KGWorks

Sorry seems to be the hardest word… Not always true!

Publication 14, Issue 8

Elton John was spot on when he wrote those lyrics, and though he was singing a love song – the word “sorry” can get in the way of our everyday communication.

Despite recent political news about candidates who have made careers of not saying “sorry,” saying sorry is not always hard.  It’s the receiver’s interpretation of the expression that makes saying “I’m sorry” difficult.  Is the apology an admission of guilt? An excuse for not getting something done? An opportunity to ward off conflict? Or is the intention not genuine?

I was in a meeting recently where an exec kept saying “I’m sorry,” and another exec finally asked, “For what?” to which he didn’t have a reply.  There was a long awkward silence!  Saying “sorry” if there’s nothing to be sorry about in the eyes of the receiver can get you in trouble; but so can never saying you’re sorry. So what’s a manager to do?

There are reasons why people say they’re sorry: something tragic happens, someone suffers a loss, or one feels badly for someone else’s situation. But those reasons usually aren’t related to a direct interaction in which one person is apologizing for something he/she did or didn’t do.  At work, when a job isn’t completed people typically say they’re sorry.  Apologies are offered, too, if someone’s feelings have been hurt or if a mistake has been made. Sometimes saying “sorry” is more calculated – to minimize the spotlight on oneself, or for show!

Here’s what each manager perceives when he/she hears the word “sorry” for not getting things done – plus likely unspoken back thoughts!

The Peacemaker says “Thanks for letting me know. Now how can I help so it can get done?”  And thinks “I feel better knowing, so I should help to get it done.”  This manager could be too accommodating and take on more work than he or she should.

The Organizer says “No need to apologize. What is not done?”  And thinks, “I’m getting my work done; why can’t you?”  This manager might ask what happened, and could become impatient or irritated.

The Revolutionary says “Not looking for excuses.  How are you going to get it done?”  Is thinking, “What are you sorry about?”  This manager might get angry or annoyed if he/she doesn’t hear a reasonable explanation or hears an excuse.

The Steamroller says, “Should I find someone else to do it?” And is thinking, “Perhaps, you aren’t competent or intelligent and should be replaced!”

As you can see, miscommunication gets in the way of productivity and creates stress in the workplace.  How do we preempt it?   As a manager, it’s important to know your team.  Understand which Playground Personality you’re interacting with and use the words and actions that resonate with that person to get the job done!  For example, if you’re a Peacemaker manager and you’re working with a Steamroller staffer, don’t take the work on.  Rather, offer him/her the opportunity to assemble the resident experts in the organization and facilitate a meeting that will move things along.

Using the word “sorry” out of habit, tends to convey a lack of confidence.  Before you use the word, understand what you’re sorry for.  If sorry is the wrong word, find a better one. Some of us have about seven “sorrys” in life.  The average U.S. life expectancy is close to 80 years, so you can do the math!   Be more aware when you hear the word “sorry” from someone you work with and try to figure out how best to get the job done!  And be mindful of when you choose to use the word, yourself!

PS – thanks to all of my contributors this month!

Is there enough social time during your work life? It’s not all business! Something to ponder over the summer!

Publication 14, Issue 7

When was the last time you blew off a company social event because you had to catch up on emails, finish up a paper, or plan a meeting?  We all do it!  Managers have to make time during their workday to be social.  Don’t forget that staff watches our every move.  What does it say about us as managers if we don’t show up for a company event?

Here’s what the Playground Personalities perceive when managers don’t attend company socials:

The Peacemaker – “My manager doesn’t care about me.”

The Organizer – “My manager is too worried about checking the boxes.”

The Revolutionary – “My manager usually pops in to an event and then leaves early.”

The Steamroller – “My manager is too good to mingle with the common folk.”

Yikes!  That’s motivation for me to show up at the next company event!  The higher up you go in an organization, the more important it is to build your social skills at work.  People need to see us for who we are and what we are as workplace professionals and colleagues.  That’s what makes us real!  Some of us do it naturally (The Peacemaker); the rest of us have to work at it.  We all can get better at being social at work.  The next time – and there will be a next time soon, I’m sure – think twice before you are a “no show” at a company event.  Make the time to go and enjoy the event.  Mingle with folks and don’t worry about what’s not getting done.  Somehow, it will get done.  It always does!

Summertime is a great time to reflect on a management competency you would like to refresh.  Here’s one for ya!  Take the time to consider stepping up your game and becoming more social at work.  You may be surprised at the relationship doors that will open for you as you make yourself more available to those opportunities!

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

So, how are you doin’? Need to refresh those business goals?

Publication 14, Issue 6

It’s mid-year already!  Can you believe it?  The midway point is a great time to take stock of all the things you said you were going to do in 2015 when you set goals in January – and to take a mid-year check-in with your staff and organization. Think about what’s changed at the company since the beginning of the year and decide if your 2015 goals have to be modified before the second half of the year gets underway.

Despite popular belief, goal planning is not one of those “one and done” management tasks.  When you write goals at the beginning of the year, periodic reviews are important to make sure you’re on track to accomplish them!  Business needs change, people come and go, and customer requirements shift.  The ideas that sounded good in January might not be possible in July.  Be brave – take out your goals, dust them off and refresh them if it makes sense!

I have two simple Corporate Nanny Tips to help you get started:

First, reflect.  Spend some time thinking about the goals and how relevant and actionable they are.  Ask yourself some “big picture” questions:  Where can we make the biggest impact in the organization?  What’s going to move the needle?  How can we be bold?  How can I develop my staff so they feel more ready and able to handle their jobs moving forward?

Second, anticipate reactions.  Be ready to respond to “Isn’t it enough that we wrote the goals in January and they got approved?” Engage your staff and your boss, if possible. Articulate a short summary of your reflections and explain why you want to spend the time to review and possibly refresh the department’s goals.

Once you’re past the moaning and groaning (whether it’s you or your staff) about doing a mid-year goal review, you’ll be amazed to find that the sky won’t fall if you make a “mid-course correction.” Remember to anticipate reactions – some hints follow but don’t get distracted by them – and continue to progress:

Peacemakers – will want to know how the people will be impacted.

Organizers – will want to know all the moving parts.

Revolutionaries – will want to know who’s responsible and what the new deadlines are.

Steamrollers – will want to know “why the change?”

So if you do a good job with the first tip – reflect – the rest will be easy!

I know most of us are attached to our goals because meeting them results in a “dough re mi” payout come bonus time; and the money is nice, I know!  But goals are much more than the words on paper and how the monies are divvied up. Well defined goals that advance your department as they’re accomplished are testaments to your leadership – how you involve people, establish new policies, keep things exciting and moving forward, and set the vision for great things to happen.

When Problem Solving, Acting like the Smartest Guy in the Room…Isn’t Always the Best Strategy

Publication 14, Issue 5

Not long ago my Mom—a Peacemaker—telephoned me, pretty upset after a doctor’s—a Steamroller—appointment consultation.  She had carpel tunnel syndrome and the surgeon told her, “I can do the surgery, but don’t bother unless you plan on doing the PT afterwards.”  She felt the doctor was “unsympathetic and uncaring,” to which I replied, “Actually, he was telling you that he is the man for the job, but unless you’re willing to do the post op therapy, he isn’t going to do the surgery.  I’m sure he doesn’t want to risk a failed procedure because the patient didn’t do the follow-up.”  She accepted my thoughts, had the surgery, did the post op therapy, and she’s fine.

For me, the moral of the story is if I’m going to have any surgery, I absolutely want the doctor to be the smartest guy in his/her field.  That’s why we get second opinions and spend the time going to specialists, right?   As an Organizer, it’s easy for me not to personalize a brusque bedside manner and just talk business.  But everyone doesn’t roll that way!

When it comes to work—work that doesn’t involve life or death—not everybody has to be the “smartest guy in the room.”  We expect people to engage others, offer recommendations to fix problems, build scenarios for different solutions, or do the research on the best approach to a problem, that’s for sure.  But we have to learn how to work collaboratively with everyone to solve a problem.  Here’s how each Playground Personality© addresses problems:

Peacemakers – work with people they know – trusted advisors.

Organizers – are logical and factual, like a company historian.

Revolutionaries – act like investigators, no question is “off the table.”

Steamrollers – take it on like a complex puzzle and work with other experts.

So with four different approaches to problem solving, a manager can see why this work activity might be tricky.  Most people have an inherent longing to be seen as smart; that can complicate problem-solving interactions.  What I tell my coaching clients is that getting things done at work is beyond their IQ.  Communicating and collaborating with people makes all the difference.

So why do people feel like they have to demonstrate their IQ “creds”?

Peacemakers – do it because they want people to know that they can handle something.

Organizers – do it because from their experiences they know what works and what doesn’t – so why waste time?

Revolutionaries – do it because they want to be the hero.

Steamrollers – do it because they want people to know they are the “expert” in their field.

So with these different approaches to problem solving how does the manager get to the solution?  The answer is simple—you need everyone to participate, to weigh in from their point of view. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on an integral part of the solution.  Here’s a quick summary:

Ask Peacemakers how something will impact the people.

Ask Organizers how something will impact the process.

Ask Revolutionaries how the company can stay ahead of the issue.

Ask Steamrollers how something is researched when it’s never been done before.

Consider all of the feedback, synthesize it through a work group, make informed assumptions, and launch the journey.  Remember, you can always regroup if you have to!

Its spring – is your organization fit? Reorganizations…Be proactive when you can

Publication 14, Issue 4

Wow, spring is finally here and we’re outside walking, running, taking care of our lawns and sitting on our decks for happy hour instead of in front of the fireplace – woo-hoo!  We’re all changing and it looks like my clients are changing their organizations too!

At almost every meeting I went to this month, I found my clients were “reorganizing” their departments.  Most of the time, reorganization is a proactive event.  Leaders want to showcase the talent, get a better outcome, change a process, or respond to a customer need.  Communicating to the staff during these times is easy: the leader explains why the change was made, people ask a few questions, and go about their day-to-day work.

But there are times when reorganization is a reactive event – and those times aren’t so easy.  Reactive reorganizations can happen when a supervisor resigns, work production erodes, or supervisors are just unwilling to see that their work contributions need to be about more than their technical competence.

Before you start moving the boxes on an org chart – stop, think, and ask yourself, “If this were my company, would I organize my department this way?”  If the answer is “no,” then think about making a change that will positively impact your staff and your organization.

Being proactive gives you a chance to think about the big picture, collect feedback, then move decisively.  If your reorganization is reactive, you have very little time to think things through. Moving the deck chairs is a quick fix without a lot of staying power and communicating a rationale to the staff becomes difficult.  So, if you are going to make organizational moves, be bold!  If the moves aren’t bold, don’t bother!

Organizations are going to continue to put people into supervisory roles because they are great technical staff members – that’s the harsh reality of organizational life.  Most of the time we just don’t have an extra supervisor hanging around to fill in when there’s a vacancy.  I get that!  But don’t miss the importance of having someone in a supervisory position who knows the technical work and can connect with people, assign work, make the environment pleasant and communicate the bigger picture.  These interactions really do matter!

Remember, all of my Playground Personalities can be happy and productive supervisors; they just look different.  One Playground Personality type is not better than another, i.e., Organizers don’t make better supervisors than Revolutionaries.  They have different strengths.  Here’s a quick review:

Peacemakers – include people in decision making processes, ask for feedback and try to implement the feedback!

Organizers – clarify the work and the roles of their staff; they keep the trains on schedule!

Revolutionaries – look at the people and the situation they are in and make it better!

Steamrollers – see all sides of an issue and are able to explain “why” without getting in the weeds!

So make sure you have the right people in supervisory roles.  Don’t move people into those important positions because people like them, they get a ton of work done, they move fast, or they are IQ smart.  Any one of those skills is a great attribute, but a strong supervisor will have all of those skills in some measure and the technical competence to provide both oversight and vision.

Keep your long-range organizational plan fit and continually evaluate your staff so when you’re ready to implement a reorganization, you have the right people to make it work!

Creating ideas is half the battle… Pitching them and getting buy in – is a whole different story

Publication 14, Issue 3

Some people make things happen, some wait for things to happen, and others say, “What the hell happened?!”  We are who we are – and I accept and live by that!  For me, at the core of making things happen is the “idea.”  The impact of our ideas makes things better, solves problems, results in the creation of new things and helps us fashion new from old.  Ideas can be big, small, even life changing.

So why do ideas cause so much stress in organizations?   On a recent The Big Bang Theory (yes, I watch the show), Sheldon and Leonard had an intellectual battle about ideas: What’s more important, the inspiration of an idea or its implementation?  Of course, there is no right or wrong answer.  The juice for Sheldon as an Organizer—he of the Roommates’ Agreement, the requirement to knock three times, etc.—is the implementation, and the juice for Leonard as a Steamroller is the inspiration and the journey!  So you can see how introducing new ideas can cause strain in a relationship!

Ideas usually get a workout at the office.  We brainstorm ideas. They get categorized, kicked around, even ridiculed, stomped on or thrown out!  Sometimes we judge them:  “Oh that will never work,” or “We tried that before.”  Sometimes they block us from doing something great because the idea opens uncharted territory and we don’t want to have to push that rock uphill or fight the bureaucracy.  But an idea usually is the key to unlocking something great, and while ideas don’t have to be groundbreaking, some have revolutionized the way we live, from the Industrial Revolution to the smartphone and everything in between!  Who would have thought we’d be able to pay for our coffee with our phone?!

Here’s how each Playground Personality will receive an idea:

Peacemakers – might say, “That’s nice, did you talk to Joe or Jane?”

Organizers – will ask a barrage of questions and if they don’t receive answers, they’ll say, “Let me know when you’ve worked out all the details!”

Revolutionaries – will question the idea’s “reality” and will have a “wait and see” moment until the idea gets closer to being implemented.

Steamrollers – will challenge it, always, either with another idea or evidence as to why it won’t work!

So, why do some great ideas never get off the ground?  The secret is in the “pitch.” Know what motivates you first, then your boss, your staff, and other stakeholders. Tailor your words and actions to motivate each Playground Personality and achieve the buy-in and acceptance you are looking for.  Here’s a framework for pitching your idea to the different members of your audience.

Peacemakers – State your idea and give people a chance to offer feedback.

Organizers – Be clear and concise and state up front that you don’t have all the answers.

Revolutionaries – Talk about the idea and the “holes” in the idea and get some conversations going.

Steamrollers – Draw a picture or diagram and be ready for the intellectual challenge or pushback.

When you’re ready to pitch your next idea at a team meeting, listen to everyone, make an outline, talk about what could go wrong, and create a visual aid.  By tapping into all of the Playground Personalities, you’ll soar!

Silence = Consensus…Speak now, or forever hold your peace!

Publication 14, Issue 2

Yes – you read it right!  I was with a CEO client a few months ago. On the wall in the executive committee meeting room were operational norms.  One was “Silence = Consensus.”  When I asked him what that meant, he was very clear: “I ask people if they have any issues about a topic we’re discussing, and if they don’t give me any feedback, I assume we all agree and we move on to the next agenda item.”  Imagine my surprise when I heard that roll off his tongue!  He meant it!  He wasn’t being difficult – he’s an Organizer who likes things checked off his list and is willing to listen on his terms…that is if people tell him what’s on their minds when he asks, not days later!  When I asked him “How does that work out for you?” he replied, “Not so good!”  Shocking!

So picture this: You’re in a meeting – it’s kinda heated – emotions are running high – and the boss says, “Anybody have a problem with this?” And when no one responds the boss says, “Next agenda item,” and then three days later when the boss is walking out of another meeting, someone comes to her with feedback and she can’t even remember what the topic was because so much has happened since that last meeting!

This happens every day in organizations, but why?  We can’t blame it on the Myers-Briggs extroverted/introverted personalities.  It’s true that everyone processes information at his/her own pace, but it’s more than that. So why do people respond differently to the potentially deadly meeting room question, “Anybody have any issues about this, let me know now”?

Here’s the likely response from each Playground Personality – and the reason why:

Peacemakers – at the risk of shining the spotlight on themselves, others, or worse yet, the boss, they will hesitate and probably won’t attempt to say how they feel.

Organizers – knowing folks usually won’t have the answers, they will ask a litany of questions – my friends call it my “machine gun” questioning technique.  One question after another – no breathing in between!

Revolutionaries – will make a single attempt to weigh in, but they aren’t going to put a dog in the fight.  They’ll duke it out later when things go sideways.

Steamrollers – like to put their opinions out there, so they’ll start an intellectual soliloquy, moving through a winding, cerebral hypothetical, all in the spirit of trying to create a dialogue to get at a better answer.

How much feedback are you missing if your mantra is “Let me know now, or forever hold your peace”? My preference is “Sleep on it and let me know in the morning!”  It provides people an opportunity to reflect, think, kick the tires and come up with more ideas, which actually might lead to a better decision in the end.

So as a manager, if you don’t get feedback about people, processes, realities or philosophies, you will miss a part of the equation, which may lead to a flawed decision.  You might not like the feedback or change your mind, but at least you’ll be able to think it through from all angles.  Try it. You might like it!

 

Are you surviving or thriving at work? It’s time to take a look in the mirror!

Publication 14, Issue 1

Most of us have spent our careers on a hamster wheel – chasing that next title or more importantly, chasing the bucks!   It has taken me a lot of years and amazing work experiences to finally figure out that it’s much more than title and money.  Yes, they are both important – but it’s important to be happy and productive at work – not just productive!

We want to be doing work that interests and challenges us, but whatever the job, there’s a trajectory to a career.  Where are you in your career arc?  The beginning? – where every move counts; in the middle? – where you are constantly feeling the need to prove yourself over and over; or at a place (notice I didn’t say the “end”) where your leadership, communication skills and work speak to your competence – where you’ve arrived and have earned the right to be “joyful” and happy at work?  You can survive your work life with “one foot in and one foot out,” but at what cost?  This strategy will not lead to you thriving at work, that’s for sure!

I know if I had read this blog 20 years ago I would have thought the author was a nut – but hear me out.  There’s a message here for all of us!  Most of us who have been in the game for a while know the signs when things at work aren’t matching our personal or professional values:  Do you have to defend your position and the competence of your staff every day?  Do you think working harder and longer days will make you less vulnerable to being fired?  Are you waiting for a “shoe” to drop?   Is everything an intellectual battle?  My advice is to not miss the signs. Reflect and spring into action!

So, in 2015, do two things:

  1. Take a simple, quick professional inventory:
  • Do you like the people you work with?
  • Do you like the work?
  • Are you having fun?
  • Are you inspired?

While you don’t have to have answered all of these questions with a “yes” – it’s good to know what motivates you.  Notice I didn’t say anything about job title or money. I’ve always been a firm believer that title and money will come if you are the best person you can be, work hard, enjoy what you do, and feel like you are making a contribution to the greater good.

  1. Know what makes you thrive:

For the Peacemaker – it’s a need to feel respected, appreciated and to know that the people who work for you also are appreciated and acknowledged.

For the Organizer – it’s a need to know that your work is respected, tasks are clearly identified and people meet deadlines.

For the Revolutionary – it’s a need to know that the people who work with you know that you are the “go to” person in times of “mission impossible” activities.

For the Steamroller – it’s a need to know that you are seen as the “expert” in your field and that you believe you are making contributions to the company’s goals.

Be direct and fearless in 2015!  If you know you should make a change – have the courage and commitment to do it!  One way or another things work themselves out, so why don’t you take the reins and create your own destiny rather than waiting for the organization to do it!

Season’s Greetings!

If the thought of the holidays coming upon you sends you over the edge, read on – and if it doesn’t, read on anyway!  Holidays bring out the best and worst in us!  Here’s the secret – it’s up to “us” to make the holidays joyful!  Of course, there are a lot of parallel traits to us as managers, too!  I’ll leave it to you to spot the similarities in your home and work selves!

So, be honest!  Do you make the favorite cookies for a holiday celebration out of love (Peacemaker), obligation (Organizer), fun (Revolutionary) or because you make them the best, (Steamroller)!?

We’re each motivated by different things and the holidays really tap into how we self-manage, especially under stress!

Here’s how to get some peace of mind during the holidays!

Peacemaker – You know you are going to say “yes” to all of your invitations, so make time for yourself, however that looks for you…and know that you can say “no” to some and not hurt people’s feelings. Try it, and I promise, the sky won’t fall in!  It’s perfectly okay to be selective and not be everything to everyone!


Organizer – You know during the Season you’ll have lists for lists; just don’t make them look like Santa’s – he has powers that you don’t have!  Make the lists reasonable and be selective about what has to get done v. thinking you have to do it all!  Okay to keep track of your “to do’s,” but don’t forget to enjoy!


Revolutionary – You know you like to “eat, drink and be merry,” just keep in mind that if you party like a rock-star, you might pay for it the next day; we’re not getting any younger!  Hah!

Steamroller – You know you can fill ballrooms with ideas, so try to wrap up your work for 2014, keeping your ideas and dreams alive and refreshed.  You’ll have the motivation to start 2015 off strong! Take time to ponder 2015 and chill!

And if all else fails . . . my beverage of choice is Prosecco!  Stock up!

Wishing you the best of health, success, enjoyment and prosperity in 2015!

Stand up to preambles…They only get us in trouble

Publication 13, Issue 9

Of course, communication is my thing, so when I’m bugged about something I want to share it in the hope that we can all become more aware of our own communication style, prevent miscommunication and be more joyful and productive at work!  We waste time, money and effort every day when we devote hours to unraveling episodes of miscommunication between co-workers.  Actually, we can doom productive conversation pretty quickly when we indulge in that greatest of culprits, the preamble.

I was facilitating a meeting the other day and it was a little tense at times – so I checked out of the conversation and spent a few minutes observing people’s verbal cues and body language to see if I could figure out what the underlying tension was so I could redirect the atmosphere of the meeting.  It’s a great facilitator’s technique, and you can use it in your everyday meetings!  And sure enough, it didn’t take me long . . . the folks in the room were using “preambles.”

We all are guilty of using “preambles” and you know which words I’m talking about – those few snarky words in the beginning of our dialogues that get us in trouble!  Think about the “preambles” you use all the time.  Here are some that I’ve collected as I’ve helped my clients untangle communication missteps:  “You know I’m saying this because I care…”  “Don’t take this the wrong way…”  “Not for nothing …” and my all-time favorites – “Don’t take offense…” and “Let’s be honest…”  Wow, how else should one be??!!

I went to Merriam-Webster and looked up the definition of preamble and here’s what it says – “a statement that is made at the beginning of something (such as a legal document) and usually gives the reasons for the parts that follow.”

So why use them in our everyday language?  In our day-to-day management lives we usually aren’t reciting legal documents and our conversational preambles certainly don’t give a reason for the parts that follow – so why do we begin our dialogues with preambles?  Funny you should ask.  There is a reason:

Peacemakers use preambles to soften the delivery of what could be a “slippery-slope” so people’s feelings don’t get hurt.
Organizers use them to defend their work or work habits so additional feedback ceases.
Revolutionaries use them to fill the space with words while they assess the situation.
Steamrollers use preambles to sound knowledgeable so people know who the “experts” are.

Preambles put people on the defensive.  The receiver of the communication braces himself/herself for that second half of the sentence, anticipating the negative comment that has been telegraphed – and quite frankly, who wouldn’t?  I’ve never seen these interactions end well!

Imagine the clarity that could result if we eliminated these pesky phrases from our repertoire.  If we have to repair a communication exchange, interaction is already damaged, feelings are hurt and sometimes people never forget!  Think about the words that you use and eliminate the “set-up.”  Start from the point where you say what you want to say without the preface!

So, let’s stand up to “preambles” and follow the words from Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave”:

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say

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