mask, persona, shadow

Do You Wear One of These Scary Masks at Work?

Halloween only comes once a year, but some employees have bosses who hide behind scary masks all year long.  Which one(s) do you wear, and how might you be holding your team back when you do?

Ambitious Chameleon:  Your team sees you wearing this mask when you do and say whatever it takes to increase your status and to get what you want. This makes you appear disingenuous. As this competitive monster, you set overblown goals then take shortcuts to get there quickly, often sacrificing quality.  You want to be indispensable so appear self-promoting and emotionally disconnected from others at work. Failure is not an option for you. Behind your mask, you are charming, confidently driven, focused, ready to take on any challenge, and you usually succeed. Anyone would love to have you as a mentor.

Your team will see the “you” behind your scary mask when you focus on what works instead of what’s efficient. Realize it isn’t all up to you – you have a whole team to rely upon.

Disorganized Dreamer: Your team sees you wearing this mask when you generate a kazillion ideas and send them on wild goose chases to explore every one of them. One minute you give an employee an assignment to move forward on a project involving widgets because they are the next new thing. Two days later, you re-direct the employee to ditch the widget project and focus on a completely different one.  Your team sees a monster who lacks focus and follow through. Your employees feel jerked around and unsettled.  Behind your mask, you feel enthusiasm for life!  You’re happy, charming and fun to be with a positive outlook on life. With your energy, life is never boring as you envision the possibilities.

Your team will see the “you” behind your scary mask when you find what you are truly interested in. Then, fully commit to a course of action and allow them to support you in moving it forward.

Aloof Expert: Your team sees you wearing this mask when you are all theories, ideas, abstractions with little or no time for people and relationships.  You team sees you as cold and arrogant. You see your team to “intrusions” that you don’t want to be bothered with. You create distance between yourself and others as you withdraw into your own thoughts. Your team is tired of hearing how much smarter you are than they are. Your over-reliance on data causes analysis paralysis. Behind your mask, you are an original, innovative, and keen observer who takes calculated risks to create visionary inventions and ways of doing things.

Your team will see the “you” behind your scary mask when you use your curiosity to engage with others and your environment while letting go of the need to fully understand something before experiencing it.

Hypercritic: Your team sees you wearing this mask when you come across as a “black and white” thinker, who is judgmental, controlling, very demanding and never satisfied. For this reason, others keep their distance from you because they don’t think they can please you. Well, you do tend to criticize everything they do. You simply feel obligated to fix everything according to your standards.  Behind this mask, you are refined, organized, modest, responsible and concerned with quality. You provide reliability and stability with your principled approach to life.

Your team will see the “you” behind your scary mask when you approach them with curiosity about a situation instead of with criticism and accept “good enough” instead of perfection.

Pushy Power-Grabber: Your team sees you wearing this mask when they experience you as controlling, angry, and intimidating. More task- than people-focused, you can take a “my way of the highway” approach and are subject to angry outbursts that are over as quickly as they appeared. You can be blunt and love confrontation, which is a game to you, but you forget that others can’t withstand the trauma. Afraid of being taken advantage of, you habitually use intimidation and more power than necessary to get what you want. Behind the mask is a protective leader who is good at taking charge and getting things done and who is a daring risk-taker.

Your team will see the real “you” behind your scary mask when you pause, slow down, and learn patience.  Cultivate relationships with those around you. Realize that the unhealthy, contentious confrontations will eventually do more harm than good.

Elegant Evader: Your team sees you wearing this mask when they experience you as so conflict avoidant that you retreat from any situation where there might be the tiniest disagreement. You go to great lengths to maintain an even keel and no ruffled feathers.  By avoiding conflict, you ironically create more conflict as your team becomes frustrated with you when work stalls and issues are not resolved. Sometimes you give in to “go along, get along” without noticing the inconsistent decisions made and messages sent.  You can appear to go along with others outwardly, but inside you dig in your heels and refuse to budge. Behind the mask you are a peaceful, calm, and kind consensus builder who truly has others’ best interests at heart.

Your team will see the “you” behind your scary mask when you stop distracting yourself from yourself and take initiative to get what you think is important. Learn to live with some discomfort and assert yourself.


WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it:  Beth Strathman works with executives and senior leaders to create team environments that optimize ownership, accountability, learning, and results. Learn more at firebrandconsultingllc.com.

3 Tips for Taking Control of Your Attention

attention, listeningBemoaning the maddening busy-ness of your workweek? Why do you feel you have to be constantly connected to incoming input?

You’ve done it or seen others do it: constantly texting (probably multiple conversations at once), emailing, browsing, gaming, or talking on the phone.  To what end?  There is no way that ANYONE has that much they NEED to engage with throughout their waking hours. Maybe it has to do anxiety that constantly taps your shoulder, making you believe you must be on the lookout for real time problems or new opportunities or risk missing out on something important.

I call it “rocking chair” behavior: you’re moving, but you’re not going anywhere.

Just because you have the technology that provides a constant stream of information doesn’t mean you should or must stay at the end of its tether.  You are deluding yourself into believing that everything that is reported in a 24/7 culture is relevant or important for your survival and success.

It’s not.  Most of it is simply noise.
“Life . . . is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
— William Shakespeare, Macbeth

You are hard-wired to perk up at anything perceived as “negative” in the environment for your own self-preservation.  However, in today’s world, this caveman threat response is working overtime. Your residual reptilian brain equates almost everything you encounter in the modern world with a wild animal attack. Consequently, the constant assault of 21st century information translates into a stream of perceived survival threats, creating feelings of overwhelm and locking you in a constant threat response.  Contrary to the benefit you thought you were getting by drinking in all this data, the resulting chronic threat response actually decreases your thinking capacity and narrows your focus instead of expanding it.

Just stop it.

I’m not advocating burying your head in the sand to avoid what requires your attention.  Simply, become smarter about where you put your attention.  Have the courage to pull yourself loose from the constant stream of input focus on what is really important.  Become intentional about what information you allow into your awareness, then consciously and deliberately determine what to do with it.

 “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.”  — Lao Tzu

Here are 3 suggestions for uncoupling yourself from the barrage of input and deliberately attending to what matters:

1. Set an intention

. . . an intention to stop getting sucked in by each piece of information coming your way and the temptation to respond immediately to it.  The earth won’t stop spinning if you don’t immediately text someone back or allow a phone call to go to voicemail.  And no one will hate you.  Others are probably surprised that you are so available most of the time anyway.  (Try not watching TV or streaming news for a week.  You’ll be surprised on how much you DIDN’T miss.)

2. Set boundaries with yourself and others

. . . about what you respond to and when.  When do you choose to be most available to respond immediately to texts and phone calls?  What times throughout the day do you choose to return emails? What times of day do you choose not to respond immediately to phone calls, email, or texts?  What is the definition of an “emergency” that will justify an interruption and trigger an immediate response from you?  To whom do you choose to always respond immediately — Boss? Parent? Child? Spouse? Bookie?

3. Clarify the purpose and current vision of success

. . . for yourself and your organization.  Knowing this, you’ll know what information is relevant to attend to.

At bottom, you must have the courage to choose.  Choose what you allow into your world.  The rest can remain noise.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations with greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Don’t Rely on Employment At Will

Most managers operate under the delusion that the concept of “employment at will” will save their bacon when they don’t want to mess with an employee anymore.  Just fire them.  Done.  After all, that’s what employment “at will” is all about right?

Wrong.

It’s true that, in general, “employment at will” means that either the employer or the employee can end the work relationship for any reason or . . . no reason at all . . . as long it there wasn’t an illegal reason.  Just like that.  You can be free to work with other employers.

The main idea behind “employment at will” is that neither party is required to continue working together for a specific amount of time.  And you’re thinking, so what? Isn’t that how it’s always been?

Nope.

Employment at will evolved in the 1870’s, when laissez faire capitalism was starting to gather steam.  Before this time most employment relationships were presumed to be for a year at a time.  There was no quitting after a few weeks because you got a better offer. The doctrine of “employment at will” simply eliminated the presumption of a one-year employment term, allowing worker and employer to end the relationship whenever it didn’t suit either any longer.

Today in many states, “employment at will” has qualifiers.  In Utah, “employment at will” is still subject to notions of fairness regarding the reason an employment relationship ends.  In Utah, when you terminate an employee, the decision is subject to 3 notions of fairness, including (1) whether there was an implied contract (like making explicit verbal or written promises to an employee about job security) , (2) an implied covenant of “good faith and fair dealing” (aka requiring “just cause” to let someone go), or (3) whether the termination violates explicit, well-establish public policy (e.g., you can’t fire someone just because they filed a workers’ comp claim).

So, the next time, you’re fed up and just want to make an employee go away, hoping “employment at will” will be the reason.  Think again.  Here are 4 suggestions for laying groundwork just in case you end up firing someone:

1.            Have an “employment at will” statement in your employee handbook or employee policies.  Make sure all employees receive a copy of the handbook or policies when they are hired.

2.            Be honest with an employee about how he is not meeting your expectations.

3.            Don’t delay in addressing employee issues, thinking they will go away on their own.  They won’t.

4.            Talk to the employee in private about the issue(s).  AND summarize this conversation in the form of a memo of understanding (on company letterhead & dated) that clearly states the issue and what the employee is expected to do to conform to your expectations or to company policy.

5.            If the problem persists, issue a written warning to the employee(on company letterhead & dated), re-stating the problem , when you addressed it before with him, and noting that it is a serious matter that the employee must correct.  State in the warning that the employee will be “subject to discipline, up to and including dismissal”, if he doesn’t correct the problem.  Get the employee’s signature on this warning or at least have someone witness that you gave him the written warning if he refuses to sign it (and some employees will refuse to sign).

If the employee doesn’t correct the problem after getting a warning, you could discipline with an unpaid suspension or even termination.

With this basic documentation in place, an employer has a good chance of prevailing on an unemployment claim or even a workplace discrimination claim these basic with documents, showing the employee knew there was a problem and failed to correct it.

Nothing is a sure bet when dealing with employees. But don’t rely on “employment at will” as your only reason for terminating an employee.

You Versus Your Management Role

management roleI once worked with an elementary school principal had learned from credible sources that this long-term substitute was a fairly regular user of marijuana.

The principal pondered, “This isn’t a problem, is it?  I mean, I haven’t really seen her smoke pot. She’s a great employee – she’s here on time every day, the students like her, and she’s doing a good job.  I mean, there’s nothing I can do, right?  I would be violating her employment rights if I told her she couldn’t work here any longer, right?”

Heavy sigh.  Obviously, this school principal was trying to convince himself that he didn’t need to address the situation.  (I mean, really . . . how many of us know someone who smokes a little weed from time to time.)  I knew I had to offer this principal a quick lesson on the difference between his personal boundaries and those required of him as school principal.

When you accept a job in any organization, you are not paid simply to show up and be your sweet little ol’ self; rather, you are paid to step into a role that serves the organization.  Moreover, in a management or other leadership position, you are paid to represent the interests of the company.  I like to think of it as literally stepping into a suit of clothing that represents the position.  For example, this individual was required to step into the role of “manager” or “school principal”.  Sounds simple enough.

When stepping into a managerial role, it can be really easy to make the transition from yourself as “individual person” to “manager”. But  your personal values, beliefs and ways of operating must align to a great degree with those required in the work role.  The rub comes when your personal values, beliefs, and ways of operating are either more expansive or restrictive than those required of your company and/or role.

This is where this school principal was having a hard time:  He saw this substitute teacher as a “good employee”, so why would the school district care about whether or not she smoked pot at home.  After all, weren’t dependable employees hard to come by?  Why would he need to do anything as long as the substitute wasn’t bringing pot into the workplace?

In short, he was looking at the situation using his more “open” personal values and beliefs, instead of viewing the situation through the lens required of his position as school principal (which dictated that he enforce the school district’s drug policy along with the public policy consideration of holding those working with students to a higher standard than the average Joe).

How easy is it for you to accept and live by the values and beliefs of your company?  As a manager or leader in your company, are you aware of your responsibility to represent the company’s interests even if you don’t fully agree with them?  When you hire new employees (management or otherwise), how do you determine whether or not there is alignment between their personal values and beliefs and those of the company?  And how does your company convey its expectations to managers about carrying out the role as company representative?

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders to maximize the “people side” of business and evolve into the leader they are meant to become. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Do You Have What It Takes to Lead Others?

what it takes to leadIt happens every day. Someone is put in the position of managing people for the first time and finds it is daunting and very different from what they expected. If this happened to you, you might have been completely unprepared for what it takes to lead other people. Just being the one in charge coupled with their own sparkling personality was supposed to make you a “hit” with your team, wasn’t it?

Au contraire, mon frere.

What does it take to lead employees in the workplace successfully? In addition to skills you can learn (how to interview, how to address behavior and performance issues, how to communicate better, etc.), it takes a couple of other qualities that usually come with maturity and are not always easily acquired:

1. Self-Awareness.

To maintain your composure under stressful situations at work (and at home), you must be aware of your underlying assumptions about people and work, your motivations, your own hot buttons, your talents, and your limitations. A tall order, I know, but without this basic awareness, you are prone to react (and over-react) to situations at work without producing the results you desire. In fact, without self-awareness, you’ll probably make the same mistakes over and over, producing exactly the opposite of what you desire. Becoming a manager is a great experience for learning these things about yourself. If you aren’t already self-aware, leading others will help you increase your self-awareness, but you have to be willing to recognize and own your “stuff”.

2. Balanced Ego.

You also must be self-aware enough to realize that even though you would like to believe you “deserved” the promotion to manager, the workplace is not always about merit. Maybe there are others who would be as good or an even better manager, but you were in the right place at the right time to be selected. Realize this, have some humility about it, and keep focusing on your own growth as a person to enhance your growth as a supervisor of people.

3. Appropriate and Flexible Boundaries.

Having flexible boundaries means you decide what to let into “your space” and what to keep out. Good but flexible boundaries make you resistant to influences that will get in the way of your ability to function as a healthy manager. As you understand your role as manager, you should come to understand that your role is to get the best out of those who work with you while enforcing all the rules of the organization. (Sometimes that means you will not be the most popular person around. You have to be OK with that.) As you create professional boundaries with your employees, you are establishing the ground rules for how you will behave and others are to behave around you. Having flexible boundaries means . . .

  • You build trust with your employees as you maintain confidences; are firm, fair, and consistent in your dealings with others; and admit when you make a mistake.
  • You understand that you and your employees have roles to play and that the decisions made and the actions taken at work are not designed to personally favor you or another individual.
  • You do not make decisions out of pity for others or just so your employees will like you.
  • You hold yourself and your employees accountable for expected performance and behavior in the workplace based on the business objectives for your work group.
4. Compassion.

Compassion is the ability to understand what someone else might be experiencing. It’s the ability to put yourself in their shoes. Compassion allows you to meet others where they are and assist them as they move to where they need to be based on what the work requires. In general, I think the more self-awareness one has, the more their compassion for others increases.

Becoming a manager/leader will be challenging and rewarding. Instead of validating your talent and wonderfulness, it is a wake-up call and a growth opportunity for most. Enjoy!

Copyright – Beth Strathman 2011-2018
All rights reserved

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

beliefsThroughout my career, I have learned that much of what is thought, is only in your own head and is not necessarily true.  Yep.  Humans make up a lot of stuff about the world. But creating clarity of thought comes only if you decrease the amount of our own interference with the information you take in.

The brain has been described as a pattern-making machine.  It looks for patterns everywhere (even where there aren’t any).  You have many THOUGHTS that come together in patterns, which eventually form BELIEFS about everything.  And although you like to think of yourself as a rational, logical being, you typically don’t investigate the objective TRUTH of those THOUGHTS and BELIEFS. In fact, most of our beliefs were formed before you were 7 years old.

Based on the way the brain is designed, the more you practice a belief, the more you see it in the world around you.  And if you don’t examine what is going through your mind, you can end up making decisions about or reacting to situations and people in ways that can look wacky to others and that don’t serve you in the long run.

In other words, you have filters in place that color what you see, hear, and experience. The more you use these “filters”, the stronger the neural connections become around a belief. In turn, these “filters” shape how we interpret our experiences.

To get clearer about your interpretation of things around you, become aware of a few of the negative thoughts or beliefs you hold about a situation or another individual at work.  Something for which you don’t have much of a factual basis.  Own up to the fact that the stories you tell yourself are often merely your interpretation of what happened and may not fully describe the entire situation.

Explore processes like The Work by Byron Katie  to help you question beliefs that especially cause you to react negatively with frustration, sadness, or anger.

As a leader, question a negative belief you have about someone at work.  Is it true?

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders as they evolve into the leader they are meant to become and learn to maximize the people side of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Follow Beth:
YouTube: Firebrand Consulting LLC
LinkedIn: /company/firebrand-consulting-llc or /in/bethstrathman
Facebook: /firebrandleadershipconsulting

reflection reflect on leadership

Self-Awareness Leads to Accountability

As a leader, you are a role model of accountability.  So what does it take for you to hold yourself accountable?  To check how accountable you are as a leader, consider reflecting on the following questions after each (important) interaction:

Q1: What did I do that worked/didn’t work?  Why?

Take stock of your actions/reactions. Be honest with yourself.  If there was conflict or disappointment within the situation, resist the temptation to vindicate yourself.  Even if you think you were justified in whatever you did or didn’t do, what could you have done differently to decrease the conflict or increase the satisfaction with the situation for  yourself and others involved?

Q2: What do my actions/reactions tell me about myself?  What patterns do I see?

Reflecting on how you responded or reacted helps you to spot patterns that can lead to personal insights about what’s driving your reactions (motivation, fears, and desires).  Becoming aware of these deeper aspects of yourself and the behavioral patterns that emerge allows you to catch yourself in the act next time (or even before you act/react next time). This allows you to interject conscious thought to interrupt what might be a behavioral pattern that isn’t working for you. The split second it takes to think about what you are getting ready to do or say, allows you to exercise choice – the choice to stay stuck in our unconscious patterns or to consciously create new solutions without reacting unconsciously.

Q3: What excuses did I make (in my head or out loud) for bad results or failures?

Identify the “story” you tell yourself. What does this story say about the beliefs you have about yourself or others? Are those beliefs necessarily true?  When you examine the stories you tell yourself, you might just find that your reactions are based on unfounded beliefs about the situation. When you unpack those unfounded beliefs, you might find that they aren’t that true. Yet, they can cause you a lot of anger or stress.  In other words, you might not want to believe everything you think!

Q4: What did I do that might be part of my typical behavioral patterns?

Do you habitually tune out or retreat when stressed?  Do you often come across as overly-critical of others?  Do you consciously or unconsciously intimidate others?  No matter your behavioral patterns, you’re probably doing unto others what you don’t want done to you.  Be aware of these patterns and how they shape your interactions with others.

Q5: Who do I want to be? How do I want to come across instead? 

Once you’ve identified behavioral patterns that aren’t serving you, try an alternative way of responding.  Instead of frequently pushing yourself beyond your limits, what would happen if you took a breather once in a while or take a day off for fun?  Instead of fearing you’ll disappoint others, what if you said “no” more often or tried voicing concerns?  Instead of appearing intimidating, what would happen if you conceded a point to someone else without trying to justify yourself or let them “win”? Letting go of your usual way of being and doing is a practice that can help you realize that your typical maladaptive behaviors may have served you when you were younger, but they just might be getting in the way today.

Use these questions to raise your self-awareness. When you do, you’ll become more accountable to yourself and to your team. The more you model what real accountability is, the more likely your employees are to own their results without excuse, too.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders as they evolve into the leader they are meant to become and learn to maximize the people side of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Follow Beth:
YouTube: Firebrand Consulting LLC
LinkedIn: /company/firebrand-consulting-llc or /in/bethstrathman
Facebook: /firebrandleadershipconsulting