letter to a new manager

Seth’s Blog: The panic tax

In Communication, crisis leadership, emotional intelligence, mindset, stress on April 19, 2015 at 1:01 pm


Seth’s Blog: The panic tax.

I deeply admire Seth Godin’s ability to pump out blog posts daily on crucial topics.

This is a great treatise on how panic corrodes good work places.  We don’t become better workers when we panic but worse ones.

Panic fuels the fight or flight reaction and actually makes us deaf.

“The answer to, “should we panic,” is always no. Always. Panic is expensive, panic compounds and panic doesn’t solve the problem.”

Panic also gives the message that we don’t have what it takes to overcome the hurdle or that we are headed for catastrophic outcomes.

My former coach Charles Lemieux  created a teaching tool by taking the results of a survey on how the best companies do business and had simplified the key concepts into single words.  For immediate supervisors, the word was “hope.”  I think that panic, at least in the moment, erases hope and we abdicate our role as leaders when we give in to it.

High-Pressure Jobs and Mental Illness – HBR

In health, humility and leadership, stress on April 4, 2015 at 12:00 pm

High-Pressure Jobs and Mental Illness – HBR.

A thoughtful piece written in light of the recent tragedy with the Germanwings flight.

I most appreciated the author explaining how her own career trajectory was marked by recognizing that her depression was brought on by high stress environments.  She’s made trade offs and she misses some aspects of her former high flying life but she’s made choices that make sense.

The article also contains some good reminders of how risky it can be to disclose a mental illness and how costly it can be to get treatment.

Lastly, I appreciated the author laying out that formal accommodation is the base but what we really should strive for is a culture of understanding where we can express open support for employees with mental health issues.

Empathy is the key to great meetings – HBR

In anger and leadership, Communication, emotional intelligence, empathy on March 29, 2015 at 8:00 pm

A good article that teases out the utility of empathy and emotional intelligence in meetings to tease out team dynamics.

It has a useful reminder that the emotions of the leader are contagious and they set the tone for the room telling us if we should we celebrate or go to fight or flight mode.

Where I’d like to read more is how to work with empathy as an inexact science.  We can never really know how people are feeling just through observation.  We can ask how people are feeling and why and we can get farther but limits remain depending on how good people are at articulating how they are feeling (I have been in workshops where they handed out lists of emotions to help people name them).

We are then also limited by trying to make a bridge between what is being expressed and our own life experiences to that we can be truly empathetic.   In my own work life, I can usually find a time that I have felt a similar emotion to what employees are expressing to get farther along the empathy continuum.  That said, even all of this works well, my first instinct will often be to offer how I might advance the situation given my own experience.   This may not be the most helpful use of empathy – maybe it is better to use this information with a certain discipline to create the space for employees to create their own way forward.


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