Tony Schwartz describes CEOs as Chief Energy Officers and writes here about his experience of re-orienting a meeting where he was feeding the group many new ideas with enthusiasm, and not receiving the warm welcome he had hoped for. Instead he was hearing about people’s stress and lack of recognition for the work done so far.
My two favourite points in his response:
“Because human beings have a strong “negativity bias,” we pay more attention to our bad feelings than to our good ones. It once clearly served our survival to be vigilant about what might go wrong and that instinct persists. Today, it may serve to buffer us from disappointment, but it also promotes disproportionate and destructive discontent. The simple question “What’s going right?” provides ballast in tough times.”
“The highest skill — whatever your role — is the willingness to embrace opposite feelings without choosing up sides. Acknowledging bad feelings is key to being able to address what’s causing them. Recognizing they’re only one part of the story frees us to notice what we feel good about and grateful for, which helps us to feel positive even in the face of ongoing challenges.”
I’d add a third observation from the first rate materials and training that I have received from the National Managers’ Community in the Government of Canada: Behind every complaint is a commitment. Whereas in my early days as a manager my instincts might lead me to wonder why people were “just being oppositional” when work needed to get done, when now I take the space for explorations of the values that people are indirectly expressing when they are complaining, I have found important information that may provide a jumping off point to a better working relationship. The number one reason that people are complaining: they want sufficient time and space to submit a good product.
An important piece for me to have read this year – I work with a hardworking and understandably tired team.
The best bits in my opinion:
“Help your team understand what matters most. Be frank about what can be lost without sacrificing your mission. Candor strengthens resolve. Empowering “less than perfect”, energizes the front lines.”
“Provide a little leave: “Your highest performers won’t complain. They’ll take on more, and work longer hours to get it done. You may not even know they’re tired. Initiate the conversation. Establish regular check-ins. Make it okay to politely question your asks.”
Manage your own stress: Stress rolls down hill. Get a grip.
This is a good article on the art of letting go. What I like best is the constructive suggestions to re-frame situations that can trap us into cycles where we serve everyone but ourselves.
One good example is being unwilling to shut your door to get work done because you want to have an open door policy. Though that philosophy is a good one, it is not an absolute. Good managers have an open door policy and good managers sometimes shut their doors to get the job done.
She has other good suggestions in the article related to not saying yes everytime something is requested and how not to fall into the “I’ll just do it myself” trap. Worth checking it out.
This article speaks about how to create space for the delicate art of “push back” when employees need to communicate that a current plan doesn’t appear viable.
Lose the pep talk.
Don’t mistake silence for agreement. Check the body language.
Show them it’s OK to say “No.” They state: “Modeling that you are willing to prioritize helps your team see that they can come forward and push back.”
Learn to ask prioritizing questions “Phrases like “What are we going to take off the list to make room for this new task?” and “Is there a different way we can approach this and still meet our objectives?” will go a long way to showing your team that you are not “out to lunch” when it comes to understanding their challenges.”
Ask for pushback. And then reward it. “… even if it’s misguided or poorly worded. You want to reward the act of speaking up.”