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.

The value of a Strengths Based workplace

People who use their strengths more perform better at work
In a study of 19,187 employees from 34 organisations across seven industries and 29 countries, the Corporate Leadership Council (2002) found that when managers emphasised performance strengths, performance was 36.4% higher, and when they emphasised personality strengths, performance was 21.3% higher.

In contrast, emphasising weaknesses led to a 26.8% decline for performance weaknesses and a 5.5% decline for personality weaknesses. Data the Norwich Union shows that people working from their strengths perform better and stay with the company longer (Stefanyszyn, 2007).

Some questions as a leader are

Do you know what your strengths are?

How much do you use them at work?

How can you adapt to harness more of them or to a higher percentage at work?

How can I help my team do the same?

What would a 36% rise in productivity mean for us as a team?

Let me know you thoughts by leaving a comment.

Hope you have a great weekend

3 Factor – Employee Engagement

engagement

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

Positive Politics at work

Tips on positive politics at work.

‘Politics is showbusiness for ugly people’. No matter how ‘ugly’ it is and how frustrating it may be for you as a leader politics at work is something that you are going to have to deal with like any other challenge at work.

Why work politics are inevitable:

  • Some people have more power than others, either through hierarchy or                 other basis of influence.
  • For many people, gaining promotion is important, and this can create competition between individuals, or misalignment between the team’s objectives and those of individuals within it.
  • Most people care passionately about decisions at work and this encourages political behavior as they seek to get their way .
  • Decisions at work are impacted by both work-related goals and personal factors, so there is further scope for goal conflict.
  • People and teams within organizations often have to compete for limited resources; this can lead to a kind of “tribal conflict” where teams compete to satisfy their needs and objectives, even when this is against the greater good.

People Power not Pay Grades

Office Politics often circumvent the formal Hierarchy. Sit back and watch for a while and then note who has the most people power as well as traditional grades and job titles.

  • Who are the real influencers?
  • Who has authority but doesn’t exercise it?
  • Who is respected?
  • Who champions or mentors others?
  • Who is “the brains behind the organisation”?

Social Networks at work

Ever wonderred why social networking is so popular today? Well before the internet it was happening in work and life and it is an intrinsic part of human nature. In order to use positive politics well at work you need to understand the social networks present.

  • Who gets along with whom?
  • Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
  • Who is involved in interpersonal conflict?
  • Who has the most trouble getting along with others?
  • What is the basis for the interrelationship? Friendship, respect, manipulation?
  • How does the influence flow between the parties?

Build Your Social Network

Now that you know how the existing relationships work, you need to build your own social network accordingly.

  • Do not be afraid of politically powerful people in the organization. Get to know them.
  • Ensure you have relationships that cross the formal hierarchy in all directions (peers, bosses, executives).
  • Start to build relationships with those who have the informal power.
  • Build your relationships on trust and respect – avoid empty flattery.
  • Be friendly with everyone but don’t align yourself with one group or another.
  • Be a part of multiple networks – so you have a wider picture of how things work and make more informed choices

Listen Carefully
When you spend more time listening, you are less likely to say  something that will come back to bite you later. Also, people  like people who listen to them.

Make the Most of Your Network

As you build your relationships, you need to learn to use them  to stay clear of negative politicking, and also to promote yourself  and your team positively. It is up to you to communicate your  own and your team’s abilities and successes to the right people,  and you do this through positive political action. Use your network  to:

  • Gain access to information.
  • Build visibility of your achievements.
  • Improve difficult relationships.
  • Attract opportunities where you can to shine.
  • Seek out ways to make yourself, your team  and your boss look good.

Neutralize Negative Play

Get to know these people better and be courteous to them, but always be very careful what you say to them.

  • Understand what motivates these people and what their goals are, and so learn how to avoid or counter the impact of their negative politicking.
  • Be aware that these people typically don’t think much of their talents (that’s why they rely on aggressive politicking to get ahead).

Govern Your Own Behavior

Don’t pass on gossip, questionable judgments, spread rumors – when you hear something, take a day to consider how much credibility it has.

  • Rise above interpersonal conflicts – do not get sucked into arguments.
  • Maintain your integrity at all times – always remain professional
  • Be positive – avoid whining and complaining.
  • Be confident and assertive but not aggressive.
  • When voicing objections or criticism, make sure you take an organisational perspective not a personal one.
  • Don’t rely on confidentiality – assume things will be disclosed and so decide what you should reveal accordingly.
  • Be a model of integrity to your team, and discourage politics within it.

I would love to hear about how you deal with politics at work, please use the comment box to let me know your experiences with it.

Some help when making those networks… a great TED Video

Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions

Rework your development

I love reading books that inspire me and my most recent is rework. This book is aimed at businesses, however I wanted to write about how some of the controversial ideas could be adapted for your leadership development

The book has essentially 7 chapters (I am only going to look at a few in this post)

  1. Ignore the real world
  2. Planning is guessing
  3. Start making something
  4. Embrace constraints
  5. Make tiny decisions
  6. Underdo your competition
  7. Build an audience

Ignore the real world

Many of us unfortunately work in enviroments where the atmosphere is less than positive and new ideas are greeted with ‘that wont work in the real world’, however, if you look at the truly innovative ideas and products of the last 20 years they probably met with the same response.

Routine will severley damage you as a creative, thought leader. If you make the same noises at work as everyone else then be prepared to be seen as part of the group not a leader and individual

Planning is guessing

Now the book controversially advises against long term business plan and as a executive coach you may be surprised that I kind of agree when it comes to development. I have met people that have 5 year plans and that works out for them but it isn’t for everyone.

To test the theory ask yourself, am I where I wanted to be after the last 5 years? Has the business stuck to its long term plan?

Have a Vision of where you want to be eventually, however concentrate on what needs to be done now take action to meet to immediate needs, stay flexible so that you are open to unexpected opportunities.

We all change as people as we get older we should acknowledge this and change our plan as appropriate.

Start making something

Leaders hate problems and love solutions… so if your call to arms to change something in the workplace falls on deaf ears it is because you aren’t presenting solutions.

Start making the solution, this could be a short presentation, run a pilot using your ideas, putting an unofficial mentoring programme in place etc.

Then when you have the facts and can show success then people will be more open to your ideas. I am always amazed when there is a success then people start talking about how they were involved, when they weren’t that interested in the first place.

Embrace Constraints

Learning& development budgets are currently been slashed in spite of recent research showing that companies that spend on development have better productivity, but rather than dwell on this it is time to be more creative.

Development that costs nothing but a little time

  • Coaching, mentoring and shadowing – eitheir ask for it or put yourself forward to help other people
  • Challenge people to get involved in projects outwith their job role
  • Introduce ‘stretch’ concept into 1:1’s, talk about the added value you bring or challenge people to bring added value to their role
  • Access to the internet – you be amazed how much free stuff is on here e.g. follow a leadership blog! ;)
  • Give groups of employees time to work on anything apart from their existing role to come up with ideas that will increase efficiency, productivity,reduce costs,increase employee engagement etc (it worked at google)

Make Tiny Decisions

Sometimes wholesale change in your life can be overwhelming and it allows our inner critic to step in an scupper our motivation. Also if things go wrong on what you see as a massive goal it can become a source of embarassment, the critics in our reality have won.

So, make small changes in your life and stick to them and once it has become the norm add another before long you will have made a massive change.

Another tip is not to talk to much about the changes as it may lessen the energy of the idea, just keep doing it and you will start to hear people commenting on your positive change.

You can find more on rework here (I am in no way related to the authors or publishers, I just liked the book)

http://changethis.com/manifesto/68.01.37Signals/pdf/68.01.37Signals.pdf

http://www.amazon.co.uk/ReWork-Change-Way-Work-Forever/dp/0091929784

Please let me know what you think for or against this book

If your are thinking about buying a new book, here is a link to someone who read 200 and his thoughts.

http://inoveryourhead.net/lessons-i-learned-reading-over-200-books/

The Sisyphus Trap

‘In Greek mythology was a king punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity.’

‘In experiments that test how workers respond when the meaning of their task is diminished, the test condition is referred to as the Sisyphusian condition. The two main conclusions of the experiment are that people work harder when their work seems more meaningful, and that people underestimate the relationship between meaning and motivation’

Sometimes as individuals and leaders we fall into this trap, we tried to change things and it didn’t work, this caused us to be fearful so we resolved not to let that happen again and took the safe route. We make compromises with our values, we start saying things like ‘another day another dollar’ (or equivalent currency), ‘I wish I had a job that I enjoyed’

I wish means: wouldn’t it be nice if … If you always make the right decision, the safe decision, the one most people make, you will be the same as everyone else. Always wishing life was different. (just like Sisphus) Paul Arden

In fact our brain is hardwired to seek stability and not change as it takes more energy to build new synapsis that are required to retain new information and ways of doing things. Don’t believe me, then think back to when you had to study some new process or qualification, did you feel tired?

To start avoiding the Sisyphus Trap you need to consider

Values & Beliefs Attitude Behaviour

Your values and beliefs influence your attitude and these manifests in your behaviour to yourself and others. When you compromise these too much your attitude will become less positive and this will affect your behaviour.

So step 1 is for you to identify your values e.g. honesty, being creative, team player, recognition, autonomy etc.

Then look at how many you have given up in your current work / home environment. Then plan how you can start to overcome barriers to being ‘valued’ in your life and work. Start with small steps e.g. talking with your boss about other opportunities to be more creative or greater autonomy. When you start planning solutions on how to create links from what you do to your values, you will notice your attitude and behaviour will start to change.

If you are a leader and you notice that your teams attitude, behaviour and motivation is not where it should be then it maybe down to their values being overly compromised. Find out their individual values and help them to see links to what they do. I have run a values exercise with leadership teams many times and it is amazing what sharing values in a safe environment can do.

Summary to escape the Sisyphus Trap

  1. Re-identify your values
  2. Make a plan to connect your values to what you do and take action
  3. Bring meaning and purpose back into what you do in your life through your values
  4. Recognise and appreciate that people’s values are different
  5. Be tenacious and recognise the successes you make

Please use the comment box if you have any questions or have experience of this happening in your working world.

If you would like to talk to me about coaching or team development please contact me at mcdougallmartin@aol.com

It’s Better to Regret What You Have Done Than What You Haven’t

I wanted to leave you with this great Ted video

Tony Robbins discusses the “invisible forces” that motivate everyone’s actions