Sunday, April 29, 2012

Check and Curb Bullying Behaviour

HR Bartender posted a thought provoking piece about the difference between a tough boss and a bully. I believe that someone who is exhibiting bullying behaviour is certainly motivated by fear. But interestingly though, bullying is about actions and behaviour -it can be changed. It doesn't need to be a permanent label.

It takes a lot of compassion, support and coaching from those close to the bully. Of course it also takes a willingness from the person exhibiting the behaviours to recognize that they want more positive relationships in their life. When pressed, they usually they do wish for more friends, more love and more respect -it's human nature. It's just that a bully didn't learn constructive people skills, instead they learnt only destructive personal skills. When I was teaching public school I heard powerful stories of how students in classrooms banned together to save the bully from their own bad behaviours. While I'm not advocating you instigate an intervention, just know that with the right tools and the right support, we all have the power to change and effect change. As always, the best place to start is with ourselves.

Here are some ways to check for bullying behaviour and how to curb it if you see it in yourself or another...

A bully acts from a place of self serving and negative fear and needs full control in order to avoid ending up in the fearful place.
A tough manager acts from a positive vision and believes in his teams ability to reach that vision together.
Focus on the positive vision -where do we need to go and how can we get there together? 

A bully is focussed on external power, oppression, authority and control over others because they don't have authentic power within.
A tough manager has self worth and also wants others to have self worth, self esteem and be empowered too.
Focus on your own strengths and talents -what do you and each person on the team bring to the table? 

A bully is compelled to diminish the success and inner wisdom others have because they fear it competes with their own external power.
A tough manager will congratulate others successes because they know it contributes to the good of society as a whole and does not take away from their own inner strength and power.
Everybody deserves recognition for a job well done -what did you do well today and how can you show appreciation to those around you today?

A bully doesn't take responsibility for their part or actions, they blame others.
A tough boss will take responsibility for their part and their actions and will look for the lesson in a challenge to help them and their team become more successful.
We're in this together -what will you do differently next time so we can be more successful?

Success happens when we have the courage to learn from each other, support one another and collaborate together.

Friday, April 27, 2012

In Spite of Ourselves

Spite is a passive aggressive act. Instead of dealing with an issue head on, a person intentionally acts to annoy, irritate or frustrate the other person. Then when the other person reacts with the intended frustration or irritation they gloat with satisfaction at their destructive power and the other person's emotional outburst.

Spite is one of the most destructive behaviours. The individual enjoys the power and authority they feel for actively forcing another into weakness and turmoil. I think people learn this behaviour as kids when they are forced to "be nice" to a sibling or person who they believe doesn't deserve it. It's a way of secretly weilding power over another person yet still playing within the rules. "What? I didn't do anything Mom!" Spite is a destructive, not constructive, way to gain a sense of equalibrium and leverage a sense of authority over another.

So how do we curb it?

I think we have to deal with the perpetrators underlying feelings. We have to have the uncomfortable conversation and find out why the spiteful person feels as though they are in a comprising position. Then teach them alternative ways to deal with their emotions. And with the victim, we need to teach them alternative ways to manage their emotions. They need to know how to stand strong, weather the storm, brush off the debris and carry on. Because without a reaction the spiteful person gets no satisfaction.

So now, what are alternative, constructive ways of dealing with, and managing our emotions?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How Do You Break the Micromanagement Cycle? has an interesting article that discusses 10 things entrepreneurs should never micromanage. One of the things listed is employee,s time, but I can think of many other things that shouldn't be micromanaged. In fact, my question is what exactly SHOULD be micromanaged...?

Being overly concerned with the minutia of how a job is completed speaks more about ourselves and less about the skills of the person doing the work. Once you delegate you also must let go. Some say this is about trust and that micromanaging reflects a lack of trust. While I agree, the question remains, how do we stop the cycle of micromanaging?

Once when I was home from University, I remember offering to vacuum. Even though my mom said yes, she proceeded to follow me around the house to point out how to vacuum the front hall, what to do with the floor mat at the entryway and how to dump the whole lot into the trash at the end. I remember our *ahem* "discussion" going something like... "Mom, seriously?! It's not rocket science and besides, I'm pretty sure I learnt how to vacuum from you." (And I am pretty sure that "discussion" was far less polite than I remember it now.)

You'd think I would have learnt just how damaging micromanaging can be. Yeeaahhh right.. Just yesterday I caught myself saying to my lovely man that if he'd just clean the kitchen to the same standards that I did I wouldn't have to harp after him about cleaning the kitchen. (Again, this is my polite, blog memory speaking.)

And that's when it dawned on me. We can break the cycle of micromanaging by focussing on a common understanding of success and delivering better training. We need to be honest and up front with ourselves and our team if we have specific requirements.

To me a clean kitchen is dishes stacked at the sink (even if they're dirty,) the counter wiped, dishrags and tea towels hanging straight and all cupboard doors closed. That's only 4 things. Not a terribly long list but with the way I can carry on about the state of the kitchen I can see how he might as well give up before he's even begun.

Training is simply teaching someone what behaviours are necessary to be considered successful in a certain situation. If we have very specific requiremments for success, we had better be ready to explain those behaviours with a solid checklist, excellent reasoning and a strong training program. Even though we train a lot, (ie: we train our kids to make their beds, we train the dog not to bark at the neighbour,) sometimes it's necessary to call in the big guns like Nanny Joe of Supernanny or Ceaser Milan the Dog Whisperer.

So next time you realize you're reaching for the micromanagement pistol, don't shoot yourself in the foot. Reassess your training program instead: Is your team fully trained to reach success... without you? Do you need to bring in the big guns instead?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Everyone is Important, Just Not Here

Knowledge is not proprietary anymore. It is no longer exclusive. If you can get on the internet, you can learn anything you want to know. If knowledge is not proprietary anymore then everyone can learn to be an expert.

And then there's this other amazing thing about the internet: everyone's opinion can be heard now. Anyone can start a blog, email their opinion, send in their idea, "Like" or "Follow" something. Everyone's opinion has some merit even if we don't agree with it. It's all just feedback you see.

Let it be known that the internet has made your opinion valid and showed you that your voice is important. So feel free to say what's on your mind and make sure your voice is heard. Be empowered!

Just don't do it at work, where you spend 40+ hours every week of your life. At work you represent a financial burden to your employer and your opinion is only as important as your status.

But that's not your workplace, is it?

Your employees are engaged... aren't they...?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Turn Fear into Growing Pains


It's so highly personal and intricate that we often don't know what's triggered it even in ourselves. We try to run. We try to hide. But sooner or later, it demands our attention. We are human and in order to participate in the life we've created with others, it's necessary to grow. It is necessary to step out of our comfort zone and let go of the fear or be left behind. Change or be changed. Address fear or fear will address you.

We all live in our own little bubbles of fear. Some more than others. The trick is to be aware that it exists and know what how it acts so when it bumps around in you, you'll know what it is. It's just fear. It's just your little childish ego inside telling you that there's something scary out there in the path ahead.

Fear makes us do crazy and insane things. If we don't deal with our fear, our fear can become anger. And that depth of fear makes us victims of ourselves. We start blaming others and our situtation. We feel out of control. We're liable to do anything to avoid that fear and satisfy the anger. If you're like me, luckily you just try to tidy it up and organize the crap out of fear. (Don't even THINK about leaving those socks there!) But if I continue to avoid dealing with my fears, there's no telling what I'll do over time. I may drop everything and move across the country (been there) I may end a relationship (done that) or force myself into such a tizzy that I end up being terminated from work. (Yup, that was me too.) Fear may feel like a storm but NOT dealing with fear creates a sh*t storm.

So some fear is ok. In fact, it's vital to our survival. It draws a line for us between what's safe and not safe. It's hugely valuable. But also not rational. Fear holds us back from participating in the life we've hoped and dreamed of.

So the next time you feel fear. Pause. Ask yourself, "is this holding me back from participating in my life?" If yes, then scrape together some compassion for yourself, reach out for another's hand and move forward anyways. Better to weather the storm now before it becomes a... yup, you got it.

Turn fear into growing pains.  And now I have a headache.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Leadership Conundrum

What do we do with leaders who assume people will follow them and the people who used to follow them but who now question authority and are lead by their own passions and talents instead?

Leadership training is a self focused endeavour. It shows the participant how to manage their time and their behaviour to make goals and act with integrity. Rarely does leadership training describe how to manage others. Instead it is assumed that the participant will become so successful that others will look up to them and their superior position of authority.

Leadership assumes people will want to follow. Follow directions, follow orders, follow mandates and missions. But for the last 20 years or so we've been teaching our children the value of thinking critically. This often leads a person to question the rules and question the authority. They want to know "why?" Why are we doing this? Why am I doing this? It's a question of passion. People don't do something just because it's required or mandatory anymore. They are driven and motivated by passion and meaning. They want to know if what they're doing has meaning and more importantly, if they do that, will it bring meaning to their lives?

We've also taught the recent generation of graduates that they are uniquely talented. That they have special skills that must be nurtured and utilized. The new generation doesn't automatically respect and look up to the leader because they believe the leader is no more talented than them. They certainly don't look to the leader to tell them how to apply their own special talents and skills. They feel confident that they know how to do what they're doing. They are lead by talent. Their own and their leader's.

Leaders need to help their people find meaning in their work and let them do what they're talents lead them to do.

Don't be Afraid of the Ugly

How do you react when things get ugly?

I am the kind of person who needs to talk it out. I need to be able to say my piece and ask all my questions until I get it all sorted out. My warning label should read: TO AVOID EXPLOSION, LISTEN TO IT TALK OR LET IT WRITE IT OUT.

At home this means I definitely contribute to "things getting a little loud" especially if I believe I'm not being heard. I'm learning to reign myself in and training myself to notice my triggers asap. It's led us to try the safe word technique...

If someone is about to blow up we call out the safe word so the other person can also become aware of our emotional state. It immediately halts the argument and draws a boundary line in the sand. We re-adjust, re-focus and continue the discussion acknowledging the other's parameters. We trust and respect each other and that means we are willing to let things get a little ugly from time to time because we know it's part of life's balancing act.

Life is messy and ugly sometimes because we are continually negotiating and pushing our boundaries. We want to stay safe so we can survive but we are also compelled to grow and thrive. We are organic beings after all. Just like plants and animals. Our relationships are not only for companionship, they are also there to help us learn who we are and help us grow into the people we want to become. Positive relationships help us grow and push us out of our perceived safety zones. But relationships are often messy because growing is messy business. Often we need a good, swift kick in the pants to change our ways. Most of us drag our heels and don't come without kicking and screaming. It's tough being a human!

When it comes to the workplace and our relationships there, we certainly don't turn off our learning button. (I can tell you from experience, it does not work that way!) So how do we act when things get ugly at work? How do we negotiate our need to feel safe with our need to grow as human beings at work? It doesn't really matter who or what pushes our buttons, it's how we react that matters.

We probably don't react with the same candor that we show at home because the level of trust and respect are not the same. Probably for good reason too. There ain't nobody at work who needs to see my mascara stained face or hear me slam the cupboard doors! Not that anyone at home does either. But it's all part of me learning to be the best me I can be.

So when things get ugly at work how can we recognize it for what it is -part of us learning to be us- and not be afraid of this human learning process?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Entitled to Responsibility, Truth and Integrity

This week the Canadian government made some changes to Old Age Security but only for those born after 1962. The Globe and Mail published an interesting read this Saturday called "Two Solitudes" that highlights some of the key differences between Baby Boomers and their Gen X and Millennial offspring.

In the article describing the Boomer point of view, author Margaret Wente notes how Boomers have had it easy compared to those of the adult Gen X and Millennial generations. They've had relatively cheap higher education, a multitude of job opportunities even for those with just a basic high school education, job security with regular raises and fully stocked benefit packages, affordable homes and real estate, affordable health care and many publicly funded social services.

Funny how those Boomers have had everything in life including their retirement future even though we can't afford it, yet they still seem to point the finger at Millennial workers for being the entitled generation.

Certainly as children Gen X and Y's were well looked after. We were given every opportunity to prepare for a successful life: extra curricular activities to become well rounded individuals and learn how to work well with others, critical thinking skills in school to teach us to be smart and think for ourselves, and yes, even trophies for effort because we each have special talents that make us unique and participation is half the battle.

But by the time we became adults the rules had changed. In fact, each time we planned, prepared and showed up at the playing field, not only did the rules change but the game itself had moved. Each time we've had to go back home to grab different gear, a different uniform and load new directions into the GPS. Did we fail? Not exactly. But we have failed to succeed.

We now know that self esteem is not a gift, it's the reward. The result of learning through failure and feedback. And just being special doesn't mean I have the skills to deal with a failure to succeed. If I didn't learn these lessons as a kid under the wings of my parents, I'm certainly learning them now. In fact, I'm thankful for the uphill battles I've fought recently because I've learnt a whole lot more in the process.

I've learned that job security, is a fallacy. Trusting an organization or an institution to look after little ol' me is both foolish and dangerous. Only I am truly responsible for me and those in my care. But being responsible also gives me rights. The right to choose the game I play.

Responsibilities = Rights

But wait, there's more. Not only am I responsible for myself and have the right to choose which game I play, I've also learned that I have the responsibility to participate fairly, truthfully and with integrity.

Responsibilities = Rights = Responsibilities

If I'm doing my best to participate truthfully and with integrity, I expect others to as well. Sometimes I think Gen X'ers and Millennials should come with a warning label: Will challenge authority if responsibility, truth or integrity are broken.

Entitled? Damn right. Entitled to Responsibility, Truth and Integrity.