Leadership Barometer 32 Overload

January 7, 2020

Overload is a very common phenomenon in organizations. This article deals with the problem, the reasons it exists, and offers some solutions.

As organizations wrestle with global competition and economic cycles, the pressure on productivity is more acute each year. I do not see an end to the pressure to accomplish more work with fewer resources.

There comes a point when leaders overload workers beyond their elastic limit, and they become dysfunctional or simply burn out. As the constant requests for more work with fewer resources starts to take a physical toll on the health of workers at all levels, people become justifiably angry.

I see evidence of what I call “load rage” in nearly every organization in which I work.

Glass half full

An interesting flip side of this problem is the observation made by many researchers, and also myself, that working human beings habitually operate at only a fraction of their true capability.

I have read estimates of organizations extracting on average something like 30-50% of the inherent capability in the workforce; some estimates are even lower.

It would be impossible for anyone to continually operate at 100% of capacity, because that would require the adrenal glands to secrete a constant stream or adrenaline that would kill the person. However, if the estimates of typical capacity used are accurate, there is still a lot of upside in people, so why the “load rage”?

The Leader’s role

Leaders can help reduce the problem by reminding people that they really do have a lot more control over how loaded they feel by taking some pragmatic actions. Here are a few ideas:

Sliding scale
We tend to feel overloaded because we base our perception of how hard we are working at any moment on a sliding scale. We base our feelings of load on how busy we are, not on what percentage of our capacity is being consumed.

Many of our activities are simply traps that we invent because of habitual patterns in our daily work. We tolerate a multitude of inhibiting actions that steal seconds from our minutes and minutes from our hours.

We tend to excuse these diversions as not being very important, but in reality they are exceedingly relevant to our output and to our stress level. Let me cite a few examples:

The dreaded inbox

Look at the inbox of your e-mail account. If you are like most people, there are more than a few notes waiting for your attention. We have all kinds of reasons (really rationalizations) for not keeping our inbox cleaned out each day.

I will share that at this moment I have 4 “read” notes and no “unread” notes in my inbox, and it is stressing me out. I need to get that down to zero, but right now I am consumed writing this article.

If we are honest, it is inescapable that having more than 2-3 notes waiting attention will cause a few milliseconds of search time when we want to do anything on e-mail. That time is lost forever, and it cannot be replaced.

We all know people who have maxed out the inbox capability and have literally thousands of e-mails to chew through. These people are drowning in a sea of time wasters just like a young adult with 20 credit cards is drowning in a sea of debt. It is inevitable.

Complaining takes time

You know at least a few people in your circle of friends or working comrades who spend a hefty chunk of their day going around lamenting how there is not enough time to do the work. Admit it – we all do this to some extent.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “Looks like I have plenty of time and not much to do?” OK, old geezers in the home have this problem and so do young children who are dependent on mommy to think up things to keep them occupied.

For most of us in the adult or working world, our time is the most scarce and precious commodity we have, yet we habitually squander it in tiny ways that add up to major stress for us. I suspect that even the most proficient time-management guru finds it possible to waste over 30% of his or her time on things that could be avoided.

Stop Doing List

One healthy antidote, especially at work, is to have a “stop doing” list. Most people have a “to do” list, but you rarely see someone adding things to a “don’t do” list.
Think how liberating and refreshing it would be if each of us found an extra hour or two each day by just consciously deciding to stop doing things that do not matter.

Whole groups can do this exercise and gain incredible productivity. The technique is called “work out,” where groups consciously redesign processes to take work out of the system. If you examine how you use your time today, I guarantee that if you are brutally honest you can find at least 2 hours of time you are wasting on busy work with no real purpose. Wow, two hours would be a gift for anyone.

Shift your mindset

Another technique is to really load up your schedule. You think that you are overworked now, but just imagine if you added 5 major new activities that had to be done on top of your present activities. That would feel insane, but you would find ways to cope. Then if you cut back to your current load next week, what seemed like an untenable burden a few weeks ago would feel like a cake walk.

I can recall a time in the Fall of 2004 when I was teaching 11 different collegiate courses at the same time. That was in addition to writing a book, chairing a volunteer Board, and managing a leadership consulting practice. I will admit that was a little over the top, but I sure enjoyed the load when I intentionally cut it back to only three courses at a time.

Conflict eats time

Another huge time burner is conflict. We spend more time than we realize trying to manage others, so our world is as close to what we want as possible. When things are out of kilter, we can spend hours of time on the phone or e-mail negotiating with others in a political struggle to get them to think more like us.

The typical thought pattern going through the mind during these times is “why can’t you be more like me.” The energy and time to have these discussions can really eat up the clock time during the day.

Dithering

Dither is another issue for many of us. I already shared that while I am writing this paper, I am really procrastinating from opening up and dealing with the 4 notes in my inbox (oops – now 5). I typically get around 100 e-mails a day.

There are other things I must do today, but I am having fun writing this paper, so the “work” is getting pushed back. I will pay for this indulgence later, but at least I do recognize what I am doing here.

The point is that most of the time we lose is unconscious. We have all figured out how to justify the time wasters in our lives, and we still complain that there are not enough hours in the day.

The cure for this malaise lies in having a different mindset. The time challenge is really part of the human condition. I think it helps to remind ourselves that when we feel overloaded, particularly with work, it is really just a priority issue, and we honestly do have time to do everything with still some slack time to take a breath. If you do not agree, then I suspect you are in denial.

Now, I need to be excused to go clean out my inbox!

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com 585-392-7763. Website http://www.leadergrow.com BLOG http://www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.


Body Language 47 Conflict

September 28, 2019

Conflict brings out all kinds of body language that is rather easy to interpret. In this picture, we see one individual trying to make a point but the other person completely blocking out the information, at least on the surface.

There is a significant caution before I get into the analysis to follow. You cannot judge the totality of what is going on from a single picture or view of what is happening. The attached photo, may not tell the whole story.

Anger

One person is speaking in anger or frustration, and the other person is obviously shutting her out and rolling her eyes upward. It is clear that there is conflict going on, but it is not clear where, why, and how the conflict began. It probably predates this specific conversation.

Also, keep in mind that in any situation both parties are acting according to their own viewpoint of what is right to do. Each person is totally justified in her own mind, and each is frustrated.

Information

When trying to assess what is going on in communication between individuals, you need a lot more background and information to figure out why each person is acting the way she is.

Is there a history of conflict between these two people? Does the speaker or listener have a history of conflict with others in the office? If a person habitually brings conflict to situations, others will not want to interact with her or will interact with her badly.

When a person is listening to another individual, he or she normally “attends” to the other person by looking at least in his direction and often making eye contact. There will also be some additional attending gestures such as head nodding or head tilting to indicate attention.

Engage

The listener may be day dreaming or totally focusing on what he or she is going to say next, but at least there is some attempt to look engaged in the conversation. There can be less overt ways a listener can show disinterest in the conversation. For example, the listener may start reading email on her phone or pick up a catalog and start leafing through it. Another common ploy is to just put a blank look on her face and show no emotion or connection to the conversation.

Blocking

Occasionally, you will run into an individual such as in the picture who has no intention of listening and tries to show it as graphically as possible. Here we see the woman actually blocking eye contact with her hand and making a sarcastic eye roll to enhance the signal. She clearly does not want to listen, and the situation between the two people has escalated to a point where she has no qualms about sending strong signals.

Safety

When a listener withdraws, it can be a clue that the person does not feel safe in the situation or with the person who is speaking. The body language is defensive and may be a way of protecting the person from harsh or demeaning words.

Another reason for withdrawal may be that the listener knows from experience that the interchange will not be positive or productive. Negative interchanges can have long term repercussions.

Whatever the outward signal, if the listener is showing little interest in the input, it is best to think broadly about why you are getting this behavior or just go mute. As long as you are droning on, the listener is free to show absolutely no interest in what you have to say. Keep in mind that what the other person wanted you to do in the first place was shut up, so the awkward silence may get extremely long.

If the speaker is one who creates conflict and the listener wants to avoid it, there is probably nothing the listener can say that will be accepted by the speaker, so the listener has no real incentive to say anything.

Avoid threats

One thing to avoid is saying something like “Why don’t you look at me when I am speaking to you?” A question like that can be interpreted as threatening. The same problem occurs with talking louder or faster. These actions will not remedy the situation, and they can even make the situation worse.

Situations like this point to larger or ongoing problems that have resulted in a lack of trust between people. The trust level needs to be addressed before open and meaningful communications can begin. It is wise for both people to think back on the progression of the relationship that brought them to this point.

Either person can act to improve the situation. Either can say, “It seems like we are not communicating well. I don’t want to be in conflict with you. What can we do to repair this situation?” However, if there is a persistent instigator of conflict, that is the person who has the most responsibility to repair the relationship and rebuild trust. The other person may have tried many things in the past to reach out or express herself, was shut down, and now has given up.

Each person needs to examine her contribution to the ongoing issues.

Trust

Obviously a good, constructive conversation requires that both parties participate roughly equally. If the speaker does not let the listener respond, it is not a real conversation and creates a breach of trust. If the listener withdraws from the beginning, even if it is a result of prior bad experiences, it does nothing to heal the relationship.

Bilateral trust is vital for mature conversation. When you run into a situation like the ones described above, don’t try to badger the other person into paying attention, and if you are the person listening, don’t withdraw. Work through the issues that you have. Investigate what may be causing the issues, talk it through, and and try to rebuild trust. It can take time, but reestablishing an environment of trust is well worth the effort for both people and the entire organization.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.


Successful Supervisor 64 – Signs of Impending Conflict

February 10, 2018

I have written extensively on conflict and even produced a 30-video series on the topic entitled “Surviving the Corporate Jungle.” This article focuses on conflict within shop floor teams that supervisors are trying to manage.

A smart supervisor realizes that conflict is generally there to some extent, even though things may look placid on the surface. She is on the lookout for the signs of impending open conflict so she can take corrective actions before serious damage is done.

Heed the Signs of Impending Conflict

By observing the behavior of people constantly, the supervisor can detect when interpersonal stress is starting to boil over. Here are six of the signs:

1. Body Language Indicating People are “Fed Up”

Watch for wild arm movement like putting hands on hips when addressing coworkers. Another telltale sign is crossing of arms when addressing another person. Arms straight down with clenched fists is a sign of extreme agitation. Contrast that body language with a person making a point to another individual with his arms slightly forward and palms up, which is usually a sign of openness.

An extreme position of being fed up is thrusting one’s arms upward and fists clenched. This is an expression that the person is ready to blow up. All of these arm and body gestures will be accompanied by stressed facial expressions.

2. Facial Expressions

There are literally tens of thousands of facial expressions we use to communicate with each other all the time. Some of these are obvious and easy to spot, like clenching of the jaw or a frown. Other expressions are more complex and involve several parts of the face (eyebrows, cheeks, mouth, eyes, etc.) at the same time. If you would like to take a quick quiz of how accurately you read facial expressions, go to this link for a fun test.

3. Cliques Forming

The ideal configuration for a team is where all members share equal access to information and each other. When you see cliques starting to form, it is a sign of impending conflict or even active conflict. Some grouping of people within a team is normal for any group.

People will sit with their friends in the break room; that is normal human behavior, but if a subgroup physically cuts off access to some members, there is a specific reason. Smart supervisors view the ambient group norms for access and pay particular attention to changes in these habitual patterns.

4. Pointing

One tell-tale sign of boiling over interpersonal tension is when people address each other while pointing a finger at the other person, like in the picture for this article. A pointing finger is one of the most hostile gestures in the body language lexicon. The message is “You need to shut up and listen to me.” Teach people to avoid pointing and use softer gestures to gain attention. When you see people pointing, it is time to find out what is going on between them.

5. Talking at the Same Time

Any mother will intervene when two siblings are shouting at each other. The message is always the same; “You cannot possibly hear each other when you are both talking at the same time.” In the work place, you can observe the same kind of childish behavior when anger is pent up. The first instinct in any argument is to block the inflow of information, so it is natural to start shouting over the other person. Smart supervisors intervene immediately when this behavior is happening.

6. People Avoiding Each Other

Another childish practice that you can witness when tensions become extreme is avoidance. It looks like this. People are together in a room when another member of the team walks in. Another member gets up, looks disgusted, and leaves the room without saying anything. Total avoidance is an extreme gesture that is unmistakable. It is important to get to the root cause of the tension when you observe this kind of thing.

These are just six of the signs you can observe within groups of adults who are working together supposedly with a common purpose. Actually, the best way to prevent dysfunctional behavior is to ensure everyone in the group shares a common goal.

Reduce Stress by Building Trust

When there is trust within any group and people truly care about each other, the small interpersonal stress points do not blossom into open warfare. In fostering such a culture, the supervisor plays a dominant role by continuously demonstrating and saying that we are all on the same team and we are pulling in the same direction.

Your Own Behaviors and Body Language Count the Most

People are continuously watching what the supervisor does for clues of what acceptable behavior is in this team. If the supervisor indicates lack of respect for one or more people by rolling her eyes so others see it, then she is sowing the seeds of conflict that will eventually erupt elsewhere. The supervisor’s body language is evident in literally thousands of ways every day, so her true feelings will always be known by people within her team.

The most important advice for any supervisor is to make sure her true feelings and care for the people on her team are deep and genuine. If she does that, then her people will observe congruity between her body language and the words she uses to encourage her group to always act as a high performing team.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 60 – Tips to Keep Employees from Driving Each Other Crazy

January 13, 2018

It is a peculiarity of human beings that when people work in close proximity to each other, they eventually find ways to drive each other crazy. It is often the little things that begin to annoy others, and the irritation grows over time until there is an eventual altercation.

This problem does not surface in every instance, but it is so common that supervisors need a kind of tool kit of ways to coach people so they stay out of open conflict.

In this article I will share twelve of my favorite methods of preventing interpersonal conflict from becoming a problem among coworkers. These ideas are also part of a video series I made on the topic entitled “Surviving the Corporate Jungle.” Here is a link where you can view three sample videos (just 3 minutes each) from the series of 30 videos.

Ideas You Can Teach Your Employees

Here are 12 simple ideas that can reduce the conflict between people and provide a more pleasant work environment:

1. Reverse Roles – When people take opposing sides in an argument, they become blind to the alternate way of thinking. This polarization causes people to become intransigent, and the rancor escalates. A simple fix is to get each party to verbalize the points being made by the other person.

To accomplish this, each person must truly understand the other person’s perspective, which is why the technique is effective.

2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Most of the things that drive you crazy about a co-worker are things that you won’t remember by the end of the day or certainly not later in the week.

Recognize that the things annoying you about another person are really insignificant when considering the bigger picture and the numerous things both of you have in common.

3. Live and Let Live – The other person’s personal habits are just the way he or she is built. Don’t fixate on trying to change the person to conform to what you think should happen. Focus your attention on the things you like.

4. Take a Vacation – When pressure builds up, just take a brief vacation in your mind. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and visualize a happier place and time.

You can take a vicarious trip to the beach anytime you wish. One trick with this technique is to get as many senses involved as possible; feel the warm air on your cheek, taste the salt water on your lips, hear the gentle lapping of the waves, smell the seaweed by your feet, touch the warm sand on which you are sitting, see the beautiful sunset over the water.

5. Be Nice – Kindness begets kindness. Share a treat, say something soothing, compliment the other person, do something helpful. These things make it more difficult for the ill feelings to spread.

6. Extend Trust – Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” We’ll forgive the flawed grammar, since Ernest is already in the grave, and also since his meaning is powerfully true. Trust is bilateral, and you can usually increase trust by extending more of it to others. I call this “The First Law of Trust.”

7. Don’t Talk Behind their Back – When you spread gossip about people, a little of it eventually leaks back to them, and it will destroy the relationship. If there is an issue, handle it directly, just as you would have that person do with you.

8. Don’t Regress to Childish Behavior – It is easy for adults in the work setting to act like children. You can witness it every day. Get off the playground, and remember to act like an adult.

Work is not a place to have tantrums, sulk, pout, have a food fight, undermine, or any number of common tactics used by people who are short on coping mechanisms because of their immaturity.

9. Care About the Person – It is hard to be upset with someone you really care about. Recognize that the load other people carry is equal or heavier than your own.

Show empathy and try to help them in every way possible. This mindset is the route to real gratitude.

10. Listen More Than You Speak – When you are talking or otherwise expounding, it is impossible to be sensitive to the feelings of the other person. Take the time to listen to the other person. Practice reflective listening and keep the ratio of talking to listening well below 50%.

11. Create Your Development Plan – Most individuals have a long list of what other people need to do to shape up but a rather short list of the things they need to improve upon.

Make sure you identify the things in your own behavior that need to change, and you will take the focus off the shortcomings of others.

12. Follow the Golden Rule – The famous Golden Rule will cure most strife in any organization. We tend to forget to apply it to our everyday battles at work.

If you teach employees to follow these 12 simple rules, there would be a lot less conflict in the work place. It takes some effort, but it is really worth it because we spend so much time working with other people.

Following these rules also means leading by example. If just a few people in an organization model these ideas, other people will see the impact and start to abide by them as well. A big part of your role as a supervisor is to model good interpersonal behavior. That initiative can form a trend that will change an entire culture in a short period of time.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 31 – Reducing Conflict

June 18, 2017

Conflict between people is simply part of the human condition. Organizations are a good place to observe conflict because they have all the ingredients that encourage people to bicker.

First of all, people are in close contact for many hours a day. It is a fact that if you put people together for a long period of time, they are going to end up driving each other crazy. It happens like spontaneous combustion at the bottom of a pile of oily rags.

The second condition that encourages conflict is stress. Organizations are constantly under stress to optimize performance of all their resources. The most typical stressor that causes conflict is time.

People tend to overvalue their own contributions and undervalue the contributions of their work mates. It is just the way we are programmed.

I got interested in this topic of conflict a couple years ago and actually wrote a 30 part video series entitled “Surviving the Corporate Jungle.” Each video is only 3 minutes long and each one has an exercise to instill a new habit that can reduce conflict between people. The series was produced by an organization called “Avanoo.”

Here is a link to a free sample of three videos from my series.

In this article, I want to give a few overarching tips that may be most helpful at the supervisor level. The subject is endless, so you may wish to contribute your favorite tips after reading mine.

Appreciate Differences in People

Each person is unique, so what works for one person may not be ideal for others. In addition, we each see the world through glasses that only we can see through.

When we witness another person doing something that does not look or feel right to us, we grit our teeth and instinctively push back, trying to get the other person to see it our way.

I call this phenomenon the “I AM RIGHT” condition, and I have purchased hundreds of three-inch buttons with those words on them. I give them out at all my seminars on trust.

The tip for the supervisor is to recognize that each person is wearing an imaginary I AM RIGHT button all day.Since each individual experiences every facet of organizational life through his or her own paradigm, it is no wonder conflict erupts.

The supervisor can help people recognize that we have no choice but to see things from our perspective, so it is perfectly natural that there will be tension at times. Try to see the other person’s perspective as being valid, and you will reduce conflict.

Go Back to the Sense of Purpose

Even though people may see things from different perspectives, we can usually get along much better if we remind ourselves that we share a common purpose.

We may have different functions, but we are all important parts of the process, and we are all needed to be at our best if the job is to get done well.

The supervisor is the main coach to help people understand the purpose and remember the larger mission when tempers flare about how to do things.

The supervisor paints the vision of the whole organization onto the canvass that represents her part of the whole and makes sure everyone sees that connection. When people recognize that they are all pulling in the same direction, the individual idiosyncrasies don’t have as much power to polarize them.

Build a Culture of Trust and Love

When a group of people trust and love one another, the seeds of conflict have a difficult time taking root. Building a culture is a daily task that never ends, but the task is a joyous one because the end result is a much happier existence, not only for the supervisor, but for everyone on her crew.

Building that kind of culture takes tending and constant effort. First of all, the supervisor must model the right kind of behaviors herself at all times. She must be the source of love and trust between people, even when things get tense.

It is her actions and words that make the difference every day. The most powerful thing a supervisor can do to build that kind of culture is to make the environment safe and not phony.

Eliminate Playing Games

If you observe most stressful groups at work, you can see that much of the time people are playing head games with each other in order to gain advantage. The environment is phony and full of intrigue. The supervisor needs to create a kind of culture that is real, where people are able to disagree without being disagreeable.

Hopefully the organization has a concrete set of values, and the supervisor must adhere to those values in every conversation and action (especially body language).

The workers are there to do a specific job, but that does not mean the atmosphere needs to be heavy. Great teams make the work light and fun, because they support each other and bring each other up. The supervisor needs to understand a great culture begins with her.

Avoid Inter-Group Conflict

Another common problem is that group cohesion can become so strong that silos begin to form. The workers bond together and against another group in the process as the enemy.

You can observe a kind of Civil War going on in many organizations on a daily basis. It is amazing to witness this hostility, because if you go up to the next level the warring groups are really on the same team.

It is up to the supervisor to keep her area from losing this larger perspective. One idea to accomplish this is to share resources with parallel groups. If team members see an unselfish person in their supervisor, then the ability to maintain proper perspective is easier.

These are just a few of the ideas in my series on “Surviving the Corporate Jungle.” For the supervisor, these ideas may seem like a heavy load, but the joys of doing things in an uplifting way makes the work a labor of love.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


I AM RIGHT Button

November 6, 2016

I have developed a tool to help people build more trust with others. It consists of a 3” button with the words ‘I AM RIGHT’ on it.

When you first see the button, it looks like it is an invitation to quarrel more with other people. Once you understand the logic behind it, the button is a powerful way to reduce conflict, and it helps leaders create an environment where trust will grow faster.

This article describes the background of the button, how I use it, and how people react to it in my work when I give out a button to all the participants.

The first time I ever saw the ‘I AM RIGHT’ button, it was worn by a fraternity brother of mine who defiantly wanted to remind the rest of the world that his perspective was always the correct one. It was a comical reminder not to cross swords with him.

I forgot about the button for decades, then it struck me that if it was used properly, it could actually change the dynamic in many conflict situations and lead to higher rather than lower trust.

You own your parochial viewpoint and believe that your way of looking at things is right. If another person does not agree with your perspective, that person must be wrong simply because you are convinced that you are right.

This logic is pervasive for leaders, which is why trust is so low in many organizations.

Leaders make decisions, take actions, and make statements all the time. They speak and act based on their own opinions. If an employee expresses an alternate viewpoint, it is human nature to push back, especially since the leader has an implied power advantage over the employee.

So, in most situations when employees make assertions that are not congruent with the way the boss thinks, then they end up feeling put down or punished in some way.

This is where I use the power of the button to change the conversation. Most of the time I am working with leaders, or those people who aspire to become leaders. In describing the ‘I AM RIGHT’ theory, I actually put on the button so everyone in the seminar will know that is my perspective.

Then, I hand out the same button to every person in the room, (I purchase them by the hundreds). Now the dynamic is a bit different. When someone in the room has a divergent opinion from mine, I can clearly see that the person is also wearing the button. I can no longer easily ignore or belittle the other person’s opinion because he or she believes it is right.

It is common for individuals in my seminars to say, “Can I get two buttons? My wife will want one, and I need one for myself!” It is all very comical, and people love them, but beneath the fun there is a fundamental shift in thinking that is vital for leaders, and really all people, to learn.

ACTION

Look for the invisible button that every single person wears every day. Once you get the hang of it, you will see the button everywhere, and it shifts the conversation.

When people indicate a disagreement with something you have said or done, your first reaction will not be to show them the error of their ways.

You can say something much softer like this, “That is interesting to hear your point of view. I want to know more about your opinion because with the same set of information and circumstances, I came up with a different view. Tell me more, please.” Now you are in a position to make the person glad they brought up their opposing view.

This method does not rely on both parties eventually agreeing on each point. Clearly you can agree to disagree and move on, but you come across as a leader who is willing to consider the opinions of others rather than become adamant or defensive, as many leaders do.

That small change in dynamic can make a world of difference in the way people react to you as a leader.

The same benefit works well with peers, or really any other person who expresses a divergent view from your own.

Try to spot the invisible ‘I AM RIGHT’ button on people, and you will find less conflict in your life. If you are a leader, your ability to listen and empower will be significantly enhanced, because people reporting to you will not feel punished for speaking their truth.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Deadline Dynamics

October 2, 2016

Classic ClockI was having a discussion about deadlines with one of my students the other day, and it got me thinking about these strange things in our lives.

Deadlines have a bigger impact on the quality of our lives than we realize, but most people seem to accept them without challenging them. This article will put the spotlight on deadlines and suggest some ways we can handle them a little better.

I come at the topic from four different perspectives: 1) the arbitrary nature of deadlines, 2) self imposed deadlines, 3) deadlines set by others for us, and 4) setting deadlines for others successfully.

First, let’s realize that most deadlines are arbitrary dates without real substantive factual backing. For example, say your senior manager sets a deadline for the budget to be submitted by the end of the month. Will the world really stop turning if the budget is submitted later than that? I doubt it.

In reality, many deadlines are set so a higher level deadline (equally arbitrary) can be met. In the example above, the senior manager may need to have the budget in time to roll it up with a corporate level budget that somebody decided needs to be finished by the end of the quarter.

There are some fiscal hurdles in certain situations that give the deadlines more of a real feel, but when you hold them up to the light, you can see that nearly all of them are based on someone’s desire that could be changed, if it was really necessary.

If you use the “Five Why” technique with any deadline, you are sure to come up with some eye-opening conclusions. Simply ask why something must be done by a certain date, and when you get the answer, ask why that is the case.

Do that five times, and you will usually find that the specific deadline is not as firm as it appears. The answer to one of the last “why” questions is likely to be, “because we have always done it that way,” or maybe “because that is the way the boss likes it.”

What I am saying is that the pressure to meet most deadlines is something organizations usually impose on themselves.

On the flip side, deadlines are an essential ingredient for having things work as intended. Imagine if there were no deadlines at all. Precious little work would get done, because human beings have a remarkable ability to procrastinate from doing things that are not fun.

I think self-imposed deadlines can be helpful. Many of us impose personal deadlines that are figments of our imagination so we can accomplish the things we want in life.

I impose deadlines on myself all the time. It is a habit called “operating ahead of the power curve.” If I have a presentation to give in four weeks, I will convince myself that it needs to be given next week.

I create a self-imposed deadline to get the presentation prepared. It then sits in my computer for a few weeks before the presentation. Actually, I am still subconsciously working on it and “polishing the edges,” so the ultimate quality of the presentation is much better than if it was presented when initially completed.

There is intentional pressure on myself at the start to get the presentation done, then I can relax and not be in a panic just ahead of the due date.

The same philosophy is true with writing. As I am typing this article, there are five articles in the queue, all ready to publish, so this particular one will not get published for six weeks.

In the meantime, my beloved wife will help me make it more worthy of the reader’s attention, and I will think about it a few times more before going to press. My personal deadline to get this article done is today, but it will not be published on my blog for six weeks.

The deadlines set by other people generally cause us the most stress in our lives. This is especially true if the person or organization setting the deadlines has a history of being unreasonable, rigid, or confusing with them.

When you think of it, most people are juggling several deadlines on any given day and trying to sort through the different priorities.

To lower the stress of deadlines, make sure you have a firm agreement with the person imposing them and arrive at a reasonable priority for this work in addition to everything else on your plate.

If the task seems unreasonable, try to negotiate some leeway or some assistance, and express that you want the time to ensure a quality job. If it becomes apparent you will miss a deadline, let the person who gave it to you know well in advance. It is much easier to work through an alternate path if the problem is surfaced in a calm manner before the deadline.

If you wait until after the deadline to share the shortfall, all of the “reasons” you give will appear to be flimsy excuses, and you will lose credibility.

People instinctively know that getting things done on time is a prerequisite for advancement, so they really try to comply with deadlines, even if it means becoming nervous wrecks. When conflicting deadlines occur, either for one person or between people trying to work together, it is a formula for dysfunctional conflict.

Managers who establish deadlines for other people need to be careful that they are reasonable, clear, and not in conflict with other deliverables.

Here are some suggestions that may be helpful for setting deadlines for employees at work:

1. If there is a true need for something to be done at a particular time, state the reason when giving the deadline so people know it is not simply an arbitrary date.

2. When possible, give people a voice in establishing the goal for when work will be completed. Participating in the setting of a deadline makes it personal, so it becomes much more palatable.

3. Make the deadlines visible with some sort of chart or notes to back up the validity and avoid confusion.

4. Ensure the specific deliverable is crystal clear and not subject to interpretation. This level of clarity will avoid hard feelings later on.

5. Establish some milestones along the way, so people can experience progress toward the final submission.

6. Celebrate a job well done and let people know you are grateful for their efforts to meet the deadline.

7. Coach people who habitually fall short of deadlines and help them with more specific targets in the future. Let them know that demonstrating a solid track record of meeting expectations is really going to help their own standing.

8. Be flexible, when possible, so that changing priorities and conditions do not put undue pressure on people. Be alert to the signs of people feeling trapped by deliverables that are not really possible.

Working with deadlines is something we all do. When we seek to establish deadlines at work, following the above tips will reduce some of the problems we encounter.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763