A Manager's Diary

Real-Life Managment Experiences

Communicating Not Emotional Reaction

Are you communicating or reacting emotionally?

The other day I was communicating with an employee who has a tendency to resort to emotional communications. When they receive information they do not agree with they take an aggressive and attacking style. They are trying to seek out additional facts, but it comes across as a type of blame game. I don’t even think this individual realizes how they are coming across when they act in this way. It would be easy to get sucked into their emotional state and respond in kind. It would be easy, but not productive.

So often we allow other people’s emotions to affect how we communicate. And when we do we lose the ability to communicate effectively.

Listen without responding

What do you do when you feel like your being attacked? Attack back. Right? I know that is my initial response and in my younger days it was my default response. Overtime, I began to realize how ineffective this strategy was. None of us likes to be disrespected or to feel like our decisions are being questioned. But, if we can’t deal with negativity then we are going to get sucked in and find out that we have even less control then when we started.

When dealing with somebody who is emotional and negative the best response is to just listen. Try to understand what is driving their emotional response so you can formulate a non-emotional response that will address their perceived, or real problem.

Before you can resolve any disagreement or conflict you need to listen. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with what they are saying, only that you need to understand it. If you don’t take the time to understand other people’s perspectives you can’t hope to engage in positive and productive communication.

Communicating through emotions only further generates more emotions in response. At the end both people will walk away feeling frustrated and nothing will have been resolved. Both parties will be even further away from an amicable resolution then when they started.

Respond with questions not answers

An emotional person is seeking understanding and is expressing frustration due to a perception that they are not being heard. So when you respond start by asking questions. Don’t assume you know the answer – even if you do. Ask questions that not only help you to understand, but that also help the other person to think deeper about what is upsetting them. This will allow them to feel that they are being listened to and it will also challenge them to give non-emotional, and hopefully factual, responses to the situation. Asking questions generates thoughtfulness and hopefully recognition of all facts.

Sometimes all it takes to diffuse emotional communicating is to seek understanding. Once the person realizes that you are concerned with at least hearing their perspective it takes a lot of fire out of their emotional state.

Control your emotions and you can control the conversation

If you control your emotions and seek out understanding you will find yourself in control of more conversations. This doesn’t mean that you are always correct, or that you are winning conversations, it simply means you will be able to direct the conversation to an amicable outcome.

Avoid emotional responses. Seek understanding. Find common ground that gets both parties to a resolution that gets each side a bit of what they want.

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Staffing in an Age of Scarcity and What you can do About it

Staffing – Where have all the workers gone?

It has become increasingly difficult for employers in most industries to maintain adequate staffing. Businesses are having to do more with fewer people. In some cases, businesses are choosing to close their doors due to not being able to find the help they need to keep their business running.

Why is it so difficult to find employees? There are multiple reasons. The baby boomer generation is well into their retirement ages. Gen Xers and Gen Yers don’t have the numbers to make up the difference. Millennials have either decided to run their own businesses, work part-time, or have opted to not enter the workforce and live in their parents basements.

Regardless of the reasons, the truth is that there are fewer people looking for work.

Good Employees? I am happy with just a heartbeat.

It used to be that you could put out an ad, get a number of qualified candidate, and hire the best one. Nowadays I don’t even worry if they are a good candidate, as long as they show up to work everyday I am happy.

Even when you can find a good candidate, you should feel fortunate if they stick around. Today, people have far more employment choices and therefore are far less dedicated to any one employer. Maintaining staffing levels in the age of the worker nomad can be frustrating.

Gone are the days of people staying at one job their entire career. The new norm is people who have multiple employers and frequently change jobs throughout their working career.

What do we do?

So, what do we do about our staffing when fewer people are looking for jobs and those that are will be less dedicated and more likely to leave?

Here are some tips for managing people under these new, more difficult circumstances:

  1. Treat all employees with dignity and respect. This may seem like a no-brainier but it’s not. It is easy to treat the good employees well, but not so easy with the marginal or down right bad employees. Regardless of what kind of worker they are you need to be even handed and respectful with all your employees. Word gets around quickly if an employer treats its people fairly or not. You can’t afford to treat anyone poorly and get a reputation as a lousy boss or a bad employer.
  2. Coach up your marginal employees. Whether you like it or not you need everybody. It is more important than ever to try to find ways to coach up marginal employees. Have one or two of your high performers become mentors to marginal employees. Hold them accountable but always encourage them. Help them to see the short and long term benefits of improved performance. Let them know that you are genuinely interested in their success.
  3. Show gratitude and understanding to employees when they find a new job. I know its hard to loose anybody, especially really good employees, but that doesn’t mean you need to treat them poorly on their way out. Always wish them well, and if they did a good job and gave you plenty of notice, let them know that the door is always open. In today’s work environment people tend to boomerang. If you treat them well when they are leaving they will be more likely to return if things don’t work out with their new employer.
  4. Treat the employees you have well. It is to difficult and costly to hire new employees. It is far easier to keep the ones you have. While managers don’t always have the ability to change compensation and benefits, it doesn’t mean we are without the ability to influence weather people stay or leave our companies. Show gratitude for the work your employees do. Let them know they are appreciated and their contributions make a difference. If you have the ability to allow flex scheduling be generous with your employees. Say thank you and take advantage of opportunities to reward everyone on your team that does a good job. Go out of your way to recognize employees efforts.
  5. Focus on the positive. As tough as it is to manage people these days you need to do your best to remain positive. Not just for your own well being, but also the well-being of your team. If you come to work frustrated and grumpy every day it will not inspire others. Maintain a positive outlook and keep focused on the things that are going right. Allow our attitude to make others want to do their best and feel good about working with you.

Today’s workforce can be unpredictable, entitled, and fickle. Employees are no longer dedicated to a single employer throughout their career. The workforce has shrunk and will continue to be very competitive. These are the new realities we face and they aren’t going to change anytime soon. So instead of digging in your healing and feeling sorry for yourself you need to adjust and adapt. By focusing on ways that you can create a positive work place, focused on the success of each team member, you will have a better chance of maintaining staffing and attracting new talent.

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Accountability for the Unaccountable

Accountability for the Unaccountable

We all have to deal with them – people who do not take accountability for their actions. These people always want to focus on every thing but themselves and their actions. When they are the cause of their problems they are always looking to deflect responsibility. Why are you picking on me? Why don’t you hold others accountable? How come you don’t talk to them about this?

People who can’t take accountability like to control the conversation in order deflect and distract. So what’s the best way to get them focused and working on correcting their performance?

Own the Conversation

You need to own the conversation. When you are talking to somebody who likes to deflect responsibility don’t let them. Keep them focused on their actions and what is in their control. Don’t allow them to side track the conversation and turn the focus to others. When they start going off the tracks and putting the focus on others take them back to what they are doing. Remind them that the only thing that they control is their own actions. Don’t discuss the actions of others. Keep the conversation focused on your concerns with helping them improve their performance.

Stick to Facts

Another habit of people who don’t take accountability is that they like to turn the conversation to rumor, supposition, and hearsay. Present them with facts and keep taking them back to facts. Show them exactly how they are falling short of expectations by presenting them with clear examples. If you have production metrics use them to demonstrate where goals are not being met and what the targets are for acceptable performance. Whatever it is you use to track performance use that as your framework for discussing performance and keep that your focus.

Good record keeping and tracking of performance is key to dealing with a person who doesn’t take responsibility for their actions. The more specific your facts the harder it is for them to argue and disagree with you. Be as specific as possible when presenting information. Do not give them any room to side track the discussion.

Avoid Emotions

Too often people who avoid accountability will resort to emotion appeals. They focus on how they feel. Don’t feed into this and don’t let them pull you into their emotional pit. Keep the discussion focused on your concern for their performance and how you want to help them improve. It isn’t about how you feel about them personally, it is about how their actions are affecting the team and the organization. Help them to understand that it isn’t personal and that you are concerned about their success.

Focus on the Outcome

Finally, keep the person focused on the outcome – what changes are needed and what the future state should look like. Have clear expectations with reasonable outcomes. Tell them specifically what you expect from them with very clear examples. If you have production goals or metrics use those as the objective expectation for performance. If it is teamwork – then give clear examples of the types of actions and interactions that are expected. Make sure to set up specific dates for following up and reviewing  with the person how they are doing in meeting expectations. Be sure to have goal dates for changes and reasonable consequences for failing to make changes.

As the manager you need to own the conversation when it comes to dealing with people who do not take accountability for their actions. By presenting facts that deal with the individuals performance and avoiding emotions you will be in a better position to keep the conversation focused in a productive and positive manner to bring about change. Setting clear expectations, goal dates, and consequences allows you to put limitations into place that force the person to focus on their performance. You can’t make them change or take accountability but you can help them to focus on the right things and keep them from focusing exterior to their own actions.

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Manage Your Time, Don’t Let it Manage You

You’re the Boss of Your Time

We all struggle with time management. The day begins with the best of intentions. Plans are made and then they blow up in our faces. Chaos takes control and we find ourselves in a vicious cycle putting out one fire after another. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You’re the boss of your time. If you don’t make a plan that is flexible, yet allows for you to accomplish your goals, then you have just allowed yourself to be controlled by circumstance. No plan is perfect. You have to allow for the unforeseen. But, not making a plan allows the unforeseen to be the plan.

Setting Priorities

I have read from more than one time-management guru that the best planning begins the day before. Everyday before you leave the office allow yourself 15-30 minutes to set your priorities for the next day. Make sure to put this on your schedule and stick to it. Getting organized for the next day will help you to make goal setting a daily priority. It will also allow you to start the next day out with a plan.

On the flip side, allow yourself 15-30 minutes at the beginning of your day to review your priority list and readjust based on whatever you walked into that morning. Your list should give your day structure but it should also allow you flexibility to adjust to new priorities and circumstances.

The To-Do List

You may see a to-do list as an anchor tied around your waist, but if done right it can be a valuable tool to managing your day and keeping track of multiple priorities.

I have discussed to-do lists in two other posts: Creating Lists to Manage Projects and Prioritize Tasks and Giving Your List Power – Creating Context, so I will just give some quick tips here.

Building your list can be done utilizing Evernote, Google Keep, One Note, a Word document, or pen and paper.

Use whatever method gives you the most flexibility and keeps you on task.

Get your priorities written and then prioritize them based on importance, when it needs to be completed, and how long it will take to accomplish each task.

Make sure to set a date for accomplishing each task. It is probably a good idea to add these tasks to your calendar and set reminders to ensure you get them done on time.

Keeping a list also has another side benefit – it allows you to go back and look at what you have accomplished which will help keep you motivated. Some days it can feel like you haven’t gotten anything done. Then you go back and look at your to-do list and see that you’ve accomplished quite a bit. That can give you a good feeling that should help keep you motivated.

Just Do Em’s

When starting your day if you have tasks that you can accomplish in under 5 minutes just complete those items. This will get tedious little tasks out-of-the-way so you can focus on bigger, more involved projects.

Minor tasks can clutter up your day and keep you from getting focused on important tasks. Better to get through them, or set aside a specific time for getting them done, so they don’t become speed bumps.

Your Outlook Calendar is Your Friend

Technology can be both an enemy and a friend. It is our enemy when we allow it to be a distraction – i.e. email and Facebook. It is all about how you utilize it. Turn off your email alert and set aside five minutes every couple of hours to check email.

One of the best tools is your Outlook calendar as it allows you to create tasks, prioritize, and set reminders. If you have longer term tasks with multiple steps Outlook can help you to set up reminders to keep you on track. Here is a good video that discusses how to use task in Outlook to create a to-do list.

One thing to remember – if you need time to accomplish something create an appointment not a task. A task is a specific item that needs to be accomplished without setting a specific time for doing it. If it is a specific activity that needs to be done then set an appointment for completing it.

Take Charge of Your Time

With all the tools and technology available to managers there is no reason why you should allow circumstances to set your schedule. By doing a little planning and taking advantage of these tools you can become productive no matter what comes up. Setting priorities, staying flexible, and keeping track of tasks will allow you to gain control and become the boss of your time.

Change Habits Not People

Change Habits Not People

Recently, I was having a discussion with a fellow manager about a problem employee. This employee is a great worker; skilled and knowledgeable. This individual is also someone who cares a great deal about doing what is right. The problem is that they don’t have the best people skills. Time and again the manager has tried to coach the individual, and this person has even acknowledged their problem in dealing with people but is unwilling to put in the work to change the behavior. In talking with this manager, I told him that fundamentally you can’t change who people are; you can only set expectations and hold them accountable, you need to focus on changing habits.

Focus on the Development of New Habits

I truly believe that you cannot change other people. That is not to say people can’t change, only that they are resistant to change. You can only change yourself – if you really want to. Because of this you have to focus your time on changing habits. In order to change a habit you have to understand the basic process of habit formation.

Two great resources for this are 1) an article by James Clear titled The Three R’s of Habit Change and 2) a book by Charles Duhigg titled The Power of Habit.

Both of these sources go into detail bout the habit loop. Understanding this concept can allow you to help others change habits.

The Habit Loop and How You Can Utilize it

The habit loop states that every habit a person has follows a three-step process:

  1. Reminder (Cue)
  2. Trigger (Routine)
  3. Reward (Reward)

The reminder is the cue that initiates the behavior. It is something that starts you into the habit or routine. For instance an employee takes a break everyday at 10 a.m. Their reminder might be the clock, or the fact that somebody walks by their work area everyday at that time, or they feel hunger pains everyday at the same time.

The trigger is the actual behavior – in this case they go on break, get a snack, have lunch, or get something to drink.

The reward is the feeling of satisfaction or pleasure they receive as a result of the behavior.

If you have an employee who is engaged in disruptive behavior you can use your recognition of the habit loop to help the employee recognize the loop and put actions in place to create a new, more constructive habit loop.

Example of how to use the habit loop

You have an employee who is constantly focused on what other employee’s do. They see a fellow coworker doing something they don’t like (reminder). This makes them complain to their coworkers (trigger). They feel a sense of satisfaction in having complained to someone (reward).

First, you need to help them see how this behavior is counter-productive and not in their best interest. Explain to them how the behavior creates a distraction in the workplace and does not help to correct the problems they see.

Second, help them to create a new habit based on the trigger. In this case, suggest that when they see somebody doing something they think isn’t correct that they approach the person and offer a helpful suggestion for correcting the behavior. Make sure that they know how to do this in a courteous manner that is meant to constructively correct the situation and is in the best interest of the person being corrected.

Empower the employee to own the solution to the problem. And help them see how this is beneficial to them.

Finally, help them to see the satisfaction they will receive in helping a coworker improve their performance and how this will be of greater value than the feeling they get from complaining.

While this may seem like a simplistic example, I think it illustrates the basics of how you can utilize knowledge of the habit loop to redirect people from negative to positive habits. Instead of wasting your time trying to change people you can work toward changing the habits that individuals engage in, which is a much more successful strategy.


Coaching to Improve Performance

Coaching to Improve Performance

Coaching is a key skill every manager needs to learn and master to get the best performance out of all team members. No matter how good your employees are there are going to be times when you need to get them to do their job better.

Additionally, you will always have some employees who need extra attention, those who are good people but are just not meeting expectations. With the difficulty of finding good employees you need to be able to groom those employees who have potential but just need a little help.

When to Coach and When to Discipline

Sometimes it is hard to know when you should coach and when you should discipline. Here are some basic guidelines. Coaching should be used when an employee is putting in the effort but is falling short of expectations. Discipline is employed as a last resort effort when coaching has failed. If you have attempted coaching, given the employee all the tools they need, and they still cannot, or choose not, to meet expectations then it is time to resort to disciplinary action.

Steps of Coaching

The first thing you need to do before you start coaching is to gather your facts. What things is the employee falling short on, what do they need to improve, what are the expectations – are some of the questions you need to answer.

Gather Facts

Gather all facts before sitting down to work on a coaching plan. Make sure that you have very clear examples and clearly stated expectations. You need to demonstrate what the current performance is and what the expected performance is. Make sure that you consider what actions need to be taken to get the employee from current to future state of performance. Also, put together a list of resources that will be made available to help the employee improve their performance.

Fill out Your Coaching Script

Make sure you use a coaching template so that you have a document clearly laying out performance expectations and examples of performance deficits. This needs to be in writing so that way you have a document that can be referred to later to track improvements. Sign up for my email list (below) and I will provide you with a free coaching document template in both PDF and Excel formats.

The parts of the coaching script are as follows:

  • Nature of the problem
  • Observed Behavior
    • Facts related to current performance
  • Behavior Variance
    • Description of how current performance varies from desired performance
  • Desired Behavior
    • A description of what ideal performance would look like
  • What would you like me to know about this?
    • This is a time for the employee to tell his side of the story
  • What do you think needs to happen to make improvements?
    • The employee must be part of the solution
  • Range of consequences
    • If performance expectations are not met what are the range of consequences and time frame for meeting expectations
  • Agreement and action plan
    • A collaborative action plan between the employee and the manager intended to get the employee to the desired performance level
  • Success check dates
    • Scheduled dates to check in with the employee to ensure progress is being made and see if any other assistance is needed
  • Signed commitment
    • Employee and manager sign the agreement both giving their commitment to the employee’s success

Schedule Your One on One Coaching Session

After you have your coaching document filled out schedule a one on one meeting with the employee. Make sure that you schedule at least one hour, but no more. You want to leave room for open discussion. Schedule the meeting in a private area free from interruptions so you can talk honestly and openly.

Conducting the Coaching Session

Always keep the focus on your desire to help the employee improve their performance. This shouldn’t be a complaint session. Ensure that you have the best interest of the employee in mind. You need them to know that you are concerned about them as a person and your goal is to help them succeed. They will be much more open and accepting of the performance criticism and coaching if they feel you are looking out for their best interest.

Follow Up

To make sure the employee is staying on track, and to show them that you are sincere about wanting them to succeed, you need to check up on them frequently. Do not wait for your schedule checkup dates to see how they are doing. Have daily check ins. These can be brief, informal, five-minute discussions to ask how it’s going and see if they need anything. Keep your scheduled on-on-ones and make sure to give time and privacy to those meetings.


It is difficult to find and retain good employees. Managers need to take those employees who show potential, but aren’t meeting expectations, and work with them to improve their performance. By coaching employees, we can use passion and concern to demonstrate that we have their best interest in mind and work with them to improve their performance to meet expectations. Coaching an employee is cheaper than recruiting new employees. When we take the time to care about others and help them excel in their work we create more dedicated and engaged employees.

For more resources sign up for A Manager’s Diary email list. When you do I will send you a free copy of my coaching form (PDF and Excel formats), the Employee Performance Tracker (PDF), A Guide to Dealing with Difficult People (PDF), and my book The Peaceful Manager: A Beginner’s Guide to Managing People (Paperback and PDF).



Performance Review Should be about Facts not Emotions

Performance Reviews Should be about Facts not Emotions

Performance reviews are one of the most unpleasant activities for a manager. And they are also unpleasant for the employee. Too often managers make the performance review about their opinion. Too many managers get hung up on how they feel about the employee and their performance rather than on the facts. When this happens it creates a tense situation where each side becomes embedded in their own emotionally charged beliefs.

Facts Not Feelings

When evaluating an employee’s performance you should always focus on facts and not on feelings. When speaking about things that need to improve avoid phrases like: “I think…”, “I feel…”, “I believe…”. While you may think, feel, and believe these things use facts to support the improvements you would like to see and to demonstrate where the employee has fallen short.

When we use subjective terms based on feelings it puts the employee into an emotionally defensive position. They may very justly feel that they are being picked on; that your valuation of them is based on feelings instead of facts.

As an example: you have an employee who is not meeting performance expectations. They do not consistently meet productivity numbers, they have too much down time, and they leave a piece of equipment set up poorly.

If you did your homework you have tracked the incidences where expectations were not met. You have dates and numbers to back up your beliefs so that they aren’t beliefs, but are actual facts. It is hard to argue with facts. Also, facts are not based on emotions. Just be careful that your fact gathering isn’t emotionally charged. You need to be gathering facts for all employees not just ones you don’t like.

Clear Expectations

As a result of unclear expectations performance review become confrontational. When a manager fails to set clear expectations and identify successful outcomes an employee becomes confused as to what they need to do to be successful. The result is that the review becomes the managers personal judgement of the employee from a subjective point of view. The manager might have known what they expected, but if they did a poor job of communicating it then there will be a lot of stress and anxiety on the part of the employee when it comes to the review of their performance.

Make sure that you have metrics to judge performance and that they have been clearly communicated and are reasonable in order to keep expectations clear. Do not make expectations so tough that there is no hope of meeting them, but at the same time do not make them so easy that they do not challenge your people.

Check in with employees on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to let them know how they are doing. Failure to communicate with your people in regard to how they are doing throughout the year will create anxiety when it comes to the performance review. Frequent check ins also allow employees a chance to correct problem performance before the annual performance review.

It’s not Personal

A performance review shouldn’t be about egos. It isn’t about whether or not you personally like the person. Let’s face it there are going to be employees who have personalities that don’t sync with our own. Your personality may rub some of your employees wrong. This is just human nature. We aren’t going to like every person we manage and not every person we manage is going to like us.

Don’t take things personally. You need to do your best to remove your own personal biases from the process and focus on objective measures to give a fair and accurate performance appraisal.

The objective of the performance review is to give the employee facts to improve their performance; to let them know what they are doing well and where they need to improve. The purpose is to help the employee improve and to help the company as a whole improve.

Another important aspect to consider is counterfactual thinking which is defined as “thinking focused on how the past might have been, or the present could be, different. These thoughts are usually triggered by negative events that block one’s goals and desires” (Psychology).


Managers and employees should not see performance reviews as an uncomfortable and necessary evil. It should be a time to give positive praise as well as constructive criticism. The focus should be aimed at improving employee performance and helping the employee understand how they can best support the company in meeting goals.

If you are communicating expectations clearly and having frequent discussion with your employees throughout the year there should be minimal anxiety when going into the annual performance review process. If employees know where they stand, and have received frequent feedback, it decreases anxiety as they know what to expect when it comes to performance review time.

Good record keeping and frequent tracking of performance will give you the facts you need to give a fair, unbiased assessment of performance. Avoid emotional based valuations. Stick to facts – what are the expectations, where has the employee fallen short (clear examples), and what needs to be done to meet expectations.

It is never easy to judge other people and tell them the truth, but it is absolutely essential to the success of any business. It is not just about the needs of the business but also those of the employee. Giving fair, honest, and unemotional performance reviews will help employees perform their jobs to a higher level. If you show genuine concern for the employees, and their personal improvement, it will help to diffuse the emotional nature of performance appraisals.

Dealing with Upper Management Decisions as a Middle Manager

How do you deal with the results of upper management decisions as a middle manager?

Dealing with the decisions of other people and their affects is something we have to deal with on a daily basis. Most times it is the decisions of our direct reports that we have to deal with. But what do you do when a decision made by upper management causes problems?

How do you tell the boss they are wrong?

When upper management makes decisions that negatively impact the organization it can really put middle managers, who are forced to deal with the outcome, in a tight spot. It’s not like you can tell the boss that they were wrong. If you can then be thankful you work in an organization that respects the benefits of honesty.

By the way never tell the boss they are wrong. Even if they are be a little tactful about it. Ask them questions that will help them to think more fully about their decision. Try to help them see better alternatives. But never come right out and just say “no, I think your wrong”. This accomplishes nothing but create distrust and a lack of respect.

For a lot of managers, especially those who work in large organizations, it is a real political hot potato deciding how to communicate the effects of bad choices.

In order to move up in your career as a manager you are expected to make politically correct decisions. That includes being a team player and getting with the program. But what if falling in line is bad for the organization?

Letting go of the need to be in control

I am the type of person who likes to feel in control of my own destiny. I don’t like it when I have to deal with what I perceive of as poor decisions. When other people put me in a situation that will compromise my success I get very stressed. Beating around the bush and saying the politically expedient thing are not my strong points. Being straight forward and telling the truth despite who it might upset is my default position.

Unfortunately, being straightforward and unapologetic in my honesty are not always traits that are appreciated in some organizations. Often managers are expected to be more tactful in how they handle disagreement. I get it, I just don’t always like it.

I need to learn to let go of the need to be in control when it will be detrimental to my career. That is so hard for me. If I feel I am right, and trying to do the right thing for the organization, why should I change my tact? At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how I feel about it. If I want to succeed in my organization then I need to change my tact and that might require me to let go of being in control. I may have to cede my own desires and beliefs in the rightness of my position.

This doesn’t mean that I am compromising my values. It means that I understand what battles are worth fighting and which ones I need to walk away from. It is foolish to take on a fight you can’t win and that will damage your career unless it is something so fundamental that giving in would cause you to do something immoral or illegal. If it does not then get over it and move on. There will be other battles worth fighting and winning.

Be a team player but help others to see the shortcomings

Understand that you need to be a team player. Even if you don’t fully agree with a decision you have to support it. Don’t ever negatively of a decision made by upper management  when talking with your subordinates. You can respectfully voice concerns while still supporting the larger initiative. Always let your people know that as a team you need to do your best to make the initiative successful. Support your people when it doesn’t go right, but never throw a negative light on those who made the decision.

Help those who made the decision understand the problems that are the outgrowth of the decision. Always be respectful and present facts. Avoid emotional pleas. Never allow it to be personal. Keep the focus on what you can prove. Be willing to reconsider your position if new facts come to light and always be willing to work with upper management to come up with solutions to fix the problems and help the overall initiative be successful.

You don’t have to like it but you may have to accept it

You aren’t going to agree with every decision made by upper management. Remember that not every decision you make is a winner. Your direct reports might have some insight into decisions you made that they disagreed with. But just because you don’t agree with a decision doesn’t mean that you don’t have to support it. If you are part of any organization sooner or later you are going to have to support things that you think are incorrect. Pick your battles wisely and make sure you are only fighting the ones that are really worth fighting. If you do this you will find yourself feeling less stressed and more able to let go. For more on the subject of letting go of things you can’t control see my post Gain Control By Letting Go.

The People Connections – Making for a Happy Workplace

I have made it a priority this year to work on the connections I have with my people on a daily basis. Not just in regards to work but also their personal lives. Making connections with the people we manage on a professional and personal level creates a positive workplace. Not only does it make for happier employees, but it will make you feel happier and more energized.

Connecting Shows You Care

How often do you talk to your people? Not just saying hi, how are you, but really talking and making connections. Do you know what your people like to do in their free time? How about the hobbies they enjoy? Have you ever asked about their family?

While our number one job is to stay focused on our work goals and priorities it is also important to not lose focus of the people. Our employees have lives outside of work. They have other things that are important to them. Getting to know the things that are important to them outside of work demonstrates a concern for the individual. It shows that you understand the human element in the workplace.

Not only does seeking to find out about your employees on a personal level create a more connected and caring workplace, it also helps you to understand the employees motivations. People work for a number of reasons – personal fulfillment, a sense of achievement, a feeling of purpose. They also work so they can provide for their families and have the resources to participate in activities they enjoy.

Understand What the Real Motivations Are

If you understand something about a persons interests you understand what motivates them. You need to know whether they have a family, if they are single, if they have any hobbies, or if they value free time or money more. These driving factors can help you understand how to deal with your people to cater toward their needs and get the best out of them.

Talking to people about their interests can create a sense of unity and compassion. It lets people know that you care about them. Focusing on others also shows that you value them and care about their interests. If your people believe you care about them on a personal level they will be more dedicated and willing to compromise.

Connecting Requires Listening

In order to get to know people you have to practice active listening. This takes practice and requires us to put aside our own motivations. It is about really caring about other people. Taking the time to actively listen can be tough when we have so much to do and are getting pulled in so many directions. But if you want to connect with people you have to make the time.

Here is a great article from Forbes on how to practice active listening – 10 Steps to Effective Listening. Read it and practice it.

A Positive Workplace Flows from the Connections

Humans beings are social creatures. We need and desire social connections. As a manager it can often feel like we are on an island by ourselves caught between upper management and the employees. This doesn’t have to be the case. Often our stress and anxiety comes from these feelings of separation. By making connections with your employees, and engaging them you will find that you aren’t alone. You can have a positive relationship with the people you manage without getting overly involved in their personal struggles. It isn’t about involving yourself in every detail of their lives. It is about understanding them and showing compassion.

In connecting with your employees you allow yourself to step outside your own concerns. There is real power in this. When we put others first it puts our own problems into perspective. It also allows us to feel apart of something bigger and put our attention outside ourselves. Your vision will become bigger and you will see that you aren’t so alone. I assure you that by taking the time to more deeply connect with your people, and making it a daily priority, you will leave work more positive and happy.

Putting People First

Put people first. Make it a daily routine. Get yourself out from behind your desk and spend time everyday talking and listening to people. When you make yourself physically and mentally available it will bring a positive and engaged attitude to your workplace. People will open up. You will smile more. They will smile more. You will enjoy coming to work and you will notice a difference in the attitude of your team.

Recognize Those Who Help You Succeed

Your awesome. You know it. All your success is because of your hard work. That might be true, but don’t forget all the other people around you who have helped you to succeed. Recognize the individuals on your team for the parts they play in the success of the group. Recognition is just as essential as any material reward that employees receive for their work.

More than the sum of its parts

Any well-functioning team is greater than the sum of its parts. Individually the members of your team may be either strong or weak. A properly functioning team is able to overcome the shortcomings, not just of it individual contributors, but also its leader.

Having a true understanding of how all contributions make everyone better will help you to appreciate the talents of every member. It will open your eyes to the many ways in which others have helped you to succeed as a leader.  Life is so much bigger than any one person. And overcoming the many obstacles we face requires the concerted effort of all involved in any struggle.

Thankful Leadership

Being a thankful leader leads to greater group cohesion. When a leader recognizes the contributions of each individual and gives praise the members of the group start to understand how they are contributing to the larger goal. They also will know that their efforts are valued and appreciated.

Gratitude in anything we do can have positive and powerful benefits. It will improve your mood and allow you to look past negative circumstances.  Positiveness creates an optimistic atmosphere. When possibilities are embraced it removes obstacles. Creativity blossoms when false barriers are removed.

Show Your Gratitude as Well as Saying it

Saying thank you is great but it’s not enough. You need to show your people who you appreciate what they do. When you get praised for the success of your team allow some of  that praise to be directed to your team.

Share in the work of your team. Don’t just tell them how much you appreciate what they do. Get your hands involved from time to time to share in the work. Find out what your people do through experiencing it. Even if you think you know you don’t.

Give public praise and don’t be afraid to give rewards. When success happens everyone should share in it. Celebration should be as much a part of the work place as the hard work that leads to success.

All for One and One for All

Most days are difficult enough. We shouldn’t have to go it alone. Our team is there to support us, to lift us up, and to help us achieve more than we could alone. Embrace those around you. Celebrate their contributions and recognize the ways that they make your work more effective.

Celebration should be just as great a part of the work environment as the actual work. Lift up your team just as they lift you up. We are all in this together and success is much sweeter when it is shared.

If you want to read more about employee recognition and how to go about it this is a pretty good article to start with – The Power of Positive Employee Recognition.


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