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Archive for July, 2018


Managing a Constant Complainer

Most people complain about work sometimes. Looming deadlines, conflicting priorities, and frustration with lengthy processes can cause grumbling. That’s expected and natural. On the other hand, coworkers who constantly complain about everything can damage morale and negatively affect the whole team’s productivity.

Complainers tend to have a fixed mindset—they feel a lack of control over situations and don’t believe that they can change anything. When they complain, they often speak in generalities, such as, “This process is stupid,” or “I’ll never get this done on time. This deadline is ridiculous.” Comments like these show an all-or-nothing attitude that sees everything as either black or white. It’s your job to help them to see the gray areas.

Don’t challenge them; instead, show acceptance of their opinions, but ask them to explain what they mean. Getting them to focus on specifics instead of generalities can begin to turn around their thinking. For example, say, “I know that this process can seem unnecessary at times, but I’d like to know what’s wrong with it from your perspective? Maybe it does need to be changed.”

Many complainers will likely respond that they are helpless and can’t do anything about it, or they may whine that they have tried “everything” and “nothing” has worked—more all-or-nothing thinking. If they stay in a fixed mindset, tell them you value their input and ask them to role play by pretending to be you. Ask, “What would you do about this if you were me? I’d like to hear your ideas.”

At this point, they will either shift out of a fixed mindset and start to think creatively, or they will repeat their excuses and complaints. If they come up with a good idea, encourage them with praise and recognition to reinforce ongoing positivity. If, however, they continue to complain, you may have to assess the affect the complaining is having on team morale and productivity and take corrective action. See my blog post Working with Toxic People for more information.



Obstacles to Leadership

Moving into a leadership position means that you have more responsibility, your team views you in a different light, and you are more accountable for results. Some people don’t believe they can do what’s required, so they hang back when opportunities arise.

It’s natural to pause and consider things before making the move to a leadership role, but if you want to move ahead in your career, you need leadership experience. Here are three steps to help you identify and overcome some common obstacles that might be keeping you from stepping up to leadership.

  1. Lack of information. Are you reluctant to assume a leadership role because you don’t know what’s expected of you, or you have heard stories that leadership is not everything people think it is? Address this obstacle by identifying a leader whom you admire and aspire to model. Find out if you can interview them about their role and job and if it is possible to shadow them for a day or two. Prepare a list of questions, so you don’t waste their time.
  2. Fear of failure.Taking on more responsibly requires you to move into new, unfamiliar territory. Change can be frightening, especially when it involves your job and livelihood. You worry that you might not have what it takes. A good antidote to fear is knowledge. Get information as described in the first bullet and do a risk/reward assessment. What do you gain by taking on a larger role? What is the risk if it doesn’t work out? What is the probability it won’t work out? Generally, the worst case is the least likely one. See my blog post Quick Questions for Weighing Options.
  3. Low self-confidence.Unsure if you can handle the job? Once you know what the job entails and have performed a risk/reward assessment, inventory your strengths, focusing on the ones a leadership role requires and identify where you are weak and need improvement. Decide to strengthen those areas while showcasing your strengths. See my blog post Showcase Your Skills for more information.

Your company needs people for leadership roles, especially as Baby Boomers retire. Now is the time for you to tackle any obstacles for stepping up to leadership. See my blog post Position Yourself for Leadership and my program Lead 4 Results.


Giving Instructions for Results

Have you ever given an employee clear instructions only to have them deliver something other than what you wanted? Sometimes the problem lies with the employee’s listening skills; other times, it lies with your communication skills. Here are some tips to make sure instructions deliver results.

  • Be direct.Clearly state what you want the employee to do and any rules, regulations, or processes that they must follow.
  • Describe your expectations.Make sure the employee understands the level of quality you want in deliverables and how much authority they have for decision making.
  • Be precise.“Quickly” and “soon” are relative, ambiguous terms that are open to interpretation. Use specifics with respect to dates and times. Avoid, “I need it tomorrow morning,” and instead instruct, “I need it by noon tomorrow.”
  • Ask for questions. Ask the employee if they need more information, using an open question, such as, “What questions do you have?” You will more likely get a response than if you ask a closed question like “Do you have any questions?” See my blog post Ask the Right Questions for more information.
  • Don’t assume anything.When giving instructions, don’t assume the employee has understood. Ask them to recap what they heard to ensure understanding.

When giving instructions, remember that visual people like to read things, so provide guidelines in writing. Auditory people like to listen and repeat what they have heard, so allow time for dialogue. Some people are kinesthetic—they need the actual, tactile experience of doing something to learn it, so make sure they know that they can come to you at any time to review what they have done.


Three Keys to Employee Retention

No manager wants to see a good employee walking out the door for a different job—even if it’s in the same company. Good employees contribute a lot to your department and team. They are positively productive, show initiative, are effective team players, and often demonstrate the leadership skills you need for future growth. Losing them can be a blow. Here are three keys for keeping your good employees happy and onboard.

  1. Show interest in them. Employees often leave a job they like because they don’t have a good relationship with their manager. You don’t have to become friends with everyone who works for you, but it’s good business to take time to get to know your team members and show a real interest in them as individuals apart from the work they do.
  2. Keep them engaged. Make sure they understand how their efforts contribute to the larger success of the organization. Routine tasks can bore even the best employee, so find ways to make work enjoyable. Use delegation to provide opportunities for developing new skills, meet new challenges, and show that you trust them to deliver results. See my blog post Delegation Works for more information.
  3. Provide career development. Good employees often have career aspirations that you can use to keep them satisfied on the job. When doing performance planning, discuss their career goals, research and offer company-sponsored training that supports their goals, and consider coaching or mentoring to show commitment to their success. See my blog post Coach for Results.

As a manager, you can do a lot to create an environment where good employees are motivated to stay and continue to be a positively productive member of your team. See my blog post Being a Nice Manager Makes Sense for more information.