Ask Yourself..Are You a Credible Leader?
I heard about Tom through key stakeholders and some of his team.
Tom was a top-level leader; he was sharp, rather humorous, a technically adept quick study, and very good at corporate politics in his specialized C-suite role.
However, what Tom didn’t know was that most of his team had lost respect for him as a leader; they didn’t believe half of what he said and no longer trusted him.
As a result, team morale was at an all time low, they spent much of their time cross-checking the many stories he told, second-guessing his every move and gossiping about Tom’s life outside of work.
Leadership credibility is formed whether you are conscious about it or not. Being believable and trustworthy are critical success factors to create effective, high performing teams.
After all, who works hard for someone they have no respect for, can’t believe or trust?
6 Bad Habits
Lets look at some common bad habits that erode and damage credibility with your team. Download a free copy of our poster on How To Be a Credible Leader to help avoid these.
In my experience, the following are the most common death knells to leadership credibility – all of which Tom was guilty of:
1. Taking credit – Tom was known for using other people’s ideas as his own.
If you haven’t done the work, you don't get the credit. Full stop. You ARE responsible for the output of your team’s work but when you take all the credit for it, you erode trust and lose credibility.
One of the best leaders I worked with once told me “credit is always for the giving, never the taking “– what a simple and effective way to lead!
2. Being clued out – Tom struggled with addressing performance or behavioural issues in the team or with key stakeholders; he delegated that to others.
As the leader, it is your job (and your job only) to deal with performance or behavioural issues on your team. Be attentive to these issues and don’t turn a blind eye; it negatively impacts everyone.
What also gets overlooked is bad behaviour from stakeholders the team works with day in and day out. Good leaders pay attention to difficult relationships; they find common ground and tackle issues early and head on.
Every team member is watching how tuned-in you are to people who impact them and HOW you handle these delicate situations matter.
3. Holing up in your office or disappearing – Tom’s team said he disappeared a lot and when he was in, his door was always closed.
Yes, you have work to do and meetings to take, but you are a leader. When your door is closed, or you are missing all the time, you send a direct message that you are not available.
Make a point of checking in throughout the week to show genuine interest in the team. It’s these moments where connection and good relationships are formed.
If possible schedule ‘open door’ time and let the team know you are open to interruption for important matters.
4. Avoiding difficult discussions – Tom read lots of leadership books, he frequently talked about candour and 'being open' to the team; yet when it came to addressing an ‘elephant in the room’, he remained silent.
A great leader steps into the discomfort because they care about each and every individual on their team; they know feedback is important and good for development.
When you duck the issues, you demonstrate that you don’t care. To coin a great quote from an awesome client… “Candour is caring”.
5. Failing to communicate – There were many unanswered questions with Tom’s team. Withholding information, not responding or failing to explain why changes were happening caused tremendous angst and caused rumours to start.
It is said that when people don’t know what is happening, they make it up. Quite literally assumptions begin to flow and we draw conclusions from anything unusual – why is that person in the office, why haven’t we heard what is going on, why was he working late, did you notice [insert obscure ideas].
When change is afoot, it is best to share what you can as soon as you can, even if it’s ‘I don’t know, yet, but I’m going to find out and keep you posted’. Just make certain you follow through!
6. Being phoney – No one on Tom’s team felt he was very genuine; he tried to make himself out to be a bit too perfect; at least that is what they all perceived.
You don’t have to be a NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) expert to read sincerity in body language; we all can see when you’re faking it a mile away.
Some leaders mistakenly feel they need to portray a certain image of themselves to be revered by others. Unfortunately it can come off as cold and calculated, leaving the team suspicious about who you really are and what you really think. No one trusts a faker.
Be sincere, straightforward and humble enough to let your team know you need their help and you don’t know everything. Be the kind of person we all want to work with…the real you.
The story above is 100% true (name wasn’t Tom though). In fact, there are at least a half a dozen ‘Tom’s” and “Tomasinas” I’ve worked with who have much the same habits.
Sadly most are terribly unaware how they are perceived.
So What You Can Do - Self Assess
If you think your credibility could be in question, I have good news for you. You can practice How to Be a Credible Leader and put an end to bad habits immediately.
Additionally, take time to self assess:
Ask yourself these three questions regularly to examine how you’re doing.
Next, ask others. Consider asking your team the same questions during your 1:1 meetings. Listen closely to ‘how’ they answer, look for clues to what needs to improve.
What to Watch For
No amount of excuses or blame can undo the bad reputation you create, whether you like it or not. HOW you follow through and ‘show up’ has a direct reflection on your leadership credibility.
Word spreads quickly when your leadership credibility is in question.
Other departments hear about it, potential recruits avoid applying to your team and you lose your most valuable team members. Clients (internal or external) pick up on your habits too, they question your sincerity, work around you and avoid interactions or worse, it can cost you business or promotion and sometimes even your job.
Don’t be like Tom
We've created a free poster for you on How to Be a Credible Leader!
Download your own copy today!
To avoid losing credibility, become more self-aware, step into the uncomfortable to learn more about how you are perceived – it takes an open mind and a vulnerable spirit to check your blind spots. Consider working with a leadership coach who can help you explore this further, when you’re ready.
Let a positive leadership reputation precede you with every interaction, be true to your word, show up, be real, communicate as much as you can, and give credit as a practice. Make these your regular habits and you’ll be well on your way to strengthening your credibility.
Are you curious about what your team really thinks about you?
Most times they will open up to third party when discussions are conducted in full confidence. Please keep me in mind if you’d like a trusted leadership consultant to dig a little deeper with you and your team!
Hey did you hear? Prime Minister Trudeau admitted there was an ‘erosion of trust’ occurring in his office; he was unaware of it (based on what came out in the recent Canadian justice committee inquiry). Imagine his disappointment to find that people did not feel comfortable coming to him with concerns.
Well sadly, he is not alone, many leaders realize a little late that there are issues or an underground culture (where they are excluded) in their workplace. It may not come to light until exit interviews, employee surveys or worse, formal complaints.
There may be hints that you're being left out, despite having an 'open door policy' :
You already know that it is the leader's responsibility to create an atmosphere where people feel safe to be forthright and candid. But to maintain the openness, your team need to know:
The good news is there are things you can do to create more of a trusting environment where people will keep you in the loop!
7 Ways to Develop More Openness & Trust
1. Show You Are Open to Different Views
Encourage your team to bring forward a different perspective than yours, welcome it... often. Why not hold meetings where you deliberately poke holes in plans; promoting debate to differ and discuss deliberately. Hone in on healthy scepticism focused at making things better.
Caution: Your role would be to probe, ask for more information and demonstrate interest vs convince them of your way.
2. Really Listen
Practice active listening by reframing what you hear when people open up in meetings or within the office, illustrating that you understand their point. Resist inferring your own ideas or disagreement which may shut them down or cause them to do an 'end run' around you.
Caution: These are times for you to listen and encourage, not squash!
3. Be Interested in Them as People
Get to know each of your team members more personally. A great way to develop good relationship is understanding where people come from, what their family situation is like and what they do on the weekends. Show that you care about them by celebrating their work anniversary and/or birthdays (with permission).
Caution: You are not their best friend, be interested but not involved in their life!
4. Lose the Labels
Avoid putting a label on anyone. Some mistakenly tag people as a troublemaker, not a team player, or loud-mouth when they are a vocal team member. Speaking negatively about others creates a lack of safety to speak up. It also appears disrespectful and judgemental when overheard.
Caution: Careful not to name-call bosses, clients or your peers either
5. Participate in a 360 Feedback Assessment
Show your team that you are interested in what they think about you as a leader. Then openly and humbly share insights that you discover. Be sure to say thank you! If you've already had one, reflect on what you learned? How healthy is communication in your workplace?
Caution: Do not negate any feedback by assuming you know who it came from!
6. Be Available
I hear 'my boss is too busy to meet' all the time these days! Don't be that person. Show your people you make them a priority. Protect meeting times in your schedule without cutting them short. Put your phone down, leave the computer alone and don’t bring either along when meeting with them. When you say your door is open it means leave the door figuratively and literally open and that you will MAKE time for them!
Caution: Your actions speak louder than words!
7. Remain Professional at All Times
Remember, as a leader, you are being watched by your team. This means paying attention to how you act both inside and outside of work hours. Avoid sharing awkward personal information and negative opinions about the company – these can erode trust or repel working relationships.
Caution: If you go out for drinks with your team, careful you don’t drink too much!
Don't get caught off guard! To avoid hearing about issues after the fact, keep working on the kind of environment that is inclusive and open to differences. This is what builds a strong healthy team! The more you listen, learn and demonstrate your own trust, the more likely they’ll include you in their triumphs and their troubles.
Reach out to me if you struggle with a team that has cut you out. I offer a number of custom solutions to help teams to reconnect and open up!
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These days, with all the tools we have available, we are far more connected and capable of staying in touch than ever before!
So don’t you find it a bit ironic that in today’s workplaces, lack of communication remains one of the biggest issues for employees? Regardless of the industry or size of company!
Here’s the thing - if your team doesn’t feel heard, they don’t understand the direction of the company, never get constructive feedback, or they don’t think you care about them as a person, then why would they give you their best work?
Every one of those ‘misses’ can be remedied simply by taking steps to form a better connection with your team.
It’s More Than Words
Communication, when it does occur, may be missing the mark altogether! Between abbreviated texts and messaging, overwhelming volume of email or the ever brief, on-the-fly meetings these days, communication and connection is deteriorating, especially at work.
To further complicate our ability to communicate is the fact that most of us hear (absorb) less than 10% of what is actually spoken!
According to the Mehrabian Theory we attribute more meaning of a message through body language, facial expression, tone and pace of the conversation than that of the actual words voiced – hence why texts, messages, email and even phone messages can be misconstrued!
So ask yourself - how likely is it that YOU are communicating most effectively for your message to be received the way you intend it?
Using the scenario below, I’ll demonstrate my 7-step method to build rapport so you can improve every interaction!
Scenario - Disconnected Team
Team members, who report to your managers, have told you they feel disconnected lately. They claim that most one-on-one meetings with their manager(s) are being cancelled, and when they do happen it’s a quick download of one-way directives of what to get done, versus real conversation.
As a result, they feel excluded in the overall success of the department and don’t see the opportunity to learn, grow or develop. You sense a few are looking to leave the group or worse, the company.
You believe manager’s (on your team) need to involve their teams in problem solving vs giving orders and begin having development-focused one-on-one’s with each person (at all levels), at least once a quarter to rebuild a positive workplace.
What Not to Do
Even though it may seem the quickest ways, please don’t just call a meeting of your direct reports to tell them to start having one on one meetings focusing on development.
Just like their team members, they too will tune out being given a directive and may even take it out on their teams for speaking up, further complicating the problem.
7 Step Method For Communicating To Connect
While these steps may seem lengthy, it actually takes only a couple of minutes to practice and tailor to your circumstance.
Here are the steps:
1. Prepare - consider your audience and check yourself. Think about what is important to you and why, and how might they view it?
2. Create a ‘safe’ environment – remember to praise in public, criticize in private
3. Lead with open-ended questions – question for clarity about their view of the situation and gather their input
4. Meet them ‘where they are at’, before diving in – use their viewpoint to build on. Putting yourself in their shoes shows you’ve heard them (it also demonstrates empathy)
5. Take time to establish a personal connection – consider the challenges they speak about and build rapport by showing you understand how they feel, validate their perspective (this is not a feedback sandwich)
6. When delivering candid feedback, be tough, not mean – show that you genuinely care about them as a person and expect a change to occur
7. Be clear, direct and provide specifics
Remember: Its All About Them
The same steps will work for any topic, particularly powerful for sensitive issues; the key is paying close attention, hearing their perspective, demonstrating you want their success and being clear about the outcomes that are needed.
Communication serves as the foundation for a positive employee experience for all of us. As a leader when you demonstrate support both through your words AND non-verbal interaction, your team will feel more valued and heard.
Taking time to get to know others and developing an understanding of their communication styles provides a platform to connect on a more personal level. This also creates stronger, more cohesive working relationships where difficult subjects can be discussed and dealt with efficiently.
Help Is Available
To gather insights on your team’s communication styles there are a variety of tools available (ie assessments, questioning techniques) feel free to reach out if you need help to find the right approach to connect and communicate in your workplace.
I will never forget the first time I received tough feedback. I was managing a government-funded employment centre at the time.
While working on a tight deadline to implement a new computer system, I was surprised when the Director called me to come to her office ASAP.
She told me my peer (Margaret, who I worked with every day) had raised a concern that needed to be addressed immediately. Margaret felt ‘intimidated’ by me and I made her uncomfortable. Instantly I became defensive – why didn’t she talk to me, what did I do, where was this coming from? Me… intimidating?
Margaret said I was impatient and judgmental, pushing her to explain how things were done. She felt I didn’t respect the work she and the team did and that I just wanted to ‘change everything’. It became obvious she didn’t know what I was doing; she was missing the context for why I needed information and how I was using it.
I felt bad that my actions were seen as overbearing but it was a pivotal moment. From then on I took more time to listen and explain before rushing ahead; I brought Margaret along as a partner. In the end, we formed a terrific working relationship and created a great new system!
Looking back, it was that tough feedback that helped me learn about my own direct style and how to flex my approach with others who were indirect.
While I can relate to what it feels like to receive tough feedback, I truly value the awareness you develop because of it. This is why I always recommend people become aware of their own style. You grow so much when you connect with people who are different than you.
Candour and Feedback Makes a Better Workplace
In today’s workplaces we often refrain from saying what needs to be said for a variety of reasons, we:
Feedback, the Breakfast of Champions
When someone cares enough to give honest, constructive feedback in a clear and helpful way it helps the individual grow and become more self-aware – just as I did. Yet according to Harvard Business Review, we actually all want the negative feedback you hate to give!
I’m not talking about the positive nice feedback here; I’m referring to candid and sometimes difficult to hear ‘real stuff’, often shielded from more senior leaders as you rise in an organization.
Cultivating a positive environment where it is safe to give and receive feedback openly begins with you, the leader. You set the tone by modelling trust and openness in every interaction, encouraging others to share their differing views.
Seek and Ye Shall Find
In each workshop I’ve done about feedback or candour it’s been surprising how few leaders ever received tough or candid feedback over their career! So it is no wonder they aren’t comfortable giving tough feedback to their team!
So how do you start to develop an environment for tougher feedback? You actually begin by asking!
How to Get to The Tough Stuff
Given the reluctance listed above, you may find it difficult to get open, candid feedback. Here are 5 things you can do to get people to open up:
It takes a little focus but based on my experience, candour is your best bet to creating the most highly engaged, super-charged high-performance teams!
Drop me a note when you’re looking for help to gather, receive or act on feedback! I conduct sessions with teams to uncover what issues are causing the most frustrations as well as coach leaders who want to stretch and improve.
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I get it! Difficult people on your team can zap your energy ‘getting on your nerves,’ making it a pain to work with them. Well guess what, I’m here to tell you that pretty much every difficult person you will ever lead, can be a great asset; you may even find them not so difficult after all!
This series has been dedicated to helping you figure out how to tap into hidden potential of difficult types and minimize the frustration:
- Part one when you’re challenged with a “The Know All” (TKA)
- Part two for the blow it up Revolutionary type (TNT) or
- Part three the Take No Prisoners (TNP) personality type
To wrap up the series, I’m going to help you with one seldom discussed, often misunderstood and a very draining style to work with… the Constant Critic (TCC)!
You know this type; they tend to be appear very negative. Just like Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh) who constantly points out the negative in every move. They don’t cause big drama but they do seem reluctant to get onboard with anything new, usually based on some prior experience.
The Constant Critic profile:
Meet Pete – “Mr. Quiet Dissonance”
Pete (name changed) has an accounting background and works as a Director, Strategic Planning & Performance for a large Retailer. He's been an executive for 5 years but has been with the company for over 20. The 3 people who report to him quite enjoy working with him.
He reports to Marnie (not her real name), VP Business Performance who was recently promoted. Marnie and I have been working together on improving her direct team’s collaboration and she asked for help with Pete, in particular.
Pete is commonly referred to as the ‘company historian’ and has lived through a couple of mergers, several name changes as well as take over from a US-based company.
Marnie was forewarned that Pete seemed disengaged before she took on the team.
Pete is a great example of the Constant Critic personality type!
The good news is Pete responded positively to Marnie as soon as she began implementing strategies we spoke about.
Her action plan included:
At this point, her focus is on developing more of a trusted relationship, and that maybe all it takes.
Marnie's increased interest in his experience seems to have had a positive impact already; the team has noticed Pete becoming more participatory – no more crossed arms in meetings and some have even commented about him being more sociable.
The benefit of having a TCC on your team – great devils advocate, can help you develop persuasive arguments, often sees a different perspective and helps to reflect on pending plans. Often they have learned from past mistakes, can be a historian with very helpful information to draw upon.
The key to leading a TCC – remain positive, redirect negativity, stick to facts and data that support positive outcomes. Help them see the impact of their behaviour on others if it becomes a problem. Ask the TCC to reframe their initial reaction toward a more positive response.
Caution leading a TCC – do not get pulled into negativity. Limit how much time you give when they become negative.
For every difficult type of person, there is a way of changing YOUR perspective about what contribution they bring to your team. It may take a little effort, but drawing upon unique perspectives can be a competitive edge for your team.
If you are dealing with a difficult person on your team (or even your boss) and you’d like help to figure out how to communicate better with them, send me an email. There are just as many strategies as there are difficult personality types!
Can you see a bit of yourself in Pete? Have you been 'shutting down' at work, avoiding colleagues or find yourself to be increasingly contrary?
You may be a Constant Critic or are heading that way.
Time to reflect on how negative you may appear to others:
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According to Gallup State of the Global Workplace, 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their job.
“The low percentages of engaged employees represent a barrier to creating high performing cultures around the world. They imply a stunning amount of wasted potential.”
Wasted potential. How that phrase resonates with me!
Death by Administration
I'm sad to say, I was one of the walking ‘wasted potential’ not too many years ago. It was a dark and miserable time. My employer was doing a massive restructure, removing spans and levels of management and it was my job, as the HR lead, to implement it for my division.
Unfortunately the process they undertook was more of a spreadsheet exercise, versus strategic. So the work I loved and excelled at suddenly switched from senior level advisory work to a massive load of mundane administrative tasks Every. Single. Day. , and it went on for months.
This kind of work was my worst nightmare and even though it is hard to admit..I have never been very good at mind-numbing administrative work. It just wasn't the right work for me. What a complete waste!
People can’t thrive when they are doing the wrong work. It devalues them, misuses talents and creates unnecessary pressure.
During stress-filled change, leaders can fall asleep at the helm; too busy ducking for cover, they completely overlook the signs of utter disengagement around them.
Don’t waste your best resources like that; you will surely lose your highest potential people when you don’t pay attention.
A great way to stem the tide of employee disengagement is to tap into the abilities of EACH and every person on your team. Get people doing the right work utilizing their best skills, long before a change occurs.
According to Gallup's survey analytics it is your high potential talent that will take a walk if they are not engaged, long before the others. These top talent are the experts to learn from!
Here is what top talent say will help keep them:
The best leaders demonstrate they care about each and every team member by taking an interest. They pay attention, particularly during stressful times, leveraging potential vs wasting it. They make it a practice to develop potential, all the time. They allocate work in a way that plays to their people’s strength and they keep them connected to the bigger picture.
When you demonstrate YOUR engagement, harnessing the potential of your best and brightest, you are guaranteed better results for highly engaged employees.
If you have a disengaged team (or team member) or are leading through stressful times and need support, I’m only an email away! I help leaders grow and develop by working with them through the toughest of times. I offer a 30-minute free consult.
I want to hear from you, tell me about your own experience in the reply section below.
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It could be you’ve heard of others being let go; you’ve seen a shake up at the top leadership levels or you suspect your new boss is really here to restructure. Any of these scenarios can make you uneasy about your own job stability. And once the anxiety sets in, it can affect your normal ability to focus, make you dread every unexpected meeting or just make getting up to go to work, feel miserable.
Given the percentage of our life we spend at work, this ongoing negative stress can be bad for your health so it is worth finding productive techniques to take back control.
If you are one of those people sensing impending doom, I’m here to say relax, don’t let it unnerve you. Instead let me show you how to actually take full advantage of it.
While I can’t guarantee you won’t be on the chopping block, I can help you reframe your mindset and give you hope for a much more positive outlook. Simply by learning how to Duck, Prepare to 'Jet' and/or get ready to make a Career Pivot!
Here is how ‘Duck’ worked for one of my corporate clients:
I’ll call her Eileen; Eileen had a new boss, a bossy boss with a big ego, who she didn’t see eye-to-eye with.
My advice was this - get on with the work, don’t act in an artificial way, just keep the focus on doing a good job. It wasn’t always easy. Eileen asked clarifying questions to understand what her boss wanted and then delivered accordingly. She gave the boss no cause to centre her out, no angry or emotional outbursts – she kept her head down and managed her emotions. (We would often debrief after the tough days).
We found that when she focused on only what her manager asked for, it became much easier for her to cope day-to-day. This gave her personal control. She controlled her reaction, her output, and her thoughts. The goal was to deliver, and deliver she did!
Only those close to her ever knew the true feelings of doubt and worry. She is a great example of how positively shifting your state of mind gives you the ability to work through job stress. She proved to me that anyone could overcome the dread just by changing your mindset!
This concept not only reduced stress for few years until the boss moved on, but she said it taught her to become more focused and action oriented.
Every Exit is an Entry Somewhere
The other strategy is to get ready to 'jet' (aka. leave, exit, vamoose, hit the road). This means ACCEPT that you are going to go, stop worrying about it and begin your own transition now…while you’re still working!
I always tell my clients “you have the gift of time so lets use it to your own benefit.” Think of it as extra paid time to regroup, plan and prepare for your next move.
Here are some action steps I suggest to create change, on your own terms:
Create an action list with target dates to be done by:
This mind shift is a game changer to overcome the oppressive feeling of dread. You invest in yourself and take back some time. If all goes really well, you’ll receive a nice little severance package AND start your new job shortly thereafter. Or you may land a great job before they send you packing – either way is a positive outcome!
Consider a PIVOT!
Treat this as a defining moment in your career where you sit back, take stock and re-evaluate what YOU want for your future. It’s the perfect time to consider an intentional career change in a completely different direction!
Maybe there are departments you’ve had a yearning to join but never had the courage to apply? Perhaps you may have been thinking of starting your own business, or you’ve had a side hustle that you should consider if you can do it full-time?
I’ve had clients take this opportunity to plan to return to school, become certified in a speciality or finish higher level education that later jettisoned them on to a successful new chapter in their life.
Regardless of where the pivotal change takes you it usually needs a catalyst to push you over the edge and make that wishful change happen. Turning the dread into a meaningful plan can make all the difference.
Need a Career Lifeline?
I’ve supported several leaders through this uncertainty, waiting for the day they will be let go. I’ve also sat on the other side, breaking the news of downsizing to quite a few people and I can say with 100% confidence that everyone finds a new path and 9.8/10 times they end up happier than before.
Rather than let the worry drag you down or make you sick, I say shift your thinking to make it work for you! The big trick is finding ways to take back control, accept change quickly – better yet, embrace it!
If you find yourself stuck and want to work with a professional to review your options, create a personalized career plan, hold you accountable or give you candid feedback, advice and insight, give me a call or send me an email! I offer a 30-minute free consultation.
Regardless of the scenario that has you anxious or worrying about job loss, I’d love to help you ‘connect the dots’ for the next phase in your career!
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Sitting together at a big oak table, in her spacious corner office on the 24th floor overlooking Bay and Wellington Streets in Toronto, my well-respected client asked me to help her map out the next steps in her career. She felt stuck; almost embarrassed that she was misaligned to her career after all it took to get there. Proof that even when you reach the coveted C-suite, you can still feel discontented or unfulfilled in your job.
Most people associate their sense of self and identity with the work they do and paycheque they make. You can see how difficult it would be to determine where to make the next move when you find yourself in this situation.
Where to Begin
I often suggest watching a TED Talk by Adam Leipzig, called How to Learn Your Life's Purpose in 5 Minutes. One of most popular TED Talks of all time, with more than 8.5 million views. In less than 10 minutes Adam provides 5 key questions to help identify your life’s purpose. It’s a great start to expanding your view on what you should do to give you fulfillment.
I use a variety of introspective tools as well as questioning techniques with my clients. If you feel stuck, or in a fog you’ll find a snippet of questions below that can begin to clear your view. This reflective exercise activates ideas, narrowing in on clues you can use to reimagine a more rewarding career or job.
Many of us are forced to make life-long choices selecting education specialties or career direction with minimal information about who we are and what we are best at. Seldom are we given tools to help identify what path to take.
Caught up in the tsunami of life and career, it sweeps you along without much time for reflection. In fact, sometimes it takes years of doing the wrong thing before it really dawns on you that you’re way off base!
Few can afford to leave their job to experiment and dabble in other fields to figure out where the right place is; instead you need a solid plan with a process to follow. What I’ve found best is to carve out time for self-reflection and introspection. Then seek feedback and dig into your strengths, doing this opens you up to connect with your calling.
YOUR CALLING = the intersection between doing what you love and the ability to make money doing it!
Who AM I Really?
The answer to the right place for most people is typically tied to who they are and have always been. There are trails of evidence that you can relate to when you go through this exercise. Similar to Adam’s Ted Talk these questions help you uncover what you’re meant to do.
Connect the Dots
While it seems a simple exercise, this reflection actually takes work to gather and time to contact and listen to as many people as you can.
It is vital that you remain open to hear feedback without judgement. Take notes, ask clarifying questions and avoid judging or defending. I always say feedback is a gift! So just accept whatever points people share and say thank you, graciously.
Armed with this information, you will find some obvious clues to connect the dots for what you are meant to be doing. The key to success in the future lies in leveraging your very best traits and skills while focusing on areas you’ve had the most enjoyment and impact to others. Impact to others is a crucial piece of data few ever collect. Service to others, or making a positive impact is a critical building block to most people’s work contentment.
From here brainstorm, look at what you can change in your current job to better align with your purpose. But also look for project work, roles, departments, or other industries and your network for potential opportunities to consider. The path isn’t always immediately obvious. Some people stay within their job working on the side with charities, volunteering or mentoring others or contributing to the greater good in other ways.
Craft an action plan to network further, identify potential jobs that leverage what you’ve done so far, look at independent work or other businesses where you can fully utilize all that makes you unique.
If you find yourself struggling in a job that leaves you feeling undervalued, and want assistance from a leadership coach to help guide you , provide feedback and gain clarity with accountability to follow through, please send me an email! Or if you’d like to delve deeper into who you are and what makes you tick, please reach out. It would be a privilege for me to help you find work you love!
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By now, you’ve surely read the news that Steve Bannon, the ever-controversial White House Chief Strategist was let go after just 7 months in office. He joins Anthony Scaramucci who was fired (or removed from office) after a mere 10 days on the job as White House Communications Director. The ‘Mooch’, as he liked to be referred to, was quick to show his true colours within a few short days on the job with inappropriate comments and bombastic tirades.
While the White House may have substantially different hiring/firing practices than many businesses, these departures underscore why ANY company should act fast when an employee–particularly those who hold a position of trust - damage the reputation of a business, or presents them with ‘cause’ to terminate.
But did you know, you can actually fire anyone, anytime–with or without cause?
Yes, let that sink in for a moment…
You can fire anyone. Yes, even in Canada! BUT don’t get ahead of yourself…there can be consequences and ramifications for doing so, depending on what led to the decision and how well you managed it.
If you fail to treat the employee appropriately, you could face all sorts of trouble and/or additional expense. For instance:
I’ve worked with many leaders in different industries (both big and small) to plan terminations, and in most cases they were extremely conflicted about making the final call. Let’s face it; this is not an easy thing to do. You wonder if you have enough information to back yourself up, you question if you’ve ever said or done anything inappropriate that could later ‘bite you in the butt’ and you worry about what to say on that dreaded day–the day you actually let them go.
Whether it is a directive from the top of corporate to downsize your team or it is a lingering performance or behaviour issue, letting someone go is one of the hardest actions you will ever have to take as a manager. And so it should be. I always say if you don’t feel a little sick inside when affecting the life of someone else then you really shouldn’t be a people manager.
That said, there are times where you know very well that somebody needs to go – and as aggravating or grueling as it may seem to be, there are some very important things you should consider before you ‘pull the trigger’. Lets call it CYOA! (cover-your-own-ass)
So how do you CYOA?
Long before you have that tough conversation, it’s important to consider if you’ve covered yourself properly. Have you:
1. Been fair?
Do you have favourites on your team, or are there people who you don’t really like? If I spoke to others on the team, would they tell me they’ve observed a lack of fairness with this person? How did you arrive at a decision for this person to leave and how fair did you apply these selection criteria across the team? Have you let others with the same performance level or behavioural issues remain on the team or did you provide all of them with the same type of feedback and given similar chances to improve but this one individual hasn’t measured up? If I can find out you were not fair in treating this employee, you can bet the court can too!
2. Been consistent?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard how terrible an employee’s performance is, only to read their previous reviews–all of which were glowing. Do not assume an employee just ‘knows’ when they are not performing because you think you’ve told them. It is your responsibility as the manager to ensure the issues have been clearly expressed, both verbally and in writing with a clear-cut plan to improve. This plan becomes your supporting ‘back-me-up’ information. At the very least, be sure to document stern conversations by sending a follow up email after your meetings to reinforce what you’ve spoken about and include the steps required to improve. Now, I have a test for you… pull out all of your notes/emails or reviews to this person over the past year, and re-read them as though you’re the lawyer defending this case. Does your evidence support the termination? Have you been consistent with your feedback and directions; will this information reinforce your case? Or is it wishy-washy and non-specific? When you say one thing verbally, but record it differently in performance reviews and/or emails, the written information will be taken as the truth every. single. time!
3. Provided ample opportunity to improve?
Everyone deserves to be given a chance to improve–yes, everyone! I have heard many leaders tell me somebody ‘just has to go’, but when asked, it becomes apparent no one gave the employee clear feedback with an opportunity to improve within a realistic time period. If challenged legally, you’ll have to show the proof that you gave the person helpful, specific feedback on what needed to change, and how to improve--within a reasonable timeframe. So ask yourself–did you give them adequate feedback? Did you provide clear actions they need to take within realistic time period – did you create a performance improvement plan? If not, now’s the time to do it!
4. Provided training or progressive discipline?
If the issue is a ‘skill gap’ you need to show that you’ve provided the employee with adequate training to acquire the right skill level.
However, if it is a behavioural/attitudinal issue, the only way to help someone change is to provide him or her with progressive discipline in a formalized way – some may call it performance coaching or corrective action. When I say formalized, I mean well-documented (notice a theme emerging?) keeping track of meeting dates, a summary of each circumstance/situation, and a record of feedback (provided to the employee) so that there’s a trail of the intensifying consequences. In formalized progressive discipline you use formal warnings, beginning with simple verbal warning to correct the behaviour, escalating the consequences according to your company discipline policy (if you don’t have one, you should create one… pronto).
‘Three strikes you’re out’ may not be necessary or on the other hand, it may not be sufficient; it really depends on the seriousness of the wrongdoing, the situation, the history of the individual and whether there were any justifying circumstances or not. Most progressive discipline practices use these culminating stages: verbal warning, formal letter of warning, suspension and then termination. It is really important you follow through with an action each and every time they act inappropriately. And again, you have to conduct yourself the same way with all employees.
Tip: The test I use to know the difference between a skill gap or a behavioural issue is to ask, “If you paid them a million dollars, could they do this correctly?” If the answer is no, then it is likely a skill gap and training is required. If the answer is yes, then chances are you have a behavioural/attitudinal issue on your hands.
5. Treated them with respect?
Of course, you likely know this is important while they work for you to treat them with respect, but did you know it’s equally as important after they no longer work with you? If after someone leaves an organization they can prove you were talking disrespectfully about them or their performance to someone who had no right to know, the organization may face defamation claims in addition to wrongful dismissal suit. Limit discussing negative qualities about any colleagues or team members at any time–the less said, the better! Only management/HR of the employee should be involved with these discussions. This kind of gossip can not only cause legal issues, but also trust issues with other team members, as they begin to wonder if you talk about them in the same way behind their back.
The bottom line is this–you can avoid most wrongful dismissal lawsuits and/or Human Rights violations when:
It may seem onerous to have to complete performance improvement plans, provide verbal and written warnings, have performance/behaviour coaching sessions, keep desk notes and provide follow up emails, but these are your best tools to help you CYOA. It’s absolutely critical that you be in control the information that could be used against you.
When you’re dealing with an employee with difficult behaviour or you’re at the end of your rope and are about to let someone go, book me for a consultation. I have tips and tools to help you get organized and I have 25+ years experience helping leaders plan and prepare for the ‘dreaded meeting’–including their follow up discussions with the rest of the team.
And to help make sure you properly CYOA, I will challenge you with tough questions to help you move forward. After all, wouldn’t you rather it be me asking as opposed to the courts?
You’ve been there–it could be a pain-in-the-butt colleague, a trouble-making employee, or worse, a devil-boss who makes your workday absolute torture! Regardless of who they are, they likely all have this one thing in common…nasty bullying behaviour.
Sadly, if you don’t find ways to manage it, the stress may cause your health to decline, you disengage from work resulting in your performance taking a hit or you have the sudden urge to quit because you simply have no other way out.
Dealing with a workplace bully wears us all down. Repeated over time, you may actually believe what they say, sparking self-doubt and eroding your self-esteem. They yearn for this power and as such, once they’ve set their sights on you, they do what they can to take you down.
I’ve helped several clients rise above these difficult people. It takes a little bit of work but in the end, they feel a sense of accomplishment once they triumph!
It’s important to note that if what you are dealing with is an extreme case of bullying or a possible harassment case, there are Human Rights laws to protect you. Handling those situations requires a formal process. The Ministry of Labour (Ontario) provides guidance to both employers and employees regarding these laws in my province.
What I’m talking about today are the scenarios where someone is staying within the bounds of the law, but making it unpleasant for you to work with them. These people know how to get at you but management may not see it, may choose to ignore it, or it just may not be bad enough for you to want to raise a big fuss.
The Bully Profile
These nasty people often share similar characteristics, they:
So what CAN you do to battle this kind of unpleasantness? Lets look at some simple tactics to disarm these bullies and take back your own power:
1. Let them shine
It may seem counterintuitive but people who are problematic are typically seeking some kind of attention.
Take time to assess this person’s underlying insecurity; ask yourself the following questions to become aware of what is really going on:
With this information in mind, look for a moment to praise them when they do something you can comfortably acknowledge: “Jane had a good point”, “Jane was absolutely right, ‘Thank you Jane for xxx” “Jane I quite liked xxx”.
These comments begin to neutralize their need to be nasty because their own esteem rises.
However, it’s important that you approach this genuinely. Don’t do it if you don’t really feel it or it will come off as disingenuous and inflame them further.
Giving them the limelight is a powerful tool and it works in most situations.
2. Use the power of Aikido
If you haven’t heard of it before, Aikido is actually a form of martial arts. Yet, it is non-threatening and doesn’t use force.
In fact, what makes Aikido so effective is that it removes aggression from an adversary by yielding to his/her force in a way that they end up only hurting themselves. For instance, imagine stepping out of the way as someone tries to strike you–the attacker would likely fall down, hurting only themselves.
Mean people are easily unsettled when you DON'T react the way they are expecting. Because most of these people have very low self-esteem, their actions come from a place of insecurity; they lash out or belittle to make themselves feel better.
To use an ‘Aikido-like’ reaction:
3. Find your inner comic
Instead of letting these people get under your skin, find a way to make light of their behaviour. I have seen really great leaders deal with some very annoying people simply by making a quick thinking remark. For instance, in the case of an employee continuously interrupting a meeting, the leader might say, “Slow down there speedy, I’m driving this meeting”.
If it’s your boss who’s pushing your buttons, this can be a bit trickier but you can still make light of their nasty comments. Laugh out loud and say something like, “Oh, for a moment I thought you were calling me an idiot–that’s a good one”.
It may not immediately come to you in the moment, so after an interaction has happened, consider things you could say next time. The AMA has a great article on how to have the last laugh, worth a read! Try to avoid insults as you don’t want to stoop to their level–I’m talking about making light of their comment so you take back control.
4. Call them on the behaviour
We naturally try to defend ourselves or strike back when mean people put us down or make a condescending comment. These people have become experts at making others look second-rate so that they can feel superior. That is where they draw strength.
If you can’t ignore their comments, respond firmly with a response that exposes the behaviour, “That sounded like a put-down”. It usually holds a mirror up to the individual and catches them off guard.
Most of these people won’t want to ‘look bad’ in front of others and a public call-out will make them uncomfortable enough to switch gears.
Over time, this tactic can actually help them with their own self-awareness.
5. Nip it in the bud: stage an intervention
This approach takes a great deal of courage and I recommend doing this with support. Book a face-to-face meeting with the difficult person and address their behaviour head-on when you are cool-headed.
Be sure to have several specific examples at the ready. Make sure your discussion is done in a way to help them understand the affect they have on others. Conduct this meeting in private; clarify what the issue is as factually as possible and set out a plan to fix the problem offering support and guidance.
Let them know how these behaviours are making you or your team feel. Use ‘I’ or ‘I feel’ messages. For instance, “I feel embarrassed when I’m called out in a meeting in front of others”, or, “I feel disrespected when I am constantly interrupted in meetings”.
‘I feel’ messages usually resonate better because the other person is not put on the defensive–no one can deny your own feelings. If you have internal HR support, they can assist you in this discussion. If not, then consider bringing in external support to help you plan this discussion and to be present during the meeting.
Don’t let nasty people ruin your work experience. Approach them as though they have a problem and don’t let it be your problem anymore.
Typically they have developed this behaviour over many years but no one has called them on it. It is possible for them to change, but it takes work on their behalf as well as yours.
Most great companies have formal policies to reinforce values for treating people with respect. This is great for employees, but what about you as a leader?
Check out our additional posts that deal with bad behaviour like bullying at work:
- 6 Strategies for Dealing with Difficult People
- Difficult People or Competitive Edge - The Constant Critic
- Difficult People orCompetitive Edge - Take No Prisoners
If you’re dealing with colleagues or team members who are disrespectful to you, I’m here to help. I can arm you with proven practices to help you manage through the tough stuff. Send me an email or give me a call today, I offer a 30 minute free consultation!
Well you’ve made it to Part 4 of our series, Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up! So far we covered the foundational phases of building a kick-ass team, including the the ‘Start Up’ Phase , the ‘Building the Team Identity’ Phase and the ‘Bust Through the Barriers’ Phase. Now, your team is in ‘the flow’ and it’s time to make an important leadership shift!
As a people leader, once your team has reached this stage of maturity you’ll find yourself being needed in a different way. Let’s explore what you can do to ‘amp up’ your team’s success during what I like to call…the ‘Kum Ba Yes’ phase!
Kum Ba Yes! Phase
Did you ever go to summer camp, sit around the campfire and sing Kumbahyah? Maybe I’m dating myself. It symbolized the moment when a group of virtual strangers became friends as they were far away from home and surviving together. That is where the The 'Kum Ba Yes!' Phase gets its name. This phase is a time in your team’s development where people are getting along, they’re joined together, they know what their doing – they’ve become a real team!
You’ll know you’ve reached this phase when you begin seeing signs that your team is operating effectively:
For the most part, you should see your people getting along, helping one another to problem solve and working towards departmental goals – productivity should be on the rise!
So what should you do now that the team seems to need less of you? Well, your leadership challenge is to move from being “directive” (taking control) to “observational”. The idea here is to let up on the reins, trust and empower your team to operate with minimal intervention while guiding quietly from the sidelines. This will not only help strengthen individuals on your team, but it will also help to improve your overall team dynamic.
Let’s take a look at some actions you can take to help strengthen your emerging Kick-Ass team during the 'Kum Ba Yes!' Phase:
1. Set Up ‘What’s Your Jam?’ Discussions – this is a good time to encourage individuals to stretch themselves to build new skills and find development toward longer-term career goals. By demonstrating an interest in their future your peeps will see you are here to support them, not just to get the work done but to help them grow.
Meet with your people one-on-one to discuss their development plans. Yes, I’m talking even if you have a team of 30! Take a half hour to discuss their individual development – no not performance, their development (there is a difference). The focus should be on the individual and their career aspiration. What activities have been most interesting? What are their strengths? What are their career goals? Where do they see themselves in the future? And what steps are they currently taking? Then, determine a plan for how can you help them move forward. Don’t know what to ask at their ‘Jam Session’ - Check out this online guide.
2. Build It Up – book time quarterly with your whole team to depart from work and focus on building relationships! If you have budget, consider bringing in an external consultant to take you through a workshop on behavioural styles and communicating. If not, you can also incorporate easy and fun activities into other meetings such as when you have a project review or an all-hands update.
Any activities that encourage learning about each other, working on a non-work initiative or fun experiential activities will strengthen the community of the team.
3. Feedback Gift Giving – I always say feedback is a gift, not sure who I heard that from. You can either accept it or decide to put it on the shelf and disregard it. All of us want to receive feedback from our manager to know how we are doing, but feedback doesn’t only have to come from the boss!
If you as the leader create an environment where your people feel safe and they trust each other, you can encourage open candid dialogue. This allows each team member to provide insights, reactions and suggestions to one another, which creates a culture of seeking and giving feedback – it’s a powerful tool! Recognize and support your team members when they make a point of acknowledging or provide constructive feedback. As mentioned in Part 3 Bust Through the Barriers phase I suggest carving out time at routine meetings to seek 'shout outs' to build a supportive, 'safe' work environment.
Kick-Ass Team Tip - Pay Attention to Millennials
In Gallup’s report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live it outlines that in today’s workplaces, our latest working generation are not getting enough feedback even when they ask for it. In fact, less than 20% feel they receive routine feedback, yet they seek it more than any other generation! So if you have Millennials in your team, pay close attention to this step!
4. Get Constructive – develop the art of constructive criticism! And it is an art! So often we shy away from criticizing anyone – when we grew up, most of us were taught ‘if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all’. Well that probably means we didn’t receive much constructive advice!
So here’s my take on it. Good constructive criticism is no different than good ol’ sound advice! As the leader of a Kick-Ass team, part of developing your people means giving them candid advice, in a timely manner and particularly at this stage of team development – people do best when they are receiving regular feedback both positive and constructive!
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
a) Thank you for preparing the report on demographics; it provided some good insights. I noticed you seemed frustrated when we discussed it with the client as they tried to ask questions. It is frustrating when someone cuts into your thoughts, but I think the client was trying to clarify what you were saying. Just be aware of your reaction and be prepared that clients will likely want to ask questions along the way.
b) Great effort on the report, I do see there are a couple of things which could be improved. The font is a bit small and it would be good to standardize the same font throughout the document.
c) You handled that meeting very well with the team – they were a rowdy group. Next time you may want to pause or put your hand up until they quiet down instead of talking over them.
Kick-Ass Team Tip – Help is here!
If you have particularly difficult feedback to give to someone, consider talking it out with someone before you approach the person. Have them check your tone and check how it comes across.
When you reach the 'Kum Ba Yes' Phase it means you’ve done a great job managing through some challenging times with your team. They are already in a good place, but they need a different kind of leader now. During this phase, you may find you need some help in conducting team building and communication workshops, so give Dots Leadership Solutions a call to create a custom session for you. We can also help you prepare for any difficult conversations that you are putting off or provide a framework for your team’s development planning!
We want to hear from you - comment below about your leadership journey in getting to Kum Ba Yes! How did you release control and move them along to full effectiveness?
Watch for the next instalment on Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up – Part 5 – High Performance R Us
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.