What I Love about work

44 Things to Love About Work

What does your job do for you?  Have you shared what you appreciate with your boss or colleagues?

With Valentine’s Day coming up, love is in the air.  What if you shared what you enjoy about work?!

Expressing Gratitude Makes You Happier

Dr. John Gottman, a relationship researcher since 1969 and founder of The Gottman Institute, coined the phrase “sentiment override.”  It means that our feelings act as a filter when we receive information.

A positive sentiment override implies viewing the situation with potential.  At work this could translate as giving the benefit of the doubt and not taking it personally when you overhear a team member moan, “What a rotten deal!”  With a positive predisposition, this protest invites curiosity.  Is this employee discouraged?  Could something be amiss with a project or with the distribution of the workload?

Conversely, someone with a negative sentiment override distorts information to find the critique.

  • That employee always complains. This comment just proves the point.
  • Is this person expecting preferential treatment? Is he trying to squirm out of responsibility?
  • What a toxin to our team!

How can we build up our positive sentiment override?  Through gratitude.  Thankfulness protects folk from falling into the negative sentiment override.

Positive and negative perspective

44 Things to Appreciate about Work

How often do you express gratitude about your work?  To your colleagues or boss?

Even if you hate dislike your manager or team members, and your situation is less than tolerable ideal, there is surely one aspect of work for which you can express genuine appreciation.

Authenticity is key.  (Brown-nosing smells bad.)

Express sincerity by referring to a specific element of your work.  Share the impact it has on your life.   Some of these items we might take for granted.  Imagine professional life without them.  We have family members working for the US government.  They used to expect a regular paycheck.  After the first shutdown, getting paid on time is something for which they are thankful!

I was inspired by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (survival, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization) to come up with this gratitude list.

  1. Getting paid
  2. Predictability of income
  3. A cafeteria which provides decent food at a reasonable price
  4. Office space with a comfortable chair and a coffee machine
  5. Cleaning crew that keeps the toilets (and the office) welcoming
  6. A schedule – you know where to be when
  7. Vacation time
  8. Weekends without work
  9. Evenings free to enjoy personal relationships and pursue hobbies
  10. Benefits package, possibly including health insurance
  11. Safe workplace
    (Bye, bye asbestos and lead paint)
  12. Harassment-free workplace
  13. Colleagues
    (Loneliness is a factor in the gig economy)
  14. Smiling (!!) and likable colleagues
    (Small gestures matter)
  15. Diverse colleagues
    (They stretch your learning and bring out your creativity)
  16. A sense of belonging to a team
  17. Having your ideas heard
  18. People with whom to have lunch
  19. Mentors to guide the way
  20. Completing a job well
  21. Clearly defined tasks
  22. Responsibility for a specified task or mission
  23. Recognition for your work
  24. Respect from others
  25. Tools (computer, phone…) to do your work
  26. Helpful feedback about what you do well
  27. Helpful feedback about ways to improve
  28. Training in technical skills & personal development
  29. Promotion track
  30. Stretch jobs because your boss believes in your capabilities
  31. Confidence from your boss and team mates
  32. Invitation to lunch from your boss
  33. Request for insight from a team mate
  34. A raise or bonus
  35. Congratulations as employee of the month
  36. Participating in creating something from scratch
  37. Having goals
  38. Measurable progress in reaching your goals
  39. Ability to help team members grow
  40. A boss who has your back
  41. Trust in your boss and team mates
  42. A management that embodies the corporate values
  43. Purpose-filled work
  44. Contribution to the well-being of others or society

SAY “Thank You”

Thinking thanks is a first step.  Expressing appreciate anchors the gratitude in your mind and creates connection with another person.

To whom will you share thanks about work?  Spread the love you would like to receive.

Bond as a Team

Print the 44 Things to Love about Work worksheet and invite team members to pick theirs.  Share appreciations at the next team meeting.  It might even lead to a discussion of ways to further boost engagement at work.

Father and son spending time together

Give the Gift of Time

The holidays are just around the corner.  Will you celebrate with loved ones?  I hope you can.

For the lovers among you, scroll down to the end of this post for your gift. 🙂

For the parents among you, why not make this an opportunity to teach your children about leadership by letting them take the lead with you!!

You offer your time. The children choose how to spend it.

Children (of all ages) spell love: T.I.M.E.

Children (of all ages) spell love: T.I.M.E.

Time as a present to offer

Money cannot buy time.  Not when it comes to time spent with kids.

Play-together-time often misses the Christmas list…AND yet, it’s the gift kids crave.

How does one “give” time?  How can one make it feel like a present?

That’s why we created these Gift Certificates.  Personalize with your child’s name and you signature, et voilà!  You have a valuable stocking stuffer you and your children will cherish.

Click here to download Gift Certificates.

Kids and Parents Learn Through Play

Play teaches children how to overcome boredom, to set and follow rules, to win and lose with respect.  Those are leadership skills!

Let kids direct the play (that’s your gift). You’ll discover them WHILE helping your child learn to thrive….even with challenging team members (you?).

You thought your daughter was impatient? She spends ½ hour dressing and undressing a doll! That will stretch the fortitude of many adults.

One Mom’s Story

The first year I offered these gifts to my sons they all invited me to play their favorite video game. “Oh, no! Wrong gift!” I thought.

These shared screen times taught me so much.  This time was “extra video time” for the children and since the intent was to share a moment together, they willingly spent 30 minutes teaching me why they like this particular game, what makes it exciting, and how to win.

I observed their skills (or lack of) in anticipation, in strategizing, in concentration, and more.

And the following week when they struggled with homework, we applied ideas from the game to help concentration. “Let’s create levels.  When you finish your first math problem, you reach level 2!”

The next year, I gave each child two gifts of time. One could be used for games on screens. The other was for something else of their choice.  One child wanted to learn more about his bank statement.  Another wanted to go shopping.

I kept doing this for years, even when our eldest was in high school.  He asked for a visit to the ophthalmologist to see about contact lenses!

You Don’t Feel Like It

Screen games or doll dressing isn’t your cup of tea? Is homework theirs?

Look to the bigger picture.  Model leadership and balance long term gains with short term costs.

You’re creating memories, proving their importance, and connecting on their level!  You’ll be amazed how that encourages them to seek to connect on issues of importance to you…like picking up their bags and coats in the front hallway.  Seriously.

The Children Don’t Feel Like It

Kids might act like they don’t want to play with you.

“Children often resist love when they need it the most.”

“Children often resist love when they need it the most,” assert Dr. Scott Turansky and nurse Joan Miller, authors of Parenting is Heart Work. Be creative and kindly insistent. They might be testing the sincerity of your offer.

If the kids don’t want to play, consider admiring them for 15 minutes. No words. No judgement.  Simply seeking to understand them in their environment.

Say “Thank You”

That magic word for all ages concludes your time together on a positive note.

The Biggest Kid of Them All

How about playing with your spouse……! We’ve got a gift certificate for them too!

Gift Certificate for couple's romance
Gift Certificate for couple's romance

To receive Gift Certificates click here.

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash.com

Tiger in cage. Safe boundaries.

Solutions Alternatives au Licenciement d’un “Employé Toxique” – 2/3

Combattre la toxicité avec des Messages en « Je »

Les employés difficiles répandent souvent leurs toxines sans que cela se voit, ce qui rend compliqué la gestion de leur impact négatif.

Dans le dernier article, nous nous sommes intéressés à parler ouvertement de ce genre de comportement. Mais que se passe-t-il si votre collègue vous évite et s’extirpe d’une réunion qui devait donner lieu à une discussion constructive ?

VOUS pouvez toujours capter leur attention de façon positive en une ou deux minutes avec un message centré sur le « Je ».

Un homme ou une femme qui s’oppose à un chef ou un collègue avec franchise et respect est une personne qui ose ! Les Messages en « Je » sont un outil pour mettre en place des barrières protectrices ou bien pour mettre à bas des barrières qui n’ont pas lieu d’être.

Parlez de VOS besoins avec le « Je »

Quand on aborde une attitude difficile chez une tierce personne, on a tendance à commencer la phrase avec « Vous ».

« Vous me mettez mal à l’aise… »

« Vous causez des problèmes quand… »

« Votre attitude… »

A QUI APPARTIENT LE PROBLEME ?

Le « Vous » implique que l’auteur du comportement a (ou bien cause) un problème. Pourtant, un comportement toxique peut servir ses objectifs.

Dans l’article précédent, nous nous sommes intéressés à l’exemple d’un chef qui touchait de façon inappropriée ses employées. Son comportement confirme qu’il pense qu’il mérite un traitement de faveur, il peut toucher… sans que cela ne le touche lui. Une plaignante peut être réaffirmée dans sa mentalité de victime, malheur à elle ! Personne ne l’aide à se délester de son fardeau.

Ce sont les autres, comme vous et moi, qui expérimentons la difficulté ; nos objectifs ne sont pas atteints. C’est le sentiment de sécurité de la femme qui est violé quand un homme choisit de toucher sa poitrine comme bon lui semble. C’est le besoin de respect du manager qui est mis à bas quand un membre de l’équipe arrive en retard aux réunions avec une tasse de café encore chaude dans la main, le tout surmonté de crème chantilly.

ASSUMEZ LA RESPONSABILITE POUR VOS BESOINS INSATISFAITS

RENDEZ-LES RESPONSABLES POUR LES CONSEQUENCES DE LEURS ACTES

Comment aborder un comportement inapproprié pour que la personne agisse en conséquence et de manière positive ?

Un message en « Je » pose les limites sans juger.

En tant qu’êtres humains et que professionnels, nous cherchons tous à se sentir à notre place et à contribuer positivement à un groupe porté par un but qui en vaut la peine. En tant que managers, nous espérons que les membres de notre équipe trouveront au travail cette communauté pleine de sens !

Quelles sont les qualités nécessaires pour rendre un environnement propice à la mise en place d’un objectif qui fait sens et d’un sentiment fort de coopération ?

  • La confiance
  • La confiance
  • La confiance
  • La sécurité, la responsabilité, l’initiative, l’engagement, la compréhension, l’acceptation, la coopération, l’accueil des différences, la joie, le rire

Des frontières claires et respectées renforcent ces qualités propices au respect.

« On fonctionne de cette manière…. Ce n’est pas comme ça que l’on procède… »

« Comme je sais que ma supérieure assure mes arrières, je suis très actif dans la recherche de moyens pour améliorer notre activité. Je pose des questions à nos clients dans le but d’avoir un retour constructif. Je propose et teste régulièrement des idées pour affiner la qualité de notre service. Je le fais car je sais qu’elle se donne beaucoup de mal pour moi aussi. »

Quand un manager s’approprie le travail de son groupe, il a franchi la limite entre travail de groupe et toxicité. La frontière a été forcée et les besoins des employés ne sont pas satisfaits.

Un message en « Je » aide à parler d’une violation d’un comportement constructif sans pour autant recourir au reproche ou à la honte.

Les Trois Parties d’un Message en « Je »

Il y a trois parties dans un message en « Je ». L’ordre n’a pas d’importance. C’est le fait de couvrir les trois éléments qui compte.

1. EXPOSEZ BRIEBVEMENT LE COMPORTEMENT INDESIRABL

« Quand vous arrivez en retard aux réunions de groupe avec une tasse de café liégeois encore chaude dans la main… »

2. PARTAGEZ VOS RESSENTIS (UN MOT PAR SENTIMENT)

« … je sens de l’injustice… »

3. REVELEZ LES CONSEQUENCES

« Parce que d’autres doivent prendre sur eux pour votre confort. Quelqu’un, moi ou un coéquipier, perd du temps à vous faire un récapitulatif de ce que l’on a déjà abordé. C’est une perte d’argent pour l’entreprise et c’est un manque de considération pour la charge de travail du collègue en question. »

OU

Exprimez ce que vous souhaiteriez

« J’aimerais que vous arriviez à l’heure. »

En ce qui concerne la partie 3, je préfère me concentrer sur les conséquences des actions perturbatrices et permettre à l’autre personne de proposer sa propre solution. Il se peut qu’ils arrivent à l’heure à la réunion avec du café pour tout le monde !  Exprimer un souhait peut paraître directif.

Un Exemple de Message en « Je »

Un professeur de management a raconté comment il avait utilisé les messages en « Je » avec les étudiants de l’université quand le groupe commençait à se dissiper. Un jeune homme en particulier, plus difficile que les autres, avait roulé des yeux, et, marmonnant quelque chose sur l’injustice de la vie, allait et venait bruyamment pendant leur temps de réunion.

Pensant, « Mais quand vont-ils grandir ?! », et sentant sa colère monter, le professeur avait décidé d’attendre le cours suivant pour réagir.

La semaine suivante, pendant une session sur le commerce mondial, il a abordé le sujet de comment saisir les fruits de la diversité en utilisant des messages en « Je ». Les gens de différentes cultures se comportent de façons qui peuvent être déstabilisantes pour les autres.

Il a partagé deux façons de traiter un problème de différence générationnelle dans sa classe :

L’option des messages en « Vous » : « Vous gênez les autres quand vous parlez pendant le cours. »

La classe a souri narquoisement. Ils avaient déjà entendu ce genre de remarques. C’est rentré dans une oreille et ressorti aussitôt par l’autre.

L’option des messages en « Je » : « Quand vous parlez pendant le cours, je me sens volé parce que le bruit supplémentaire me prive de la possibilité d’entrer en contact avec ceux de vos camarades qui sont intéressés et qui souhaitent apprendre. »

La classe s’est tue et leurs yeux se sont écarquillés. « Je pouvais les voir réfléchir… et se rendre compte qu’ils faisaient une différence dans la réussite de toute la classe », a-t-il raconté.

Des Conseils pour Réussir avec des Messages en « Je »

A. PREPAREZ-VOUS EN AMONT, AU CALME

Bonne nouvelle : un message en « Je » est rapide à dire. Si une personne qui n’a pas un bon comportement évite vos tentatives de prises de contact, un message en « Je » d’une minute attirera son attention.

Retour à la réalité : ça prend du temps à préparer.

Un des défis est d’identifier une émotion appropriée au travail.

Quand on dépasse nos limites, notre cerveau passe en mode combat, fuite ou bien arrêt. En fuite ou en arrêt, on ne rétorque pas quelque chose sur le coup. En mode combat par contre, c’est le cas… et avec des mots que l’on veut blessants.

« Je me sens violé… ridiculisé… détruit… usurpé… »

Ces émotions sont réelles et valides. En même temps, ces mots plein de jugement peuvent se retourner contre vous.

Quand notre cerveau se met en mode combat, on répond avec des mots que l’on veut blessants.  Se calmer nous permet d’avoir de nouveau accès à un langage constructif.

Donnez-vous le temps de vous calmer après avoir été confronté à une situation toxique avant d’y répondre.

B. SOYEZ PRECIS

Rappelez une situation toxique qui a eu lieu.

Evitez d’employer les mots « toujours…. » et « jamais…. »

Considérez ces questions :

  • Qu’est-ce qui a été fait ou dit ?
  • Comment vous êtes-vous sentis après ? Comment les autres ont-ils réagis ?
  • Qu’est ce qui a été le déclencheur négatif ?
  • A quoi vous attendiez-vous ?
  • En quoi le comportement actuel diffère-t-il des actions souhaitées ?

Essayez de définir l’écart qui pose problème. Il est utile d’identifier les qualités de l’environnement de travail que vous souhaitez pour le rendre constructif. Vous êtes-vous heurté à de la moquerie alors que vous recherchiez de la confiance ? Êtes-vous relégué à des tâches subalternes alors que vous souhaitez apprendre ?

C. UTILISEZ UN LANGAGE FACTUEL

Quand vous décrivez un comportement, remplacez le vocabulaire subjectif par une description neutre.

« Quand vous insultiez Jane… » invite à une réponse défensive.

« Quand vous avez dit à Jane qu’elle ressemblait à… » relate des faits.

D. REDIGEZ DES EBAUCHES

Plus votre message en « Je » sera clair, plus vous aurez de chance de recevoir une réponse positive.

Il se peut que vous n’ayez qu’une minute pour capter l’attention de « l’employé toxique ».

Les messages en « Je », comme tout nouveau langage, demande de l’entraînement. Imaginez que vous êtes en train de parler à un représentant d’une autre planète (D’une-Ville-Qui-Pense-Vraimeeeeent-Différemment-De-Moi). Essayez votre message en vous entrainant devant votre miroir.

Attendez-vous à rédigez plusieurs brouillons… de chacune des trois parties : le comportement, vos sentiments, et les conséquences.

Relisez. Est-ce que les sentiments sont en lien avec les conséquences ? Si ce n’est pas le cas, repensez à ce qui vous a gêné, et réessayez.

Pensez à votre message en « Je » comme un pitch court. Qui doit attirer l’attention. Qui invite à la collaboration. 10 brouillons !

E. CHOISISSEZ DES OCCASIONS

Partager et recevoir des messages en « Je » implique de la vulnérabilité et du courage. Utilisez ces ressources précieuses avec parcimonie. Il serait dommage de vous créer une réputation de quelqu’un qui ne fait que souligner les problèmes.

« Quand tu laisses le stylo ouvert sans son bouchon, je… »

« Quand tu prends le dernier Kinder à la cafétéria, je… »

Se Laisser Être Surpris par la Réponse

Certaines personnes incluent un autre élément au message en « Je » : une demande pour une action précise. J’aime croire que la personne réagira efficacement.

Le professeur d’université a également raconté « la fin de l’histoire ».

« La semaine suivante, je suis arrivé en classe en avance et l’élève le plus perturbateur était déjà là. Je suis allé le voir, lui ai fait remarquer sa ponctualité et lui ai dit à quel point j’appréciais son effort de comportement. Il a souri, eu un petit rire et a dit « Ouais. Je pense que c’est la première fois cette année ! »

Il a contribué positivement tout au long de la classe. Alors qu’il s’en allait, je lui ai de nouveau dit que j’avais remarqué sa participation pertinente. Il s’est exclamé « Et, vous savez, j’ai écouté alors même que la fille derrière moi n’arrêtait pas de me planter son stylo dans le dos pendant tout le cours. Je ne me mettrai plus devant elle ! »

Je pensais que c’était une personne toxique. Il m’a prouvé le contraire. Son comportement avait été répréhensible mais il s’est montré capable de contributions positives même dans des circonstances difficiles. Il a surpassé toutes mes attentes. »

C’est pourquoi j’aime présenter un message en « Je » et permettre à l’autre de me surprendre avec leur propre réponse constructive. Ça arrive dans la plupart des cas.

… Et si les difficultés persistent, alors il est temps d’adopter encore une autre méthode. Nous en parlerons la semaine prochaine.

Lire : Qu’est-ce qu’un employé toxique ?

Lire : Solutions alternatives au licenciement d’un employé toxique – 1/3

Monkey looking in mirror. Feedback!

Alternatives to Firing a “Toxic Employee”- 3/3

Don’t give feedback. Give feed-FORWARD

Feedback can be difficult to receive.  A team member with toxic behavior may have had ears full of “constructive criticism.”

Full ears lead to closed hearing.

In one of our training activities, participants are given a series of directives.

“Be on time.” “Take notes.” “Treat the client well.” “Check the references.” “Find out about _______.” 

The listeners exclaim, STOP.

  • Stop talking AT me.
  • Stop talking OVER me.
  • I am STOPPING TO LISTEN!

This is the third article in a series on toxic employees at work.  Today’s focus is on providing feedback in a way that builds collaboration.

We are building on the previous articles

  1. Acknowledge the challenge…and your role in it
  2. Set firm and kind boundaries with “I” Messages

Today’s post considers how to create and follow up on a personal development action plan of a team member.

1. Focus on Qualities to Build

Did you know?  The challenges we experience today present opportunities for learning and growth!

Blessings in disguise. Ha!

And yet…by overcoming our obstacles, you and I have grown wiser and more experienced.

For every behavior, there is a counterpart.

Think about Territorialism.  Its obverse could be Teamwork.  Somewhere along that spectrum lies Communication.

We can focus on trying to stop territorialism OR to build communication and teamwork. (Progress is never a straight path.)

 

Step by step. Build on strengths

 

I love how this cartoon contrasts the removing and building outlook.

Destruction fosters insecurity.  People erect defenses. Constructing enforces community.  People feel a sense of belonging and an ability to contribute.

Asset or deficit based mindset

In the office these two perspectives could sound like this:

  • Looking back (deficit focused): “Last meeting with Jane and Joe did not work well.  What will you do differently?”
  • Facing forward (asset based): “How could you demonstrate open-mindedness in the upcoming meeting with Jane and Joe?”

2. Build on Strengths

Imagine two cliffs with a void in between the two.  How can one get to the other side?

With one thread, one can slide another strand, then a third…until one can cross.  Does it take work and time to build on that initial filament?  Of course.  AND one can build on it.

Focus on weakness is like facing the void.  Follow the thread instead.

birds on a wire

3. Encourage Self-Evaluation

People with toxic behavior can easily be on the defensive.

Read: What is a “Toxic Employee”?

Auto-evaluation makes a person responsible for his own behavior.

One manager shared this incident.

“A team member did not take her share of the workload.  Absenteeism was an issue and so was quality of output.  As an engaged union member, she knew she could keep her job despite her disruptiveness.

I finally asked her to evaluate her own overall behavior on a scale of 1 to 5.

She responded 3. 

I answered that this was a bit higher than my own assessment.  Even more importantly, was she satisfied with 3 out of 5 when we both knew of her capability to do more?

Until then she had chosen to stand up while I was sitting down.   She took a seat and we began to make a plan to help her contribute to the team through her excellent written communication skills.”

4. Notice Progress

A sense of accomplishment highly impacts a person’s motivation and desire to contribute asserts Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile in her work on The Progress Principle.

Noticing progress helps people progress in performance.  They are

  • more productive
  • more engaged
  • more creative and solution-oriented
  • more committed to work
  • more collaborative

Managers often associate progress with major landmarks.  “We signed the contract!”

Amabile asserts that remarking progress on “small” efforts generates these positive attributes too. “Thank you for saying ‘Thank you’.”

5. Repeat Feedback Feed-FORWARD REGULARLY

It is different to give feedback regularly vs. to do so often.

Feedback Often

How frequently is “often”?  What triggers the need to review behavior?

Collaborative behavior is like service management.  When things go right, we don’t notice it.  How many times have you paused today to thank your firewall supplier for protecting your computer against viruses?  Or your bank for generating interest on your savings?  Probably none.  These service gets taken for granted…until a problem arises.  THEN IT IS URGENT.

When things go right, we don’t notice it.
Take time to notice it so that things go right more often!

Unless feedback is regularly scheduled, it tends to happen when toxic behavior merits correction.

That’s when our own behavior communicates a toxic message!  Our actions reveal that we don’t care about building a team member’s strengths or transmitting values.  We prefer comfort without nuisances.

Checking-in “too often” can communicate lack of trust in their ability.  Without me or you, that woeful, tiresome person will stay doomed to exasperate others.

Scheduled Feedback

A scheduled check-in time creates a sense of accountability on both parts:

  • the person building constructive behavior (notice the progress in using positive language ?)
  • the one encouraging personal development in his team member

There is an expectation of results.  An appointment to recognize progress.  An opportunity to further strengthen relationship muscle.

There is an expectation of results.  An appointment to recognize progress.  An opportunity to strategize for continued successes and further tone the relationship muscle.

The planned-ahead element creates a safe space, allowing for bloopers and learning from mistakes.  This is not an emergency meeting called because the person messed up (again).

Follow up sessions are scheduled on the calendar to check in…and to keep focusing forward.

“It sounds like you, Jane, and Joe are starting to understand each other a bit better?  How can you go the next step?  What could teamwork look like?!”

 

Thank you for your positive attention! ?

Photos by André Mouton and Glen Carrie on Unsplash
Tiger in cage. Safe boundaries.

Alternatives to Firing a “Toxic Employee” – 2/3

Counter Toxicity with “I”Messages

Challenging employees often diffuse their toxins under the radar which makes the negative impact difficult to contain.

Last post we looked at getting the behavior out in the open.  What if your colleague avoids you and slithers out of setting a meeting for constructive discussion?

YOU can still positively catch their attention in one or two minutes with an “I” Message.

A man or a woman who stands up to a boss or colleague with forthrightness and respect has balls!  “I” Messages are a tool to position protective boundaries or remove unnecessary fences.

Address YOUR Needs with “I” Messages

When we address the challenging behavior of someone else, the tendency is to begin the sentence with “You.”

“You make me feel uncomfortable….”

“You cause problems when….”

“Your attitude…”

To Whom Does the Problem Belong?

This implies that “You” has (or is causing) a problem.  However, toxic behavior may serve the perpetrator’s purposes.

In the previous article, we looked at an example of a boss who inappropriately touched female employees.  His behavior confirms his belief in deserving preferential treatment; he can touch…without it touching him.  A complainer can be confirmed in her victim mentality; woe is she!  No one helps her by removing her burden.

It’s other people, like you and me, that experience the difficulty; our goals are not met.  It is the woman’s sense of security that is violated when a man chooses to touch her chest at his whim.  It is the manager’s need for respect that is undermined when a team member arrives late for meetings with a cup of warm coffee topped off with fresh whipped cream.

Take Responsibility for YOUR Unmet Need
Give Responsibility for THE Consequences of THEIR Actions

How to address inappropriate behavior so that the person acts on it positively?

An “I” message establishes limits without making judgements.

As humans and as professionals, we each seek to belong and to contribute positively to a group with a worthwhile purpose.   As managers, we hope our team members will find that meaningful community at work!

What are the differentiating qualities of an environment which builds meaningful purpose (the kind we all dream of finding at work) and an engaged sense of partnership?

  • Trust
  • Trust
  • Trust
  • Security, Responsibility, Initiative, Commitment, Understanding, Acceptance, Cooperation, Welcome of differences, Joy, Laughter

Clear and respected boundaries foster these respect-building qualities.

“We act this way….  This is not what we do….”

“Because I know my manager has my back, I am on the lookout for ways to improve our business.  I ask our customers more insight-seeking questions.  I regularly propose and test out ideas to tweak our service quality.  I do it because she is going out of her way for me too.”

When a manager takes credit for his group’s work, he has crossed over the line from teamwork to toxic.  The boundary has been broached and employee needs are unmet.

An “I” Message helps communicate a breach in constructive behavior without resorting to blame or shame.

The Three Parts of an “I” Message

There are three-parts to an “I” message.  The order is not important.  Covering all three elements matters.

1. Briefly state the undesired behavior

“When you arrive late in team meetings with a steaming cup of coffee with fresh whipped cream in your hands….”

2. Share your feelings (one word per feeling)

“…I feel resentful…”

3. Express the consequences

“because others suffer for your comfort.  Someone, me or a team mate, spends extra time to bring you up to date with what we already covered.  It is a waste of company money and a lack of consideration for the team member’s workload.”

OR

Express what you wish

“I would like you to arrive on time.”

With regards to Part 3, I prefer to focus on the consequences of the disruptive actions and allow the other person to come up with his own solution.  They might and come to the meeting on time with fresh coffee for everyone!  Expressing a wish can sound directive.

“I” Message Example

A management professor shared how he used “I” messages with university students when the group became unfocused.  People talked without listening to each other.  The group became dissipated.  One particularly challenging young man rolled his eyes and, mumbling over the unfairness of life, noisily moved his about during their meeting time.

Thinking, “When will they grow up?!” and feeling his temper rising, the professor decided to wait for the next class to respond.

The following week, during a session on global business, he addressed the topic of reaping the benefits of diversity by using “I” messages.  People from different cultures behave in ways that could be unsettling to the other.

He shared two ways to address an issue of generational disparity in their class:

Option “You” Message: “You are causing problems for others by talking in class.”

The class smirked.  They had heard similar comments before.  It went in one ear and out the other.

Option “I” Message: “When you speak in class while I am teaching, I feel robbed because the additional noise takes away the opportunity for me to connect with interested classmates and for them to learn.”

The class went silent and eyes popped open.  “I could see them thinking…and realizing they made a difference in the success of the entire class!” he shared.

Tips for Success with “I” Messages

1. Prepare in Advance, When Calm

Good news:  An “I” Message is quick to say.   If the person with disruptive behavior dodges attempts to connect, a one-minute “I” Message will catch his attention.

Reality check: It takes time to prepare.

A big challenge lies in identifying a work-appropriate emotion.

When our boundaries are crossed, our brain goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode.  In flight or freeze, we do not retort on the spot.  In fight state we do… with words intended to wound.
“I feel violated…ridiculed…crushed…usurped…”

The emotions are real and valid.  At the same time, these judgement-filled words can backfire.

When our brains are in fight mode, we respond with words intended to hurt.  Calming down allows us to re-access helpful language.

Give yourself time to calm down from experiencing a toxic situation before responding to it.

2. Be Specific

Bring to mind an actual toxic situation.

Avoid “always _____” and “never ______”

Consider these questions:

  • What was said or done?
  • How did it make you feel? How did others respond?
  • What was the negative trigger?
  • What were you expecting?
  • How does the actual behavior differ from the desired actions?

Try and define the bothersome gap. It is helpful to identify the qualities of a constructive workplace you seek to build. Were you hoping for trust and found mockery instead?  Are you seeking learning and are relegated menial tasks?

3. Use factual language

When describing the behavior, replace judgmental language with a neutral description.

When you insulted Jane…” invites a defensive response.

“When you told Jane that she looked like …” relays facts.

4. Prepare Written Drafts

The clearer your “I” Message, the more likely it will invite a positive response.

You might only have one minute to catch the attention of the “toxic employee.”

“I” Messages, like any new language, takes practice.  Imagine you are speaking to a representative from another planet (Thinks-Waaaaay-Differently-From-Me-Ville).  Try your message out by speaking at your image in the mirror.

Expect to write several drafts…of each of the three parts: the behavior, your feelings, and the consequences.

Review.  Do the feelings relate to the consequences?  If not, reconsider what bothered you and try again.

Think of your “I” Message like an elevator pitch.  Attention-grabbing.  Inviting collaboration.  10 rough drafts!

5. Choose Occasions

Sharing and receiving “I” Messages involves vulnerability and courage.  Use these precious resources, wisely.  It would be a shame to create a reputation of fault-seeking.

“When you leave the cap off the pen….”

“When you take the last Kinder at the cafeteria…”

Trust to Respond

Some people include an additional element in the “I” Message:  a request for a specific action.  I like to trust the person to respond productively.

The university professor above shared “the rest of the story.”

“The following week, I arrived in class early and the student with the most disruptive behavior was already there.  I went up to him, noticed his timeliness, and shared how I appreciated his effort for punctuality.  He smiled, chuckled and remarked, ‘Yeah.  I think this is the first time this year!’

He contributed positively throughout the class.  As he was leaving, again I commented noticing his helpful participation.  He exclaimed, ‘And, you know, I paid attention even though the student behind me was sticking her pen in my back during the entire class.  I’m not sitting in front of her again!’

I had thought he was a toxic person.  He taught me otherwise.  His behavior had been reprehensible but he proved capable of positive contributions even under adverse circumstances.  He performed beyond my expectations.”

That’s why I like to present an “I” Message and allow the other person to surprise me with their own constructive response.  It happens in most situations.

…and if challenges persist, then it’s time to seek yet a different approach.  We’ll address that next week.

Read: “What is a Toxic Employee”?

Read: Alternatives to Firing Toxic Employees – Acknowledge the challenge…and your role in it

Birthday Wishes for adult

4 Birthday Gifts Colleagues Crave…yet Never Make the List

If your birthday gets celebrated at work it probably looks, tastes, or smells like

  • a box of chocolates,
  • an invitation for drinks,
  • a bouquet of flowers, or
  • a bottle of whisky.

It’s nice…yet is that what they really desire?

Studies abound highlighting the link between quality performance and recognition of a job well done and a sense of belonging to a team.  Why not offer a gift that truly matters for your colleague?

Offer the Gift of Listening

We all have feedback to give and many of us wonder how and when to express it.  When it comes to sharing an insight with hierarchy, the time never seems right.

Make it easy for your team member and offer them openness to their viewpoint.  Seriously, present it as a gift.

One CEO invites the employees with birthdays in that month to join her for lunch.  It’s their time to ask her questions about the company.

Another manager schedules a one-on-one meeting with two agenda items:

  • one behavior the team member appreciates in the manager and that he hopes the manager will continue doing
  • one behavior the team member finds challenging. They discuss a specific time this behavior occurred, and the employee expresses what he would have preferred as an outcome.

Be the Gift – Offer to Help THEIR WAY

I am regularly asked to help unblock relationship challenges and one of the common culprits is assumptions.

To assume makes an A.S.S. out of U and ME
– my brother

To assume makes an A.S.S. out of U and ME.  Like when we assume our team member wants our advice…when, really, those wise words sound like a command (yet another one).

Or when you do your colleague a favor and your efforts are not appreciated to their “just value.”  Maybe he really wanted the manager to stop interrupting him with busywork so that he could complete the task himself.

If you want to be a gift, let your colleague choose how.  “I notice the deadline is approaching and there still is much to do.  How can I help? It’s your birthday.  Ask whatever.”

(re)Celebrate a Success on the
Million $ Birthday Chair

“Effective managers build on strengths.”
– Peter Drucker

Relive a Success

Are you too looking for ways to get big bang out of less time, energy, and funds? The Birthday Chair does it every year.  For less than $1, the birthday person feels like $1 Million!

Give them an opportunity to relive a moment when they succeeded and were proud of themselves.  Designate a chair as the Birthday Chair and decorate it if you lifke.  Then, together, discuss one of their achievement, focusing on

  • the feelings generated by the success
  • the conditions that contributed to the achievements

This is a powerful tool to encourage employees and allow them to connect with the purpose of their work.

It can seem out of place to revisit an “old” event.  That’s where the Birthday Chair can create the occasion.  It’s a moment that is out of the ordinary.

Explore Success with all the Senses

I like to focus on each of the senses when reliving a success.  It’s like adding muscle and tissue to a skeleton.  The achievement comes to life in multiple dimensions and feeds the desire to achieve further.

Here is an example of helping a team member revisit their great presentation

  • What did it look like?
    Team member (TM): “It was motivating to have everyone’s attention and not to have people perched on their phones!”
  • What did it sound like?
    TM: “During the Q & A, people asked relevant questions that moved the discussion forward. They were clearly interested.”
  • What did it feel like?
    TM:
    “I know now that I can overcome the butterflies in my stomach when speaking in public.”
  • What did it smell like?
    TM: “Sweat! From now on, I’m keeping a travel size bottle of my fragrance with me to freshen up before making a presentation.”
  • What did it taste like?
    TM: “Champagne!”

Uncover the Conditions for Success

You can even dig further to understand the conditions that helped create the success and to explore how these conditions could be replicated.

Recognize their Unique Gift to the Team

Birthday card for work colleaguesWhen do you discuss your team members’ qualities with them?  Usually during the performance review, which is also when people are stressed and wary of critique.

When do you focus on the capabilities you seek to transmit?  Try intentionally creating occasions to recognize qualities.  Birthdays present an excuse to experiment with a positive approach.

Here is a birthday card offered by the team to one of their colleagues.  Each person wrote something they appreciate about the birthday person’s contribution to the group.

Download your card here.

Apply to Life

Million $ Birthday Chair at Home

Boy blowing out birthday candles

We love this big bang for little buck method to make a child feel special and belonged.

We decorate one chair BIG TIME:  at least 6 balloons and as many streamers.  The chair goes in the middle of the room where the kids (or all ages) gather for the presents.  It’s also the throne on which he reigns during the Birthday Story Time.

The Birthday Story Time

Share a story to encourage your child to grow in confidence, character, and responsibility.

  • What happened the day they were born?
  • What quality have you observed them develop this past year?
  • What is a sign of growing confidence?
  • How have they helped you become a better person or parent?
  • What do they do that makes you feel loved by them?

About YOU

When did you feel appreciated at work for your birthday?  Share it with us in the comments.

Diversity at work

How Diversity-Friendly are You?

Even though diversity is a much talked about subject, many of us wonder how it impacts our work.  Does it really matter?

This is the third article in a three-part series on diversity inspired by Steven Sels, the CEO of Primagaz.  His first message addresses the bottom-line benefits of integrating 19 different nationalities in his Parisian offices.

Read: 12 Riches of Diversity – Insights from Steven Sels, CEO of Primagaz France

In the second post, Sels broaches the prerequisites to a successful diversity strategy and describes his company’s collegiate decision-making which enables Primagaz to innovate and to act quickly.

Read:  Embracing Differences Without Conflict

As we concluded our interview, Steven Sels thanked me for the opportunity to step back, put a framework around his thoughts on diversity, and challenge himself to explore new ideas.

It’s a gift to step back, put a framework around our thoughts on diversity, and explore ideas further.

How Diversity-Friendly Are YOU?

When did you last step back and clarify your thoughts on diversity? 

Take this SHORT quiz.  I just timed myself; it took 2 minutes and 8 seconds.  Consider it a gift to help you step back and structure your thoughts.

Click here to get answers to the Diversity Quiz.

Woman doing pushups in Pilates class

Lead Constructive Meetings – Tips from Pilates

For many of us, meetings are a necessary evil.  We need team ressources and support, so we have to meet.  And yet many meetings feel unproductive.

How does one organize and run a meeting for optimal teamwork and productivity?

Contrary to popular believe, efficient and effective meetings rarely start by jumping right into the meat of the matter.  That’s expecting everyone to have thinking, listening, and creative caps donned.

It’s rarely the case.

Here is inspiration from one of my most envigorating weekly meetings:  a Pilates class.

1. Define the Mindset

Tips from Pilates

Our teacher begins every class the same way.

“Breathe.  Stand straight.  Feet hip-width apart.  Shoulders above hips.  Tummy muscles squeezed tight. Let your chin drop towards the sternum and feel the stretch…”

Every time, I am caught by both surprise and familiarity.

Surprised because I’m slouching, am disconnected with my body, and don’t even realize it!

These regularly repeated words prime both my spirit and my body for stretching and muscle-building. It takes 10 seconds.

Positive Mindset in Meetings

How do you prime your team members for alignment during your meeting?  Model the behavior you seek.

For connectedness: Take 10 seconds to smile and look each person in the eye.

To tackle a challenge regarding the competition: Link your fingers and stretch your arms out in front of you.

To foster listening: Stay silent until the room quiets down.

2. Engage the Core Muscles

Tips from Pilates

“Tighten your abs. Squeeze the inside of your thighs …”

Engage the Core Muscles in Meetings

What will constitute a “firm core” for your meeting?  Let the group know the intellectual muscle you expect.

“Let’s put those creativity caps on!”

“We have a full agenda.  We want to hear from everyone who has something new and relevant to add.”

“Disagreement is OK. When we present our viewpoint, let’s stick to facts. I may request a moment for each of us to write our thoughts down before continuing the debate.”

3. Clarify Expectations

Tips from Pilates

“Feel the stretch in your lower back…”   It’s our cue for success; if we only feel the legs, something is out of whack.

Clarify Expectations with a Meeting Agenda

A shared written agenda helps keep the meeting on track.  It’s an agreed-upon tool to refocus.

“The decision we have to make today is ___________. You have a valid point and we still need to move ahead.”

Time indicators on your agenda adds yet another element of accountability.

“We had spent 15 minutes debating this issue.  Are we getting ready to decide or do we need to come back to this topic with additional information?  If so, who will do what?”

4. Maximize Results in Minimum Time

Tips from Pilates

“Let’s tone triceps.  For these push-ups, place your hands facing forward with arms next to your body.”

Standard push-ups build upper body strength.  This particularly positionning tones triceps.  Our goal is fit-looking arms to show off our summer wardrobe.  These forward-facing pushups get us the results easier and faster.

Stay Focused

Less is more.  Avoid distraction that generate lengthy, somewhat-related discussions.  Aim to define several concrete steps to move forward and assigning who does what.  That’s HUGE and motivating to all.

5. Self-Evaluate

Tips from Pilates

Between exercises, our Pilates instructor reminds us to align our body, to strengthen our core, and where to feel the stretch.

Oops!  I squeezed those glutes five minutes ago and then shifted my concentration to the movement.  In that short time span, I forget to keep those butt muscles engaged!

Invite Re-Alignment throughout the Meeting

In the same way, it’s helpful to return to meeting’s posture, purpose, and schedule to check in.

To avoid putting someone on the spot, invite self-evaluation.

“How are we doing on creativity/timeliness/mutual respect/?  What could you do to help us be more imaginative/productive/effective listeners?  Let’s continue…”

Read Turn Good Intentions to Great Teamwork for an example of self-evaluation during meetings.

 

6. Nourish your Brain

Tips from Pilates

Between exercises we rehydrate with water infused with lemon, ginger, or cucumber.

Serve Water during Meetings

Do you know that the brain contains 80% water?  Studies show that hydration contributes to memory and clear thinking.

Serving water also creates a pause in the meeting dynamic.  Try relieving tension between participants by offering a glass of water.  These nanoseconds allow the brain to receive nourishment AND to process emotions which boosts the ability to reason and rationally weigh alternatives.

The humble act of service demonstrates your care for the participants.  It’s a basic human need to seek belonging and significance.  A glass of water with a smile allows you to connect one-on-one with a person, even during a large meeting.

7. End with a Closing Routine

Tips from Pilates

“One last stretch before we go.”

Stretch the Value of the Meeting with One Word to Recap

“Let’s go around the table with a take-away from each of you.”

This is a gentle yet firm way of securing buy-in….at least on something.  Peer pressure encourages even the reticent participant to contribute.  It could be eye opening for them to realize the meeting held value to their colleagues.

If the closing comments fall below your hopes,consider how to prepare or manage your next meetings differently.  Take stock:

  • What went well?
  • When were the less productive moments?
  • How well did your respect the schedule (ie and respect the value of your participants’ time)?

Want to participate in a business meeting with these tips in action?  Contact me about organizing a conference in your workplace.

Apply to Life

These techniques work marvels with children around the kitchen table.  It’s the opportunity to address an elephant in the room and get the kids involved.

“I noticed that we have trouble getting out the door on time in the morning.”

Define the Mindset – Smile.  Reassure the children this is a time for solution-finding, not blaming.  “Around this table I won’t tell anyone to ‘Stop dragging your feet.’”

Clarify Expectations “Let’s come up with ideas to make mornings calm and joyful.  From our list we can choose one to try this week.”

Invite Self-Evaluation“Yes, your brother could ______.  What could YOU do?”

Stay Focused – When the kids squabble among each other, reframe.  “Hum. How is that pinching helping us get out the door on time? (Pause. Eye contact. Smile.) Another idea?”

Finish Strong“Let’s each say one phrase to share what you thought of our meeting.”

  • “I felt like a big person.”
  • “I know how to help.”
  • “We have great ideas!”

Cover photo from Unsplash