Archive for December, 2016

Helpful Or Complaining

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

At what point does being helpful become complaining?complain

We have a home in Florida that we use as a vacation rental. We do our best to keep it looking and operating at peak efficiency and comfort. We have great guests, and people seem to enjoy their time while on vacation.

Ed and Gretchen were excited to spend a month at our home and promised they would treat our home just like their own. Except, every day Ed and Gretchen sent me an email about what they thought we should do differently.

“Your pool cleaning company doesn’t do as good as a job as they should. You should look into getting a new company.”

“Your neighbor doesn’t cut her grass often enough. You should ask her to keep her lawn neater as it affects your lawn.”

“The shower drain doesn’t drain very quickly, perhaps a call to the plumber is in order.”

And so on.

At first, everything was positioned as being helpful. They knew that we didn’t live nearby, and they knew that we wanted the house to be perfect for our guests. The first couple of days the emails didn’t bother me. I saw Ed and Gretchen as trying to be helpful.

By day four, it became our daily complaint email. I no longer saw them as being helpful, but as being extremely critical, and somehow indicating that our home was not good enough.

By the end of the month, I dreaded seeing their name in my inbox.

Are you an Ed or Gretchen? Do you see yourself as being helpful, but others see you as being critical?

At work, do you make suggestions such as “If you use a mail merge on that, it will save you a ton of time instead of doing it manually. Do you want me to walk you through how to do a mail merge?” or “You’re still using a Times Roman font? That is so 1990s! Didn’t you know that you should be using a sans serif font now? I suggest you Google that and make the change.”

I’m guessing that when we make comments and suggestions we don’t intend to be condescending or critical. However, they are likely to be perceived that way, especially if you do it frequently.

Here are a few ways to ensure that you are helpful, and not being perceived as critical:

  • Did they ask for your input?I didn’t ask Ed and Gretchen to tell me what was wrong with the house, and at the end of the each daily email, I didn’t ask for what else was missing. I said “Thank you. We will look into that.”That closed comment at the end of the discussion was the first clue that I wasn’t overly receptive to their unasked for feedback. If you are offering suggestions to others and they aren’t asking you for more feedback, stop offering suggestions.
  • Do you find that you often see what others don’t and feel the need to share your observations? That may be perceived as a “know-it-all” by others and will be seen as critical as well.If you are a consultant and are acting in a consulting capacity, your perceptions are appreciated then (and paid for). If you are not, then, you are likely perceived as a complainer.I am a consultant, but unless someone asks me for feedback on things, I don’t offer that. When I attend a conference, I focus on the positives, not what they could do differently. When I am at a friend’s house, I compliment my host, not offer decorating ideas, and when I am working with a coworker, I don’t assume I know the best way to do things; I appreciate there are many ways to get things done properly, and my way isn’t always the best way.
  • Can your advice be acted upon by the person you are giving the advice to?A good friend of mine is keen on customer service. Unfortunately, she offers advice to people who can’t do anything about the advice she offers.Recently at a restaurant, she noticed a few things were not ideal in the restaurant and shared them with our server. When I asked why she bothered sharing it with the server, as she had no control over those things, she responded with “She will tell the manager, and maybe get recognized as having a great idea.”I told her the odds of the server telling the restaurant manager that the menus needed larger print for their older customers were close to zero, and that the server was also not going to tell the manager that the ladies washroom should have a can of air freshener in it either. If she told her manager those things, she would be perceived as being a complainer.When you make an observation, thinking you are being helpful, ask yourself “Is the person I’m sharing this information with in any position to implement my advice?”

The same is true of telling a store cashier that they need more cashiers working during busy times. They can’t do a thing about it, are not likely to bring that information to their boss; and you will be perceived as complaining and not at all helpful.

Offering the occasional piece of advice or feedback is not always bad, but if you are consistently doing it, you might want to question if it is well received or not.

Count how many times a day you offer helpful feedback. If you are offering this help at least once per day, let me give you some unsolicited (and potentially unappreciated) feedback; STOP!

– As appeared in The Huffington Post on December 20, 2016

5 Conflict Management Strategies

Friday, December 16th, 2016

Don't let conflicts get out of control.In any situation involving more than one person, conflict can arise. The causes of conflict range from philosophical differences and divergent goals to power imbalances. Unmanaged or poorly managed conflicts generate a breakdown in trust and lost productivity. For small businesses, where success often hinges on the cohesion of a few people, loss of trust and productivity can signal the death of the business. With a basic understanding of the five conflict management strategies, small business owners can better deal with conflicts before they escalate beyond repair.

Accommodating

The accommodating strategy essentially entails giving the opposing side what it wants. The use of accommodation often occurs when one of the parties wishes to keep the peace or perceives the issue as minor. For example, a business that requires formal dress may institute a “casual Friday” policy as a low-stakes means of keeping the peace with the rank and file. Employees who use accommodation as a primary conflict management strategy, however, may keep track and develop resentment.

Avoiding

The avoidance strategy seeks to put off conflict indefinitely. By delaying or ignoring the conflict, the avoider hopes the problem resolves itself without a confrontation. Those who actively avoid conflict frequently have low esteem or hold a position of low power. In some circumstances, avoiding can serve as a profitable conflict management strategy, such as after the dismissal of a popular but unproductive employee. The hiring of a more productive replacement for the position soothes much of the conflict.

Collaborating

Collaboration works by integrating ideas set out by multiple people. The object is to find a creative solution acceptable to everyone. Collaboration, though useful, calls for a significant time commitment not appropriate to all conflicts. For example, a business owner should work collaboratively with the manager to establish policies, but collaborative decision-making regarding office supplies wastes time better spent on other activities..

Compromising

The compromising strategy typically calls for both sides of a conflict to give up elements of their position in order to establish an acceptable, if not agreeable, solution. This strategy prevails most often in conflicts where the parties hold approximately equivalent power. Business owners frequently employ compromise during contract negotiations with other businesses when each party stands to lose something valuable, such as a customer or necessary service.

Competing

Competition operates as a zero-sum game, in which one side wins and other loses. Highly assertive personalities often fall back on competition as a conflict management strategy. The competitive strategy works best in a limited number of conflicts, such as emergency situations. In general, business owners benefit from holding the competitive strategy in reserve for crisis situations and decisions that generate ill-will, such as pay cuts or layoffs.

Article By,
Eric Dontigney as Appeared on www.smallbusiness.chron.com

Avoiding Confrontation Is Not The Answer

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

REFUSING FLOWERS

I’m dealing with an avoider. I find it very frustrating.

Every once in a while you will encounter a situation where you want to deal with it in a calm, professional manner, and the person with whom you want to deal with, does not want to deal with it at all!

An avoider is someone who truly hates confrontation. They would rather the situation sit and fester than to sit down and handle the issue with you directly.

In fairness, many of us prefer to avoid than to have a confrontation. I mean, who really likes confrontation? Not I that’s for sure. However, it is important to deal with some issues instead of avoiding them and having them potentially blow completely out of proportion.

When an “issue” occurs, you have 24 hours to start to deal with it. It might mean that you say to the other person that you want to talk about it, you might arrange a meeting, but you must do something within the first 24 hours to show that you are willing to deal with the issue and not avoid it.

I called Mary and outlined the situation. I was careful that I used “I” language instead of “you” language (to avoid making her defensive), I was very aware of my tone of voice and I was well prepared for what I wanted to say.

When I called Mary, I got her voice mail. My message outlined quickly what the situation was. I avoided placing blame. I told her I was wanting to speak to her directly so that we could reach a mutually acceptable solution. I was professional, clear and upbeat. I asked her to call me back at her convenience.

She sent an email to our office manager, Caroline (and thereby avoided me all together) asking to be removed from our distribution list and wanted to avoid further contact from our office.

Not exactly the nice friendly approach that I way I was hoping we could deal with this misunderstanding.

I called her again and left another voice mail asking if we could talk about this, as I wanted to avoid any hard feelings whatsoever. In my voice mail I did mention that I would follow up my call with an email with my proposed solution.

I hate dealing with these types of issues on email. Be sure to use email as a confirmation tool, instead of a confrontation tool.

Long story short, I have had no direct contact whatsoever with Mary. She has only responded to Caroline via email, refusing to discuss anything with her or me.

I did everything I could do to deal with the situation professionally, but she was unwilling.

Sometimes we will meet others who are not nearly as professional or courteous as we are. Sometimes we will have to deal with the situation in a manner that makes us uncomfortable.

Remember to always take the high road. I regret nothing that I did in the encounter with Mary. I do regret that her need to avoid discussing the situation meant that there would be hard feelings.

When dealing with confrontation follow a few simple rules:
– use “I” language, instead of “you” language
– avoid blame, and focus more on solving the situation
– be prepared so you are not reacting to the situation, and are responding to the situation
– take the professional path (the high road), even in your personal confrontations
– know when to walk away

I’m sorry a simple misunderstanding has become a major issue. I have learned that even the “right” approach doesn’t always work, and that you need to be flexible when dealing with confrontation. I wonder what Mary learned from our encounter.

Article by,
Rhonda Scharf Headshot

As appeared in the Huffington Post on December 13, 2016

The Secret to Dealing With Difficult People: It’s About You

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Do you have someone at work who consistently triggers you? Doesn’t listen? Takes credit for work you’ve done? Wastes your time with trivial issues? Acts like a know-it-all? Can only talk about himself? Constantly criticizes?

Our core emotional need is to feel valued and valuable. When we don’t, it’s deeply unsettling, a challenge to our sense of equilibrium, security, and well-being. At the most primal level, it can feel like a threat to our very survival.

This is especially true when the person you’re struggling with is your boss. The problem is that being in charge of other people rarely brings out the best in us.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Lord Acton said way back in 1887. “There is no worse heresy than the office that sanctifies the holder of it.”

The easy default when we feel devalued is to the role of victim, and it’s a seductive pull. Blaming others for how we’re feeling is a form of self-protection. Whatever is going wrong isn’t our fault. By off loading responsibility, we feel better in the short-term.

The problem with being a victim is that you cede the power to influence your circumstances. The painful truth when it comes to the people who trigger you is this: You’re not going to change them. The only person you have the possibility of changing is yourself.

Each of us has a default lens through which we see the world. We call it reality, but in fact it’s a selective filter. We have the power, to view the world through other lenses. There are three worth trying on when you find yourself defaulting to negative emotions.

The Lens of Realistic Optimism. Using this lens requires asking yourself two simple questions when you feel you’re being treated badly or unfairly. The first one is “What are the facts in this situation?” The second is, “What’s the story I’m telling myself about those facts?”

Making this distinction allows you to stand outside your experience, rather than simply reacting to it. It also opens the possibility that whatever story you’re currently telling yourself isn’t necessarily the only way to look at your situation.

Realistic optimism, a term coined by the psychologist Sandra Schneider, means telling yourself the most hopeful and empowering story about a given circumstance without subverting the facts. It’s about moving beyond your default reaction to feeling under attack, and exploring whether there is an alternative way of viewing the situation that would ultimately serve you better. Another way of discovering an alternative is to ask yourself “How would I act here at my best?”

The Reverse Lens. This lens requires viewing the world through the lens of the person who triggered you. It doesn’t mean sacrificing your own point of view but rather widening your perspective.

It’s nearly certain that the person you perceive as difficult views the situation differently than you do. With the reverse lens, you ask yourself, “What is this person feeling, and in what ways does that make sense?” Or put more starkly: “Where’s my responsibility in all this?”

Counterintuitively, one of the most powerful ways to reclaim your value, when it feels threatened, is to find a way to appreciate the perspective of the person you feel devalued by. It’s called empathy.

The Long Lens. Sometimes your worst fears about another person turn out to be true. He is someone who bullies you unreasonably and seeing it from his perspective doesn’t help. She does invariably take credit for your work.

When your current circumstances are incontrovertibly bad, the long lens provides a way of looking beyond the present to imagine a better future. Begin with this question: “Regardless of how I feel about what’s happening right now, how can I grow and learn from this experience?”

How many times has something that felt terrible to you in the moment turned out to be trivial several months later, or actually led you to an important opportunity or a positive new direction?

My last boss fired me. It felt awful at the time, but it also pushed me way out of my comfort zone, which is where it turned out I needed to go.

Looking back, the story I tell myself is that for all his deficiencies, I learned a lot from that boss, and it all serves me well today. I can understand, from his point of view, why he found me difficult as an employee, without feeling devalued. Most important, getting fired prompted me to make a decision — founding the company I now run — that has brought me more happiness than any other work I’ve ever done.

Article by, Tony Schwartz



Tony Schwartz
is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything. Become a fan of The Energy Project on Facebook and connect with Tony at Twitter.com/TonySchwartz and Twitter.com/Energy_Project.



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