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Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR


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Civility At Work

Disagreements and anger are a reality in the workplace and in life in general. Various people react in different ways when under pressure. Some lose their cool completely and say things they instantly regret, while others launch into tormenting the perceived offender with the silent treatment. No matter the technique used to punish, all of these methods quickly become tiresome and, more importantly, adversely affect the workplace.

Too frequently in the work environment, many people just can’t suck it up and utter the two simple words, “I’m sorry,” even when they know they’re wrong. It’s not just a guy thing either.  I’ve seen women behaving just as unprofessional when they feel put upon.

What’s a manager to do when this stubbornness becomes problematic?  In a word: intervene. When not controlled, these unreasonable, obstinate antics can become time-consuming and disruptive. It could all start with an impetuous negative e-mail (can anyone say ALL CAPS) or a less-than-mature voice mail left in the heat of battle that cascades into a futile distraction, as otherwise effective and seemingly sensible employees act out as if they were back in the third grade rather than adults in the workplace.

The most expeditious method that works with either the protagonist or antagonist in an office drama is to call a spade a spade, so to speak, and get the feuding parties together and cut to the chase, making each person agree to bury the hatchet but preferably not in each other’s skull. If employees’ anger management issues are left to fester, they can easily result in other people in the same work environment taking sides, and in short order, you will find yourself in the midst of an all-out War.

The only thing guaranteed when this occurs is that there will be casualties. It is incumbent on the ruling manager to make sure that the company doesn’t wind up as the victim, incurring a loss of productivity and causing everyone around the two factions to feel as if they’re walking on pins and needles.

While many times it would be easier for the boss to ask one of the warring participants to approach the other to work out their differences, this tactic just takes too much time and the outcome can be iffy. It really doesn’t matter who is right or wrong but that the nonsense is stopped dead in its tracks. The best way to accomplish this is to make it more than abundantly clear that anger in the workplace is unacceptable and could be a career-inhibitor.

Allowing employees to exhibit a lack of civility will cause a domino effect that will lead to no good. Civility does not just apply to peers. Instead, it’s applicable to all who must work together, including superiors, subordinates and even fellow board members. And, don’t confuse civility with agreeing or disagreeing with someone. It also doesn’t mean one has to believe that someone is effective in his or her role. Instead, what must be required is that those within an organization, no matter what level, simply take the higher road and respect not necessarily the person but the role and make the assumption that everyone has a part in working toward shared goals, until it is proven otherwise.

Once everybody knows the rules of engagement, many times the negative engagement suddenly ends and it’s back to business as usual. When that doesn’t happen, it’s time for offenders to be forced to go to their respective corners so as not to do each other or the company any more harm.

To promote coexistence when no one wants to take the first step and say, “I’m sorry,” it’s up to the adult in the room — and that would be you, the boss — to step into the fray with your whistle to call a permanent timeout to these types of disruptive behaviors.

 

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To Lead is to be all in

Most people like the idea of leadership but few count the cost.  To lead is to be all in, transparent and accessible, calm in the face of upset and even crisis, and always mindful that you are a steward of something bigger than yourself.  That’s not easy. To whom much is given much is required. That’s the part that easily trips us up.

In his book The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership, Gary Burniso, CEO of Korn/Ferry International, explores the essential elements of leadership through conversations with some of the world’s most seasoned and accomplished leaders.   He offers a framework based on fundamental human truths and the essential elements of leadership. The “Absolutes” are building blocks that must be present regardless of your leadership style or approach. Here are the 12 Absolutes with Burnison’s thoughts on each:

  1. Lead.      Anchor yourself in Humility. Leadership is an all-in proposition. Never react; instead ask yourself: is this about me or about we? If it’s the former, forget it and rise above.
  2. Purpose.      The why. Purpose must have a long shadow, extending its influence over others.
  3. Strategy. Strategy starts with the results of today. Strategy, rooted in values and purpose, gives encouragement through times of ambiguity and uncertainty. Strategy without purpose and values is a short-term plan that is directed toward shallow goals.
  4. People.      When you’re the leader, it’s never about you, but it starts with you. The leader can’t be the star player, scoring all the points. (Although many try to do just that.) Set high expectations for your team members, and help them to see what they can achieve.
  5. Measure.      Don’t rely on what you believe to be true. Measure and monitor so you know if it’s true. Validate your data. Walk around. Talk to people. Listen.  Look into their eyes and see for yourself whether the strategy is really working.
  6. Empower.      The leader’s job is not to empower people, but rather to help them to empower themselves. It’s the difference between ordering people to do something and inspiring them to see what they can do.
  7. Reward.      Employees work harder for leaders who demonstrate respect for their work.  Authentic, purposeful praise is a power skill of the successful leader—everywhere.
  8. Anticipate.      As a leader, you must always have your focus on the horizon. Your first task is to hone your view of the present that you perceive around you and your organization. Grounded in this reality, you are able to raise your sights toward the horizon and beyond.
  9. Navigate.      Anticipation and navigation are complementary skills. It involves making decisions in real time that allow you to adjust, react, and outmaneuver the competition—always on the lookout for the unexpected.
  10. Communicate.      Communication is where leadership lives and breathes. That means more listening than talking. It’s not merely telling people what you think and what you know. It is a process in which you seek first to understand what others think.
  11. Listen.      Listen, learn, and then lead—in that order.
  12. Learn.      Knowledge is what you know. Wisdom is acknowledging what you don’t know.    Surround yourself with a handful of people who will be your corrective  lens, making sure that you focus and learn. Equally important, your inner circle should be made up of confidants who provide grounding and perspective, seeing you as a person rather than a function.

Burnison reminds us that leadership is about people. “To lead,” he writes, “is to make an emotional connection on a very real and human level in every interaction.”