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:
Photo CC0 @bkotynski Unsplash
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
How many times have you heard that your friends and colleagues are tired and stressed out with work? These days everyone is putting in longer hours, but not feeling as fulfilled as they would like to. It’s almost as if you’re on a treadmill that is increasing in speed with no destination!
“Work” – according to the Oxford Dictionary is the activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result; as a means of earning income. So we know that effort of any type can tire you out, but when you lack balance in that effort it can lead to chronic stress and tension. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, chronic stress lowers your immune; it also lowers your digestive and reproductive systems. It affects your ability to sleep and is said to be a silent killer.
So how do you regain personal balance to prevent burnout and chronic stress? Here are 5 ways to take back your life:
1. Get Quiet & Clever
Step back from the crazy day that consumes you from morning, noon to night. Steal an hour to yourself on a weekly basis – book it in your calendar, just like you do for a meeting. Turn off all devices for that hour. Use that time to take stock of all the things that you have to accomplish this week. Make a thorough list and prioritize it. I have heard from many people that just taking time to get everything out of their head, gives them peace of mind.
2. Book Some ‘Me’ Time
I know many people who don’t even give this a second thought – they just automatically take time for themselves. But chances are, they are not the people who are struggling with stress. I love this infographic all about ‘me’ time and why it’s important to your happiness. You see, giving yourself permission to do whatever the heck you want is not only good for your own well-being but it is good for your family and those around you too. It will feel like you are stealing time from work at first, but eventually you’ll see that taking a break will refresh you and you’ll actually come back more productive.
3. Get Moving
Yes you’ve heard this one before – exercise!! So lets break this one down a bit because chances are you’re not likely to run out and hit the gym every day if you’ve never done that before. When I say get moving I mean just that ……MOVE!! That means get up and out of your office chair, out of your car or off the couch – make a commitment to do a walk around the block, or around a mall or even around the office at least once a day. Take the stairs, or park further from the mall – deliberately! Exercise will clear your mind of the work clutter; it will help to balance those dangerous stress hormones. The very act of any exercise increases the oxygen in your body and stimulates brain chemicals that should make you feel happier and more relaxed. Lets face it, most of us can improve the amount we move.
4. Draw the line
When was the last time you said no, declined to work late, or let people know you will not be available? Regain control by setting some boundaries with colleagues and other stakeholders, including your boss – what hours are you available for work-related meetings, what constitutes an emergency and what should they do in that event? When you book vacation, ensure you have someone who can be your back up and handle the majority of issues in your absence. It is important to carve out family time as well as downtime to recharge. Make a personal commitment to turn off your computer(s) and work phones at specific times. Many of us don’t want to let people down so check out this article by The Muse.com, which talks about setting boundaries without creating resentment at work.
5. Manage Yourself – Not Time
According to TED Talk by Rory Vaden who wrote the book Procrastinate on Purpose (pdf version avail), you can’t solve today’s time-management challenges with yesterday’s time management strategies. In this TED talk he explains why procrastinating on purpose is the key to being able to multiply your time. Spend time on things today that will give you more time tomorrow. He provides techniques in triaging your to do list, finding ways to save yourself time, and he helps you deal with the guilt of your decisions. Give thought to what influences you into using your precious time and set out a plan to be more strategic in how you review all of your “to do’s”.
You owe it to yourself, as well as to those who care about you, to find strategies for work life balance, reducing the work stress and taking back control of your time!
As an executive in these busy work environments, you may need help in planning how to take back some control over your life and regain personal balance. At Dots Leadership Solutions we provide you with one on one coaching to help you get organized and make a plan! Call us today for all of your leadership dilemmas. Check back time to time to check out features in our blog to help you be an effective leader.
Wow!! I hope you’ve been watching the 2016 Rio Olympics and have seen the strong and impressive Canadian Women’s Rugby team – it’s clear that their incredible team bond is core to making them a force to be reckoned with. So fantastic to witness the strength of this magnificent Olympic team; this powerful group clearly has an unbreakably strong bond!
They are such a perfect example of a strong crew of remarkable individuals – a tribe; a posse of people who really have each other’s back. The same high performance can be achieved in a working environment when a team develops such a strong sense of unity. Aristotle was right on the money when he said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
So what are the key ingredients to corporate teams becoming so well bonded?
There are a number of different circumstances that can be the catalyst for a team to form such an enduring connection. They may have gone through a seriously difficult time together, they may have worked through a tough project or they may have grown together through a unique experience like a new business venture or a new department build.
Regardless of the situation, there tends to be a common recipe for a strong team, which can be broken into five key components:
When reviewing cases where the strongest bonds are formed, the leader plays a crucial role; they genuinely and openly care for their team and are mindful of the needs of each individual. They also set high expectations; they deeply believe in their team and set them up for success by leveraging the strengths of each person.
Based on empirical research, Stephen Covey's book The Speed of Trust sums up the art of building trust as the single most critical leadership skill “the one thing that changes everything”. But it’s not just the leader who has to develop trust, it’s also the ‘trust contract’ established between the team members. This faith is demonstrated under pressure during the toughest of times. Difficult times are when you need to lean on each other the most. Can you count on each other through a rough patch? Does you team have your back and do you have theirs?
Whether during a planned team event or not, the degree to which you and your team laugh is a terrific way to gauge a team’s bond; a group who laughs together stays together. Think about the last time you had a great belly aching laugh with your team and colleagues. Sadly many corporate environments avoid laughter in the workplace because there seems to be this mistaken belief that it is not professional – bun that!
As long as the laughter doesn’t come at someone’s expense or disturb others, it is completely appropriate! Some of the best moments occur particularly when tension is high. Imagine a bunch of employees are working with their heads down, all tense and serious, when someone bursts the tension by making a light-hearted joke – how refreshing! Here is a great post by startups.co.uk discussing 30 Ways to Have Fun and Unite Teams, which includes very simple suggestions to inject fun at work.
Being a part of a group who have a lofty goal, a mission to accomplish or a really challenging task builds common ground for people who come together from very different places. The Olympics is a perfect example of this. Even athletes coming from the same country to compete in a team are often coming from ‘different walks of life’. They may have never played together before joining this team, but they share something huge in common – their drive to excel in the Olympic games and win a medal! If everyone understands the goal, they develop appreciation for the reason why it’s important to achieve and they will tend to check their ego at the door.
Even better when the goal is tough and the group has to tap into problem solving. People can’t help but communicate more and share ideas when there is little time or room for posturing and ‘one-upmanship’. It’s becomes a survival skill. You can do a simulation survival exercise to test this thinking by checking out this Team Exercise courtesy of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
At first you may think it’s great to get a nice bump of compensation or a year-end bonus as a result of doing great work. But the truth is what people generally remember isn’t the bonuses – in fact I bet if you ever received one you don’t even remember how much it was. Sincere and genuine appreciation in the form of formal recognition, hand written letters, plaques and special presentations on the other hand are just plain HUGE! I remember working with a President and suggesting that he provide a handwritten note to a team who had done something no one expected them to do. We made sure there was a presentation from him to each team member, but he thought I was crazy when I suggested it. To his surprise, for years later people talked about receiving those notes, and all of those people are still united over that small gesture today – never underestimate the power of a hand penned note filled with sincere gratitude!
As I watch this amazing group of young women on the Canadian Women’s Rugby team compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics, (in the semi-finals at time of writing) I’m reminded just how a well connected team can be virtually unstoppable working together – I hope your own group can leverage the learning from this powerhouse of a well-formed team! Go Team Canada Go!!
If your team is struggling to bond together, or there are difficulties in working together consider seeking some outside help and support. Check out Dots Leadership Solutions blog for additional free suggestions and guidance or contact us for a consultation.
Photo Credit: http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/480540072
Where's the Help?
Are you under constraints at work and it’s taking a toll on you as the leader? Do you have more work to do but no additional headcount? Perhaps there is a hiring freeze or you’ve been told you can’t bring in replacements when someone leaves your unit.
Unfortunately, this is how a lot of big companies deal with shrinking market share or downturns in their industry. But what if I told you there might be some resources available that you can’t see yet? In fact, you may be able to recoup a full role or parts of a role, you just need to know where and how to look.
Time to BRAG
There are a variety of strategies you can use to uncover hidden capacity. To help you get started, we’re going to have to BRAG a little bit:
Blow it Up – aka. Process Redesign
You can regain significant efficiencies by revisiting processes and there are many different approaches you can use to redesign them. Here are two methodologies I've found successful for uncovering wasted work efforts that can give you back some of your resource and time:
Focused at the role level, this step involves reviewing the scope and depth of each job in the team to determine what work is critical and what work may be less necessary or could be done differently. Look for odd hand-offs or ‘busy’ work, eliminate this low value work and replace with work that provides a greater contribution for the team. Expand accountabilities and give employees the opportunity to learn new skills; job expansion can also help with raising employee engagement, provided the person is not overworked.
Align the Boxes
Using tools to clarify team member accountabilities provides clarity of purpose and assists the team in fully understanding who does what. Frequently team members are unclear as to each other’s roles, causing confusion, which results in rework or duplication of effort The focus here should be to ensure the right work is being done at the appropriate level, using the skills and capabilities of the correct talent. This will push administrative work down, making for more efficient use of everyone’s skills.
I’ve personally found this to be a rare gem when uncovering hidden talents, and the best part is it’s so simple! How well do you know the talents and passions of who you have working for you? And what team member skills or experience might you be unaware of?
Frequently we find that employees are under-utilized. Assumptions are often made based on job titles or what’s been seen to date, but most people have a kit bag of skills beyond what their job description specifies. For example, some of the greatest Project Managers I know were once Executive Assistants. Think about it, juggling priorities, keeping everyone in the loop, scheduling, organizing…very similar skills!
Did you know, one of the most common reasons for employees to quit a job is the feeling of being under-valued and under-utilized?
Most people want meaningful work that provides an opportunity to grow; get to know what each of your team love to do, what they do in their spare time and what their previous experience is and then look at how you may retool and enrich their work to capitalize on their skill-set.
A great place to start is to use self-assessment tools that will help you and your team understand their unique styles. You never know, you may just find someone who is just itching to take on something more.
Call in Dots to Help!
If you need help crafting a solution to find hidden resources, or to discuss how to clarify team accountabilities, assess your team and design an efficient workflow, please feel free to Contact Us. You can also learn more about Dots by checking out our About page.
What Worked For You?
We'd love to hear from you! What strategies have worked for you to find hidden resources?
Photo used under Creative Commons from Animalparty
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.