardly do either.

Instead, follow Steve Roesler’s wise advice:

“People don’t have to be disagreeable in order to disagree. We often respect someone who tells us not only that (s)he sees things differently, but who then takes time to calmly explain “why.” Taking time to explain “why” is a sign of respect toward us.

When you mean “yes” say “yes.” When you mean “no” say “no.” And share your reasons.”

Sharing your reasons for either your “yes” or “no” grounds your leadership in both authority and compassion.

Your employees deserve no less.

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.