At The Whiteboard

Help! I Hate My Job! Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Season Three, Episode One. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

Podcast Recap: Season 3a, Episode 1

On Season 3 of the podcast we are tackling managing your own career, and our first discussion revolves around the question, “Should I stay, or should I go?”

Do you really need a new job, or are you just in a bit of a rut? Do you need to find something new, or are you just in conflict with another member of your team or your manager that is giving you grief?

While the job cycle is definitely shorter than it used to be, it’s still important to ask yourself a few questions before you make the decision to leave and find something new. First of all, why are you even thinking about a new job right now?

Why Leave Your Job?

We are asked all the time for advice on careers and job moves and changes, and there tend to be some pretty common themes during those conversations. Do any of these sound like you?

  1. Bad manager: You might experience signs and symptoms like poor work-life balance, stress, discomfort, or conflict.  How have you tried to work through the scenario? Do you have unrealistic expectations?
  2. Bad performance review/no promotion: You hear something in a performance review that you don’t want to hear and feel uncomfortable and want to leave. You didn’t get that last promotion and are feeling deflated.  Have you tried to work through this? Have you identified the gaps? Have you asked for work that helps you fill them? Is there opportunity to change and improve?
  3. Wanting a new challenge/more responsibility: You feel like you’ve mastered your role. You are bored and need to try something new. Have you asked for new responsibilities or offered to pitch in on different projects?
  4. Wanting a change: You just want a change for change sake. Some might even look for opportunities in a new city or country! What small changes are possible that would achieve the same result? Or is moving really what you want?
  5. Impending Doom. A re-org, merger etc. is making you fearful or not really keen on the changes that are ahead. Are you certain that the changes are coming? Are you certain they are going to play out the way you assume? Can you research a bit more?

What is Your Plan?

There is another common theme among people who are starting to get that feeling that they need a new job.

They don’t have a plan, or a goal, or a destination. If you do, then skip ahead to the next section. If not, then read on.

If you just desperately want to leave your job and scramble to something else, you can expect to be equally unsatisfied and unhappy where you land. Eventually.

In order to really address your discontent, you need to have a goal or destination, and you need to make decisions that will help you get there.

Where do you want to be in one year, three years, or even five? Make decisions today that help you reach your longer term goal.  Or more directly, find work/projects/courses that help you get to the next step.

The great part, is you are in charge of your goals. You can change them and they aren’t carved in stone. Don’t be afraid to chart out your path – you can change it!

Top Tips to Figure Out “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

  1. Reflect: Reflect on the symptoms that you are experiencing and assess whether you’ve taken the steps to improve your current situation. (See above – is your job salvageable, or do you need to develop more skills before you move?)
  2. Have a Plan: Figure out your plan. Short term to long term. Have an idea of what you are going to so that you are happy when you get there and that this step makes sense in your bigger career plan. What are the stepping stones to get to the next big thing? Have an outcome statement. “I will know I am in the right job if____________.”
  3. Go Across to Go Up: Are you willing to take a lateral move in order to make a bigger change from there? Are you willing to take a pay cut to switch into a new career?
  4. Go “TO” something: Are you running away from your job and jumping to ANY job, or are you being selective and finding the right thing? Do you have passion for what you are applying for?

Take some time. Take a deep breath and put down the voodoo doll of your manager or most hated colleague.

Do some reflecting (use a @bestselfjournal if you can, we love them) and planning.

If you are convinced that you need a new job, stay tuned to the podcast and the blog to see how to start that job hunt.

We’ve got you covered.

Until Next Time,

Nicole

How to Be Productive When the Office is Quiet

Season Two, Episode Eight. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

Podcast Recap: Season 2, Episode 8, BONUS PODCAST

This week on the podcast, which is our special Holiday Bonus Podcast, we talk about how to be productive when the office is technically open, but mostly pretty dead.

Unless you are an essential services worker (and if you are, thank you!), or are super lucky and work for an organization that closes between Christmas and New Year’s, you have probably experienced working those days when MOST people are on vacation, but a skeleton staff remains.

It’s the worst.

You’re there because the organization has to keep the lights on and do the basics to make sure nothing horrible goes wrong, which it almost never does, but you know, just in case and all that.

What do you do? There’s no one to have meetings with. You can’t get anything approved to move forward. Your desk is out in the open, so watching a movie or playing Candy Crush is unwise.

What Do You Do?

P-O-U-N-C-E

That’s right, Pounce. It’s our mnemonic gift to you to help you on those days when you are in the office, but barely anyone else is.

(It’s also helpful if you think about it as setting yourself up for the New Year. You know, pouncing on it. See what we did there?)

  • Ponder
  • Organize
  • Unsubscribe
  • Network
  • Chill
  • Enjoy

Ponder

Take some time to think about where you are right now, and whether you’re happy with it. This isn’t about making resolutions, although you might end up making some. It’s more about reflecting and doing a little self- assessment:

  • What do you want to do with your job? Are you on the right road to making it happen?
  • How’s your health?
  • How are your relationships, both at home and at work?
  • Are you at loose ends? Are you “all good?”
  • Do you have any “to do list” items that you’d like to check off your Bucket List this year?

We are HUGE fans of the Self Journal from the Best Self Company. (You can buy them from their website or from Amazon.) It’s easy to use, and helps you set up your goals and what those tasks are that will help you achieve them. It even has a handy dandy poster to track your goals three months at a time (which is much less daunting than planning for a whole year), and gives you little wins to help build your motivation.

CONTEST ALERT!

In fact – we love it so much that we’re going to give one away! Just send us an email (info@whiteboardconsulting.ca) or tweet us (@whiteboardcons) to tell us what your favourite podcast of ours was from 2017, and why. That’s it! We will make a draw on January 15th and send one to you.

Organize

Times like these are also excellent times to organize your workspace. This works for everyone, even people who THINK they are organized all the time – come on be honest. You have binders there from that conference you went to two years ago that you haven’t looked at. Or you have confidential files that should probably be shredded or returned to the HR department. Or you have notes on a printed PowerPoint presentation that really isn’t helpful anymore (or it is, but only page 68). Toss it (except page 68 – take a photo of it before you toss it). Or you have a junk drawer full of old candies, paper clips, and expired emergency deodorant.

Take the time to remove all these things that clutter your desk and act as distractions.

Unsubscribe

Hitting delete is pretty easy, but it’s a temporary fix to an on-going email clutter situation.

Take 20 minutes to open those things you subscribed to or that you have no idea why you get, and unsubscribe from them. We aren’t here to talk about email habits and changing the way you manage your Inbox. We ARE here to advise you to clean out the crap because it’s distracting you and stressing you out and you don’t even know it.

We like a couple of helpful tools:

  • Unroll Me is an amazingly helpful online tool that scans your Inbox periodically and, when a subscription email shows up, offers you a few options:
    • Unsubscribe – AND THEY THEN UNSUBSCRIBE FOR YOU SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING,
    • Roll It Up to a daily email with all your subscriptions in one scrollable email, or
    • Leave it in your Inbox.
  • SaneBox is also an online tool that moves your email into folders that you define. If you take the time to set it up the right way, it means that when you open your regular Inbox, you only see the most important things. No scrolling, filtering, or distracting. SO HELPFUL

Network

This is the perfect time to connect and build relationships. Ask that new person to walk with you and get a Peppermint Mocha or gingerbread cookie. Talk to that one co-worker that you have been having trouble getting to know.

If you’re a manager, reach out to members of your team who are all in during these “between” days, and suggest you all go out for lunch together. (And no, you don’t have to pick up the tab, although it would be nice if you gave the OK to extend the lunch hour a bit.)

This is not about socializing with your work buddies or BFFs. This is about capitalizing on the opportunity to build critical relationships in the office. It’s also just plain nice.

Chill

Cut yourself some slack. Catch that later bus (as long as work allows you to be flexible with your hours). Put on some music while you sort out your desk. Take a few minutes to stare out the window and reflect or ponder or just people watch.

If you’re a manager, cut your team some slack! We know of managers who used to just send people home a bit early, or extend lunch hours to allow for holiday shopping. It doesn’t have to be huge, but wow it can give people some stress free time to get things done. And that goes a long way.

Most importantly though, focus on yourself and what you need in order to rejuvenate over this holiday time. (This relates, of course, to the Pondering activity!)

Enjoy!

Finally, enjoy yourself. Find some source of joy that works for you, whether you are celebrating holidays or not. Whether it’s helping someone else out, taking some time to work on that special project that you love but just isn’t normally a priority, treating yourself to some special food, or wearing an Ugly Holiday Sweater, there are things out there that are fun and festive.

Oh, and Get Your Work Done Too

Of course you have to get your work done. Hopefully the demands are somewhat less, and you can take the time to set yourself up so you can POUNCE on the New Year.

We’d love to hear how you use POUNCE! And of course don’t forget to send us a note or a tweet to enter the Self Journal contest.

We wish you the very best for the New Year, and look forward to bringing you our third podcast series which will focus on your career! How to manage it, how to change it, and how to get where you want to go. And if you’re a manager, we will have tips on how to help your team manage their careers, and how to run a successful interview too.

Don’t forget you can subscribe to our podcast in iTunes (click here) so you never miss a new episode!

Until next time,

Ruth & Nicole

Peter. You’re Fired.

Season Two, Episode Seven. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

Podcast Recap: Season 2, Episode 7

This week on the podcast, which is our final episode of Season 2, we talk about things you should consider when you need to fire someone, either from their job or contract, from a project, or from, well, anything really.

Please note that we are NOT HR professionals or lawyers, so in our podcast and in this blog, we are focused more on the emotional burden of firing someone vs. the legal and technical logistics. Often, organizations have people to help with this and make sure that no one gets in trouble or does something horribly wrong. There is definitely due process that is required, and if you find yourself needing to fire someone, you need to ensure you’ve reached out to the right people before you actually say the words.

Like all things that are new or challenging, firing someone in the most effective and sensitive way requires some preparation. In addition to reaching out to your employment lawyer and/or your HR department, you might consider:

Before the Conversation

  • Have you given the person a chance to improve?
    • If you’re firing someone because of poor performance, you need to be able to show that you’ve been clear with your expectations, you’ve had regular performance conversations, and you’ve actually given the person a chance to improve.
    • Remember that the onus is on you to hold regular performance management conversations so that really, this isn’t a surprise to anyone. (Except those who may be deliberately obtuse.)
  • Have you documented your conversations?
    • Of course as part of a formal due process there are verbal warnings and written warnings and all kinds of documentation. We also recommend that you keep your own private and more casual notes on your discussions and important events. This can be used as evidence of your efforts to help the employee improve, your conversations, their reactions, etc.
  • Have you planned what you’re going to say?
    • Consider the ASBI tool so that you can open well, state the issue, and then BE QUIET. The temptation is to keep talking and fill the silence, and that just doesn’t help anyone (and could dig you into a hole).
    • Be firm and kind. If you’re over emotional, you risk the conversation going sideways and losing control of what is happening. If you’re unemotional, you risk sounding like a cold hearted robot.
    • If you’re firing someone because of a poor fit (vs. for poor performance), all the same preparation applies. Have you given them a fair chance to fit in? Have you chatted with them and coached them to allow them to adjust? Have you planned how you’re going to say what you need to say?

During the Conversation

Think about having a mantra to use if you get a bunch of questions or arguments against the termination. You might consider:

  • I appreciate this is a difficult or frustrating thing to happen. As I stated, you are being released from this position, and here are the next steps…
  • I appreciate your perspectives, and here is what is happening…
  • I know this is upsetting. Here is what you can expect next…

Picking a mantra that is true, does not apologize, and does not admit to any mistakes, is critical. It allows you to repeat the message over and over as the person tries to process what’s going on. Remember, this conversation is not a debate.

After the Conversation

Follow up. It might be with the person or with HR or with a variety of other people. Ensure that the proper next steps have been taken – leaving it up to chance or process is a recipe for confusion and, if things don’t happen in the right way (for instance, owed pay is not issued), it makes a bad situation worse, and makes you look terrible.

Our Three Tips

  1. Prepare Prepare Prepare:
    • Before the conversation – document and give them a chance to improve or fit in
    • During the conversation – have a mantra to stay on course and avoid a debate
    • After the conversation – follow up on the promised next steps, and do a little self assessment of how it went and lessons learned
  2. Use ASBI with Just the Right Amount of Emotion
    • Open Well
    • Be Firm but Kind
    • Don’t Fill the Silence
  3. Deal with Dissention
    • Stick to the Talking Points
    • Refuse to Debate
    • Use Your Mantra

This may be the hardest of our Difficult Conversations – after all, we are talking about someone’s livlihood! Do your homework so you can get it as right as possible the very first time! Likely you will think back and wish you had done something differently. And that’s ok.

No No Nancy Strikes Again

Season Two, Episode Six. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

Podcast Recap: Season 2, Episode 6

Every Office Has One

This week on the podcast we tackle that one person in the office that makes everyone groan. No, not Peter with all his horrible Dad jokes. No, we gave Peter the week off.  Instead we are talking about “No No Nancy”.  She’s negative. She hates change. She’s a downer. She doesn’t like new things.  She doesn’t even like old things.  She definitely doesn’t like you.  She says “No” a lot  – and her behaviour is a drag.

As always, our guiding principle here at Whiteboard is to seek to understand, so we should probably start with trying to uncover why some people have that negative style and others don’t.

Is the negativity a result of  personality preferences?

According to Myers-Briggs theory, people with a preference for Sensing (S) typically need factual, real, observable data in order for them to consider it trustworthy information.  Their personality opposites, those with a preference for Intuition (N), tend to trust information on the big picture and possibilities.

When our big picture thinkers (N) bring ideas/concepts/changes to our fact folks (S), the latter typically respond with a barrage of questions. These questions, used simply to get more data, information, and facts, are commonly interpreted by N’s as REALLY NITPICKY AND NEGATIVE: What’s the cost per night? Whats the weather that time of year? What was the data from last year? etc etc.

They aren’t meant to be negative, but that’s how they sound to their counterparts. As Ruth, Whiteboard’s resident S says, it’s “No for now, until you can prove otherwise”.

Similarly – S’s might start off proposals for change and meet with a similar perception of negativity from their N counterparts: What’s the big picture? How does this link to the strategy? Have you thought of other ideas? etc. And the perception is the same – a negative response that is a huge drag.

How to Deal?

If you’ve identified your No No or Negative Nancy as someone who just needs more data, BRING MORE DATA. As I (Nicole) mentioned, I deal with my seemingly super nitpicky, annoying husband who loves facts, data, and observations (love you babe) by always bringing facts and data with my ideas about which I want him to make decisions.  You know, like spreadsheets of vacation options with a zillion columns.

If you are the data driven realist trying to appeal to a big picture seeking N, can you give some thought to strategy and future possibilities to accompany your data and appeal to their thinking style?

This is all fine and dandy – but what if this isn’t a personality issue because there seems to be more going on?  Is it possible Nancy’s No’s are the result of some past experiences that are triggering a negative behaviour response? Or said differently…..

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

So this particular negativity comes from people who are impacted by past history/experience. Now the big question is how do we differentiate between the two sources of negativity, and more importantly does it matter? Let’s use Neville (Ruth’s Harry Potter obsession is really taking over…) as an example.

Every time Neville hears about a project he rolls his eyes, mutters under his breath, and is just generally grumbly.  Is he just being difficult because of past experience? Is he looking for the data? How can we find out?

Use open ended statements like:

Tell me more…..Help me understand…

to “peel back the layers of the onion” and find out.

You might hear:

  • I don’t understand it.
  • I don’t see the logic.
  • I don’t see the research.

Tell me about a time when this did work?

This is an Appreciative Inquiry technique that helps people focus on the art of the possible.

Either you’ll hear some positive ideas that you can work with, or, you might hear:

  • This always happens.
  • This never works.
  • I’m tired of all this.

This sounds like change fatigue, or previous examples of change that haven’t worked well or caused some workflow issues.

In this case you might want to find out where the person is in their journey for change? Maybe set some expectations about your topic.

But wait there’s more (like a great infomercial).

What if you hear:

  • I’m really mad about [insert unreasonable scenario that no one should be mad about here].
  • I can’t stand [insert really nice person who seems to just be driving Neville nuts].
  • Can you believe [insert really normal story that shouldn’t be alarming at all].

Sounds like maybe this is just a case of the MONDAYS. Sounds like this is just a grumpy day and will probably pass. Might be a good day to let someone just vent and be grouchy and not worry about this type of negativity bringing down the office culture too drastically.

BESPOKE COACHING

At the end of the day. Who’s on the “Bus to Change” with you? Who’s slashing the tires? Who’s grumpy in the back? And who’s gleefully singing songs at the front of the bus?

Deal with your negative Nancy’s/Neville’s/Nanette’s in respective order to their potential damage to your bus destination.  Before you come to a solution:

  1. Seek to understand,
  2. Then give info (if required), and/0r
  3. Then coach, and/or
  4. Give advice/support, and finally, if all else fails:
  5. Be directive.

The moral of this episode is….just because the symptoms sound the same (negativity), doesn’t mean the solution is the same.

You have to investigate and find the source of the negativity in order to deal with it effectively.  Listen to the podcast for Ruth’s Dog Bark/Tail analogy.

Next week on the blog we fire Peter.  Well not exactly – but we tell you what firing Peter might be like and how to prepare.

And we give you a sneak peek on Season 3 of the podcast! So keep on listening.

Until next time….

Nicole

 

Peter is Perfect. Does He Still Need Feedback?

Season Two, Episode Five. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

Podcast Recap: Season 2, Episode 5

Peter has come a long way. He’s taken your excellent feedback, worked hard to improve, and consistently meets and exceeds your expectations. In fact, you might go so far as to say he’s your “perfect” employee.

Thank goodness, because now you don’t have to give him feedback anymore and you can save all that time.

Right?

Wrong.

Star Employees Need Feedback Too

There’s not much that is more deflating to a high performer than suddenly feeling invisible or under valued. Sadly, this happens frequently – we reward our star performers with, what??? MORE WORK! We know they will do it and do it well, and then are surprised when they slip back into old habits or appear disengaged.

The truth is that ALL employees need feedback, even when you can’t find anything to criticize or improve. Why? Because feedback doesn’t have to be negative or constructive (and if that’s the way you view it, we encourage you to change that opinion).

Positive feedback, thoughtfully given and sensitively presented is ALWAYS A GOOD THING.

Three Things to Consider

Here are three common scenarios in which you might struggle to find the right kind of feedback to give to someone:

  1. The Over Achiever. This is the person who just wants more. All the time. They want more work, more challenges, and want to get better and better. They are the person sitting in your office BEGGING for feedback, and you’ve run out of things to tell them.
    • What to do? Consider asking them to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10. Chances are they will NOT give themselves a 10 (because overachievers always want to improve). Regardless of how they rate themselves, you can ask them these questions, and let them come up with their own feedback!
      • What are the positive things that contributed to this rating?
      • What do you think you need to do to move the needle higher?
  2. The Practically Perfect Person. Ah, Perfect Peter. He is solid, reliable, has achieved all the goals you have worked on together, is happy with the feedback he gets (and you know this because he told you, not because you assumed), and is just the kind of person everyone wants on their team. So what kind of feedback can you continue to provide? Well, maybe at this point it’s time to switch from feedback to a goals discussion. Perhaps he really is a 10, and now you need to move the needle. Consider setting professional and global goals (global goals are skills that are easily transferrable and often required to “move up” the career ladder or shift to a different role, e.g. presentation skills, facilitation skills, networking) and creating a new set of objectives on which you can give feedback.
    • What would you like to do next? What skills are needed to achieve that?
    • How can you share your skills with others? Are you interested in mentoring someone or allowing someone to job shadow you? Would you like to give a presentation?
  3. The Average Joe. This is your average, reliable, normal person, who requires a combination of positive feedback and recognition in order to remain engaged. Oh and guess what, positive feedback and recognition, while related, are not the same!
    • Positive Feedback is giving specific details on how a person performed and how that performance impacted the team, the organization, you, or any other entity. Use ASBI to deliver that positive feedback in a meaningful way!
    • Recognition thanks someone for their efforts and gives visible reward for their efforts. Remember that recognition does not mean the same thing to everyone – in fact it can go horribly wrong if you assume people like to be recognized the same way you do. The best tip? Ask the person!

Remember – employee engagement has been proven to directly impact an organization’s results. Don’t save your feedback discussions for times of trouble or assume that your team members are all happy and don’t need your positive feedback or recognition.

Take the time to find the positive things to reinforce and inspire the behaviour you want on your team. Then think about how best to deliver it, and take purposeful action to get it done.

Honestly it takes 5 minutes. And it lasts a lifetime.

Until next time,

Ruth.

Peter is Crying. What Do You Do?

Season Two, Episode Four. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

Podcast Recap: Season 2, Episode 4

Remember our poor imaginary employee Peter? Well, today we want you to imagine that he is now standing in front of you, in your office, weeping. He is distraught, using up your kleenex, and looking at you not know what to say or how to say it, and yet imploring you to help.

I guarantee that if you manage or supervise people, this has happened to you, or will happen to you some day, and you need to know what to do and how to handle the situation.

Shouldn’t Peter Leave His Troubles At Home?

Maybe 30 or more years ago, sure. Back then it was NOT ok to bring your troubles at work – you were expected to be a “big boy” or “big girl,” and “leave it at the door.”

Well, that’s not the case anymore. Now it is acceptable to “bring your whole self to work” and be who you are. If that’s not enough of a reason to hear Peter out, then here are three more reasons why you should make sure you know what to do if someone comes to you stressed out and/or emotional about something that has nothing to do with work:

  1. At the minimum, Peter will not perform well for you if something is causing him to become emotional in the workplace. And guess what – you are responsible for the performance of your team.
  2. You have a legal obligation, at least in Ontario and in many other places, to ensure that your employees are safe from bullying and harrassment, and this includes understanding whether there is an issue with domestic violence that could come to work. (See Bill 168 here.)
  3. It’s the right thing to do. As a human being it is appropriate to find out what is troubling this person and to make sure that they get the help and support they need. Note that this does NOT mean that you have to be their therapist!

OK, So What Do I Do Other Than Have Kleenex Ready?

Having an emotional person in your office is not unlike having an angry person, which we talked about a couple of episodes ago (read the blog recap here). It’s important to listen and convey understanding and empathy so that you can diffuse the emotion and get to the point where you can discuss what needs to happen. The LESTER tool works great for this!

  • Listen. Don’t talk. Just listen.
  • Echo. Repeat back what Peter said so you can confirm you know exactly what he’s upset about.
  • Sympathize/Empathize. Let Peter know you know how awful this must be for him, and then move on to the next step. The danger here is to start swapping stories of when it happened to you. Suddenly you become like a therapist to Peter, and he’s in your office every day, and nothing is getting resolved.
  • Thank. Tell Peter you’re glad he came to you.
  • Evaluate. Consider some solutions to help. This is important: avoid saying, “What can I do to help?” This can result in Peter dumping things on you with great relief. Instead, ask “What needs to happen to help you through this?” Now Peter can own at least some of the responsibility of solving his own issues. (Note that depending on the issue you may want to check in with your HR department and let them know what’s going on, and just make sure you’ve done everything you should. They can be an excellent resource for you.)
  • Resolve. Confirm the plan, follow up, and check in.

The key here is to ensure Peter is getting the help he needs, not let up on holding him (and yourself) accountable for any action steps, and for following up.

What if Peter’s Performance Doesn’t Improve, Even With My Help?

Well, the reality is that you are not Peter’s therapist, and you ARE responsible for your team’s performance.

If you have done everything you can think of to help Peter, and he is still not improving, then you will need to have a performance discussion. Here is where the ASBI tool will help you structure your conversation to be clear and direct:

  • Ask for permission to have a discussion.
  • Describe the situation.
  • Describe the behaviour.
  • Describe the impact.

This gives Peter the chance to understand that his performance is the issue (not his emotional concerns), and discuss how he can improve it.

If he STILL isn’t improving? Well, now you’re into a formal performance management conversation. Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to call HR and check your organizational policy on this. (If you don’t have an HR department, then check your company’s policy on this. Does Peter need time off?)

Remember, that helping Peter doesn’t mean you have to become a therapist. It means you have to be kind and curious, help Peter get the help he needs, and ensure that your team or organization’s performance isn’t jeopardized in the meantime.

Seek the Happy Path, always. You may end up on the “Almost Happy Path,” and that’s ok too. Just avoid the “Well Intended But Unhappy Path.” That is an energy drainer and doesn’t help anyone in the long run.

Give these tips a try, let us know how it went on Twitter at @whiteboardcons and check out the rest of our podcast series on our homepage at www.whiteboardconsulting.ca.

Until next time,

Ruth.

How to Tell Peter He Smells

Season Two, Episode Three. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, click here.)

AWK-WARD….

Phil Collins, in case you’re too young to know who this is. Also click here to listen to SUSSUDIO.

This season on the podcast we’ve been focusing on awkward/difficult/uncomfortable conversations and helping everyone to get over their fears and just DO IT.  Now I believe that all difficult conversations are to some extent awkward, otherwise they’d just be conversations.

In case you don’t have time to listen to Ruth and my hilarious banter about body odour and low cut tops, this blog will give you three quick tips to having a conversation about a super uncomfortable topic.

(But you should listen, because otherwise the Phil Collins reference makes no sense.)

What Kinds of Conversations are we Talking About Here?

We’re talking about uncomfortable conversations like:

  • body odour,
  • bad breath,
  • food odours, or
  • work attire.

And to some, these might be no more difficult or awkward than not getting a promotion, not getting a pay raise, or just giving feedback.

Some of these are most difficult because they are subjective….what is “bad” body odour, what food smells “bad” versus not bad, what constitutes “appropriate” work attire.  They are also difficult because they are personal – it’s happening to your body, it’s on your body, or you’re putting it in your body. The reactions to this type of feedback can sometimes be more emotional and defensive and that can make having these types of conversations that much scarier.

3 Tips for Having Awkward Conversations

1. Prepare & Map it Out

We talked about this last on the podcast, but I’m going to add it here.  Do some prep work with your HR department, your corporate policies, or the good old interwebs.  Check out what current policies and labour laws are for the item you are approaching your colleague about.

Create a process map or decision tree of your conversation.  This helps you plan for reactions that you aren’t prepared for.  What if the recipient denies that they actually smell? What if the recipient bursts into tears? What if they get angry and walk out of the room? So your conversation process map might be as simple as this:

Opening: I have something awkward to tell you involving body odour.

Response:

  1. No I don’t smell.  You have no idea what you are talking about.
  2. OMG, really? I had no idea?
  3. Crying/Leave room/Somehow end conversation

Responses:

  1. Here’s what I’ve observed, others have described. Here are the impacts to the team/me/others.  What are your thoughts?
  2.  Same as above
  3.  Reschedule meeting and try again

And you can keep going down the line, what are possible responses to those….and what are your responses.

2.  Open Well

One of the greatest openings for this type of conversation is just laying it out there. “This is going to be a difficult conversation”.  This is such a lifesaver.  It sets the other person up to prepare for something awkward. It gives you, as the conversation leader a little bit of a pass on being “perfect”.  It eliminates the need for any pleasantries or diverting from the topic.  It prevents you from starting with distracting comments like “We know you are really great, we love your work, how was your weekend…..”.  You can move right to the meat of the conversation.

3. Follow-Up

Once it is over, make sure that you check in after this tough conversation and see how it is going.  Is the behaviour changing? Is it staying the same? Why?  You might need to have a second (or third or fourth) conversation before the impact really sinks in.

Awkward conversations are hard. With planning and practice they can become less difficult for everyone involved.

Give these tips a try, let us know how it went on Twitter at @whiteboardcons and check out the rest of our podcast series on our homepage at www.whiteboardconsulting.ca.

Until Next Time,

Nicole

 

 

 

How to Tell Peter, “No Raise for You”

Season Two, Episode Two. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

Podcast Recap: Season 2, Episode 2

This episode we focused on telling poor imaginary Peter that he didn’t get that raise he was expecting. “No raise for you Peter!”

Why is it so hard? It should be pretty logical, right? Wellll, not always.

It’s a Touchy Subject

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us why the issue of pay raises, salaries, or compensation of any kind is especially difficult to address with people.

A person’s total compensation package is highly personal and strikes right at the heart of an individual’s ability not only to provide physiological needs for him/herself and his/her family, but also to build their own self-esteem, and to feel valued and worthwhile.

Essentially, you are impacting a person’s most basic and psychological needs.

It’s for this reason that you have to tread lightly when responding to someone who is angry about money. As you can imagine though, we strongly suggest you DO have that conversation. Why?

So many reasons.

  1. It’s respectful.
  2. It engages people.
  3. It builds your trusting relationship with that person.
  4. It sets expectations for the future.
  5. It’s just the right thing to do.

Peter Didn’t Get the Raise He Expected

Yup, back to poor Peter. In our last blog we focused on how to give Peter impactful (and kind) feedback about the quality of his work. Now we are faced with telling Peter that he is not getting the raise he wanted, either because he suddenly stormed into your office to discuss it, or because it’s part of your yearly salary or performance management conversation.

So what do you do?

  1. Say the hard thing. Be clear and specific.
  2. Be quiet and wait for the response.
    • You’re hoping they will say, you’re right. What can I do to improve?
    • It’s also possible they will be super angry.
  3. If they’re angry… well, read on.

Let’s say in this case, Peter is really angry. so, you give him all the logic of why he got what he did, what the protocol was, and explain things in very detailed words. All better, right?

No. Not right.

When we’ve talked about the Change Curve with clients and students, we’ve highlighted that when people are angry, they simply can’t hear you. Your best bet is to simply listen and let them vent.

The simple act of Listening is respectful, engaging, and HARD. Often people are taken back by anger and feel attacked and tempted to respond in kind.

So our tip for you today, to help you metaphorically throw the bucket of water at the anger, is the LESTER tool.

LESTER

LESTER is a great mnemonic to help you remember the steps when being confronted with anger in the workplace.

  1. Listen: Take a minute to breathe, and then just listen. Let the person vent, ask them clarifying questions, maybe even use “Tell Me More,” and listen. Really listen. Be engaged and be present. (Peter, tell me what’s got you so upset.)
  2. Echo: Clarify what you heard them say. It’s possible that, from all the venting, you will pull out the wrong issues or misunderstand what Peter said. (Ok Peter, it sounds like you are frustrated about the amount of your pay raise, and also – maybe even mostly – a little surprised by it. Have I got that right?)
  3. Sympathize: (Or perhaps Empathize, which messes up the mnemonic, but whatever…) Recognize their frustration. Tell them you can see their anger. Do NOT say “I’m sorry you feel that way,” which is passive aggressive and only makes people feel worse. Just let them know that you heard them and you can understand that they are upset. (Well I can see that your upset, and I can imagine how frustrated you must feel.)
  4. Thank: Yup, that’s right. Thank them for letting you know. It’s as simple as saying, “thanks for coming to me.” This ensures that people will continue to come to you, which is what you want as a manager. It’s way better than having people complain about you at the water cooler. The only thing that does is ensure you never have your finger on the pulse of the team. (Thanks for coming to me. I appreciate it.)
  5. Evaluate: Now you want to work on solutions to the problem. It might mean you change a decision or a policy, or it might mean that you discuss things in advance, or it might mean working on ways for Peter not to be so surprised in the future. (Well, let’s talk about how to make sure you’re not taken by surprise next time. You know the pay cycle and the policy for it. How can we work together so that you get what you’re expecting?)
  6. Resolve: This final step is just about repeating any agreed on actions as the person walks out the door. (So what we are going to do is set quarterly reviews to talk about your performance. You’re also going to work on your report-writing skills, and I’m going to set you up with some job shadowing. Sound good?)

This whole conversation can happen in five minutes. The more you practice, the easier it gets not only to avoid escalating, but also to actually de-escalate and build the relationship.

Give these tips a try, let us know how it went on Twitter at @whiteboardcons and check out the rest of our podcast series on our homepage at www.whiteboardconsulting.ca.

Until next time,

Ruth.

How to Tell Peter His Work Was, um, Crappy

Season Two, Episode One. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

We are so excited to launch Season Two of our podcast this week! Get ready for a whole series dedicated to discussions related to “Difficult Conversations,” with tips, tricks, and tools to help you navigate those situations instead of avoiding them altogether.

In Episode 1 we focus on the awkward task of giving someone critical or constructive feedback. 

Podcast Recap: Season 2, Episode 1

How many times have you been in a situation where you’ve had to tell someone they didn’t do a great job on something, and you wished with the power of a thousand fiery suns that you could avoid the whole thing? Perhaps you DID avoid it and it kept happening anyway?

The funny thing is that most of us crave feedback. We want to do well, to grow and improve, and to feel competent, useful and valuable.

So why is it so hard to give feedback?

Trainingzone reports, “Feedback is difficult because it stands at the juncture of two human needs – the need to be loved and accepted for who we are and the need to improve and be better than we are.”

We think that’s spot on, and believe that FEAR is found at the juncture mentioned above. Fear of upsetting or angering someone, fear of being caught in an argument and having no “comeback,” fear of not achieving the desired result, or worse – fear of making things worse.

Our podcast focuses on overcoming that fear by learning methods that can help you be more effective at giving critical or constructive feedback.

Level One: Can I Tell You Something?

You are busy. Everyone is busy. The word of the day/week/year is busy. We get it. Who has time to be all nicey-nicey and make everyone feel good? You received a report, you reviewed it, it’s not very good, and you just need the writer to fix it.

You could stop by his desk and say, “Peter, I read the report. You’ve missed a couple of important details, and also the formatting is wrong. Please fix it and get it back to me by end of day.”

There’s nothing technically wrong with this. You even said please. But is it the best way?

Now let’s walk in Peter’s shoes. He’s also busy. He just got off a conference call, he got fifteen emails in the last thirty seconds, and his wife, who is home with a new baby, just texted him to call as soon as he has a chance.

He’s super distracted, and when you come by and interrupt his train of thought, he says, “Oh yeah sure, no problem.” He then calls his wife as you walk away, and relates to her how his micro-managing boss just stopped by and he has to go. Then he opens up the report and has no idea what he’s supposed to fix because he can not remember what his boss said.

Now what if you had said the following instead:

“Hey Peter, I know you’re super busy. Can I tell you something? Have you got a sec?”

In this situation, Peter is much more likely to look up from his email and look at you. He will probably answer with a much more clear and understanding response, and will maybe even take a note or two before calling his wife.

Using the phrase, “Can I tell you something?” is an automatic trigger to stop what you’re doing, look up, and listen. It signals to the listener that something important is about to happen, and they need to pay attention.

It works. And takes two seconds out of your day.

Level Two: “How Did That Go?”

Ok, so Level One is your base. It’s the bare minimum that you should do if you absolutely do not have time for a full conversation, and while it may not be entirely engaging or coaching for improvement, it will be effective in setting expectations.

The problem with Level One is that it’s directive, and doesn’t ensure that Peter will not repeat the same mistakes the next time he has to write this report.

Level Two adds a coaching element by first asking the person to self-discover what could have been done better.

How About This Instead?

You have a couple of minutes so you ask Peter to pop by your office. He sits down, and after pleasantries you say, “Hey Peter, I got your report and read it through. Thanks for sending it last night. How did that whole report-writing process go for you?”

Peter, who as we know is busy, says, “Fine. Yeah it was good. It took a while to get started, and I was so tired when I finished it last night. The baby isn’t sleeping, and I figure I rushed the end. But I wanted to get it to you.”

You have been dying to say, “the conclusion of the report is CRAP and by the way what happened to our brand format!” and apparently Peter knows it too. So instead you say, “Yeah, I noticed some gaps in your conclusion. And, can I tell you something?”

Peter snaps to attention, because “Can I tell you something?” does that to people.

“The formatting needs some work too. Have a look at sections two and three – they are completely different and off brand. Can you please fix this and get it back to me by end of day?”

Peter knows what he did. And now he knows that you caught him at that and a couple of other things, and it’s unlikely he will do it again.

Level Three: ASBI

The ultimate feedback tool is the ASBI methodology, which comes from the book “Giving Feedback to Subordinates,” by Dana McDonald-Mann and Raoul J. Buron. While we don’t love the title for how hierarchical it sounds, it has some excellent ideas and tools, including ASBI.

How often have you either given or received feedback that sounded like this:

  • Hey, great job on that report!
  • I’m not happy with the way you handled the project.
  • Thanks, your team did really well.
  • You need to become a dynamic speaker!

These phrases are better than nothing, of course, and they could be even better if they were more specific. What was great about the report (so I can do it again)? What about the project did I handle incorrectly (so I can fix it)? What did my team do well? What do I need to do to be a more dynamic speaker?

The ASBI tool is short and sweet and allows you to give essential feedback that is clear and helpful, and allows the listener to process and respond.

Here’s how ASBI works:

A = Ask for Permission (Can I tell you something?)

S = Describe the Situation (I was in the Finance Committee meeting yesterday for your presentation.)

B = Describe the Behaviour (I noticed that you tended to read from the screen with your back to the audience.)

I = Describe the Impact (When you did that, it seemed that you didn’t know the material very well, and that you weren’t interested in engaging the crowd in a dynamic way.)

Then be quiet.

This last step is so important. It’s tempting to fill the awkward silence with chatter because we feel badly for just giving someone critical or constructive feedback. When we do that, not only do we we take away the listener’s ability to process and think of their response, but we also confuse the message.

In most cases, the person will listen, ponder, and then respond – perhaps in many different ways. Be prepared for that!

And in all cases, the listener will know exactly what you meant, and what the impact was of their behaviour. This is the only way for them to be able to both correct behaviour AND maintain a good working relationship with you.

Next on the Podcast

We will continue our discussion on Difficult Conversations by talking about how to deal with someone who’s angry!

Stay tuned for that, and please let us know if you have any questions or ideas by sending us an email at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca. You can also follow us on our social media:

 

 

 

What’s Your Corporate Climate Like?

We originally wrote the following blog post last winter, and were thrilled it was picked up by The Huffington Post on March 27, 2017.

What’s your Corporate Climate like?

Before you answer that, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page with respect to the use of the term “climate.”

We aren’t talking about the temperature in your office, or whether it’s really dry from the winter cold, or whether there aren’t any blinds on the west-facing windows so it’s unbearable on summer afternoons.

Rather, we are talking about an alternate definition provided by the Merriam Webster dictionary: “the prevailing influence or environmental conditions characterizing a group.”

What Defines a Corporate Climate?

We define the Corporate Climate as the synergistic effect of all the things that influence how, how well, and what work gets done in your organization. This includes things like:

  • People: There may be people who have influence over others at any level of the organization; it could be the CEO, an administrative assistant, a manager, or a new hire. If that person has a presence that influences (positively or negatively) other people, then he or she is shaping your Corporate Climate.
  • Policies & Processes: There may be policies & processes that are outdated and confusing, or relevant and useful. Some may be formally documented, and others may have evolved over time. Either way, they are impacting the quality of the work that is done.
  • Traditions: Do you hear the phrase “We’ve always done it this way” a lot in your organization? It could be a good thing (We’ve always had a company picnic and included all the families”) or a not-so-good thing (“We’ve always done this manually”). These traditions are a huge part of the Corporate Climate because they influence how and how well work is done.
  • Values: Does your organization have a values statement? Is it recent? Do leaders demonstrate those values and are people held accountable to them? Those values (or lack thereof) impact the Corporate Climate because they influence the way employees and customers engage with the organization.

Why You Should Care

Your organization’s Corporate Climate has a direct and measurable impact on the bottom line.

That’s it. That’s all you need to know.

Oh, you’d like to know how it impacts the bottom line? Ok.

The Corporate Climate influences employee engagement, which causes your team members to:

  • Wake up to the day’s most important news.
  • Stay or quit,
  • Do high quality work or the bare minimum,
  • Work as a high performing team or do their own thing,
  • Treat each other respectfully or tolerate incivility, and
  • Speak well of their organization or trash it.

Gallup Research consistently shows that ​employee engagement is an important predictor of corporate performance, even in a tough economy. They say, “engaged workers have bought into what the organization is about and are trying to make a difference.”

The Corporate Climate also influences the consistency, efficiency, and effectiveness of your products and services which:

  1. Causes customers to love you or hate you,
  2. Adds or reduces your sales and expenses, and
  3. Improves or reduces your level of employee engagement.

So, a positive Corporate Climate = a strong bottom line.

It’s Not Easy, But It’s Possible

Creating a positive, vibrant, and successful Corporate Climate is not easy, and yet – it’s possible!

Step One: Assess your Corporate Climate of your team, department, or the whole company. Consider the four categories we discussed:

  • People: How is our employee engagement? Do we have people that are positively or negatively influencing the Climate? Do we promote or coach those people accordingly?
  • Policies & Processes: When was the last time our policies were updated? What do we expect from our people? How do we treat them and each other? Do we have documented business processes? How long ago were they examined? Could we do better? Be more efficient?
  • Traditions: Are our traditions entrenched in the right areas and challenged in others? What high level traditions do we share and talk about? Do we know what traditions exist at the team level? Do those traditions represent what we are trying to do at the Corporate level?
  • Values: Would our employees be able to state what we value as an organization? Would our customers agree that we demonstrate our values? Have we ever defined what we value?

Step Two: Which of the areas above is the most pressing? Engage people in answering that question, and brainstorm some different answers and impacts.

Step Three: Start with one thing. Measure how it is now, take some focused action, and measure it again in six months. If there’s no change, go back to step two!

Your Corporate Climate is important. Take some time to assess yours today.