With five generations in the workplace, management models that worked for one generation will have to be adapted to support the motivations and drivers of newer generations.
Challenging the statusquo can be scary because it often requires courage and a willingness to go against the grain. There’s also the possibility of receiving backlash from those who are less open to new ideas.
Rather than wondering if a challenge should be made, think about the person receiving the information and present it in a way that can be heard, understood, and valued. Here are some ideas:
1. Use the receiver’s language and tactics. If they like data, metaphors, etc., use them.
2. Think about the counter-response. Given what you know, how do you think they’ll react? Prepare for it.
3. Toughen up. Don’t let raised voices or criticism deter you. Acknowledge the person and reflect at a later time.
4. Talk to your colleagues. They can play devil’s advocate and provide alternative ideas based on their experience.
5. Play the odds. Timing is not always perfect. Think of when you can revisit the topic.
6. Accept your position. You may not be the most powerful person in the room, which is more reason to speak up.
7. Have a backup plan. Speaking up is a risk. Have a Plan B.
Our brains are hardwired to resist change because change can be difficult. Habits, routines, and learned behaviors make adjusting difficult at the individual level, and hard, if not impossible, at the organizational level.
Many organizations are bogged down by complacency and a lack of awareness of how to change. While change starts with individuals, the companies they work for also need to change to survive. People want to be aligned with purposeful organizations that are collaborative and inclusive, as well as socially and environmentally responsible.
Whether change takes the shape of a new system or process, or a complete overhaul of the way things function at the core level, driving lasting change is easier said than done.
Nearly half of our daily activities are habitual. We don’t think about them, yet we subconsciously do them. For example, waking up and instinctively grabbing our phone to check our email or social media. Think back across the last hour. What have you been doing? What part is habitual?
Understanding the components of habits (trigger, action, reward) helps us understand why behaviors emerge, what reinforces them, and how we can unlearn or replace them.
I was listening to a podcast by John C. Maxwell where he explained how our perspective of things could change the events of our day. He gave an example of people with road rage.
If you’ve ever experienced road rage, it is not uncommon to see someone give the middle finger as an expression of their anger. John said he views it as people showing him that they are his number one fan.
We have a choice of how we respond to the events of our day. E.g., I stopped at a grocery store one morning to buy some coffee creamer. The creamer was on a high shelf that I had to tiptoe to reach. When I pulled the creamer off the shelf, white liquid spilled all over my clothes and purse. I guess this was someone’s idea of a practical joke, but there were no TV cameras involved.
At that precise moment, I had to determine if I was going to rant and rave to anyone within earshot, or calmly wipe myself off before alerting a store clerk as to what happened. As challenging as it was, I went with option two because I’ve learned that reacting in anger, only manifests something else to be angry about, which can show up in the form of road rage as I’m leaving the store.
The point of the story is that we can’t control why people do what they do, but we can control our response to it.
There is a saying that nice guys finish last. As it pertains to business, you may picture this individual as someone who is a people pleaser, can be taken advantage of, not aggressive enough, or may never reach significant levels of success.
While there may be a grain of truth for some, there are lots of ways to be successful in business without being aggressive. Whether we care to admit, we stereotype people to some extent and tend to put people in boxes. Being nice doesn’t mean one cannot say no, be assertive, or make tough decisions. Moreover, not all nice people aspire to climb the corporate ladder.
Let’s be honest, if you had to choose between two individuals with equivalent talent and skills to work with on a project, would you choose the nice guy or the jerk?
In most organizations, success comes down to teamwork. Teamwork requires effective collaboration and cultivating relationships. A jerk’s behavior may work in the short-term, but in the long-term, they end up damaging the team and given enough time, the company.
If someone tells you to have a nice day, does an image of a jerk pop up in your mind? Probably, not. Niceness is a quality that shouldn’t be overlooked or undervalued.
We often hear the phrase work harder, but what’s wrong with working smarter and faster? There’s a perception that the longer something takes to complete, the better it will inherently be.
Think about the last hour-long meeting you were in that could have taken 30 minutes. Losing 30 minutes of your time with filler conversation didn’t make it better, and you probably didn’t walk away feeling much smarter. Imagine how painstaking an additional 30 minutes is on a virtual call.
Parkinson’s Law is the adage that work expands to fill the time allotted. In other words, the amount of work required increases to the time available for its completion. And, what does that often invite? Procrastination.
Naturally, we don’t want to look like were lazy so, if we have a 2-week project deadline, we may fill that time with other trivial tasks. Even if we didn’t fill the extra time with more work, we could stress over getting it done. Further, beating deadlines isn’t always appreciated.
That’s like the service department telling you it will take 4 hours to repair your car at $150/hr, and the mechanic only takes 2hrs, but want to charge you for 4. The solution is to focus on how much time a task should take rather than how much time is available, without compromising performance.
Personality-based assessements have given us insights into the unique characteristics of ourselves and our coworkers. When applied, they can help shape organizational cultures that are effective and respectful. Yet, some conflicts seem to be inherent in human interaction.
The mimetic theory posits that much of human interaction is imitation. In other words, we mimic each other in our desires. Human beings have an innate desire to compete with each other and gain status.
If an entry-level employee imitates the perceived habits, words, and ideas of the company CEO, they won’t run the risk of becoming a mimetic rival because of the distance between the two.
In contrast, a person with a specialized skillset can welcome and enjoy a newly-hired assistant’s imitation of their unique tasks and knowledge, but if the assistant’s duplicate skills start to rival or surpass theirs, friction and toxic work environments can develop.
When we feel like someone is too close to replacing our unique contributions, we may try to prevent them from attaining that power. This often shows up in a lack of teamwork and backstabbing.
Accepting that we are not the equals of people that we see and admire, does not diminish our value.
It is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to be viewed as bad managers as they struggle with the transition from doer to leader.
There are two patterns entrepreneurs fall into during this transition. They either become micromanagers or absent managers. Using the analogy of a server at a restaurant, the micromanager is the server who continually appears in the middle of your dinner conversation, much to your annoyance. The absent manager is the server who leaves you alone for way too long, and you have to search for him/her. Two beliefs contribute to why this happens.
1. I can do it faster/better myself. Since many entrepreneurs have hands-on experience, they can get frustrated at how long it takes new employees to get the job done to their satisfaction. While this behavior may be viable in the short term, the belief that we always know best can lead to micromanaging.
2. Get out of the way and let people do their jobs. Employees left to make decisions without any guidance can get off track, get stuck with unexpected obstacles, and often get out of sync with the rest of the organization.
The key is to find a middle ground between these two extremes. Check-in with and hold direct reports accountable, while giving them enough room to grow and make decisions on their own.
Not every entrepreneur is an effective leader. In this case, it’s important to surround yourself with people who complement you, especially as the business grows.
Talent problems are not solved by swapping in “better” talent at higher salaries. Many top performers are often sitting on a stockpile of ideas, skills, and interests. Part of being a leader is to help people identify and tap into their purpose and value.
There are two extremes of leaders: Multipliers and Diminishers.
Multipliers believe that everyone is brilliant at something. When they step into a room, ideas flow and problems get solved. They also:
Create engaged workforces and unleash collective intelligence.
Pay little attention to org charts and see themselves as coaches and teachers.
Acknowledge people’s “native genius”.
Assume that people are smart and will figure it out, given resources and space.
Diminishers can be tyrants, know-it-alls, or micromanagers. They believe that high levels of brainpower cannot be found everywhere and in everyone. They often:
Create cultural and behavioral barriers.
Roll out initiatives revolving around what the leader knows rather than what the group might learn.
Make decisions alone or with input from a small group of advisers.
Need to be the smartest, most capable person in the room.
Adapted: Harvard Business Review | Managing Yourself: Bringing Out the Best in Your People
How can we stop wasting time on unimportant details? To answer this, we have to identify why we get bogged down in the trivial.
Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, states that the amount of time spent discussing an issue in an organization is inversely correlated to its actual importance in the scheme of things. Major issues get the least discussion while simpler ones get the most.
To illustrate this, imagine a financial committee meeting to discuss 3 proposals. 1. $10M nuclear power plant 2. $350K bike shed 3. $21K annual coffee budget
What happens? The committee runs through the power plant proposal in little time because it’s too advanced for anyone to dig into the details, and most of the members don’t know much about the topic.
Next, the bike shed. The committee members feel more comfortable voicing their opinions. Several members begin an animated debate over what might enable modest savings. They discuss this longer than the power plant.
Finally, the coffee budget. Here, everyone’s an expert. They discuss the coffee budget longer than the power plant and bike shed combined. The committee runs out of time and decides to meet again to complete their analysis. Everyone walks away feeling satisfied, having contributed to the conversation.
Avoid descending into unproductive triviality by having clear goals for your meeting and getting the best people to the table to have a productive, constructive discussion.
Source: FS Blog – The Bikeshed Effect|Photo: Arjun Rajagopalan – Publish
Coaching for reliable performance is not a “salt and pepper” practice. You cannot sprinkle on a little explaining here, and appreciation there, and expect reliability. You must perform these habits consistently.
1. Explain Expectations – Lack of clear expectations is the most common reason for performance problems. There are 4 fundamental questions employees have regarding expectations: Where are we going? What are we doing to get there? How can I contribute? What’s in it for me?
2. Ask Questions – Ask the right questions and be comfortable with silence. Silence creates accountability for a response. If you’re not comfortable with silence, you’ll fill it with another question that leaves your original question unanswered and stifles engagement.
3. Involve Team – Employees will exchange their involvement, for ownership in the outcomes.
4. Measure Results – Measure what matters most. If you rank your team by performance level, your lowest performer will be a public statement of the performance standard you are willing to tolerate.
5. Appreciate People – While we judge ourselves by our intentions, others judge us by our actions. What is important is not how much you appreciate people, but rather how much you demonstrate that appreciation.
Getting others to accept our feedback can prove challenging, especially when it’s critical. Managers often worry that their feedback may lead to hurt feelings or diminished productivity, so they resort to face-saving techniques like the “praise sandwich” that end up doing more harm than good.
This dynamic can change with a better message and a bolder mindset. Feeback should involve asking hero questions, diagnosing challenges, and shaping a path towards commitment. The following are some examples.
Hero Questions: ~ What have you learned about yourself from working on this project? ~ What strengths have you found most useful on this project? ~ Who have you recently helped, and what difference did it make in their work and yours?
Diagnose Challenges: ~ What outcome are you trying to achieve? ~ What is happening? Why do you think it’s happening? ~ What have you tried so far? How have you handled similar challenges in the past? ~ Have you tried to resolve this challenge? What happened as a result?
Shape the Path: ~ How do you think you’ll act on this? ~ What is holding you back from achieving your goals? ~ What would happen if you tried this? ~ How can I help you recreate the conditions of your success?