R-E-S-P-E-C-T “Find out what it means to me” first, then what it means to others

Publication 17, Issue 1

August 16 is special to me – it’s my birthday. But I have a heavy heart because we lost two cultural icons on that day – The King of Rock and Roll and more recently, the Queen of Soul! Aretha impacted my life in many ways and she made it into Oops! I’m The Manager! “The Complexity of Respect” was the hardest chapter to write, though, because respect means different things to different people.

The Queen might thunder, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!” but in the workplace, it’s about finding out what it means for one and all. In the heat of the moment it’s easy to blurt out the first thought that comes to mind. A verbal shot from the hip can take many forms, marginalizing someone’s feelings, their quality of work or self-worth; or thoughtless words can be just plain insulting. Your own stress level will be reduced if you master a general understanding of what respect means to each of the Playground Personalities. Simple, right?! Read on…


Like it when you focus on them – listening with undivided attention, responding to their needs and making them feel that you as the manager are taking their concerns to heart. Peacemakers know that paying attention to others, always being enthusiastic, smiling, and making people feel important – through verbal and non-verbal cues – are the cornerstones of respect. Spending the time to figure out the person, knowing their likes and dislikes, recharges their batteries and engages them quickly. Tip: Offer to work collaboratively, brainstorm ideas and get people involved along the way!


Feel respected when their innate sense of satisfaction with getting things done is fulfilled. Organizers don’t need personal recognition. Show them respect by recognizing that the task or the accomplishment is complete – no pats on the back required! Simply state you are happy that the work is done and possibly add “great job” for good measure. The old adage “give work to busy people” rings true for Organizers, but they like to be tasked with projects – work that is logical and understandable – not busy work or loose conceptual visions. Tip: Pile on work with specific deadlines and tasks, and acknowledge completion of the job.


Appreciate knowing that they can be counted on to handle “the stuff that no one else wants to handle.” They don’t like to be micro-managed or hovered over to make sure they’re working. To them, respect is taking people at face value – understanding how they’re wired, crediting them for working hard and correcting a situation! Revolutionaries don’t ask people to “ride along” unless they are respected to begin with. Tip: Allow them to work on the impossible and let them take the “twists and turns” to get to an end!


Need to know that those whom they respect are also respected by others – they don’t suffer fools gladly. This is very important when they are building teams and trying to recruit the “best and the brightest.” They want to be known for putting together the perfect “A Team!” “Bling” resonates with the Steamroller: Visible reflections of professional status – degrees, plaques, certifications – are valued evidence of knowledge and experience. These nods to credibility earn their respect. A Steamroller must respect the person who is offering the suggestion or it won’t be well received. Tip: Tread lightly with giving advice and ask for their opinions.

Respect begins with you as the manager. Learning to treat each other with respect by choosing your words to suit the individual styles of your team members helps keep all the personalities in check and eliminates costly problems that might fester for years. If respect is absent in the workplace, it’s going to be a long day for both you and your staff. The complexities of gaining, showing and maintaining respect become apparent when you look at each of the Playground Personalities – but keep it simple!

When managing folks, know how each Playground Personality defines respect and adjust your communication to suit the listener. You know how I like to keep things real and easy to recall: remember, with R-E-S-P-E-C-T, take the time to “Find out what it means to you…and others.”

RIP Aretha!

It’s a Matter of Style! Look Beyond Technical Competence When Recruiting in Today’s Market

Publication 16, Issue 3

How many times in your career have you heard or said the words, “This employee just isn’t the right fit.” Organizations spend a lot of money recruiting, hiring and training staff to be successful. Unless you hire the right person from the “get-go” you could be wasting a lot of time and effort onboarding and training someone who may not be a good fit for your organization. Traditional interviews were meant to screen candidates who could type 60 words per minute, write Java code or conduct in-depth science experiments. If they passed the technical hurdles, they were hired.

Today, teamwork and collaboration are understood to be integral to business success. Assessing technical competence alone just doesn’t cut it. Managers who have changed the way they interview have had greater success in finding that candidate who is technically competent and whose style complements or “fits” the organization’s culture. Here’s my formula for success:

technical skills + candidate’s style + match to company culture = successful candidate

And, here’s how to use it!

The need for strong technical skills is a given, so let’s talk about personality style and culture. Keep my Playground Personalities in mind as you listen and observe candidates. For example:

Peacemakers – may preface remarks with “I feel,” and will reference people and the importance of working relationships in their responses. Peacemakers will have great eye contact! They can answer this question with ease: Give me an example of how you and your staff have celebrated success in the past. What was the occasion? So if your company focuses on customer service and everything that goes along with it, pay extra attention to these responses.

Organizers – may preface responses with “I think,” and will reference bullet points or short phrases. Their answers will be clear and precise. Organizers will bring extra copies of their resume to the interview to be sure the interviewer has the latest version! Here’s a question they will be able to answer, spot on: Tell me about a project that called on your organizational skills. What happened? Organizers usually thrive in companies that specialize in rigor around protocols and/or processes.

Revolutionaries – will be brief, to the point, and use action-packed language in responses. It’s about “turning on a dime” at work and keeping things moving on a project. Revolutionaries may grow more fidgety as the number of questions mounts! So don’t torture them. Get out in front of their fidgeting and ask: What do you do when priorities change quickly? Give me one example of when this happened. Revolutionaries make great emergency room staffers, firefighters and police officers. They’re at their best in a career when the next move is a surprise!

Steamrollers – may speak in philosophical terms about beliefs or opinions. Steamrollers tend to be “big picture” thinkers who may not offer a lot of detail. A Steamroller may draw a picture or diagram during the interview! Don’t kill their spirit by asking “ordinary” questions. After all they’re super-smart, so challenge their thinking with this question: Give me an example of how you have been creative with a process improvement project when no one else could figure it out. Steamrollers stand out in organizations where creativity produces value to the organization and its clientele.

Be honest in your assessment of your company’s culture. Whether it’s friendly, bureaucratic, always in motion or entrepreneurial – own it! This shouldn’t be a value judgment, but an analysis that will help you avoid a mismatch in the hiring process. Get it right and there is a greater likelihood that the manager and the new hire will be happy and productive at work.

Remember this, we all want a candidate to have that machine-like work ethic, but assessing a candidate on workload alone might be shortsighted. Using my Playground Personalities and combining them with my “hiring formula for success,” will make interviewing easier and save you time and money so you hire the right person from the “get-go!”

Good luck!

Offering help to someone could end up in a battle? Who knew? Know who you are talking to before you offer to help!

Publication 16, Issue 2

Have you ever offered to help a colleague and had an unexpectedly lukewarm reaction? Maybe received a strange look or a negative response? While an offer to help is usually well intentioned, in many cases it can fall flat. I know that sounds odd, but not everyone receives the offer of help in the same way. Time and time again, the managers I work with struggle with this basic interaction. I’m here to tell you it’s not so basic, but if you think up front about whom you are engaging, the dialogue becomes easier.

Do you guys remember when Yoplait® first introduced the Go-GURT® Yogurt? The Go-GURT made it fun for kids to eat yogurt. My sister-in-law bought Go-GURT sticks for her children all the time! They came in a long tube with a “tear here” symbol on the top, but that was a joke. The only way you could open the thing was if you used a scissor. I was with my youngest niece one day and she asked for one. Knowing it was impossible for my then two-year-old niece to open it on her own, I proceeded to get the scissor from a drawer, to which she responded, annoyed, I might add, “No Kack, I can do it.” I responded “Okay” and continued with my work. My niece walked around the kitchen four or five times before she finally gave up and asked, “Can you help me?” I quietly snipped off the top and handed it to her. She walked away happy and I didn’t say, “I told you so!” Go-GURT is still on the market today. Wonder if they’re easier to open!?

Here’s how the Playground Personalities© receive the offer of help and some tips on how managers can start their communications to get the best response:

Peacemakers – graciously. They will have feelings that people might think they can’t handle something. They might even take it personally and not accept your offer to help. Peacemakers naturally offer to help others at the risk of sacrificing their own needs; but they need to work on receiving help. Approach a Peacemaker with genuineness and say, “I would be happy to help. Let me know what I can do for you?”

Organizers – negatively. They don’t want anyone to “mess” with their processes and order. They’d rather suffer with an over-extended workload than accept someone’s offer to help. They think, “I don’t like rework and if you help me, I’m only going to have to redo it anyway!” Stay out of the line of fire with an Organizer and offer this: “Once you get your checklist finalized, assign me a task.”

Revolutionaries – keenly. They are so good at receiving help they can get people to do their work for them! Revolutionaries like it when someone volunteers to do their work, hah! They’re good at it too. They sit back and watch people spin around with their unwieldy workloads. They figure if someone needs help, he’ll ask for it! So for the Revolutionary, “Give me a holler if you need something from me,” usually works!

Steamrollers – cautiously. They ask themselves, “Why would I need help from you? Do you think I’m not smart enough to do this on my own?” Steamrollers usually resist any offer of help. It’s not worth getting into an intellectual battle with them. So choose your words wisely and stand back for their potential roar! Remember, it is important for Steamrollers to know that you respect their competence and intellect. Try, “You are the expert, so let me know how I can help.” Usually works like a charm!

Well, I’m here to tell you that my 11th grade niece today, who is smart, athletic, independent, and beautiful, rarely asks for help. And, if she does, she really wants it! Funny how that works! As managers, it’s a part of our responsibility to make sure our staff have the appropriate resources to do their jobs. So sometimes offering to help is a reasonable strategy, but remember, it can be a slippery slope. If you want to make an offer to help, just think about who you’re communicating with and go for it! While no one may take you up on your offer, your interactions will be smoother and you’ll get fewer negative responses!

What is your intention behind sending an email? Spoiler alert – many times it’s not received in the spirit in which it was sent!

Publication 16, Issue 1

Back in the day, good old fashioned phone calls gave you a chance to make small talk, give one or two important points, have a laugh or kick around ideas with a colleague or contact.   Ah, the good old days when you actually had a chance to have a conversation!  Times have changed. Now messengers send these greeting-less, demanding, emoji-populated, dense messages to people who may get your point, but are just as likely to become offended, confused, charged up or disengaged.  And we wonder why as managers we spend countless hours unscrambling miscommunication, unable to get our work done!  Really?

I’m sure there were miscommunications on phone calls too – but at least you had a chance to have a dialogue.  As managers we’re on a collision course with miscommunication if we don’t clean up our acts – myself included!  How can we bring the sociability of old-style phone call conversations to the words we write in haste in our emails and texts?  Written conversations where you say “hello,” give clear instructions; perhaps raise those meaty issues with humor?  It’s easy – know whom you are writing to before you type that message.  Applying the Playground Personalities to your written word will be a game-changer.  It’s super easy!

Engaging the Peacemaker up front is critical.  Saying “Dear” or “Hello” is a must.  Remember, relationships matter to Peacemakers, so starting without a greeting really demotivates them.  Peacemakers want to help, feel appreciated, and sometimes take on a little more than they should – so don’t overload them or take advantage of their good nature.  The words in your messaging must be carefully selected before you hit the send button!  Short, curt, cold emails will not get you the response you’re looking for.  Simply say, “Hope this email finds you well,” and you’ve got their attention!

Being clear, concise and to the point is all the Organizer wants.  Your messages need to include short, bulleted information with direct action verbs.  For example, “Put the agenda together for Monday’s meeting by Friday at 2pm.”  “Establish a timeline for the project milestones by XYZ date.”  Sound easy?  Well, be careful when communicating due dates or deadlines with Organizers.  They work at break-neck speed to get things done, so if your deadlines are artificial, over time you will erode the respect of the Organizer and there won’t be a rush to get the work done.

Use brief communication for the Revolutionary – no “song and dance”!   Using the subject line of the email to grab the reader is super-noticeable and eye-catching!  If the Revolutionary spots a subject line with a zippy word or a “curious question” he or she is more apt to open that email: “Got numbers?” or “On fire!” or my all-time favorite – “HELP!!!”.  To ensure the Revolutionary staffer opens (and reads) your email, other tactics include being directive, “real,” and keeping the body of your messages to ten words or less.  For example, “Need inputs for Jan meeting by 2 today otherwise…no go!”

Be expert-like and ask Steamrollers for their opinions and ideas up front, otherwise why would you waste their time sending them an email?  Acknowledge that they are the subject-matter experts.  Messages have to be meaningful and purposeful.  They don’t have to be long, but they have to explain the background of an issue and how the Steamroller’s expertise fits in moving forward.  Details aren’t important to the Steamroller.  The details will come later.  It’s okay to explain the big picture, but keep it brief and describe the Steamroller’s involvement in the project.

Sending messages right the first time, where the focus is on preventing miscommunication, is one secret to being a happy and productive manager.  It’s far better than having to fix things after they’re broken.  So next time, before you launch into your “to do” list tirade or soliloquy email messaging – think about the intention behind sending the message, think about what you want someone to do or know by sending the email, and of course, know what’s going to motivate the recipient into action!

End of the year wrap up or is it? Save yourselves and your staff!

Publication 15, Issue 6

It’s that time of year when you take stock of all the things you did and all the things you wished you’d done but didn’t – and beat yourself up about those things you missed, right?  Well, most of us roll that way!  And for those who do, here’s some advice:  don’t beat yourself up about the things you didn’t do, and think twice about putting it in high gear to crank through what’s left on your to-do list!  Instead, acknowledge and validate all of the things you have accomplished, prioritize what’s left and decide if any are worth rolling over into next year!

As an Organizer, I spend more time lamenting the things I didn’t do rather than basking in the glory of all the things I have done.  I’m committed to changing it up and I’ve told myself this year will be different.  I plan to take stock of my accomplishments and reflect on how I plan to close out the year – and yes, maybe even sneak in one extra thing if I’m able!  But that’s just me; I’m not managing a staff these days!

So managers, your staff takes their direction from you.  If you’re freaking out because December is around the corner and there are 10 things you wanted done before year-end – if you start to bark out orders, frown when granting PTO or start to sound like Scrooge – stop and catch yourself!  Here’s how the Playground Personalities reveal themselves when wrapping up year-end work under stress:

Peacemaker Managers – send early morning emails with apologies first, and unreasonable tasks second!

Organizer Managers – break a sweat over all the to-do lists they’ve accumulated and send emails with four “to do” attachments!

Revolutionary Managers – subscribe to the “save it up” strategy, wait until the last minute and pull the fire alarm!

Steamroller Managers – drop anchor in the middle of the water, change their minds about what’s important to focus on by year-end and begin to pile on the work!

Each of these styles creates angst, anxiety and not such a kindly response from staff, especially around the holidays.  If you want to “press on” until December 31st or if your company is one that gears up at year-end because your clients do and staff is scheduled to work throughout the last two weeks in December – not a problem!  Here are some management tips to keep your staff happy and productive around the holiday season when work is increasing instead of dwindling.  When working with:

Peacemakers – ask for volunteers, acknowledge the staff and thank them!

Organizers – assign projects to staff with clear deliverables and due dates!

Revolutionaries – don’t make the schedules too tight, give breaks and celebrate!

Steamrollers – call a huddle meeting, explain the big push of work and ask the staff to brainstorm how to get it done!

If you don’t consider the right approach to your staff, you may run into some of these responses:

Peacemakers – will give their bosses a pass, try to accommodate all of their requests and will miss the mark!

Organizers – will demand clarification of dueling to-do lists to know what jobs will come off and be replaced by new ones!

Revolutionaries – will sit back and watch their bosses’ heads spin and wait until the last minute before they spring into action and work!

Steamrollers – will wait for an informed reply to “Why the last minute rushes?”  And, if they don’t get one, they’ll continue to wait!

Consider using some of these communication suggestions and ideas if you have an end-of-year push looming at work.  Let me know how they pan out!


Politics? Yikes! Let’s talk about politics – at work!

Publication 15, Issue 5

I live outside of Washington, DC.  Here it seems we can’t escape politics, especially in an election year.  TV, blogs, radio…politics is unavoidable.  So I figured I’d write about it too!

Aristotle noted two thousand years ago that man is a political animal – that is to say we all engage in interactions that affect our own status in relation to others.  So it doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you sit on – we are surrounded by politics even, and perhaps especially, in the workplace.  In some companies you can feel the competition as soon as you walk into the building; in other companies it’s pretty hidden; and in others, politics comes into play largely during stressful times – rough economies, downsizing, loss of market share, etc.

What are some of the signs that politics is affecting the work of an organization?

  • People are afraid to be open and honest – so there are a lot of water cooler conversations
  • Policies are slanted one way or another – which leaves things open for interpretation
  • Actions sometimes aren’t aligned with the words that people say – so an organization’s public face might not match its private face
  • Core values might just be words articulated on a website – and not truly “lived by” day-to-day

And what further adds to organizational politics is the way staff reacts to it.  In my opinion, there are two reasons why:

  1. Personal fear – people don’t want to get “chewed out” or have to “eat crow.”
  1. Professional fear – people don’t want to be written up or fired!

Organizations are collections of people, so inevitably there will be politics.  We make employment choices based in part on our comfort level with the impact politics has on us.  An organization’s political culture is bigger than you and me and sometimes it’s hard to navigate!  It’s the degree to which politics rules an organization’s people, policies, actions and beliefs and the way we respond to it that makes all the difference.

Here’s how each Playground Personality navigates through politics:

Peacemakers – say “yes” to every one so they don’t disappoint others and themselves, but wind up doing just that!

Organizers – focus on policy development in an effort to minimize the gray lines and then get twisted up in all sorts of checklists that no one wants to follow!

Revolutionaries – keep moving forward no matter what’s going on; they shoot from the hip and are perceived by staff as “clueless” which couldn’t be further from the truth!

Steamrollers – have a laser beam focus and say the same two or three things, no matter where they are or whom they are talking to – it keeps them grounded!

We’re not going to judge whether organization politics is good or bad or if there’s a positive or ugly side to politics.  You can draw your own conclusions.  My message here is to be aware of office politics and more importantly to be aware as a manager about how you respond to or ignore political pressures so you keep staff morale positive and the work productive.

Good luck!


A different kind of lesson – One that we can all relate to

Publication 15, Issue 4

As you know, I’m not a mom by “trade” but a fortunate and involved aunt.  My brother and sister-in-law have been generous in allowing me to experience many of the “firsts” with their children – first day of elementary school – first JV football game – and yes, college move-in day!  So parents, if you are ready to tear your hair out because you received the 10th phone call from one of your kids letting you know they are homesick, forgot their glasses, don’t like the food or think their new professors “aren’t all that” – read on!

In August, we packed up Sarah, our middle niece, and took her to St. Joe’s in Philly to begin her college career – go Hawks!  And while I helped take Nicholas to college last year, this trip struck me.  What I figured out was that the overwhelming feelings, the topsy-turvies of things, the “woo-hoo” of getting out of the house and apprehensions of a new life are valid and experienced by both parents and their kids when those almost-adults head to college!

To make the point I often mention – that communication styles affect all aspects of our lives – this time we’re going to talk about navigating the college transition with your kids.  And, as always, I’m confident managers will pick up some communication nuggets that they’ll apply to their everyday work lives!

Let’s take a look at the Playground Personalities through the eyes of parents:

Peacemaker Parents – share with their children the importance of making new friends and building life-long friendships.

Organizer Parents – advise their children to “keep it together” and figure out how to keep their studies from falling through the cracks.

Revolutionary Parents – tell their children to join campus activities, stay ahead of everything and don’t skip class.

Steamroller Parents – encourage their children to learn and absorb everything that college-life has to offer.

As parents, you already know how your child prepares for life, handles change, or takes on new responsibilities.  And if you have more than one child, you know that each is different.  The behavior patterns that you have come to know probably will resurrect during that stressful college transition, too!  It’s important to acknowledge and validate that college freshman’s approach, figure out how you self-manage, know it’s not the same as your kid’s, and then work out how best to motivate your departing scholar into action!

I coach my clients that it’s our job as leaders to figure out how to tap into others’ motivation, so parents here’s that spiel adapted to the current challenge!  If you and/or your child aren’t taking to college life like ducks to water, remember these clues about the Playground Personalities of your child.  You might be hearing…

“Took me a long time to make friends, now I have to start all over.”  Peacemaker

“This is my new life and I have to figure out how to adjust.”  Organizer

“Not sure I’m going to unpack everything because this might not be for me.”  Revolutionary

“In high school I was the straight A student; now I have to continue the legacy.”  Steamroller

Experiment with different communication styles to help your student figure out his or her new circumstances so that the outcome is a productive and happier person.  Parents, you may have to change up your usual communication style just a bit!  Here’s how each Playground Personality reacts to change under stress and some ideas how to support a shift in outlook:

The Peacemaker – has a pit in his/her stomach and worries; so acknowledge and validate his/her feelings and let him/her know you are there for him/her.

The Organizer – is resistant; doesn’t like change at all!  So help him/her prioritize his/her work with color stickies or file folders.

The Revolutionary – takes the attitude that if he/she hangs on long enough, things will change again!  So use some humor and keep it real for him/her.

The Steamroller – reacts with suspicion unless it was his/her idea!  So embrace his/her need to have a competitive spirit!

Good luck and here’s to everyone having a great first year of college!

Thinking about a management makeover? Why not?! It’s Spring!

Publication 15, Issue 2

Spring is the season for “makeovers” – body, house, clothes, so why not management styles?  When we think about undertaking a makeover, what motivates us?  We’re bored with the paint in the family room, we’re tired of our wardrobe, we’re just not happy with something.  So what’s bugging you about your management style?

Yes, I’m sure there’s something bugging you – you just have to admit it!  Here’s some help if you’re stuck.  Do you find yourself saying “If only I could change this person or that policy, things would be better!” or “I’ve tried to get through to this person countless times, and he doesn’t get it!” or “I’m usually disappointed with my staff’s progress on projects.”?  Yikes!  Maybe it’s time for a management makeover – something that you can do that looks and feels different – so the staff on your team is more motivated and productive.  Of course, there’s a first step in the process.  Hmmm…what could that be?  Taking a look at yourself first; engaging your self-awareness!

It’s often easy to see the fault in something or someone…it’s not so easy to see those things in ourselves.  I have two questions to help you get started on your management makeover:

  1. If I had a wish to makeover something about my management style, what would it be?
  2. What’s stopping me from moving forward?

Don’t freak out if you don’t have answers to these questions on the tip of your tongue.  You aren’t supposed to.  These questions aren’t easy to answer, but the fact that you would ponder them means you’re on track to making a management makeover!  So what to do?  First, alone or with trusted advisors, brainstorm things that bug you about your management style. Do you tend to rush to judgement, get impatient?  Are you quick to place blame or dismiss people when you’re bored?  Second, review the results and start making connections between those elements of your management style that aren’t working and what’s in the way of your moving forward with a “makeover.”

You know there’s work involved in makeovers, right? The first step – acknowledging that something about your management style isn’t resonating with your team – is the hardest and requires courage.  Even small, veneer-like changes can come with stress and conflict.  The new color of the family room may have had you at swords points with your partner!  But here’s the beauty of a management makeover:  you’re the only one you have to please, convince, negotiate, or influence!  The benefit is that others will experience a “new you” as a manager and want to engage even more!

The management makeovers will take different paths depending upon what motivates you.  Here are some tips for the Playground Personalities:

For the Peacemaker, it might be…stop taking things so personally at work.  If someone doesn’t do “the right thing,” it’s not on you; it’s the other person’s responsibility.

For the Organizer, it might be…stop making these exhaustive lists that even Hercules couldn’t accomplish.  Figure out what’s going to move the needle quickly, and do that one thing!

For the Revolutionary, it might be…stop taking assignments with impossible deadlines and stressing out your staff!

For the Steamroller, it might be…pay attention to other people’s feelings, opinions, and ideas, and perhaps rethink your own!

Are these really quick fixes?  Probably not.  Even after we spend a ton of money on paint and a painter for that family room job, we might say, “Oh, it has to grow on me. It looked different in the store.”  Most of the time we come to the edge of embarking on a makeover, but back away because change, especially behavioral change, is hard work. We look at the “old soft shoe” we’ve become and it’s comfortable.  But the reveal in a makeover is that usually something great happens – not immediately, but over time.  We have to be able to figure out what we want to makeover first, remove the barriers that are holding us back, and go for it.  There’s no “secret sauce.”  Whatever that makeover looks like for you is all a personal choice!

Have fun exploring!

Need a New Year’s Tune-up? I have one for ya if you are stuck!

Publication 15, Issue 1

I hold myself and my coaching clients accountable to “self manage” – to catch ourselves before we go berserk!  I was in the grocery store last week when a three year-old girl threw herself on the floor, arms and legs flailing, loudly wailing that she wanted to go home!! The poor Mom looked horrified.  So I went up to the Mom and said, “I’m with her…I’d like to go home too…and I’d also like to be able to freak out in public, but I’m afraid they’d take me away in an ‘I love me jacket!'”

We all have had those moments at work where someone annoys us, springs a deadline on us at the last minute, says something that hits us the wrong way, or forgets to invite us to a meeting and then blames us for not showing up.  Any of these can wreck your day. Understandably so!

If you are looking for an idea for a New Year’s “tune-up” – a behavior change – I have one for you!  Know your “stress barometer”; know your breaking point.  Everyone has one.  If you think you’re as cool as a cucumber all the time, you’re not being honest with yourself!  Some people’s fuses are longer than others – but stress has affects on us all in obvious ways and hidden ones.  We’ve all read about the ugly things stress does to the body – from your hair falling out to heart attacks, depression, and everything in between.  So why do we ignore the signs?  Why can’t we catch ourselves before we go bananas?  Because we’re human!  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to cope before we lose it.

Here’s how each Playground Personality shows the physical signs he/she is about to go over the edge:

Peacemaker – looks calm – but like a swan, Peacemakers are graceful above water and paddling like mad below the surface!

Organizer – wears his emotions on his sleeve. You know when you meet a stressed-out Organizer:  twisted necktie, jacket off, shirt sleeves rolled up…you get the picture.

Revolutionary – gets a little jittery, and no wonder, because the Revolutionary feels as though he’s in a batting cage with an automatic pitch machine that shoots balls out every second!

Steamroller – gets super-focused.  Somehow Steamrollers close out the world and really miss what’s going on around them.

Part of the strategy is to know what triggers the stressors, observe the physical cues and have your reaction already planned out.  Let’s face it – the same things repeatedly stress us out – not new things.  Here are some clues about how people are feeling or thinking just before they go sideways.  Stress is sparked for…

Peacemakers when people don’t get along or say uncalled for things to each other.

Organizers when work is piled high, unreasonable deadlines are imposed and it’s all on them.

Revolutionaries when one of their team members does a “knucklehead thing” and they have to explain it to the boss.

Steamrollers when there’s a failure on their watch.

As managers, we have to be aware of what stresses us out and what we do that rattles our staff.  I’ve given you ideas about common trigger points.  First, take a read of the situation before you engage a member of your team, but more than that, take an inventory of your own flashpoints and gain an understanding of how you can improve your coping skills. Think about knee-jerk reactions so you can avoid them and keep a positive attitude the next time you’re on that narrow edge between in control and freaked out.  Second, think of the people around you.  Each has a meltdown point but if you understand what that is, you’ll be better equipped to work around it.

Be aware of your stress barometer; know the signs.  When your heart begins to race, have a strategy to mitigate your negative reactions to stress.  Catch yourself so you can move ahead and manage your team without the drama!

What kind of holiday shopper are you? What’s the connection to your management practices? Plenty!

Publication 14, Issue 10

So many times people tell me they are different at home than they are at work. I don’t buy it!  We are who we are!   It’s just hard sometimes to hold up that mirror to our face and say “Am I really…this way or that way?”  But until we do that and own our “schtick” we are never going to advance in our communication styles!

When examining our self-awareness, sometimes it’s easier for us to think of ourselves in a personal setting rather than at work.  With the holidays nipping at our heels I reflected on how I like to get ready for the holidays and how I Iike to work.  There’s a parallel in my “holiday habits” and my “work habits.”  I’ll share some Playground Personality© parallels here. See if there’s a connection for you!

The Playground Personalities come alive during the holiday season, for sure.  As you know, I’m an Uber- Organizer. Yes, I have my holiday shopping lists from 2010 in my iPhone and I do review them before I make my gift list each year.  Having my lists gives me the comfort that I’ll not forget anything or anyone.  Also, I’m a traditionalist.  Decorations go up at a certain time, I organize all of the baking I want to do and make lists of ingredients that I only buy once a year. I put labels on gifts so I know who has which package.  And, funny, when I’m working, I’m under the same regime.  I pack my briefcase the night before, pull MapQuest directions if I haven’t visited a client before, and double check that I have my agenda, notes, and whatever else I need for the meeting.  Doesn’t everyone do this?  No?!

Okay, so let’s do a quick rundown of how each Playground Personality shops for the holidays:

  • Do you make sure that the gift you buy fits the person to a tee? (Peacemaker)
  • Do you make a list of gifts to buy and reference the list with the last five years’ of lists? (Organizer)
  • Do you hunt for that perfect gift and know when it pops out at you? (Revolutionary)
  • Do you find the latest and greatest gadget for the season and buy five of them? After all, why wouldn’t everyone want the latest gadget?! (Steamroller)

Knowing our own Playground Personality helps shape our awareness of who we are.  We become conscious of the words and actions that motivate us and mindful of how others respond to communication. Developing our ability to identify characteristics of the Playground Personalities in others allows us to tailor our communications to be most effective. So how does the Holiday-Prep KathyG track with the Manager KathyG?  Remember, I said we are who we are, so let’s take a look:

The Peacemaker – the same person who decides who’s “naughty or nice” is that manager who makes mental lists of people who are good at mastering relationships and those who make managing people difficult.

The Organizer – the same person who “makes a holiday list and checks it twice” makes lists at work and always follows up to make sure things haven’t changed along the way.

The Revolutionary – that person who wanders through the stores on the eve of a holiday frantically looking for a particular gift is the same manager who waits until the last minute to get a project started or to finish up!

The Steamroller – that person who is curious about what the “ghost of Christmas future” has to share is the same manager who is always searching for a way to look into the future and find better ways of doing something.

Does this confirm for you that we are who we are?  Let’s own up to our communication style and know that everyone doesn’t roll the way we do.  Spend time over the holidays observing people’s behavior and figuring out “who’s who” in your playground. Knowing the right words to say the first time will make your holiday season a bit more joyful!

Happy Holidays!