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Leading Through a Yes Mess

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Monica Wofford is a leadership development expert who develops leaders. For more information, go to www.MonicaWofford.com or www.ContagiousCompanies.com

If you say yes to too much, you close the window of time to say yes to the things, dreams, and actions in line with your own dreams and business goals.

If you take on too much, say yes to more than you should, or lead overwhelmed employees whose task lists are more than full, you have a yes mess.  Yet, the intellectual realization that one says yes to too much is much different than knowing how to fix the issue.  The observation of employees who are stressing out over pressure to do too much is valuable. Knowing how to coach them through that will make you a better leader. Both in leading yourself and in leading others, the common theme and question is how does one stop this pattern of behavior. This is the focus of today’s Monday Moment.

The Ask

Many leaders say yes to whatever is asked of them. The category on a job description of “other duties as assigned” does exist for a reason, but it creates the belief and temptation that in order to be seen as doing a good job at leading, we must say yes to myriad and unlimited requests. The real key is what are you asking back when asked to take on a task. Do you clarify the scope? How big a project is this? Do you ask if there is support available? Do you assume you are the only one who must be involved and act as if that’s the case because that’s your comfort zone or do you ask others for help? A request for you to be involved does not require a simple one word answer in response. Ask more questions when asked the question of “can you do something else?” The act of asking for clarity before you just say yes to everything, will give you time to think. It’s an information gathering method and a stalling technique. Effective, particularly if your knee jerk reaction is to just say yes and figure out what later might be a mess.

The Urge

It’s possible you and those you lead are saying yes to too many things because there exists a desire to please. Perhaps it’s a desire to be all things to all people. Maybe it’s an urge to be seen favorably, amiably, and easy to work with. There are other ways to achieve each of these things besides overloading your plate, trading it in for a platter, and dealing with your stressed out reactions when you’ve taken on too many things. In fact, there are far less painful ways to satisfy these urges and achieve these feelings. Examine these things. As a leader, are you saying yes to impress your boss? As employees, are they saying yes because they’ve never been taught to say “not now’ or “no, thank you.” Is yes being perceived as your answer because you said nothing in response and someone took silence to imply agreement? What are you really after and is the work you need to do more about becoming self-aware of what is really important to you?

The Habit

Leading your own behavior effectively and becoming a better leader of others includes paying attention to your habit patterns. Saying yes to everyone and everything or even just the bright and shiny looking opportunities could be nothing more than a habit of which you’re unaware. What are your concerns that crop up when someone asks you to do something ? What are the fears presented in your head or actions you dread if you didn’t say yes? What do you imagine that other person or committee will think if you dare not take on another project and say yes before they blink? Habits are exceedingly powerful behavior motivators and once a habit develops we rarely realize we’re committing the same repeated actions over and over. Look at what comes up automatically. Use the questions as a response to give yourself a few extra seconds. This is usually all it takes for the urge to recommit that habit to dissipate.

Whether you struggle with you inability to turn down a request or you are watching employees deal with the impending stress of being overloaded, these three areas of action will help you lead more effectively and with less stress. Teach them to those you lead and those you see struggling. After all, it’s no fun to continue to complain about one of our behaviors if we’re not willing to look at, try out, and employ even simple solutions.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

The Power and Perils of Pressure

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Monica Wofford is a leadership development expert who provides keynote presentations, coaching, training and consulting for leaders who've been promoted, but not prepared. For more information, go to www.ContagiousCompanies.com

Are you displaying the traits you want them to learn or paving the way for them to follow the beat of your pressure filled drum?

Leaders with the longest list of accomplishments are familiar with the concept of pressure. Whether they place it on themselves, provide it to others, or exert it in a last ditch effort to meet a deadline they’ve put off for the very sake of creating such pressure, all have their own stories to tell about how they are motivated by, or loathe, pressure. But why? Why do we feel so strongly about pressure?  Is the pressure, a cousin to accountability, we put on ourselves to achieve, do, become, lead, move faster, or be better, may be helpful or harmful.  Do we thrive in it or cave under it? Are we setting up future leaders with this same mentality, for success or failure? Let’s take a look in today’s Monday Moment.

Pushing

Some leaders believe that pushing others will help them succeed. There is validity in this belief when pushing someone to reach their own potential, or pushing to do just a smidge more is the goal. When the full court press becomes a way of insisting that someone not well suited for a role, put forth absurd amounts of effort to act like something they’re not, pretend they have the talents of someone else and figuratively kill themselves for little or no reward and lesser results, that is a problem. Undue pressure of pushing someone into positions in which they don’t fit is actually more than a problem, it’s a deal breaker for long term profit and employment. Push those who smile when you do it. Ease up on those who wince when they see you coming.

Pulling

The power of leadership is in developing a loyal rapport and respect in those you have the privilege of leading. That power doesn’t last long when a leader gives it away and starts to beg employees to stay or overlooking reasons they really should go away. The leader’s power doesn’t stick around when they are cajoling, begging, persuading, or pleading with employees to please perform according to minimal guidelines or please still do your job even though I gave you a three. Leaders are subject to pressure from multiple directions and if they’re not careful it can negatively influence their decisions on how they lead. If you have to pull others by the hand to get them to follow you, it’s time to reexamine your actions and what you’re doing to compel them to go in a different direction.

Paving

Many leaders I’ve known are gifted at saying one thing and doing that same thing quite differently. One such CEO shared with me that he’d like one of his Directors to work less and not drive so hard. As soon as he said it, he then said, “but I’m certainly not the one to model that behavior.” He feared she would burn out and I shared with him that my larger fear was this: when you provide enormous pressure on yourself to perform, to be all things to all people, to say yes all the time, and to work as if your phone and laptop are physically attached to your behind, you pave the way in which future leaders will be expected to behave. You pave the way for expectations that will now be formed about how you’ll behave consistently. You trap yourself in a paved path of your own making to consistently be pressured to do more, faster, and better until you will run out, literally, of energy. Be mindful of the path you are paving for those you lead, the future of leaders in your company, and those you may also lead personally. If the song “Cat in the Cradle” gives you goosebumps, pay attention.

Paying

One beloved client told me last week she was prepping to leave for vacation, her FIRST vacation, in her five years of employment tenure. Yes, the company in which she works allows for vacation. Yes, the culture of the company is fairly hard driving and results oriented and they provide a bit of pressure for employees to accomplish super human amounts of work, but I also know the CEO is not one who would say you can’t take a vacation five years in a row. The pressure she’s put on herself to work instead of take a break, is not uncommon, and your leaders are guilty, too. Long hours, late nights, early mornings, berserk work travel schedules, cramming more into 24 hours times 7 than most feel good about doing in a month, are all ways in which we pay the price of feeling pressure to perform. Beyond the issue of health and weight gain when you grab and go, leading one’s life in this way creates the very need for courses on balance and amps the stress level to astronomical (read: difficult people abound!) levels.  There’s no question that for some the pressure to perform and work all hours is motivating and rewarding. There’s also no question that the number of people who end a career and then decide to finally do what they’ve always wanted, be who they naturally are, and lead their own lives in a more fulfilling direction is alarming.

Pressure is a force that drives us. Sometimes it drives us to do stupid things, like peer pressure. Sometimes it drives us to wait until we have enough of it, like in the case of procrastination. Sometimes it drives us to force others to buy in faster, destroying employee engagement. And sometimes it is an often inaccurate combination of negative forces in our head that causes people to say “be less hard on yourself”. To become a more effective leader, learn to discern when times are good to pour on the pressure, when to go with the flow a bit more and when to let those you lead let off some pressure. Use pressure poorly and you may find you regret it sorely. Use pressure wisely and it has the potential to be inspiring.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

7 Strategies for Getting Permission

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Monica Wofford is a leadership development specialist with 25 years of teaching leaders how to be themselves, lead themselves, and then lead others. For more information on Monica or her training firm, go to www.ContagiousCompanies.com

What are you waiting for exactly to do, say, and be the leader they need? Are you looking for someone to say go? Are you looking for permission and your boss to say so? Or are you in your own way behind an invisible wall at the starting line?

New leaders often feel their momentum is stalled because they need permission to take action from their boss. Even leaders with tenure in their management role, can be found to find comfort in holding back until someone says go. What if, no matter the length of time you’ve held a leadership position, no matter your role, you had clear cut ways to get permission? Permission to move ahead. Permission to make progress. Permission to take a risk and permission, ultimately to be yourself? This Monday Moment will give you seven such strategies to have that permission granted and become the better leader they’ve always wanted.

Get Clear

Studies of buying behavior and selling strategies tell us that the easiest answer for a potential customer to give is “no”. It is given more readily when the choices are not clear or there is inherent confusion in what’s being asked. When seeking permission to go forward on a project, purchase, or acquisition of a much needed team resource, (all forms of selling, of course!) focus in on a succinct description of exactly what you want and be able to convey that description in three short bullet points.

Ask

While this step seems so simplistic, waiting for permission is the more often used strategy. If you want permission to move forward, make your case and clearly ask the question. Stop being so subtle your boss doesn’t get it. Avoid the temptation to believe that your leaders will eventually notice why you’re stuck and willingly admit it’s a problem of their own making. (Translation: your boss is not likely going to see, or often believe, he is the one is the way of you moving forward)

Determine Authority

In sales, this strategy is usually described as getting to the decision maker. Many salespeople will tell you that they’ve learned the hard way when leading a sales process, to avoid telling all the information and making a big presentation to someone who can’t place the order in the first place. Does the leader, manager, boss or person, from whom you’re asking permission, have the ability to give you permission the first place? Look closely as authority, and the perception that people have it, can be deceiving.

Use Confidence

A request from someone made with conviction, whose confidence and belief in the value of their request is obvious, is compelling. Multi-level marketers know this. Great sales people know this. The best leaders know this. In fact, the very concept is likely the originating idea behind sayings like “fake it til you make it” and “never let them see you sweat”. Your leaders and those granting you permission to do what you ask, want to have confidence in their own response to your request. Confidence being contagious…show them confidence and you’re far more likely to receive  favorable confidence filled answer…or in this case permission granted.

Ask Again

Not any one strategy works 100% of the time and multiple factors must be in alignment for permission to execute a complex project to be granted. Sometimes the timing isn’t right. Other times the people are not all in place. Other times, there are reasons to which you may not be privy that prevent the answer you want from being easy. In this case, persistence pays in getting permission. As the old saying goes “Ask, ask, ask, and ask again. That is, if you really want that order.” Note, asking again is not the same as “be obnoxious”, so exercise equally persistent professionalism in all cases.

Respect Timing

Look at the big picture. What else is on your leaders’ plate? What are the factors that could weigh heavily or influence the answer you seek? Is the timing right for you to get permission to do what you’re wanting to implement or execute? Respecting the timing of your question and your choices is a sign of good leadership, including the effort of giving yourself permission to be the authentic you. Are there times when that’s appropriate and times when it’s best to use a well-developed learned behavior, even if it’s not natural?

Give it to Yourself

For many leaders, the biggest barrier to being themselves, leading themselves well, and leading a team effectively is, in fact, themselves. We are often the greatest guilty party for getting in our own way. To get permission to be yourself, give yourself permission to do so. To get permission to be happy with the team you have, the position you hold, or the salary you’re paid to do a job, give yourself permission to do so. Sometimes getting permission is more of an inside job and simpler than most realize. Are you holding you back from the permission you seek? If so, this is the primary reason others aren’t seeing your confident belief and are thus, supporting the effort of holding you back.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

How to Be a Liberated Leader

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What first comes to mind, might be QUIT! Or maybe one thinks of a communist

Monica Wofford is a leadership development specialist who delights audiences large and small with her leadership keynotes and training classes.

No leaders needs permission from others to be themselves, be authentic, and be real. The deal is this: new leaders think there is someone they must ask before they can do this.

regime, but how to be a liberated leader is a deeper thinking bit of guidance than both. Inspired by the words from a recent coaching client, feeling liberated is about “being free to be me” or acting authentically.  Instead of feeling free, most leaders w

 

e work with would answer the question of “Who are you authentically?” with another question: “At home or at work?” Wouldn’t it be energizing, uplifting, and even freeing if you could just be you, no matter where you might be? But, how do you liberate yourself from all the pressure to be someone you’re not, lead in a way you wouldn’t, or behave in ways others think you should? With these liberated leader Monday Moment methods.

First, Stop Shoulding

This phrase is frequently used and gets leaders laughing because it’s also frequently true. “Stop shoulding all over yourself!” The concept is simple. Stop compelling yourself to behave in unnatural ways or do things for years that don’t feel right, but that you are of the belief you should. The challenge with the belief and how it prevents leaders from behaving authentically, is most of the beliefs we hold true are not ones with which we argue. Rarely do we question things we believe and that have formed as “shoulds”, but maybe we should. Must you really be a CPA just because you have a finance degree? Should you always be strong and in charge if you’re a leader, husband, and daddy? Should you always be serious and all business when in a business meeting? Each leader’s answer may be different, but if your answer is limiting, it’s keeping you from feeling liberated and in any way energized about what you’re doing.

Second, Start Seeing

Wayne Dyer said “Believing is seeing”, but if you’re not a self help fan nor observant of how he reversed the typical order of that saying, then consider this: Seeing differences does not help you treat people differently. Believing people are different will help you see how to treat them differently. Then it is a matter of following what you believe. Much as shoulds stand in our way of giving ourselves permission to act freely, beliefs about what others intend, see, believe, mean to do to us, or need from us as leaders are also well engrained and something with which we don’t often argue. A leader who sees an employee as a difficult person will treat them accordingly. A leader who sees that same person as their opposite in need of radically different motivation and communication methods, will treat them perhaps in the ways that person needs. Which do you believe will free up more of your time spent in performance counseling conversations? What could you accomplish in your leadership role with that new found time and freedom?

Third, Start Being

I have worked with a number of leaders in the last ten years, from CEOs to front line supervisors, and many a manager and director in between.  When coaching, what comes up most notably for these leaders is the desire to get what they need. For some it’s a challenge and ambitious promotion. For others, it’s details and a linear structure. For still more, it’s the desire to get along and not be mired in conflict and for the rest, it’s about how to get appreciated for even their mere existence. In other words, they want the permission, the skills, the confidence, and the ability to be content in their own skin. They want to be confident about who they are and the value inherent in them. They want others to treat them in ways they like to be treated and they want, without perhaps always using this word… freedom…to be themselves.  However, no one needs to give you, or any other leader, permission to be yourself. The biggest barrier to feeling free to act authentically is that pesky, persistent, should filled, internal voice and system of beliefs. Perhaps the bigger question is when do you think it would be okay to share the authentic value of who you really are with the team you lead? When do you think it would be okay to speak up in the meeting instead of keeping quiet because it’s safer? When do you think it would be okay to ask the tough questions? When do you think it would be good to say no to the person  who is always taking advantage of you, once and for all? When do you take off the costume of who you should be and actually give yourself permission to act authentically? When you do, it will be truly liberating.

When a leader feels liberated, it’s much easier to see what they hadn’t seen or described before. Some call is suppression, or an oppressive environment of their own making. Some leaders tell me that freedom and authenticity quickly led to a promotion because people stopped having to question their motives or uncover where they were coming from. Being real is not confusing. It’s energizing, inspiring, a great feeling, and the place from which you’ll find you do your best work and accomplish the greatest things. And yes, it’s liberating!  .

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. And hey, if you’re struggling with this whole idea of having that liberating feeling or being authentic, it might be time we partner to help you with that. Call me when it’s convenient (or when you just get tired of having to constantly fake it!) and in the meantime, have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

Tell Tale Signs of Lazy Leadership

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Monica Wofford is a leadership development specialist and executive business coach who develops leaders through speaking, training, consulting, and coaching. For more information, go to www.MonicaWofford.com

Just because you don’t SHARE your leadership expectations, or follow up or debrief with employees doesn’t mean they aren’t getting a pretty clear message about your leadership style!

It’s not something you want to be accused of nor caught doing, but the truth is most managers don’t measure lazy leadership. This is the kind of leading that looks more like managing people instead of merely their activities and this is the kind of leading that is costing you and your company truckloads of money. Lazy leaders are more than those who simply don’t go the extra mile. They are not in it for the long haul. There is no succession plan, no real investment of time and energy on development and as such, no discernable results. But, lazy leadership is harder to spot than you might imagine so here are a few, key, tell tale signs that will help you become a better boss, for which to keep your eyes open:

Expectations are Assumed

In keynotes, and in coaching and trainings, I frequently discuss leadership expectations. One simple question reveals the distinct lack of clarity most leaders share or are aware of in this area: “Have you told the members of the team what you specifically expect from each of them?” After a moment or two of hesitation, the truth becomes clear that no is the real answer. What is it that you expect those you lead to do? In what way and to what level of quality do they need to do it? What is it they should expect from you in the way of rewards, consequences, communication, or frequency of meetings? Leaders who assume employees know what to do are usually creating confusion or at a minimum being called difficult to work with. If this is you, get clear on what you expect, then tell them what you expect, and stop assuming they get it.

Emotional Intelligence is Ignored

Intellectually all management team members will tell you they know their team members are each unique and different. But when they make that statement with a tone of sarcasm on the word different, you know they are not aware of the impact of emotional intelligence. Knowing employees are different and leading them differently are two very distinctly different things. The most successful leaders invest time and energy in understanding what drives the behaviors of those they lead and how to actually engage and motivate them more effectively. Failing to understand their personality results in not only disengaged employees who are simply doing what comes most naturally to their personality, but a leadership style that is best described as hit or miss or trial and error. If this is you, time would be well spent in this area.

Employees Are Left Alone

How does a leader develop each individual team member to their full potential when they adhere to the old adage of “No news is good news”? Employees deserve the leader’s attention and a key role of being a leader is to develop, guide, motivate, and coach each and every team member. What does each person need from you in order to be better than they were yesterday? What do those who are star performers need to reach their next career level? What do those who are performing poorly need to identify their immediate improvement or next company?  Spending regular meaningful time with each employee now will avoid spending lengthy hours sitting outside the door of HR. If you are the leader leaving employees to their own devices, telling them if they don’t hear from you that they shouldn’t worry, this is an area to adjust in a hurry.

Issues are Avoided

The opposite tell tale lazy sign is when a leader ignores issues such as conflict, training improvement needed, or the interviews conducted upon employment exit. A leader who let’s employees just work it out and never gets involved in conflict or disagreement is taking a hands off approach that is more passive than effective leadership. Not every small drama deserves undue attention, but every disagreement does warrant a leader’s awareness. A leader who fails to make time to share objectives with an employee BEFORE they attend a training is reinforcing a low learning retention and very limited effective training outcomes. Successful leaders add to their conversations time to connect with employees they are sending to a training both before and after the course to help ensure more learning happens. Those same leaders who avoid both of these efforts are the ones who take a hands-off approach when an employee leaves the company. Wouldn’t you want to know what caused the employee’s departure so you could fix any issues before they are repeated with the incoming candidate?

Lazy leadership may sound like a harsh moniker in light of the reality that most leaders simply run out of time to do it all on any given day. The key is in knowing the impact of the actions a leader takes and how even the smallest of regular steps taken will dramatically improve the performance of a team over time, thus making the leader’s job easier in the long run.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

What’s New in Leadership?

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Monica Wofford is a leadership development specialist

Are there new trends in leadership that would help you build your skills if you knew and will help you be a better leader if you do?

When you’ve studied, taught and talked about leadership for 25 years, you might buy into the idea that there’s nothing new. Have you seen the news?  Indeed the same people issues arise again and again. Change, innovation, conflict, engagement and motivation are repetitive topics that come up though often under new names. But there’s something different under way. To say there’s nothing new in leadership would simply not be true. Big corporations and small are making bold moves that will change us all. States are enacting laws that change the way we lead and of course technology is changing the face of everything we see. What does this mean for the leader, both emerging and established, and more important what does this mean you need to now do? Here are some suggestions.

Make Values Matter

Your organization may have a values statement posted on the wall, but does anyone pay attention to them at all? Those three days you spent in an off site to come up with the list of values that felt just right may have inspired leaders for a week or so, but now ask those same folks to recite them and wait for them to say I dunno. Yet, what’s new is companies with big names are showing their values matter more than tax breaks. Take Paypal’s recent announcement for their global headquarters in North Carolina. Everything was lining up just right to employ 400 North Carolinians when all of a sudden the issue of what they valued came into play. The deal got pulled because of a state’s ruling on transgender use of bathrooms. No matter your opinion on this issue, the fact of the matter is values used to only receive lip service. Now they are taking top billing and they matter to those you lead. Companies, senior executives, mid managers, and front line employees are making bottom line altering decisions based on their own values and beliefs.  No longer can you afford to only act as if. It’s time to get clear on what you value and ensure you respect the values of those you lead.

Make Families Matter

One of our clients has begun a trend of including families in celebratory sales banquets and weekends. The CEO believes it is the right thing to do and others would line up in agreement, but recent legislation makes it officially a focal point. California passed a law on April 5th that allows for six weeks of paid parental leave meaning BOTH parents. We’ve gone from fighting for the rights of the woman giving birth, to some companies providing leave for women adopting, to progressive companies providing more time for the mom and some time for dad. However, now we’re facing the reality that families matter. Leading up to this brave new inclusive world, SHRM faced not long ago the issue of salaried employees being required to use their company phones outside of work hours, meaning  while at home. Was this the precursor to employees saying don’t talk about balance, but let me experience it? If the message hadn’t gotten through then, states may now take those matters into their own hands. Your leadership role may now require you to not only know the names of your employees kids, but to allow them the time off to attend the soccer game of junior Jim.

Make People Matter

One could argue that people have mattered in leadership all the way through its modern day journey of development. From the industrial revolution age when realizing that observing employees from the cat walk of a factory changed the way they behaved, to the institution of formalizing the leader’s need to get up and actually walk around the office talking to team members (MBWA), to Google, Zappo’s, Amazon, and Apple making corporate offices that have rooms in which to literally play, we’ve come a long way. But have we truly embraced this new reality which is that no longer can companies or leaders afford to wish they were more people centric or had a people focused culture? One way in which leadership has changed is people now RUN the game. They are no longer the minions for which caring about them is something you try to remember to show on your face. Even leaders who are task focused and more about getting the right things done must sincerely focus on and care about the needs of the people they lead, or they’ll eventually be looking for new jobs.

What’s new in leadership? It’s simply really. All those things we’ve talked about doing, thought would be nice to do, and have been meaning to get done are rapidly becoming priority ONE. Just as company cultures take time to change so do the cultures and mindsets of people in a generation. The tides are changing. Those who were making many of the organizational, read leadership culture impacting, decisions, are continuing to retire, being replaced by those who are naturally more tech savvy and interested in people connections. This isn’t a generational issue, but a leadership issue and one that warrants you stop talking about what matters and get clear on what does, as well as show them how much.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

3 Ways Leaders Keep Their Cool

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Monica Wofford is a leadership development specialist with nearly two decades of experience in developing managers who've been promoted, but not prepared. To reach Monica directly, email Monica@ContagiousCompanies.com or call 1-866-382-0121.

When times are stressful, chances of conflict are high, and tensions are even higher, professional behavior requires you keep those emotions in check. But, how do you do that?

Do you work with someone who loses it? Is that how they describe you? Bad boss behavior is different than letting off steam and when you’re a leader, the greatest respect is earned when you are more often cool as a cucumber instead of a Screaming Mimi. So how do you do it? How do you keep your cool? Or perhaps more importantly, who do you know that you need to forward these answers to? No matter the level of stress or type of behavior faced, these approaches and three methods will help any leader keep their composure, maintain their productive momentum, and avoid yelling at or berating employees who let them.

Conserve Energy

A coaching client asked me Friday, “How do you keep your cool when team members are frustrating you?” There were a number of answers, but the underlying theme was about conserving energy. Is allowing your frustration to fester over the employee who is not going to finish their project early, but right in the nick of time, again, really where you want to spend your energy?  Is harboring anger over the admin who did it her way instead of the way you’ve asked three times, where you want to spend your energy? Maybe that energy is better spent on finding a new assistant. Were those sharp words and stressed neck muscles what you really wanted to do to your reputation and health over that issue that happened last week that you can’t remember anyway? Questions like these are not always easy to answer. The first time you ask them, in fact, you’ll do so after you’ve lost it, but they are worth answering. No matter the frustration or the issue with team, boss, or colleague, you, the leader always get to choose where you spend your energy. Choose wisely and then choose precisely.

Pick a Hill

You’ve heard the question is this a hill worth dying on?  It originates from military leadership and the battle of Hamburger Hill, Bunker Hill and others. The concept speaks to the analysis of whether or not the disparity between the projected cost in lives that could be lost in battle and the strategic value of the terrain conquered is too large to commence fighting. Those battles in which the loss of life was thought to be higher than the value of the land are emblazoned in history and analyzed as errors. Think about that. In your own day to day territory conquering, client acquisition, competitive business, or even administrative projects, do you analyze whether or not that issue over which you’re about to lose your mind, is really a hill on which you’re willing to die? It’s hard to analyze in the moment, but when you experience enough regret over having let your emotions get the better of you time and time again, you’re likely to reassess that same hill when it comes up next.  Keep your cool by stepping back, surveying the larger area or bigger picture of your day, and deciding if this proverbial hill and how you handle conquering it is that for which you want this day to be named.

Break the Cycle

Often what frustrates you or your boss the most are the same things happening over and over and over. You can’t fix your boss’s issues or responses to repetitive scenarios (and pick again if you think that’s the hill you chose), but you can most certainly look at the trends in your own behavior. In keeping your cool, one immediate To-Do is document your own behavior. First, record the times when you spend tremendous energy in expressing frustration, irritation, anger or stress and later wonder why you were that upset in that moment. Second, ask yourself if that is where you wanted to spend your energy. If not, break the cycle and make different choices. Third, think back to the times you’ve nearly lost it the worst and your cool hat, so to speak, completely came off. Write those down. Are there any that repeat themselves? If so, it’s time to do something different and to take different action.

Bonus: Take Drastic Measures

If you find that you (or your boss) are consistently losing your cool over the same issues, then perhaps a more radical approach is required. Is it time to make some major changes? If it’s the same employee who drives you crazy and consistently under performs but does just barely enough to stay employed, maybe you document their discipline with a more detailed, tedious approach. If it’s your boss who is constantly berating you, talking down to you, yelling or screaming, but simultaneously is masterful in his ability to manage up, maybe it’s time for you to decide if the behavior is something you wish to continue to put up with. Is it worth leaving your job and comfort zone? Is there someone to whom you can vent or report the behavior? What do you need to do to actively participate in making the environment better, safer, or more productive?

No matter the reason for losing one’s cool, neither you nor your boss should find reasons for this to be something you frequently do. It’s not considered professional and it ruins trust and wrecks productivity, yet all of us working together, are still human. Losing it, having a bad day, venting stress, or being a momentary mess is likely to be the case ON OCCASION and that’s okay. However, if you or others celebrate on the rare days that could be described as good days, it’s time to make some changes.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

Why Does Your Boss Do That?

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Monica Wofford is a leadership development specialist focused on training and developing those leaders who have been promoted, but not prepared. For more information about Monica or her firm Contagious Companies, go to www.ContagiousCompanies.com or call 1-866-382-0121.

Has your boss ever made you feel small? It’s hard to manage up when you feel you’re in a vice grip, but if you can break free from the tyranny, you might be surprised at what is really going on with that leader of yours.

There’s an important concept to remember when you have a boss: It is just as valuable to manage up as it is to be an effective, well respected leader to your team members.  But how do you manage up when your boss is doing crazy things or things that hurt your feelings? Why does your boss do that? More importantly what can you do about it? Get better at managing up. These five managing up methods will help.

Ask Questions

When I teach new leaders how to develop their leadership skills, new and veteran bosses alike find value in the reminder to ask more questions. Questions indicate curiosity. (If you’d like a great resource for curiosity, check out Bryan Glazer’s book a Curious Mind) If you’re curious about what drives those you lead, you’ll be a more effective leader. If you’re curious about what drives your bosses behavior, you’ll be a stronger asset, better team member, and less likely to take his or her behavior personally. Some good questions to ask your boss might include: Which one of the three items you’ve asked me to complete takes priority? Did you mean for that to sound like I was in trouble? Being punished? Doing it all wrong? Can you help me understand what might be driving your concern? What can I do to make this less stressful for you?

See Their Humanity

We all know intellectually that your boss puts on his or her pants in the same way you do. No shocking news there. However, much as we do our parents, emotionally we forget that bosses are people, too. They have good days and bad days. They have days when they are not on their A game. They have days when they might have just been yelled at by their boss and proceed to take it out on you, not realizing what they’ve done. They might be afraid you’ll one day find out they’ve no idea what they’re doing. Bosses are people, too and they struggle just like you. One way to manage how their behavior, crazy as it may be at times, is to respectfully recognize they’re human and if it gets really bad, remind them gently that you’re human, too.

Look for Learning

If you’re fixated on all that your boss does wrong, you’ll be miserable. There may be a great number of valid reasons for your misery, but while you’re looking for outs or actions to take to do something about it, also look for moments from which to learn. Dig deeper. It’s possible your boss is simply a jerk, but it’s also possible that his email saying he was disappointed in you is coming from a behavior he sees in himself and he simply doesn’t know how to articulate that very well. You may not be able to ask for clarification here, but you can observe behaviors NOT to emulate or signs of a trigger that you want to avoid tripping in the future.

Stop Whining

This may sound a bit Larry Winget-ish (if you’ve no idea who he is, check him and his books out and turn your sensitivity meter way down!)  or in your face, but the truth of the matter is if you’re still reporting to someone that makes you ask “why does she do that stupid thing?” all the time, you’re still choosing to endure the outcomes. Either do something different or admit that working with her is better than being unemployed or that you don’t want to put forth the effort to create a different environment. Either way, whining about how bad she is while doing nothing about it, lands at least part of the responsibility for the disconnect, right in your lap.

Don’t Give Up

No boss will be in their position forever. Well, your boss might be there far longer than you like, but don’t give up. Try different behaviors to elicit different results. Speak up if you have to. It’s not about letting them win or not letting them win, but about the current test of your fortitude and strength. People typically develop respect for others who exude the kind of confidence that keeps them from getting pushed around. If you give up and throw the towel in, you’re telling your boss that whatever he or she does is okay with you. You’re training them on what you’ll put up with and how to treat you. It’s a fairly simple concept to explain, but admittedly at times more difficult to put into practice, in light of politics and various circumstances. Keep trying to work through it. Keep trying to find something new to do if you must. Keep trying to do what upsets them the least. Keep trying to be yourself and perform your consistent high standard of work, confidently.

There is no denying the well documented study outcome that the number one reason employees leave or quit is because of boss issues and leaving is always an option. However, there are a number of options most don’t try first that may come in very handy when the goal is to manage up more effectively, versus the goal being to change the person to whom you report directly. If you can lead yourself and lead a team of people, you can certainly also choose to lead yoru leader.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

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Monica Wofford

Named one of Meetings and Conventions Magazine’s FAVORITE SPEAKERS! She’s been seen on CNN and FOX and has spoken in 25 countries! Monica Wofford is an internationally acclaimed leadership development expert who engages audiences and teaches them how to become better leaders. Learn more about how to book Monica as your next keynote speaker.

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