11 ways to deal with ‘difficult’ people

Thought I would share an Extract from a great article by By Bruna Martinuzzi
Author, Presenting with Credibility: Practical Tools and Techniques for Effective Presentations

1. Be clear about the issue. To prepare for the conversation, you need to ask yourself two important questions: “What exactly is the behavior that is causing the problem?” and “What is the impact that the behavior is having on you, the team or the organization?” You need to reach clarity for yourself so you can articulate the issue in two or three succinct statements. If not, you risk going off on a tangent during the conversation. The lack of focus on the central issue will derail the conversation and sabotage your intentions.

2. Know your objective. What do you want to accomplish with the conversation? What is the desired outcome? What are the non-negotiables? As English philosopher Theodore Zeldin put it: A successful conversation “doesn’t just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards.” What are the new cards that you want to have in your hands by the end of the conversation? Once you have determined this, plan how you will close the conversation. Don’t end without clearly expressed action items. What is the person agreeing to do? What support are you committed to provide? What obstacles might prevent these remedial actions from taking place? What do you both agree to do to overcome potential obstacles? Schedule a follow up to evaluate progress and definitively reach closure on the issue at hand.

3. Adopt a mindset of inquiry. Spend a little time to reflect on your attitude toward the situation and the person involved. What are your preconceived notions about it? Your mindset will predetermine your reaction and interpretations of the other person’s responses, so it pays to approach such a conversation with the right mindset—which in this context is one of inquiry. A good doctor diagnoses a situation before reaching for his prescription pad. This applies equally to a leader. Be open to hear first what the other person has to say before reaching closure in your mind. Even if the evidence is so clear that there is no reason to beat around the bush, we still owe it to the person to let them tell their story. A good leader remains open and seeks a greater truth in any situation. The outcome of adopting this approach might surprise you.

4. Manage the emotions. Most of us were likely raised to believe that emotions need to be left at the door. We now know that this is an old-school approach that is no longer valid in today’s work environments. It is your responsibility as a leader to understand and manage the emotions in the discussion. The late Robert Plutchik, professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, created a Wheel of Emotions to show that emotions follow a path. What starts as an annoyance, for example, can move to anger and, in extreme cases, escalate to rage. We can avoid this by being mindful of preserving the person’s dignity—and treating them with respect—even if we totally disagree with them.

In some cases, you may have to respond to a person’s tears. In the video “How To Handle Tears At Work,” Anne Kreamer, author of It’s Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace, provides several strategies. These include acknowledging the tears rather than ignoring them, offering the person a tissue to provide an opportunity to gather his or her thoughts, and recognizing that the tears communicate a problem to be addressed.

5. Be comfortable with silence. There will be moments in the conversation where a silence occurs. Don’t rush to fill it with words. Just as the pause between musical notes helps us appreciate the music, so the periodic silence in the conversation allows us to hear what was said and lets the message sink in. A pause also has a calming effect and can help us connect better. For example, if you are an extrovert, you’re likely uncomfortable with silence, as you’re used to thinking while you’re speaking. This can be perceived as steamrolling or overbearing, especially if the other party is an introvert. Introverts want to think before they speak. Stop talking and allow them their moment—it can lead to a better outcome.

6. Preserve the relationship. A leader who has high emotional intelligence is always mindful to limit any collateral damage to a relationship. It takes years to build bridges with people and only minutes to blow them up. Think about how the conversation can fix the situation, without erecting an irreparable wall between you and the person.

7. Be consistent. Ensure that your objective is fair and that you are using a consistent approach. For example, if the person thinks you have one set of rules for this person and a different set for another, you’ll be perceived as showing favoritism. Nothing erodes a relationship faster than perceived inequality. Employees have long-term memories of how you handled situations in the past. Aim for consistency in your leadership approach. We trust a leader who is consistent because we don’t have to second-guess where they stand on important issues such as culture, corporate values and acceptable behaviors.

8. Develop your conflict resolution skills. Conflict is a natural part of human interaction. Managing conflict effectively is one of the vital skills of leadership. Have a few, proven phrases that can come in handy in crucial spots.

9. Watch your reaction to thwarting ploys. In a Harvard Business Review article, Sarah Green lists nine common mistakes we make when we conduct a difficult conversation. One of these mistakes is how we handle thwarting ploys, such as stonewalling, sarcasm and accusing. The best advice is to simply address the ploy openly and sincerely. As the author says, if the ploy from your counterpart is stubborn unresponsiveness, you can candidly say, “I don’t know how to interpret your silence.” Disarm the ploy by labeling the observed behavior.

10. Choose the right place to have the conversation. Calling people into your office may not be the best strategy. Sitting in your own turf, behind your desk, shifts the balance of power too much on your side. Even simple body language, such as leaning forward toward the person rather than leaning back on your chair, can carry a subtle message of your positive intentions; i.e., “We’re in this together. Let’s problem solve so that we have a better workplace.” Consider holding the meeting in a neutral place such as a meeting room where you can sit adjacent to each other without the desk as a barrier. Don’t exclude the coffee shop.

11. Know how to begin. Some people put off having the conversation because they don’t know how to start. The best way to start is with a direct approach. “John, I would like to talk with you about what happened at the meeting this morning when Bob asked about the missed deadline. Let’s grab a cup of coffee tomorrow morning to chat.” Or: “Linda, I want to go over some of the issues with XYZ customer and some concerns that I have. Let’s meet tomorrow morning to problem-solve.”

Being upfront is the authentic and respectful approach. You don’t want to ambush people by surprising them about the nature of the “chat.” Make sure your tone of voice signals discussion and not inquisition, exploration.

When a negative makes a positive!

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I recently read about Wendy Joungs study around whether it is more effective to train people using examples where people succeeded or where they made errors. The results were surprising!

Joung and her colleagues found that firefighters who underwent the error-based training showed improved judgment and were able to think more adaptively than those who underwent the error-free training.“

Part of of the reason is it is easier to fight the inclination to make excuses about the errors if they were made by somebody else. The participants avoid the bruised ego so are more likely to learn from the experience.

So if you are thinking about designing training or mentoring someone it might be worthwhile having some examples of when things went wrong as well as the usual best practice examples.

Interested to hear your comments

10 ways to stop feeling overworked and overwhelmed

Effectively managing our professional and personal lives is a problem we all struggle with. Maybe that’s because we look outside ourselves for solutions: software, apps, devices, time management systems.

Scott Eblin, author of Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, says,

“The only person who is going to keep you from feeling overworked and overwhelmed is you.”

So how do you pull it off? It starts with making one overriding commitment: You must commit to intentionally managing your time so you have a fighting chance of showing up at your best–your most inspired, your most productive, and your most “in the flow.”

So how do you do that? Here are Scott’s tips:

1. Recognize and overcome the tyranny of the present.

People who are always “in the moment” don’t look ahead and make plans to pursue their goals and dreams. Though there are certainly things you need to do every day, much of what you think you need to do isn’t particularly important–especially where your long-term goals are concerned.

That’s why you should…

2. Ask, “Is this really necessary?”

Challenge your basic assumptions about your regular habits. Do you need to have that meeting? Do you need to create that report? Do you need to respond to that email? In many cases you don’t, but you do anyway simply because that’s what you’ve always done.

Eliminate as many “nice to do” tasks as possible–not only will you have more time, you’ll also have more time to be effective where it really matters.

3. Push reset on your calendar.

Sometimes the answer to “Is this really necessary?” is “Yes, but not right now.” What is the most important thing you need to do today? What tasks will keep you from getting that done?

The same is true if something important pops up: Immediately reset your calendar and reprioritize. Getting stuff done is fine, but getting the right stuff done is what really matters.

4. Understand and set your operating rhythm.

We all work differently. Some like to hit the ground running. Others like to start the day by reflecting, meditating, and thinking. Some like to work into the night.

The key is to understand not just how you like to work but also how you work best. You might like to work late at night, but if you’re tired or frazzled by a long day, you won’t perform at your best.

Do some experiments to figure out what works best for you. While you won’t always be able to stick to your plan, you will always have a plan to return to.

5. Schedule the most important tasks first.

What are your priorities for the month? The week? Today? Determine what they are and do those things first.

Why would you work on less important tasks when the truly important items are where you create the most value–whether for your business or your life?

6. Give yourself time for unconscious thought.

Giving yourself time for unconscious thought is key to making smart decisions when you face complex problems. Research shows people tend to make their best decisions when they have an opportunity to review the data and facts and then focus their thought on something else for a while.

How? Take a walk. Do a mindless chore. Exercise. Do something where your body goes on autopilot and your mind does too. You’ll be surprised by the solutions you can dream up when you aren’t purposely trying to be creative.

7. Set boundaries.

No one can or should be on 24/7. Yet you probably feel you are–because you allow yourself to be.

Set some boundaries: the time you’ll stop working, certain times you’ll do things with your family, certain times you won’t take calls, etc. Then let people know those boundaries.

Other people won’t respect your time unless you respect your time first.

8. Be strategic with “yes” and “no.”

You can’t say yes to everything. (Well, you can, but you won’t get everything you say yes to done–so in effect you’re still saying no.)

Sometimes you simply need to say no. Other times you can say, “No, unless…” and add stipulations. The same is true with yes: Saying, “Yes, but only if…” creates guidelines.

Always consider the effect of a request on your most important goals. An automatic yes also automatically takes time away from what you need to get done.

9. Tame your distractions.

Most people are distracted over 30 times an hour: phone calls, emails, texts, office drop-ins… The list is endless.

Schedule blocks of time when you’ll turn off alerts. The only way to stay on schedule is to work on your own schedule–not on that of other people.

10. Remember your impact on other people.

If you’re a leader–and since you run a business, you definitely are–you naturally impact other people. You set a direction. You set a standard.

You’re a role model.

Be a great role model: a person who gets important tasks done, who stays on point, who focuses on achieving goals and dreams … and who helps other people achieve their goals and dreams.

That’s reason enough to manage your time so you’re consistently at your best.

re-blogged extract from Jeff Haden’s Blog on Inc.com

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3 Factor – Employee Engagement

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3 Factor – Employee Engagement

I recently attended a talk by Sir Harry Burns the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland around his study around early intervention with young people in order to empower them to turn their lives into something more positive. He is a fantastic presenter and the evidence he has collected around brain development and what can positively or negatively affect it is fascinating and made me think about how leaders could adopt this to enrich the life’s of their employees.

I love simplifying things and what I took away was 3 things that help empower people are

Control – having a real sense of control over their working lives, the how, what, when etc

Sense of Purpose – knowing that you are making a difference or heading towards a worthwhile goal

Community– seeing that you are part of the team, company,organisation etc

So how do you do this, well you can hold back on  the fancy questionnaires and start having conversations with your staff around these 3 pillars and really listening to them and empowering them. As Sir Harry Burns talked about, this is not about doing things to people it’s about enabling them to do it for themselves.

Here’s a crazy idea, you could do it in 30 days. Here’s a Ted talk about just that

Let me know what you think about employee engagement in the comments section below and if you would like to read more about how to build the 3 factors into your working life.

VAMOS!

We are all looking for ways to be more efficient in the workplace and unfortunately it seems to be about rationalising or cuts however what if you get an extra 23 % productivity with out cuts?

Interested?

Well there was a study by Bath university around discretionary effort of 700 people and they realised through the study that 3 things would help this Ability, Motivation and opportunity. However I have recently noticed in organisations going through change that employees need more that these 3.

VAMOS the Spanish for to go

V= vision and I am not taking about the interchangeable, sometimes unmemorable cliches that I have seen, what I am talking about is what the manager sees as the future of the team,department etc. Talking about what they picture as a positive future, in turbulent working environment employee need to know that their boss is guiding them to a better place.

A = ability when asking employees to do more, due to changes in the workplace, have you as there manager talked to them about development or a skills gap and empowering them to get the development they need.

M= motivation… There are many theories on this and I have blogged about a few, however, the easiest way to find out what motivates them is ask them, many managers make assumptions about their employees, this can have the opposite of the desired effect.

O= opportunity; whether it is outdated processes, systems, IT or employees getting dragged into other duties that distract them from doing what they are employed to do. It’s your duty as a leader to cut through these distractions to allow the employee to do what they do best.

S= Specific outcomes. Setting expectations / targets whatever you want to call them mean that employee know exactly what they have to do to be a success. Sounds simple however you would be amazed the amount of employees I meet that find it difficult articulate what a good day looks like or their boss changes the goal posts so often that they don’t know what good looks like.

Hope you had a great weekend

Martin

Mindfulness starts with monotasking

 Mindful Leaders or mindfulness in leadership is seen as the current leadership behaviour most in demand.

‘Some of the recent difficulties of Hewlett-Packard, British Petroleum, CEOs of failed Wall Street firms, and dozens of leaders who failed in the post-Enron era are examples of this.(lack of mindfulness)’*

Q: What is mindful leadership, and what are its benefits?

A: Mindfulness is a state of being fully present, aware of oneself and other people, and sensitive to one’s reactions to stressful situations. Leaders who are mindful tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them toward shared goals. Hence, they become more effective in leadership roles.*
Mindfulness isn’t new, many cultures have used it for hundreds of years and even in western businesses it has been celebrated. Daniel Goleman wrote about it in 1990 although he called it Emotional Intelligence and many now see this as more important in a leader than IQ.
Now cast you mind back to your working day; did you or people around you?
  • check emails when talking to someone on the phone
  • constantly think about all the work you had to get through when you were at a meeting
  • do work when on a conference call
  • Flick between tasks due to interruptions
  • eat lunch,work, text, check social media
  • MY FAVOURITE sit in a course or meeting glued to your blackberry only engaging when it suited you

This is not an exhaustive list of multitasking, please add your own examples

What’s more is that Clifford Nass, a researcher at Stanford assumed that those who multitask heavily will nonetheless develop some other outstanding skills. He thought that they will be amazing at 1. filtering information, 2. being very fast at switching between the tasks and 3. keeping a high working memory.

He found that none of these 3 points are true:

We were absolutely shocked. We all lost our bets. It turns out multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking.

People who multitask a lot are in fact a lot worse at filtering irrelevant information and also perform significantly worse at switching between task, compared to singletaskers.

Now most studies all point towards the fact that multitasking is very bad for us. We get less productive and skills like filtering out irrelevant information decline.

So before you book your meditation classes (I thoroughly recommend meditation but that’s another post). its back to basics. Plan our tasks. Be present. Complete one thing at a time and do it well. Pay attention to the people around us that we are interacting with…really listen and observe before taking action or speaking.

The number 1 complaint I have on Change courses is that people don’t feel they are being listened to. Such a simple habit / behaviour to help people through change.

If you would like to know more about mindfulness you could start here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wherever-You-There-Are-Mindfulness/dp/0749925485

* extract from HBR

Let me know your thoughts in the comments box

A great TED video about monotasking is below.