Confession: I was a benevolent dictator | SmartBrief

 

Source: Confession: I was a benevolent dictator | SmartBrief

A good piece on a book I enjoyed and have touched on in another piece called Multipliers.

This article focuses on the ability to empower employees by shaking off the inclination to be a constant contributor to the ideas they bring and resisting the temptation to give step-by-step instructions for every task.

I especially liked the quote that when you give advice, the brain is essentially asleep versus when you ask questions it engages the listener.

Two-Thirds of Managers Are Uncomfortable Communicating with Employees

We are in March madness for finishing our year end appraisals in the public service so this is timely.  I don’t think that it would be a surprise that giving feedback that may not be well received is stressful for anyone – managers or clients or friends.  It’s a skill I will be working on for the rest of my life.  And though I have benefitted greatly from this book on Difficult Conversations which I consider a management bible, I have likely gotten as much benefit from cross-discipline study on empathy and compassion.

I was more disheartened to see here that the issue could be framed as widely as communicating writ large and that giving credit or recognition were sources of significant difficulty for so many managers.

That said, I am a very introverted person by nature and I would suspect that there are many other introverted managers out there learning new communication patterns to align with this role.

What has helped me most was likely deliberate practice for all types of communications. Something greater than “just do it” though that is half the battle.

A former coach asked me to put a post-it on my computer to remind me to initiate more phone calls over emails – it was a good move.  I got so much more useful information at the margins of those conversations then I had ever planned that it became a habit.

For recognition, I have been influenced by this excellent book, and I now prepare so I can be very clear on why a person’s contribution is appreciated.  I’ve watched train wrecks where someone freestyles it and the wrong person is congratulated for something and soaring moments where significant and long-standing contribution is paid meaningful tribute.

For difficult conversations, I (over) prepare to try and understand the issue, the effect on the team and what my role is in the situation.  For these ones, the most difficult preparation is to remember to both stay on message and roll with the punches.  You may want to jump in at the deep end and be aware of your own reactions to stress so you can have strategies to moderate in advance.

And for any communication that I’d find a challenge, I try to create my own feedback loop as to what went well and what I can do better in future.  Lastly, I benefit from remembering  while I am learning that learning to receive feedback is its own skill.

Source: Two-Thirds of Managers Are Uncomfortable Communicating with Employees

The (possibly) greatest enemy of transformative leaders?

From an online course which I am following:

Perfectionism is the enemy of transformative leaders.  No great leader spends three hours perfecting an email. Perfectionism is absolutely seductive and must be kept at bay.

I have explored perfectionism in earlier posts and got new insight in this lecture today. For every perfectionist who spends time agonizing over work only to see it come back rife with feedback, a difficult feedback loop can ensue. Not: “Well that this the failure of perfectionism” But rather: “I should have worked even harder on that.” What is useful as a reminder is that perfectionism as a mindset is seductive and well viewed as a process addiction. Yet to indulge, you deprive the world of your work.

Should authority figures hide their emotions?

 

(c) Rell DeShaw

An interesting exchange about expressing emotions generated as a result of our work.

The two examples are of a journalist breaking down during reports on the Paris attacks and a judge weeping during a trial.  We are all emotional beings and it is normal that we will be affected by our work.  That said, we may be in jobs where our expression of our own emotions about a situation might not be a helpful add-on to helping others understand what we are trying to convey.  As I’ve discussed before, if someone is enraged with you, a fear reaction can actually cause you to go temporarily deaf – you’ll miss most of what they’ve said (though you’ll get that they were really mad).

I’m more and more convinced that as I work with top notch professionals who are putting out their best every day, it’s enough to say “this didn’t quite hit the mark” to make your point in most cases.

I liked that the exchange in this article made it clear that though expressions of emotions can occur involuntarily or justifiably in  a work context the emotions don’t make the essential message any more true:

“…[W]hile a reporter’s emotions may pay testament to his humanity, they should not be mistaken for the path to a deeper truth.”

 

The Best Managers Are Boring Managers

A good article written in praise of the boring, emotionally-intelligent and even sometimes “faking it” manager:

“…[t]he more predictable, reliable, and, yes, boring, they are, the higher they’re rated on integrity, and the more morally they behave.”

Source: The Best Managers Are Boring Managers

How to react when someone disappoints

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.

Signs That You Lack Emotional Intelligence – HBR

A wonderful adjunct to a radio program I heard today on emotional intelligence.  Part of the interview was with a poet who quoted a poem called The Emotions are Not Skilled Workers.  Yes the emotions are blunt instruments and I am more and more a convert to buffering emotions in my role as a manager because of the disproportionate effect of negative emotions on team members.

This is great article from the Harvard Business Review on figuring out if you are weak emotional intelligence. I’ve had quite an evolution on my EI as a manager.  I certainly was one to express frustration and impatience in the early days and when I realized that this didn’t help the situation I worked on moderating my responses.  I also spent a fair bit of time examining how to be more empathetic and this work continues.

As a start, here is a list to help you assess if you aren’t high on emotional intelligence.

  • You often feel like others don’t get the point and it makes you impatient and frustrated.
  • You’re surprised when others are sensitive to your comments or jokes and you think they’re overreacting.
  • You think being liked at work is overrated.
  • You weigh in early with your assertions and defend them with rigor.
  • You hold others to the same high expectations you hold for yourself.
  • You find others are to blame for most of the issues on your team.
  • You find it annoying when others expect you to know how they feel.

via Signs That You Lack Emotional Intelligence – HBR.

Respect Employees: Be Tough on Them – A Response

Respect Employees: Be Tough on Them.

I read many more articles than I post on this blog.  One of my filters is that I generally post things with which I agree.

But, in this instance, I feel that this article missed enough nuances for me to want to mount a response.

The basic premise advanced here is that nasty work environments  with lots of negative feedback, are better at advancing complex tasks and get better results.  The prescription here is something less than a toxic work environment but somehow lands with a place where we’d allow employees to feel “anxious and depressed” in the name of achievement.

I agree wholeheartedly that we need to respect employees by giving them honest feedback about what’s working and what’s not working.  Yes that’s the basic work we need to do.  Are we hardwired to be good at this as managers? Not always.  I know that I was terrible at this at the beginning of my management career for a variety of reasons.  One of my greatest ongoing learnings is how to give meaningful feedback about how to get from here to there.

This much I think I know.   We need to stop redoing employees’ work and giving thoughtful effort to what feedback we provide to get the products where we need them.  Time travel back to a time before track changes as a method of giving feedback – it’s too easy to lapse back into re-writing.  Watch how seasoned senior leaders give feedback – some margin notes or a couple of bullets in a cover email.  If the document is so off base that this can’t work, a regrouping meeting may be required and this will be an exercise in shared responsibility in how we failed to land in the right place.

 We also need to let employees do their own learning.

We also need to respect those who give us feedback enough to want to rise the the challenge of what they ask of us.  I learned gobs from a phone coach who was helping me brush up my French skills.  I felt like I was in the conjugation Olympics every Friday morning at 8:30.  She kept me on my toes and yes I did want to please her.  As is elaborated in the Talent Code, as Daniel Coyle kindly confirmed for me by email this week:  you should avoid coaches who treat you like eager waiters and seek out coaches who scare you a little.

Can this cross the line into someone who belittles or humiliates? Absolutely not.  Are environments where employees feel worn down and depressed ones that are also creative hotbeds? I find this hard to believe.

The opposite actually seems to be true – rather that our brains shut down when we feel we are under attack and reject feedback when we are feeling threatened.

“… What this means at work and at home is that we have a very hard time listening to someone if we are angry with them, or if we feel they are treating us unfairly.   And in fact, this is true.   It’s almost impossible to take feedback from someone who you feel is treating you unfairly, even if the feedback makes perfect sense.  And this turns out to be one of the primary reasons we reject even useful feedback.”

We also now know that the praise to criticism ratio is very high for high performing teams: for high performing teams it is over 5 to one. for negative teams it is three negative comments for every one.  Does this ratio change over time? Yes most likely it does with more expert performers who will need more targeted feedback on things to improve as they reach mastery.

So in sum, yes, employees do need the straight goods on what is working or not working. What we also need is:

  • The ability to articulate what isn’t working while providing the tools to get from here to there.
  • Feedback that leaves the door open for a shared responsibility for how we got to where we are and along with the hope that we will get where we need to go, together.
  • Feedback from a source we respect – that won’t pander but won’t demean.
  • A work environment which spends more time affirming what is working than what is not working.  To paraphrase a wise colleague, you can’t over do positive feedback.  When you do have to show up with the news that things didn’t go so well, you will have the credibility to be heard.

How to Disagree with Your Boss

4564003386_b21410efa2_m

An excellent article from the Harvard Business Review.

They discuss strategies for disagreeing with your boss that range from contracting upfront to disagree (when emotions are at neutral) and then later on, asking for and getting permission to disagree.

Most helpful to me was the nugget taken from the negotiation discipline to discuss intent and shared purpose in the context of a perceived disagreement:

“Discuss intent before content. When the boss gets defensive, it’s for one of two reasons. The first is because she believes your dissent is a threat to her goals. Defenses are far less often provoked by actual content than they are by perceived intent. You can be far more candid about your view if you frame it in the context of a mutual purpose that the boss already cares about. If you fail to do this, the boss may believe your disagreement signals a lack of commitment to her interests.”

via How to Disagree with Your Boss.

If your employees are idiots, you’re the one to blame

This is a fantastic article – I couldn’t say it better myself. The only thing that I would add is the reminder of how awful it feels when you know you are not performing well at your job and how much worse that it will feel if you feel that you have been “written off” in the work world.

LeadToday

During workshops and talks I’m often asked about what to do when you’ve hired someone who just isn’t measuring up.

Sometimes people actually tell me the person they hired is an idiot.

I tell people don’t be so hard on yourself. They get a bit of a surprised look on their face because they didn’t intend to be hard on themselves. They intended to point out that in their wisdom they, apparently for some reason, purposefully hired an idiot.

The first problem of course is thinking that one of your people is an idiot. Once one of your people knows your low opinion of them they are unlikely to exceed your low expectations. Never ask or expect less from your people than you need or want them to deliver.

I believe that leadership comes with certain responsibilities. If you actually have the audacity and courage to accept the mantle of…

View original post 476 more words