Workplace Wisdom

19 Jun 2018

This Is Why Being an Employee Is Not Like Being a Navy SEAL

An up-and-coming manager at one of my client companies asked for help with a longstanding employee. Over time, his behavior had become problematic for other employees — and sometimes for customers as well. In addition to making more and more mistakes and creating conflict with co-workers, he had begun ignoring his manager’s feedback and doing juvenile things like claiming he didn’t have time to get his work done while blatantly engaging in social media and other online diversions during work […]

24 Apr 2018

How to Deal with a Colleague Who Threatens You

“I won’t oppose you now, but if anything goes wrong, I’ll go toe-to-toe with you.” My colleague was already standing practically toe-to-toe with me — and besides being much taller and stronger than I, he was leaning forward and speaking in a threatening tone. He disagreed strongly with a decision I was making, but had neither the authority nor the group support to counter it. If he wasn’t actually going to take a swing at me (and of course he […]

23 Jan 2018

How to Make a Small Tweak in Communication for a Surprisingly Big Change

When I interviewed a group of highly experienced technical employees at a client company last week, one of the things I asked them was what consistently made them nuts on the job. They told me about daily frustrations that ranged from software problems to the challenges of trying to do deep, creative thinking in the distracting open-office setup — all of which were straightforward, reasonable concerns. And then one observably upbeat and seemingly unflappable fellow shook his head a little, […]

16 Jan 2018

Here Are the 3 Unexpected Things I Learned from Surviving a TEDx Talk

When a dear colleague emailed me last July to ask if I’d consider speaking at TEDxBaylorSchool, I was terrified. Not of speaking, per se, but of the combination of requirements that characterize a TEDx: the big-enough idea; the delivery of a memorized talk while standing inside a red dot; and, maybe the scariest thing of all, the permanent capture on video. The Gifts of the Struggle The gist of the story is that I said yes, and I survived the […]

24 Oct 2017

8 Ways to Prevent Participation and Innovation

Employees can be such a headache, especially the proactive ones! They’re always asking questions, wanting things to be either some new way or the way they used to be, or else they’re making suggestions and proposals — as if there was a better way than your way. How’s a senior person supposed to get any work done and have a decent day when the team always needs so much attention? But don’t worry, you can nip all that proactivity in […]

29 Aug 2017

2 Never-Fail Rules to Make Change Initiatives Successful

Last week I facilitated a senior staff meeting that focused on silo-busting and improving cross-departmental collaboration. The group leader wrote to me afterwards to say he was very happy with how things went, and asked me to help support the process of carrying the work forward. In advance of our next get-together, I sent him recommendations on how to proceed with his team to give the new initiatives the best chance of success. I’m sharing here what I told the […]

25 Jul 2017

What Happens When Leaders Divide to Conquer

Working with teams or leaders in conflict is a crucial part of many of my assignments — even when it was not included in the original scope of work. Sometimes these disagreements arise because individual team members or colleagues instigate dissension or turmoil. Historical norms and structural changes can also trigger or perpetuate interpersonal or interdepartmental problems. But surprisingly frequently, conflicts arise from a lack of alignment around goals and responsibilities caused by a leadership structure called “hub-and-spoke.” The term […]

18 Jul 2017

Are You Tired of Being Condescended To?

In the past 10 days, three people from different organizations have complained to me about a boss or colleague who’s behaved condescendingly toward them. Not one of the three is a slouch, or a junior person. They’re all smart, competent, hardworking — assets to their organizations. And yet, they’re condescended to with some frequency. The act of condescending involves looking down on, talking down to, and generally putting someone down. In all cases, the message is: “You are less than […]

09 May 2017

This Is How to Give Feedback but Not Make People Feel Stupid

“Oh, heavens,” I thought, “I’ve offended her!” I had wanted to be helpful and friendly, but instead I was confusing and possibly insulting — I had given feedback as if the problem was with the person, not with the situation. Here’s what happened: The traffic sequence at the five-way intersection on the corner where I work is totally non-intuitive, and the cycle of lights seems to take forever. So the other day, as I approached the intersection, I did what […]

14 Feb 2017

4 Powerful Steps on the Way to Cross-Functional Agreement

I had a call with an up-and-coming middle manager who presented a complex situation and then asked a sincere question. A small cross-functional working group was trying to resolve some interdepartmental workflow and boundary issues. They had been dealing with — and avoiding — the same difficulties and discrepancies for almost 18 months out of fear of impending loss of status, staff, self-determination, etc., for at least some of the group’s members. “We have the brains” to work on the […]

 

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