letter to a new manager

Give and Take

In busyness, career, Communication on February 28, 2015 at 12:00 pm

(c) Julia

A read a lot of business books and this one had the fantastic dual effect of both affirming thinking I’d hoped could be supported with research and expanding my thinking in this area.

I found that this interview with the author with Adam Grant does a decent job of hitting the highlights of the book.

Here is what made the strongest impression on me:

The gist of the thinking is that people are givers, matchers or takers.  You might be a different sort at work than at home.  Work settings can feel harder to navigate because you don’t want to be taken advantage of so you may want to adapt a normally generous style at work to a more matching style.

Givers have the potential to do the best and the worst in work settings.  When they do the best, they succeed at understanding their clients to serve them well and reap the benefits.  They are generous with their time and with information and they are willing to invest in the development of employees/students etc. to mentor them.   This creates a generative cycle.  Having built trust though their investments in others, others are willing to be generous to them.

Grant also gives practical suggestions on how to communicate in a way that isn’t aligned with being a “taker” of information.  He coins the term “powerless communication” and gives a great example of someone in a difficult negotiation on a job offer in a different city who, instead of presenting a demand list, finally asked for HR’s advice on how to proceed noting the considerations with which they were struggling.  They were presented with an ideal solution for their situation.

At worst however, givers can overdo it and burn out.  They do this by failing to look after their own needs and those needs may include neglect of work-related goals crucial to success.  The book also contains interesting information on volunteering.  Apparently 100 hours a year is the ideal for many which is good news for the creative Timeraiser initiative (though the number may decrease for seniors).   Also interesting was that that the research shows that you’d generate more benefits from your volunteering if you did it in large chunks of time rather than small bit of time over many days.  Something for me to aspire to.

I loved that this book affirmed my own commitment to be generous with my own resources with good reminders of the needs to draw boundaries on the levels of contribution.  The book is great at outlining how we must be discerning with our time and it’ll be fine to devote our time to people who will give to others rather than those who are just interested in taking for themselves.

How to react when someone disappoints

In anger and leadership, appraisals, Communication, crisis leadership, emotional intelligence, empathy, failure, feedback, stress on February 21, 2015 at 12:00 pm

One of those “couldn’t have said it better myself” pieces.

The crux of the advice is that as tempting as it is to vent (belittle, demean) and make yourself feel better in the guise of holding people accountable, it’d be better to focus on how to help the person perform better.

Where Bregman really hits the nail on the head for my money is the remind us that high performing employees already feel your disappointment acutely when you express that something hasn’t hit the mark. You don’t need to spend more time on the disappointment piece but rather on how to build confidence to hit the mark the next time out. This is through building trust that you can get across the finish line.  Best piece of simple advice, take four deep breaths before you react in the moment to figure out how to recalibrate to give your employees what they need to get over the next hurdle.

Be generous at work

In Communication on February 2, 2015 at 9:00 am
theen moy

theen moy


A great article from a bit ago with useful tips on how to be generous at work.

I am doing a lot of reading on being generous this year and  am really enjoying Give and Take which makes the pitch for why the generous folks will get farthest in the work world.  I’ll circle back to that one when I am done but in the mean time, this article has practical tips on how to be generous.

Much of this resonates with me having shadowed an advisor to a senior executive in the past week.  What I gleaned from day was to continue my own efforts to be generous in the ways outlined in the article.  The generosity comes with no extra cost, just  a different focus and the optimism that these acts make for a better work culture.

Some of the suggestions:

*Make your boss’ life easier or better.

This can be a remarkably tough sell these days.  If you are seen to be sucking up or doing work that your boss should be doing anyway, why would you venture to try this?  I will generally err on the side of supports that will make everyone’s life easier because you are able to advance a file and free your team from doing reminders so they can focus on substantive work.

*Think about next steps so your boss (or board of directors) doesn’t have to.

*Lead with the punch line.  Again, can be a tough sell given how much speaking style vary but I do agree that this can help to preserve everyone’s time.

*Always ask if someone has a moment to speak.

*Assume collective responsibility for failure; assign individual praise for success.


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