I’ve never been much for structure. I’m not exactly sure why but it’s most likely some strange event that happened in my childhood. As I get older I find myself even less interested in rules and hierarchy, especially in my professional life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of giving and getting respect, but I’m just not into management terms like “direction” and “coaching.”
Maybe it’s because I deal with teens at home, maybe it’s a lack of patience, or maybe I just have high expectations, but I expect people who work with me to get work done. I don’t mind prioritizing or discussing issues, but if you need specific direction to complete the tasks I’ve hired you for, maybe I made a bad hire.
I mention this for a couple of reasons; it’s a personal rant against structure and authority and I’m so tired of hearing people complain about how hard it is managing people. Just as your employees aren’t chained to their desks, you aren’t married to them either. Perhaps if you’re that unhappy with performance you might consider replacing them. Another solution might be simply talking to them. I know in today’s technology-driven world it’s a strange concept, but stick with me here.
A simple conversation might just be the end of your frustrations. I was at the receiving end of one of these conversations a few years back. To be honest, the discussion was well over due and it saved not only my job but my career as a whole. Soon after this conversation I realized the power of honesty and started looking to build a similar skill set. What I found was a book and program called Crucial Conversations.
While the book alone was powerful, the workshop gave me the courage to actually apply the tools I’d need to communicate effectively. I soon found that honesty, humility, and empathy would be keys to my personal and professional lives. Having the comfort to leave my bubble and hold an honest conversation without an emotional response made communication easy. Communicating regularly rather than reviewing annually helped my staff adjust behaviors before I became frustrated, and encouraged them to speak openly when they disagreed with me. Strangely enough this lack of fear that is sometimes considered disrespect is what I feel is my greatest strength.
Rather than coach my staff on changing behavior I can simply state the behavior and my feelings about its impact. They have the opportunity to openly state why the behavior is present and what can be done. I’m not attempting to change them, rather I make them aware and they choose to change themselves. I employ the same strategy at home with my wife and children, and they’ve learned to employ it with me.
Granted nothing is perfect, but this has made life far easier for me. The simple art of knowing when to push technology aside and have a walk-up meeting has made a huge difference in my performance as a manager. My staff are happier, I’m happier, and even those I’ve had causal working relationships with have been happier.
If you’ve never had the opportunity to read Crucial Conversations I’d recommend you pick it up. It might be helpful as the holiday’s approach and co-workers get stressed and grumpy. Perhaps it will give you the tools you need to deal with your overbearing mother-in-law, and at the very least you can always re-gift it if you decide it’s a dud.
Have you read Crucial Conversations? If so, what are you thoughts? Do you have a management style you really like or dislike?
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