We’ve all had to deal with excuses and we’ve all given excuses to others in both our personal and professional lives. Life happens. There are times when you run across someone who consistently uses excuses and it can be extremely frustrating for you as a leader, friend, or family member. Today we’ll dive into excuses and how you handle them in a positive way.
Where excuses come from
As you begin to work with someone who excessively uses excuses, it is important to know where excuses come from so you can address them properly.
They were never interested in doing what was asked of them. There are plenty of people that just won’t say no to anyone no matter how much they don’t want to do what’s being asked of them. For others, they just agree to do something to get you to move on or they don’t think that you are truly invested in the topic and think that you won’t follow up on the item.
The situation was out of their control, either real or perceived. This is the classic, “The dog ate my homework.” These excuses are based on outside factors that influenced and impacted the expected result. Sometimes these changes are quite real, and other times they are only real in the person’s mind. An example of this would be when a person doesn’t feel empowered to handle the situation. In their mind, the situation was out of their control, when in reality they had the power the whole time and didn’t use it.
They weren’t told what to do. This excuse sits on the leader or the person who made the request’s shoulders. The person with the excuse couldn’t complete the task because there weren’t clear explanations and instructions. We see this all the time in businesses. A leader may say “Do a better job in hiring.” and then come back frustrated when turnover rates are the same. How does the person do better in hiring?
Tips to handle honestly missed expectations and excuses
Make sure that the excuse is real. The person may try to throw you or someone else under the bus with their excuse. “You didn’t tell me to…” Think back to understand if you did in fact give the instructions. Sometimes we mean to and then distracted and forget to actually have the conversation. If you did have the conversation, were you clear in your instructions?
Understand where the excuse is coming from. Understanding the type of excuse helps you address it the right way. How you handle an excuse because the person simply isn’t motivated to participate should be different from how you address someone who just needs some better direction.
Be tolerant up to a point. Remember that we all make excuses from time to time. If the person doesn’t habitually use excuses, help them save face by redirecting and coaching instead of spending too much time discussing the excuse itself.
Tips to deal with a person who consistently makes excuses
Let’s be real. There are people that make excuses for almost everything. These people probably hold very little of your trust and/or respect because of their failed accountability in themselves to get things done.
Open up with curiosity. It’s tempting to open the conversation in an accusatory way, but just maybe the excuse is really this time. It also starts the conversation in a way that the other person isn’t immediately shut down to feedback and conversation. Ask questions to get an understanding of why things happened the way that they did.
Acknowledge the bigger picture. If there is a pattern for the same type of excuse all the time. It’s fine to step back and acknowledge that with the person. “This is the third time you’ve had this reason for not getting the task done this month. What’s really going on here and how can I help?”
Be clear on the why and the impact. To drive home the point of a needed change in behavior, you should tie the miss to why it’s important to meet the set expectation. “The next shift needs this to be done so that they can work on other things.”We lose some of the reimbursement when charting isn’t turned in on time.”
Reestablish expectations and follow-up. Be sure to reinforce what the expectations are as you begin to close out the conversation. Check for any resources, knowledge, or support that the person needs to get the task done and affirm their commitment to the expectation. Close in the time periods that you normally follow up so that they are more frequent and informal.
People often respond back with an excuse when confronted with falling short of an expectation. Your job as a leader is not to prove yourself right or look for “I told you” moments. Instead, understand the reasoning, equip them to be successful going forward, and reestablish expectations, especially for those that have a tendency to use excuses as a crutch.
Whether it’s a larger promotion in leadership, or your first time leading others, jumping into a new role can be exciting and rewarding long term. Despite all of your goals, dreams, and ambitions, you can flounder in your new role, if you approach it the wrong way. You must be able to change yourself, your leadership style, and your priorities in order to be successful in your new role.
The phrase, “What got you here, won’t get you where are going” certainly applies to this critical juncture as you transition in your own leadership.
Be willing to let go of things that you love
We all have things that we love to do in our jobs. From the super quirky to the very relevant, there are just things that we love to do ourselves. It’s also highly likely that you are the best person at whatever the particular task is and you also get a nice level of satisfaction for completing the task.
One of the personal rubs that you will have to overcome in your transition, are the things that you love doing. Those projects or tasks that you enjoyed so much are likely not appropriate for you to be doing at that next level of leadership.
Continuing to do those old things that you loved will mean that you are leading a level down, which means that you are likely going to frustrate those that you are serving and cause things to be less efficient.
Let go of those old things that you love and give grace and space to those that take up your previous passion projects. Rest assured, the work will still get done and you’re likely to find a whole host of new passion projects in your new role.
Adapt how you lead
Your leadership style is going to need to change as you make your transition, regardless of your current leadership status.
For those leading others for the first time: You need to really lean into delegation and supporting your team to avoid the temptation to try to do it all yourself. Stay close to your direct leader and a trusted advisor or mentor to help keep you on track with what to prioritize and delegate.
For those that were previously leading people: You are now likely leading leaders instead of individual contributors, or you are leading a full segment of the business. Your influencing skills need to take center stage for you know as you lead leaders. Prioritize your direct reports and make sure that they are prioritizing their direct reports (instead of you) to ensure the vision, and the message are getting down to the front line people.
Other items that you’ll need to assess and change are your communication style, how you spend your time and the way that you carry yourself among other things.
Consider your sweet spot
I’ve seen many leaders over the years get unpleasantly surprised with then promote a great employee from within. They showed all the right signs; high performance, and dedication to the job and to others while having a can-do attitude. Once these great people got into their new roles they floundered. The leader was frustrated, efficiency dropped and many times the employee ended up leaving.
The person was extended one past their sweet spot. Your sweet spot is your calling. It’s your happy place where you are the most impactful and feel the reward in what you do. You are typically very good at what you do and that’s why leaders are naturally drawn to give these people promotions. They think, “They are wonderful at this role, then they’ll be great at the next one.” Once the person is extended past their sweet spot, they will drop in engagement and capability. It’s not really the person’s fault. They just aren’t in the role that was meant for them anymore.
Based on your personal goals, passing and personal calling, you should have a fairly good sense of knowing if you’ve hit your sweet spot or not. Once you do, don’t continue to move up the organizational ladder. You’ll be doing the company and yourself a disservice. Instead of passing through a leadership transition that you shouldn’t, invest in yourself by going deeper in your expertise or by gaining new knowledge. This will keep you relevant for the future and help you from getting bored in your everyday work.
A lot is said about micromanagers and overmanaging people on the team. On the other end of the spectrum is the leader who undermanages their team. These types of leaders are discussed as much because they typically aren’t noticed. While the micromanager is always around and in someone’s business, the under-manager is nowhere to be found.
Under-managing can have as large of an impact on a team as over-managing but without obvious overtones of micromanaging. If you feel like you are too busy, don’t have enough time with your people, or don’t know your team well on a personal level you may be undermanaging your team.
Build authentic engagement
Check-ins that are surface level, may feel like you are staying on top of your people, but in reality, you aren’t engaging them in a way that adds value. be mindful of the questions you ask and move the conversation to a deeper level, both in their professional work and their personal life.
Move from “How’s it going?” to “Tell me how your camping trip went last weekend.”
Engage in value-added questions and conversations. Share personal things from your own life to build trust and transparency with the person.
Ask “Tell me how the progress the team has made on the project (or task).” Instead of “How’s the project going?” The first asks for more details and involvement on your part while the second one may garner a simple, “It’s going fine”
If the person responds back with a surface-level answer like “It’s going fine,” follow up with additional questions to dig further. Many under-managers will leave the conversation here and believe that they got a good update.
Just as in everyday life, it’s easy to go through the motions and just skim the surface. Slow down and maximize the time that you spend with others during personal check-ins and conversations.
Assess your week
Most people want to spend time with their leader unless the leader is bad. Do what you can to free up time to be with your people. Meeting are giant time sucks taking blocks of precious time out of your daily leadership. Assess which meetings that you truly need to be involved in. Could some be delegated to someone else as part of their development? Does the meeting need to happen as often as it does? Does it need to happen at all?
Schedule open teamwork and team-building time in order to protect it and ensure that happens on a consistent basis
Check your own personal engagement
Even good leaders can fall into under-managing when they themselves are no longer bought into the organization. The root of the issue is not that they don’t care for their team, it’s that they have an issue with someone or something else in the organization. Sometimes it’s a new leader, a big change, your own changing motivations, or even burnout.
If you feel like your engagement is pulling you away from leading others, take some time for yourself for thought and reflection. Seek advice from trusted advisors and mentors. Reconnect to your Calling and Why you do what you do. This can help motivate you to get back into your sweet spot of leadership or may be a wake-up call that it is time to do something else.
Another way that you check your self-awareness about your level of under-managing is by seeking feedback from your team, peers, and upline partners. You may discover that your level of engagement is not uniform around your circle of influence. You may be well engaged with your team, but not your peers or other partners. Maybe you are really close to your supervisor, but that level of relationship doesn’t extend down to your team.
Ask for the feedback, accept it well, and improve your leadership.
You likely care a great deal for your team. Give them the engagement that they deserve and provide them the support to thrive in their role.
One of the guarantees in your work life is that you are going to be a part of new teams as you go on your career journey. Whether you are jumping on a team as a leader or a follower, it’s important to begin building that trust with them as early as possible.
While the reminder of building trust is a good one for us to consider, it can be far more challenging and complex to live out and be successful at. I can think back to times when it was extremely easy to build trust after they previously had a poor leader. Other times it was like climbing up a vertical mountainside because the team was so committed to the prior leader. Here are some strategies to think about as you work to build trust with that new team.
Find small wins to show you care
Ambitus leaders sometimes jump the gun a bit when they are with a new group. They want to show their strength and want to affirm their boss, and themselves, that their promotion or hiring was the right move. A mindful leader takes the time at the very beginning to learn about the pain points that people are going through and then they quickly and decisively make a move to secure a quick win. Some areas to look at include:
The common areas/break area: As a field leader, one of my first areas to get a quick win in was the breakroom. It’s amazing what a coat of paint and a little updating will do for morale trust-building. Common areas are another great area to consider. This need may not be voiced as much as in other areas, and that’s because they’ve gone blind to how bad it is. Use those fresh eyes you have to find a few quick facility-related wins. If you don’t have the authority or ability to make changes to areas like a breakroom, look for ways that you can enhance, clean, or add value to other areas of the shared workspace.
Efficiency opportunities: If you ask a new team what holds them back, frustrates them, or would be something that they would like changed, and they’ll often point back to an efficiency breakdown, an outdated process or redundancy in work. Pick out one or two that you can fix with a lower amount of effort and put them in place. People love when they can do their job easier.
Be accommodating: Get to know each individual and listen to their workloads and personal situations. Look for ways to be more accommodating by adjusting schedules, bringing in additional help, or helping people perhaps even change how and where they work.
If you can help in those three areas, you just showed your team that you care about their work environment, eliminated hurdles that get in the way of great work, and you an invested in the whole being and not just their work life. A powerful combo to build trust, wouldn’t you agree?
The key here is speed. The quicker you can get these kinds of wins the better.
Listen and learn before you change
It can be hard to walk into a scenario that’s especially challenging and not want to immediately change and fix everything. The trap here is that if you do start executing a large amount of change without the buy-in and trust of your team, your change won’t likely stick long term and your turnover rate is going to increase dramatically. Unless it’s a moral, ethical, or compliance issue, the problem can wait at least until you do some learning and discovery around the why behind the breakdown and what other circumstances may be leading to the issue. Be sure to approach the scenario from a curiosity perspective instead of one that is accusatory or as if you already have the answer.
“I would love to know more about…”, goes a lot further than “We need to talk about why this scenario is where it is.”
As much as your people want to hear from you, be mindful to listen more than you speak with your new team.
Gaining trust as a follower
Unless you are the CEO, you’ll also be joining a team as a follower as well. The temptation is similar here to try to shine and prove your worth immediately. Take a slower and more mindful approach here as well. Learn the dynamics of the group, who speaks up more, who holds back etc., while providing your input when it’s relevant.
Understand the people and build relationships with those you work with to help get an understanding of work proverbial land mines are out there and to get an understanding of some of the unwritten rules at the company. Also, consider:
Being genuine in your desire to learn about others on a personal level
Understanding how much time and space you are taking up in conversations
Keeping the same curious approach to understanding new areas of the business
Get your stuff turned in on time and be on early to meetings
Get to know those you lead and work with as you enter your new role and look for those easy early wins and be intentional to build relational equity early. You’ll be well on your way to establishing that trust that you so need as a leader
I think it’s fair to say that most people appreciate knowing where they stand in the organization, affirmation of their performance, and guidance to reach their fullest potential. The reality for many people in the workforce is that this has not been a true reality for you yet.
Continual feedback is a set cadence of both formal and informal touches where the leader and the associate sit down to discuss development opportunities both personal and professional. Whether you influence the entire organization or lead a small team, you can implement a continual feedback process that will add value to others.
As in most things in life, you don’t want to dive straight into the deep end of this change. Here are the general steps that teams take as they strengthen their process.
Annual Reviews: This is the baseline that you start from. This conversation helps wrap up the previous year and set goals for the upcoming year. These are typically a little more formal but certainly can adapt to the culture of your organization and team.
Quarterly Check-ins: This allows you to keep a consistent conversation of growth centered around the personal and professional goals that you made together with your leader.
Natural Informal Check-ins: These are typically sprinkled in between the quarterly check-in and may be focused around a particular growth opportunity or situation that the person is facing.
Advanced Feedback Methods: There are many tools out there to provide targeted feedback through technology or leveraging other people on the team. 360 reviews are helpful, but be very cautious and mindful if you do conduct them. They need to be implemented at the right time, at the right audience, and under the right cultural settings, otherwise, you will do more damage than good.
As you build this continual feedback process to engage better with your team, remember to add in continual recognition and appreciation as well.
Make the time impactful and meaningful
The time that you spend together should be mindful and wrapped around something specific that you want to discuss and give your perspective on. Without an agenda, the time can easily pass by before you get to the reason for the meeting in the first place.
Some tips to help the time have the most impact and value:
Be willing to accept some feedback yourself during the time. Seek feedback for your own leadership during your time together. This will help you hone your own leadership skills and show the other person that you are open to feedback as well and value their input.
Set the right tone. This may be awkward for some people, especially if they have never had continual feedback in their role. Set the right tone and setting for the meetings. Choose bright and open areas for in-person meetings and the cameras on (Be well lit!) for virtual meetings. Mind your voice (Ep 202) and body language (Ep 186) to ensure you are consistent in your communication.
Celebrate progress. Be sure to highlight progress from previous meetings to acknowledge and reinforce positive behaviors and changes that the person has implemented.
For the associate/employee
So maybe this all sounds wonderful and your ideal situation, but you are not in a place to implement this level of culture change on a large scale. I would encourage you to, at a minimum, lead up to your supervisor. Take the initiative to ask your leader for time to sit down and discuss your performance and potential. Make it easy for them by suggesting the cadence and length of the meeting and be willing to bring topics that you want to grow into the first few meetings. Remember to start out small and work your way to more consistent times together.
Take time to have those important people conversations with your team. They will be more engaged in the company and will be one of the factors that help keep them around with you longer.
Sit down, spend uninterrupted time together, and help your team strive.
We should act with humility when things go wrong….and then make them right.
I get things wrong sometimes. Unfortunately, I’m not a perfect leader. There are times when I miss the mark and other times that I’ve outright blown it. None of us are perfect.
There are going to be times when you drop the ball as a leader and your team falls short. There are going to be occasions where you’ll have a big miss as well. It’s just a part of life! When you disappoint a customer or client it’s almost always in one of these three categories: Operational breakdown, service blunders, and widespread tragedies.
Three types of service failures that deserve an apology When you disappoint a customer or client it’s almost always in one of these three categories: Operational breakdown, service blunders widespread tragedies.
Operational breakdowns: These types of service failures occur when there is a breakdown in the process that causes frustration for your customer. Not having the right product for a sale, service, or product not arriving when promised or a policy that gets in the way of service are just a few examples.
Service blunders: We’ve all experienced these. People say one thing and then do another or they don’t answer your communications in a timely manner. Another obvious example is how a person treats the customer or client.
Widespread Tragedy: These are certainly out of your control. Think natural disasters, or a tragic loss on the team. While you can’t control when or how these occur, how you react and accept responsibility does matter immensely to the customer.
These types of service failures don’t just apply to your business life. Operational breakdowns happen as you lose control of your time management, service blunders happen as you drop the ball on a commitment and we all go through tragedies in life.
Tips to apologize in an authentic way
It’s easy to say the words, “I’m sorry.” It’s more difficult to believe it yourself sometimes, much less convincing the other person that your apology is truly heartfelt.
Have a swift response: A disgruntled person only gets angrier if they feel like they are being ignored. Think about a time when you experienced a service issue and no one gave you the attention you needed. You likely felt your patience wear thin pretty quickly
Show humility and empathy: This is one of the key actions to turn around a bad situation. If your apology is authentic, you’ll be on a much quicker road to resolving the situation. if your apology is perceived as fake or just lip service, then the situation may escalate even further.
Accept responsibility: Avoiding responsibility is one of the quickest ways to dig yourself into a deeper hole with the person you let down. Take responsibility to fix the problem even if it wasn’t your fault. Own the issue that is being communicated to you.
Provide an honest explanation: Truthfully share how the failure in service or commitment occurred while avoiding making excuses. Don’t hide behind a policy; it’s an easy out that no one likes to hear.
Extend an olive branch: Right the situation and rebuild the relationship. You should feel empowered to take care of concerns and complaints as they happen. If you don’t feel empowered, let your leader know so the two of you can work on a potential solution together. Do what needs to be done within reason to amend the mistake.
Instead of running away from responsibility and trying to push blame elsewhere, step up and own the mistake. Apologize with sincerity and authenticity and work to make things right with the other person. This is a lost skill in today’s public eye. Stand out above the crowd by turning your apologies into a strong point of your leadership.
While most of the kids in my elementary school wanted to be sports stars growing up, I wanted to be a Jedi. I ran through the woods around our country home training to be a Jedi. During the summer, I would burn a whole day watching all three of the original movies back-to-back. I was certainly all in. I just needed a real lightsaber to cut down trees and through rock and I would have been set!
The Star Wars movies are certainly loved by millions across the world. Previously we covered Star Wars twice in our Findling Leadership series. Even still, I think there are still a few things we can learn in leadership by being a Jedi.
Be mindful of the present
Jedi are very intentional about being in the moment. They tap into everything that is going on around them to make the ultimate connection to the Force. That can be really hard to do in real life!
Today’s world is full of distractions that try to pull you away from the moment. Your phone, of course, social media, troubles, and stressors you have going on at work, school, or at home are just a few of the things that can pull you out of the moment.
You won’t be able to meet your fullest potential in leadership or in life until you can begin to appreciate and become fully involved in the moment in front of you. Distractions pull your engagement levels down with others, which impacts your relationships in a potentially long-term manner. Being pulled out of the moment also makes you miss the important things going on around you that will soon pass you by.
One of our more popular shows came from a listener question that centered around the question: Is the desire for more time really a desire for more meaningful memories? (EP 243) One of the themes from the show was that the lack of being in the moment made people feel like they needed more time or at least better time management in their day when in reality they needed to slow down and enjoy the day as it unfolds.
Qui-Gon Jinn tells Obi-Wan Kenobi, ” Don’t center on your anxieties Obi-wan. Keep your concentration here and now where it belongs.”
It’s a great reminder as we focus on getting our to-do lists down today while fully appreciating the moment in time that you are in.
Let go of fear and its power over you
Fear is a common underlying theme for nearly all the Jedi in the movies. Anakin chases fear that leads him to become Darth Vader. Yoda warns about its grip and power several times. Luke and Rey both faced fear in different ways as well. One of Yoda’s famous sayings is, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.”
Isn’t that statement true?
Fear can turn into the driver of our life if we let it. Think about people that you know or perhaps times you yourself hesitated because of fear of the unknown. Fear of the unknown was always the biggest obstacle for me when I was running competitively on the obstacle course circuit. Those were certainly more mentally taxing than they were physical.
Fear of failure. (PTB 283) Fear of rejection. The list can go on and on about fear and its crippling power over both our personal and professional lives.
Actively combat fear cut off its hold over you. Do research ahead of time to help with the fear of the unknown. I would download course maps, go to the site early, and lay out all my clothes the night before a race to help ease the unknown.
Take small steps towards conquering your fear with the first goal of just stopping it from increasing space in your life. Once you gain some small victories, celebrate and move to start shrinking and ultimately eliminating that fear in your life.
In over 300 shows, there are a few underlying themes that we always come back to. One of those is the emphasis to have balance in your life. It’s certainly a trait the Jedi strive to have in their own lives. The phrase “a balance in the force…” is referenced or said many times as the Jedi teach each other. They are so attuned to balance that they famously get a physical reaction when things become unbalanced or there is a disturbance in the Force.
Is there a disturbance in the Force around you today? Are you off your game a little because you are unbalanced? It happens to all of us.
Self-reflect on the different aspects of your life today, from home to work or school. What’s taking up too much space? What’s not getting enough space? Those two simple questions can help enlighten you about opportunities to get things back in balance. Sometimes the demands of a project can take up more space in your life, which is ok as long as you don’t allow it to permanently occupy an unhealthy amount of space in your life.
I love willow trees. It stems from my early childhood when we didn’t have much, but we did have a huge (to me) willow tree that grew in our backyard. They are found all over the world, but the one in our backyard was the only one I saw as a child. It was unique, beautiful, and tree uniquely it’s own. Something that I also wanted to be growing up.
Here are a few things that willow trees can teach us about our own leadership and life walk.
They grow very quickly
Willow trees are one of the fastest-growing trees on earth, producing large amounts of biomass in as little as 4-5 years. It’s a tree that truly puts all of its efforts into growth and expansion. Willow trees take full advantage of the day, and so should we.
The idea of living a life full of personal growth, adventure, and experiences has been a huge personal driver for me in my adult life. Don’t let time be an excuse to put off something that you want or need to do. 15 years ago,
I lived in Birmingham, AL, and had a goal to visit every county in the state while doing some geocaching. I remember vividly when some of my friends stop me and commented how crazy I was for traveling so much when the price of gas was so high. My response was, “Gas is never going to get cheaper.” The price of gas then was about $2.30 per gallon then.
Another ambitious goal was to run all the Disney races in the US in one year. 29 races across both coasts. People thought I was crazy. I thought I was crazy! We saved up some money and we were able to make it happen. Two years later, all the West Coast races were canceled, and it wouldn’t be much longer before COVID would shut down the East coast races as well.
If you have a goal, don’t put it off. Life happens and will throw a curve or downright destroy the path to realizing your vision. Maximize your time like the willow tree to grow to your fullest potential.
Their presence adds value to others
Willow trees hold quite a bit of symbolism for different cultures. Some associate hope, compassion, a sense of belonging, and safety to the tree, while ancient Chinese culture believed that willow trees warded off evil spirits and brought good luck. There is just something about willow trees that bring people a sense of calm and security.
How are you doing in bringing calm and security to those around you? Do you inject drama and stress into the room when you arrive or do you give people a sense that things are going to be ok? Be mindful of how you carry yourself around others and reflect on the energy and value that you brought, or didn’t, to the gathering that you attended. Some people are great at either life or work scenarios but may struggle to carry the same level of commitment and excitement across both. If that’s the case, check your personal calling (EP 161) and your level of commitment to each part of your life.
They aren’t perfect
As beautiful as the willows are, they are not perfect. The fact that they put all their effort into growth, means that they are more susceptible to catching a disease and dying. Their roots are also aggressive and can be bad in residential areas that rely on underground and ground-level amenities like water pipes, drain lines, and buried cables.
Nobody should expect you to be perfect and if they do, you may want to check that relationship. Even though the willow tree looks healthy, it’s the flaws just underneath the surface that could get the best of it.
Don’t be too hard on yourself in leadership and life. It can feel like you are letting your team or your family down…and maybe you did, but that’s not the end of the world. Pick yourself up, and keep growing. Remember to lean into the power of accountability partners (EP 191) and mentors (EP 171) when things get tough, or you just need an ear to listen.
Embrace your flaws as you grow in your leadership and life walk. Put time in its place by being intentional and actionable towards your goals, be the luck maker for those around you, and remember to be a calming presence in both your personal and professional life.
Our family loves glow sticks. We typically keep a pack of the sticks and some of the necklaces and bracelets just in case a need arises on a trip, campout, or just a fun time in the backyard. Our kids and friends are always pleasantly surprised when we hand them out.
Whether you had fun with some over the weekend or used them in the distant past, you’ve likely encountered glow sticks at some point. Simple in design, but I’m sure there are a few good reminders that we can learn to better our personal and professional lives.
They have to break to work
A glow stick that has yet to be used….is kind of boring. It’s very muted and the shape itself is typically uninteresting. It just sits there and exists. You know how to make the magic happen though; you take it, apply pressure to snap it, and then give it a good shake. Then the glow stick comes alive!
Sometimes things in our work and home lives have to break in order for us to reach a new level of potential. The breaking is not the fun part; think of a loss of a job, a relationship ending or relocating to a new area. As you go through a tough time either by choice or not, focus on the positive that is sure to happen on the other side of the change. It will help you as you move to your new normal.
Be on the lookout to break things in different parts of your life to various degrees to find new and exciting ways to accomplish your goals. Maybe there are processes at work that you have done the same way for years, that need to be re-examined. Perhaps you’ve been living in the same location for a long time and have gone blind to all the updates that need to happen. Don’t go about trying to wreck your life, but look for things that could use a fresh approach and perspective.
They live out their purpose & light the way
A glow stick has one purpose. To provide light for its owner. Singular in focus, the glow stick always does its job well.
We talk pretty consistently about finding your life calling (EP 161) and finding purpose in your work (EP 312) Today may be a good day to do some self-reflection in this area. Are you following your calling and purpose? I know that it can be a challenge to step out in faith and do, but the long-term benefits vastly outweigh the short-term fear and discomfort. In the business world, I emphasize the concept of finding your job (Find your job series) instead of just going after the first opportunity in front of you. It’s a joy to see leaders embrace the concept and process to truly find and enjoy their purpose and it’s also frustrating to see another leader continue to go after just a job and job hop from one thing to another. They are wasting their valuable time and doing a disservice to the organizations and people that they encounter along the way.
Find your purpose and calling and live it out wholeheartedly in all that you do. You’ll light the way for others as a result and become a guide for others to find their own purpose.
They are fun
I haven’t run across anyone that had an awful time with a glow stick. In fact, it’s usually the opposite! No doubt glow sticks are fun to play with. They simply bring joy when it’s their time to shine.
How have you brought joy to others this last month or week? Are people happy to see you or could they not care less? Some of that dynamic rests on their shoulders, but the rest is your responsibility. You don’t have to be an extrovert either to light up a room. Be authentic, genuine, and caring. Those three things always bring joy to others.
Remember that Leaders don’t have bad days (PTB #13) and to leave your baggage at the front door of your work and house. It will be there for you to pick up and your way out if you want to! Shake off the crummy parts of your day and be intentional about having a great time with others, however, that looks for you.
When you think about geese, there may not be a lot of positive things that come to mind. They can be mean, very territorial, and leave a mess everywhere.
Many years ago when I lived in Birmingham, AL, I would go on runs around these beautiful little lakes in a large business complex. The only problem was that geese also loved hanging out there. Between doing the endless amounts of goose poop and the geese themselves at times, running started to be a little bit of a chore.
Despite all their flaws, there are a few things that we can learn from geese
Everyone has time to shine and lead
Geese fly in the class V formation while migrating from one place to another. They are well known in North America and the idea of the V formation can be found in many different leadership courses and discussions. When asked where a leader saw themselves in the formation, some would say the front. They wanted to be the person leading the team. Others would argue that they wanted to be in the back, letting others shine on the team.
The truth is that each of the perspectives is right when they are put together. Sometimes you need to be in the font, and sometimes you need to be in the back. That’s exactly how geese lead each other. They rotate who is in front to give each other rest and time to take a break.
Geese share the load and step in and lead when it’s appropriate.
They are very loyal to each other
Geese are extremely loyal to one another. If one becomes injured or sick during one of their flights together, the hurt goose will drop out of the formation while two other geese will stay behind to protect the hurt goose until it can fly again. Mother geese are famously protective of their little ones and will chase humans and other perceived predators away if they sense that they are getting too close. In both examples, the goose is willing to give up its own security in order to protect another goose in the group.
While we may not need to yell at every human who gets near a hurting friend, we are better friends, family members, and co-workers when we do life together and look out for one another.
Keep in good contact with your peers and other co-workers so that you know when something is off. Oftentimes people could use some help and don’t communicate it to others. Be a helping hand or a hero for someone when they are down.
As family members, it’s important to protect each other as we grow in our life journey. It may be by physical protection or helping someone younger (or older) navigate the internet in a safe way. Help guide your family with your unique skills and abilities.
Good friends are often times where we are the most loyal, especially for those that are younger. As life continues to change the dynamic that you have with other friends, be intentional in staying connected and in each other lives. You may be the perfect ear for someone as they share the hardships that they are going through.
They communicate…. a lot.
Sometimes you can hear the geese overhead before you can see them. They honk, a lot and loudly! Scientists believe that geese honk so much when they fly together in order to communicate with one another mid-flight. Get too close to a goose on the ground and it will likely start honking at you and maybe even open up its wings and start flapping them at you. Even in the mundane, it seems like geese are constantly communicating with each other and those around them.
People love their routines. Once we get into a great groove and routine, we can often drop off our level of communication. People should know what to do and how to do it, right? It’s important to stay engaged and keep the communication going across all parties even in the small things. This keeps informed and gives you both an opportunity to share any changes that may have larger implications later.
Despite their flaws, we can learn a thing or two about teamwork from geese. Give others a chance to step out of their comfort zone and bask in the spotlight, communicate well and often and hold true to your loyalty to others. Just be sure not to leave a mess wherever you go.
Micromanagers can suck all of the joy and efficiency out of your work and productivity. I know when I had them in my own life, I was more stressed and certainly not fully satisfied in my role and even had lower engagement with the overall organization as a result. Think you have a micromanager in your line of leadership? Last week we talked about how to identify one and what the possible reasons were for the behavior.
So what do you do if you have a micromanager? Quit? Become passive-aggressive? Subvert authority? All of those may be tempting, but we’ll look at some healthy ways to address the person and behavior.
Eliminate the “You” factors
As we discussed last week, there are situations where you as the follower are driving the need for micromanagement. If the “you” factor is in play, you’re in luck. You’ll have a clearer and easier path to grow through the behavior.
Be more proactive in communication. Anticipate the needs of your supervisor when it comes to what information they look for and what time frame they like to receive communication in. You can cut off some of the micromanaging behavior by heading it off before it happens.
Beat those deadlines! It’s always helpful to come in ahead of deadlines and require little to no follow-up on the task or project.
Show your growth in knowledge. It’s also helpful to show how you are growing in experience in your immediate area and residual areas that influence your work. You may be getting micromanaged because your boss doesn’t think that you know the job well enough or you aren’t a technical expert in the area yet.
Show your partnerships. Show your leader how you are collaborating with others to get the job done well. Recognize others in your conversations with your supervisor. It shows you are a team player and also lets your leader know that you celebrate the success and achievements of others.
Find small ways to boost your credibility. Small wins add up. Look for ways to get some small victories in your work or responsibility to help grow your credibility and trust with your supervisor.
Mimic their style. Don’t micromanage back, but adjust your style of communication to match theirs. Timeliness, length, and method of communication.
Understand their intent
As you decipher the best way to address your leader about micromanaging behavior it’s important to understand their intent so you can connect in a way that resonates with them. Put yourself in their shoes to help understand where they are coming from. Other ways to understand intent include:
Tap into their vision and aspirations. Find out what they are trying to accomplish or achieve through the work that you are doing. Having this understanding helps you communicate in a way that resonates with them and can lead to them giving you more space.
Guide those that micromanage without intent. Sometimes micromanagers don’t even realize that they are one. In these cases, it may also be helpful to take the behavior from a different approach. Ask for freedom in a way that is not confrontational, “Can I run this one and check in with you to give you updates?” Start small and agree on a timetable for when check-ins will occur.
Being straightforward with your leader can be the best approach at times when it comes to micromanagement. This can be a difficult conversation to have because you may feel like you are putting your job on standing in the organization in jeopardy if the person is an insecure leader and the conversation doesn’t go as planned.
Take a soft, yet straightforward approach. Coming in too hard will certainly not be received well and can do more harm than good. Instead of being confrontational, come in with a desire to grow through a caring approach. Try things like, “I feel like I don’t have your full trust yet to do my job well. How can I grow that trust with you?” or even more direct, “I feel like I’m being micromanaged. When you do X, I feel Y and it impacts my ability to get the job done.” Either way that you start the conversation, look to make the solution a collaborative effort where you are both agreeing on the next steps to take.
Remember that no one loves being called out as a micromanager. Be friendly, smile, and try to keep the conversation light when possible to help your message be received better.
I don’t know of any company out there that goes out and looks for ineffective people and micromanaging leaders to add to their team. How ridiculous would it be to see in a job description “Must be able to micromanage others in order to get tasks completed.”
So how do we end up with so many micromanagers that can make our work lives miserable? Sometimes it’s company culture, sometimes it’s the bad habits of the leaders, and other times it’s our own behavior that pushed the leader into a micromanagement style.
Signs of a micromanager
Micromanagers are typically people who want things done a certain way, but leave out the context, support, and understanding to grow an individual. Some signs of a micromanager include:
They generally slow down work, through redundant approvals. How often are their approvals necessary?
Having difficulty delegating and letting go of tasks that they previously held.
They can tend to be perfectionists.
They need all the information before they feel confident in making a decision.
They may have an underlying fear of missing out on an opportunity.
They lead through authority instead of influence.
Tasks big and small receive the same level of scrutiny.
Rarely seeks input from others.
Micromanagers aren’t all evil leaders that want to make your work life miserable. They sometimes put a high value on structure to avoid chaos and unknowns. Other micromanagers may have good intentions but struggle with self-confidence and have a poor self-image. This doesn’t make the behavior right, but it does remind us that there is a person behind the tension and conflict that arises from micromanagement.
Is it you or your boss?
People often assume that the leader is always the problem when it comes to micromanaging. They are the ones that are constantly over your shoulder after all in nearly everything that you do. There are times and situations where the follower is actually the cause for the micromanager. So is it you or your leader?
Is it me?
Self-reflect to understand if your actions, inactions, reputation, or trust levels are driving the micromanagement. Some thought-provoking idea starters include questions like:
Are your priorities aligned to the teams and organization goals? This can sometimes get misaligned especially for those that are creative and innovative. It’s not always micromanagement when your leader needs to stay close to keep you focused on the rights tasks.
How have you been on deadlines? Have you missed several lately or are you the last one to complete your part of a project?
What is your trust and respect level with your leader?
What is your cadence of communication with your leader? Are you keeping them aware of project and task status? It’s likely that your leader needs to make others (including their boss) aware of the status of the important things that you are working on.
While the leader ultimately decides how to lead, your actions may be contributing to the behavior or even pulling them to a micromanagement style that they don’t enjoy.
Is it them?
There are times when you are doing all the right things, yet you are still being micromanaged. This may be because of the leader themselves. Ask yourself these questions to help understand if the micromanagement is leader-driven.
Are they laser-focused on things getting done a certain way? Exclude safety and compliance when considering this behavior. When it comes to safety and compliance regulations, there is often very little wiggle room to take things from a different approach.
Are they new in the role? Leaders can often struggle a bit as they cross the juncture to a higher level of leadership. They need to adapt their priorities and let go of certain responsibilities that they previously held.
Are they stressed out all the time at work? They may be feeling real or imagined pressure to hit a quota or deadline.
Do they have a fear of failure? Perhaps they have an extensive, “do not do” list when it comes to how you do your work.
Are they a perfectionist that will jump in and take over a project or task? This can check several boxes for the leader including a self-esteem boost, and validation of their own work.
Do they have trouble trusting others, especially when their reputation is on the line?
Try your best to look at both sides neutrally to avoid having a confirmation bias towards the person and situation. Your mind can easily decide on the reasoning behind the micromanagement and then begin looking at small things that confirm that line of thought, even when it’s not reality.
Does your company enable micromanagement?
Micromanagers aren’t born into the world. They are created through their personal experiences and are enabled by those around them. The culture of the organization can unknowingly feed and grow micromanagers among teams.
A leader may begin having micromanaging tendencies if they hear their leader share about poor employees or discuss others in a negative light.
Senior leaders may not trust their frontline employees. This distrust can cascade down the leadership ladder and impact how they lead.
The Sr leader may not be in touch with what is going on further down in the team and is missing the opportunity to coach the leader out of the poor leadership style.
Understand the signs of a micromanager and then step back and take an unbiased approach to understand where the behavior is coming from. Appreciate the part that you play in the relationship dynamic. Next week, we’ll cover how to handle a micromanaging boss.
This week Zack sits down with Mark Herschberg to discuss his latest book The Career Toolkit. During the podcast, you will learn about:
How to maximize your efforts in terms of growth and potential
What personal considerations should be thought about when looking at a new role
Demystifying HR’s role in the hiring process
How to get your resume in the right hands
Remember that you are always interviewing
The power of communication and it’s ability to raise or lower your potential
Resources from the show
The Career Toolkit App
Mark Herschberg is the author of The Career Toolkit, Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You. From tracking criminals and terrorists on the dark web to creating marketplaces and new authentication systems, Mark has spent his career launching and developing new ventures at startups and Fortune 500s and in academia. He helped to start the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, dubbed MIT’s “career success accelerator,” where he teaches annually. At MIT, he received a B.S. in physics, a B.S. in electrical engineering & computer science, and a M.Eng. in electrical engineering & computer science, focusing on cryptography. At Harvard Business School, Mark helped create a platform used to teach finance at prominent business schools. He also works with many non-profits, currently serving on the board of Plant A Million Corals. He was one of the top-ranked ballroom dancers in the country and now lives in New York City, where he is known for his social gatherings, including his annual Halloween party, as well as his diverse cufflink collection.
I seem to coach and help a lot of leaders looking for their next job or step in their career. One thing I always stress is for the person to find their job, not just any job. (Ep 228-231) There is an intentional reason behind the distinction between the two; your job has purpose and will give you long-lasting satisfaction, while any available job will likely leave you empty and back and same place of searching for another role.
We all want our work to mean something. We want to know that we are contributing to something larger than gathering a paycheck. Here are some ways to lock in on your purpose as you carry a strong connection to what you do.
1. Find purpose in your purpose
A purpose that doesn’t run deep or ring true on a foundational level is…well not a true purpose.
It’s easy for an organization to say, “These are our Values and the purpose of our work.” Unless you find a way to connect with that on a personal level then that purpose doesn’t really mean anything. We all have inherent things that uniquely drive us and motivate us to be our best. Some people are drawn to be connectors, others are servants, others creative, builders and solutionists. Connect to whatever your inner drive is to latch on to your purpose in your work. It’s common to find people working on the same team and on the same tasks with totally different purposes for being there and finding value in their work.
2. Think of purpose holistically
I’ve coached several very talented people in the past that had bountiful potential. It struck me as odd at first how some would burn out, not meet their potential and leave their job. You could see it coming towards the end, so it wasn’t a surprise but it surely was disheartening. They were frustrated by not reaching their sense of purpose, which was often a world-changing event on impact in the organization.
Purpose is certainly having a large-scale impact on others, but that is not all of what purpose is. Those “tent-pole” moments of purpose don’t happen on a daily basis, and if we hold ourselves to the all-or-nothing mindset of purpose we can have long stretches of dissatisfaction in what we do.
Think of purpose holistically. We often talk on the show about how minor things matter. That’s certainly the case with purpose. Making someone’s day a bit easier, bringing a smile to someone’s face, or helping someone meet a need could all be parts of your purpose. Find purpose and joy in the smaller things that you do throughout your week. There are plenty of small opportunities to serve a bigger purpose and cause in what you do.
If you only chase after monumental purpose moments and events, you’ll find yourself unfulfilled.
3. Break the comparisons
Not everyone is going to be a CEO or someone that is written about in the history books. As obvious as that sounds, there are plenty of people that put their purpose and impact through a comparison lens of others. Perhaps you look back every once in a while to see how you are doing compared to your high school or college classmates. Maybe you compare yourself to your teammate or a family member. Letting go of the self-induced pressure of legacy frees you up to truly live out your purpose in your work and in your life.
I once coached and mentored a small-town business leader who was singularly focused on leaving a great legacy behind as he retired. You’ve likely never heard of him, but that doesn’t mean his legacy with those that do know him is any less valuable. He truly lived thrived in his purpose to serve others by not caring about comparisons between him and someone else.
4. Remind yourself of your purpose
We can lose our focus on purpose through changes in the how of the work, cultural changes, or technology changes. If you find yourself struggling to find the Why in work, take some time to refocus on what you do.
Make a list of all the things that you enjoy about your job. Remember the small things!
List out all of the accomplishments you’ve had over the last 6 months or a year. You’ll likely be surprised by how much you have accomplished.
Take some time off to refresh and recharge.
Be transparent with your supervisor or peers. Look for new opportunities or projects that you can be a part of to help introduce you to some new people and concepts.
Latch on to your purpose, let go of comparisons and keep your focus on your Why as you navigate change. You’ll be more productive, have a higher sense of satisfaction, and work in what you do and you’ll have a long-lasting impact on others.
Work ethics is a driver behind how you go about doing your work. Companies are continuing to increase the value of those that lead themselves with a strong work ethic, not only because of how productive they are but also because the world is changing. Customers and clients are holding organizations accountable to do the right thing, now more than ever.
Having a strong work ethic can give your income a boost, lower stress, and make for a better working environment.
Work Ethics Examples
As you think about your work ethics, it’s good to start with an understanding of areas that work ethics encompass.
Cooperation with others
Ways to showcase your work ethic
Here are just a few of the ways that your work ethic can shine on others.
Everything is in on time including yourself: I have found that this is one of the quickest and easiest ways to let your work ethics shine. It doesn’t take long for others to notice when you consistently turn in work on time and even early. The same action should apply to yourself. Be on time for work (or a few minutes early) and arrive on time for meetings.
Plus the experience or product: Another way to showcase your ethics is by going above and beyond expectations. I call it plussing the experience or product because you are delivering the final product expected plus ________. The plus can be any number of things. It may be timing, an extra layer of polish, an expansion, or anything else that adds extra value and purpose to what you are working on.
Raise your hand when others don’t: Stepping up and tackling the less pleasant aspects of your job or taking on extra duties or projects outside of your job description is another way to shine. I personally have found both thoughts to be helpful. In prior roles, I was able to stand out by taking on things that no one wanted to do and breathing new life and quality of excellence into it. Other times, I’ve filled in the gaps of work needs that weren’t in my job description, but I had the talents and skills to contribute in a positive way.
Weather the storm: Not every day is a perfect and beautiful workday. Some days, or even weeks and months, can be challenging for a number of reasons. Your ability to weather those proverbial storms successfully while keeping positive working relationships speaks volumes about your work ethic.
Tips to increase your work ethic
Think of yourself as an ambassador. Put your organization up in a positive light with those that you work with and those you interact within your personal life. Be on the lookout for ways to connect your business with others, even when it’s outside your normal scope of work.
Beware of distracting co-workers. You probably know, or maybe you are, a person that enjoys talking a lot. While the social interaction is good, you can quickly lose precious productive time that could have been better spent elsewhere. Check your self-awareness to know when it’s time to break away and get back to work and avoid the temptation to jump into every conversation that you going on in the office.
Don’t avoid tasks and communication. We all have unique times of the day that we are more productive and efficient. Use those times to know out big thought-provoking, creative, and even physical projects. During the other times, knock out the tasks and communications that don’t take a lot of effort. Putting off menial tasks and communications shows a lack of care for your role and for others.
Seek professional growth: A great way to showcase your work ethics and overall professionalism is to seek out professional growth. Think of an athlete that is in peak condition. They don’t stop training and pushing their capabilities once they become known as the best of the best. In the business world, many leaders do plateau at some point after reaching their career aspiration, or they give up and settle before ever reaching their goal.
Be intentional about weaving in continuing education in some form throughout the year. What are a couple of books that you could pick up? What is an area of expertise that you want to grow in? Who can you learn from that’s in your network? Are there any conferences, workshops, or courses that are interesting? Whatever your path, showcase your work ethics by pushing your own development.
There are several benefits for you, your team, and the company as you highlight and live out your strong work ethic with others.
Your personal branding increases significantly with others.
Your ability to build good working relationships becomes easier.
Establishing trust and buy-in happens more quickly.
Decision-making is easier when you tie the decision to your ethics and the purpose of the team and company.
You are more productive in your personal and professional life.
Influence your team, peers, and influencers through a strong work ethic. Your earning potential and your level of satisfaction in what you do will only get stronger.
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was open to feedback, thankful for the insight, and then acted on the information in an impactful way? Leadership certainly would be easier, but unfortunately, that’s not the reality that the majority of us face when giving feedback to teams. People come with various levels of baggage and history that impact how they receive feedback. Some cry, some yell, and others try to avoid it altogether.
Before jumping into a feedback session, think about the person and how they likely will react to the information. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally, latch on to your Why, and have the conversation in a neutral, distraction-free place.
For those that have a tendency to cry
It can be easy to get frustrated or distracted when the other person consistently cries when they receive feedback. There are a number of reasons why someone reacts in this way ranging from low self-esteem to feeling like a personal failure when not meeting expectations. Regardless of the reasoning behind a crying reaction, your message still needs to be delivered, even when it makes you uncomfortable.
Be prepared for a follow-up meeting if the person needs to calm down. Pushing through the conversation carries little value for either party.
Assure the person that you have their best interest at heart. Just because a message may be hard, doesn’t mean that your delivery has to be. Approach with care and empathy while sticking to your standard.
Acknowledge the emotion in the room. Leaders sometimes want to ignore the emotion and continue on in the conversation, because of their own annoyance or uncomfortably. Take a moment to acknowledge them, and frame up the why behind the conversation before carrying on.
Be on the lookout for people that cry during feedback that don’t normally do so. It’s often a sign that something bigger is going on with the person either personally or professionally.
For those that yell
Sometimes people respond to feedback by yelling and becoming aggressive verbally and even physically. These people can be hard to coach for a couple of reasons. Either A) You have lower managerial courage (PTB 81) and you tend to avoid these types of conversations or B) You aren’t intimidated and will volley back fire with fire. Both have major pitfalls when it comes to feedback; the first lets the problem continue to fester and the second one only validates the reason for the other person’s anger.
Your winning approach here is to stay calm. Stay calm and collected even when your heart may be pounding out of your chest. Lower your voice as they raise theirs. They’ll have to lower theirs as well in order to hear you.
Call out poor behavior as you see it. “I need you to lower the volume of your voice.”
Let the other person know your expectations and be willing to cut the conversation if they can’t control themselves. “This is not productive and we can’t continue the conversation like this. Take a moment for yourself here or we will need to reschedule this.”
Hold to your standard without matching their level of anger.
For those that are defensive
Have you noticed how those that are the most defensive are also the most critical of others? Often rooted in low self-esteem, these people may feel humiliated, degraded, embarrassed, or exposed by your feedback and constructive criticism. The key here is to not let the person slip through the conversation without being accountable for the change needed.
The person may very try to deflect the conversation in a different direction. “You don’t know everything that is going on”, or “This is X person’s fault.” Not only are they deflecting responsibility, but they also want to engage in their statements to change the focus of the conversation.
Put a spotlight on accountability. “I see this as your responsibility.” Highlight their role in the situation.
When they play the victim, ask them about what role they could have played to impact the outcome.
Address the recurring behavior
Now that we know how to address these main blockers to constructive feedback, should we put these practices in place and move on? Of course not! If you have someone that consistently exhibits one of these reactions to feedback, have a session on that behavior itself. “I notice every time that I give you feedback, you react in ______ way. I want the best for you, and I know that you do as well. How can we connect on feedback in a way that is more open?” Next, explain your expectations for how they need to do their part in accepting feedback.
Help the situation by providing feedback in smaller amounts instead of letting it build up and keeping the conversation as close to the occurrence as possible.
Your people need feedback in order to improve and reach their fullest potential. Address the criers, yellers, and avoiders in a way that hits home for them so you can give feedback that is processed in a positive way.
Feedback in life and in work is essential for our personal growth. It’s important for you as a leader, friend, and family member to share feedback that adds value to the person that you are giving it to.
Equally important to the actual feedback that you give is the setting in which you give it. I know I have been guilty of mentally shutting down in the past when the feedback was given at the worst time and delivered without much thought put into it. I’ve also mishandled giving feedback because I was more concerned with the delivery instead of how it was delivered.
When to give feedback in a group setting
There are times when giving feedback in a group setting is your ideal option
More than one person on the team was involved in the problem or issue that the feedback is about.
The issue involves the majority of the team.
People want to hear feedback from the source and not 2nd or 3rd hand from someone else. Do your best to give feedback directly to the group that is involved so that they can hear it straight from you and seek any further clarifications.
When the team falls short, a coach huddles the team up and talks through the play. In the military, your squad or platoon is often given feedback together because of how close they work together towards a goal. At home, maybe the kids collectively didn’t meet your expectations. When the group is involved, share it with them as a whole.
When to give feedback one-on-one
There are other times when giving individual feedback is the appropriate setting.
The feedback is meant for an individual
The feedback is of personal nature
People hate it when their time is wasted. When you pull in a whole team to give feedback in a general way that was caused by one person, you aren’t being effective with anyone. The ones not involved will see this as a waste of their time and it will hurt your credibility. The person that actually needs the feedback, may either be embarrassed, which hurts your trust level, or they feel anonymous and don’t take your feedback to heart. You lose all-around in this scenario!
Have the managerial courage to have a one-on-one conversation with the person and address them directly. If the feedback is personal in nature, always take time to address it directly instead of using someone else to give the feedback.
Be sure to give one-on-one feedback in a setting that is quiet and non-distracting if possible and away from other curious ears.
When not to give feedback
Some of the best feedback I have ever given was not actually giving it to the other person. Counterintuitive? It may sound that way, but you need to check the reason behind the need for feedback.
You don’t want to let your emotions fully drive feedback. You’ll only offer feedback that pushes the person away, potentially damaging a relationship and giving your feedback a 0% chance of acceptance. Think about all the viral videos of people in full rage mode yelling at someone in public. Obviously, emotions have gotten the best of the person, and without a doubt, whatever they say is not going to change the situation for the better. Perhaps you are not going to go viral in fits of anger, but your emotions are clouding your thoughts on feedback. Take time to settle down, reflect and then determine if the feedback is worth giving.
We have said before that it’s important to give coaching and feedback as close to the issues or occurrence as possible. There will be times where you’ll want to give instant feedback, but maybe you take a step back and see the fuller picture and consider what else is going on. Feedback given from a very narrow perspective is rarely taken well and actioned on even less than that.
Reflect on the why behind your feedback. Are you giving it to make the person better or because it makes you feel better? If it’s for yourself, it may be best to not give it at all.
Think about your feedback and the setting that you are giving it to the other person. Maximize your gift to others by giving it in a thoughtful and caring way in the right setting. They will be more likely to appreciate it and take it to heart.
There’s typically a lot of excitement when a new person starts on the team. As a leader, you are looking forward to the extra help and what the person can offer to the team; for the new employee they are excited about a fresh opportunity and look forward to serving somewhere that has an impact both personally and professionally.
It is important to have a strong strategy around onboarding a new team member because let’s face it….sometimes good help is hard to find and studies show 31% of people have quit a job within 6 months of taking the role.
Start out with a strong foundation
Make it simple, make it easy, and make it fun. Think back to dating when it comes to a new employee.
Before you went out on a date, you probably put some extra attention on your appearance and worked out all the details to make sure that it was a perfect event. That same level of attention and intentionality should be put in ahead of a new person’s arrival.
Is their workstation set up for them?
Access has taken care of ahead of time?
is the equipment (CPU, hardware) ready for them?
Is your schedule set so you’ll have protected time to spend with them?
What other miscellaneous things need to happen beforehand to have a great first week?
Be a connector
Your new people are going to rely on you to be a connector in two ways; first to introduce them to other key people on the team and larger organization and secondly to connect them to the larger context of what’s going on around them.
Networking: Starting a new job with a new company is hard and it can be overwhelming sometimes. Be intentional to connect the person to other people across the team and capitalize on moments to bring them along to meetings and meet and greets so that they can starting connecting to what will be their larger professional network.
Context: We can be tempted to throw the person right into the work and have them starting to immediately produce. In order to be truly effective, they need to understand the context and the why behind what they are big asked to do.
Slow down and explain the why and story behind the reasoning of the approach, why the tasks need to be done, and what the impact is on the larger goals at hand. This won’t be a one-and-done process; you’ll need to continue to fill the context as new projects and responsibilities take shape.
Set them up with a partner/mentor
New employees often share the sentiment that they appreciate a good friendly co-worker, mentor, or partner to lean on while they learn their role and responsibilities.
Assigning a person on your team to play this role with a new employee is a win for all parties. Your new employee is keeping a high level of engagement while you are not there, you have confidence that they are getting the support that they need and it’s a chance for the mentor to grow in their own abilities both personally and professionally.
In order for this partnership to reach its fullest potential, set some expectations on what they should cover together, the tempo for check-ins, and what the end goal is for the relationship. Without good parameters and expectations, even the best-intentioned mentoring relationships can fall aside due to other work priorities and life in general.
Think about the person’s longer experience
Over the years when I’ve asked leaders who long they onboard a person, I get a wide variety of answers. Some say a few days, and others say up to 90 days. As you work to onboard a new employee I would encourage you to think about a year’s worth of experience.
A year may seem like a lot but think about a year’s worth of work where you are. It’s likely that you have some busy times and slow times during the year. You may have projects, tasks, or responsibilities that fall into a specific time of the year that only occurs once a year. You are selling your new person short if you stop onboarding them at 90 days when many of your big-ticket items of the year are 6 months from now.
As their rolling 12 months progress, you shouldn’t have to stay as close to them in their daily work, but you should be mindful and intentional to spend time with them and help them learn seasonal changes and big projects that occur throughout the year.
One of the biggest reasons people leave in their first year is because they didn’t get the support to be successful in their role.
Engage with your new employee throughout their first year with you. You’ll increase your retention rates and new people will feel welcome and supported as they start a long career with you.
The transition and onboarding time can also be stressful as you want to show your worth with others and quickly build trust with the new team and leaders.
Let the Values and your ethics guide you
Nearly all established organizations have some form of values that they claim to adhere to. Great companies live those out and are intentional in keeping their Values front of mind with their people. At other companies, the Values may just be another decoration on the wall. Regardless of how deeply tied to their Values they may be, they are giving you a roadmap to build trust and credibility quickly.
Let your work and actions show your alignment with the Values and live them out in your daily routine. I also find it helpful to begin inserting the Values into my work vernacular to help me stay intentional in alignment and subtlely show others, my values, and ethics. Even today as I coach leaders across the US, I try to tie in their Values to conversations.
Standing up for what is right is another way here to help build trust and credibility. It’s more tempting as you try to find your place on the team to compromise a little in order to fit in and to please a consensus. Hold to your ethics to grow long-term trust with others.
Sometimes silence builds more credibility
It can be tempting to want to speak up a lot as a new person. Besides, they hired you for a reason and to be an expert or thought leader in your assigned area. The caution with always having something to say, especially as a new person, is that you may come across as trying to push your own agenda or perspective.
Lean into your active listening skills and have the self-awareness to know when you should, and shouldn’t, share. You can build trust and credibility by being a trusted ear where people feel like they can be heard and their input is valued.
Remember that trust takes time
You know how trustworthy you are, but it’s going to take some time to earn that trust with others. Here are some quick tips as you long-term trust with others.
Deliver on your word. If you make a promise, others know that it will come into reality.
Always be on time. Meetings, deadlines, tasks, and projects. A great way to build credibility incredibility fast is to show consistency by beating deadlines.
Trust others. Giving trust to others is an important part of receiving it as well.
Embrace accountability in yourself as you make mistakes. Take ownership, ask for forgiveness where needed and move forward.
How leaders can help
So maybe you are not new, but you are a leader of someone that is new to the organization or in their current role. Support their growth by helping them highlight these tips and behaviors in their work and interactions with others. Check-in with them to see how they feel their relationship-building efforts are going as they earn the trust of others.
Tough conversations are…well.. tough. It’s certainly not the most enviable part of being a leader, but it’s certainly a differentiator between an ok manager and a leader worth following. A great leader doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations, but at the same time isn’t confrontational enough to create unneeded drama in the workplace. They have the conversations that need to be had with positive intent that benefits the individual and the team.
Here are some things to remember as you step up to tough conversations.
Seek feedback, discuss the situation, and bounce ideas of approach off of your trusted advisors, and mentors. They may be able to fill in a perspective that you haven’t considered or give you valuable feedback on your approach or intentions.
Many organizations also have HR support, either as a generalist or someone that specifically works with employee issues. Be sure to partner with these groups for guidance. They can help to ensure that you are good from a legal and best practice perspective.
Go in with a plan
No matter your level of comfortability with improvisation when speaking to others, always plan through the key points that you want to share when having a difficult conversation with others.
Here is a real way that a tough conversation can go if you head into the interaction with the “I’m just going to wing it” mentality.
You begin the conversation, it meanders a bit and you miss one of the key points of the conversation.
The person responds in a way that you hadn’t considered and you improvise some more. This takes you further off course.
The other person reacts to the change in direction.
Now you react again to the other person, further taking you off-topic.
Rinse and repeat the back and forth.
By the end, you are both at your wit’s end. You’ve only further eroded the relationship and can’t realistically expect any kind of behavior change from the person, because they haven’t accepted the feedback that you wanted to give.
Not ideal! You’ve likely seen that conversation play out several different ways in both your personal and professional life. You don’t necessarily have to have a script for every conversation, but you should always have a plan:
What are the key points that you want to get across?
What is the impact of the reason for the meeting?
What time frame do they need to correct the behavior or action?
What is the best place or environment to have the conversation?
What are some ways that they may react? Are you mentally prepared for those reactions?
Acknowledge your feelings
We have experience feelings leading up to and during those difficult conversations. It’s likely that you are frustrated, disappointed, or even angry with the person and the decisions that led to a need for a tough conversation. Take time to acknowledge those and process them as you prepare for that talk with the other person.
You may be given the advice to “shut down” your emotions and just plow through the conversation with the other person. (A just do it mentality) Sure, you may be able to navigate a conversation this way, but you’re less likely to come out on the other side of the interaction in a way that truly adds value to others.
Instead of shutting off all emotions and coming across as cold and uncaring, lean into your emotional intelligence skills in order to acknowledge both your and the other person’s emotions without letting emotions run rampant over the reason for the conversation.
Be honest and give feedback. It’s okay to be assertive and to the point. “When you _____activity_____ I get/feel/become ____emotion_____. I need ________ going forward. I wanted you to know this because__________ (It impacts my work and I want to have a good relationship with you, I care about you, I want us both to do well, etc)
It’s ok to be nervous or to have butterflies in your stomach before a difficult conversation. Acknowledge them, remember your plan and partnerships with others that have supported you up until this moment. Go into the conversation with positive intent while showcasing your strong emotional intelligence and empathy skills. The other person will be better equipped with proper expectations and you’ll be strengthening your own leadership qualities in the process.