Tag Archives: line management

Creating the conditions for growth at work


By Elisabeth Goodman, 16th February 2016

It’s performance review and appraisal time

It’s that time of year again: performance appraisals were either completed just before the end of 2015, or are in full swing. Objectives are being set for the year ahead. Managers and those being managed may be feeling ‘stressed’ by the challenge of finding the time or the skills to do it properly: to ensure that people are feeling valued and/or fulfilled in their work. Performance review time is surely the time to ensure that the conditions are right for the growth of the individual, the team, and the organisation.

Creating the right conditions for growth

Creating the right conditions for growth

Is stress getting in the way of growth?

My attention was caught this week-end by the cover story in The Observer’s New Review “Is there too much stress on stress?” (14th Feb 2016, pp. 8-11). I was fascinated to learn that the term ‘stress’ was coined as recently as 1946 by Hans Selye, an Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist, who was intrigued by the common symptoms experienced by humans to all sorts of diseases and “diverse noxious agents”. The Observer article quotes statistics from the 2015 “WorkStress” annual conference of the UK National Work-Stress Network. Apparently there were 440,000 cases of work-related stress in the UK, and 43% of all working days lost due to illness in 2014/15 were due to stress. And these are just the reported cases.

I remember when I was an employee, before I started running my own business, hearing about the difference between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ stress. The argument went that we needed enough positive stress to ensure that we were achieving our potential. Apparently Selye also referred to ‘good stress’ or “eustress”, and ‘bad stress’ or “distress” but the article suggests that this distinction never really caught on. I am no physiological or psychological expert, but I know, from discussing motivation with delegates in our RiverRhee management training courses, and from my own experiences, that not enough of the right kind of challenge, as well as too much of the wrong kind of challenge can lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and other symptoms of stress.

Motivators and demotivators

I’m currently reading Caitlin Walker’s “From contempt to curiosity” in my exploration of ‘clean language’ as a tool for creating exceptional managers and teams. She references the ‘triune brain’ from Eric Jensen’s “Brain-Based Teaching and Learning”. It’s a reminder that our reptilian brain origins are those for which physiological safety is important. Our mammalian brain thrives on social belonging. The neocortex is the focus for cognitive thought: our centre for creativity and learning. There are echoes of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here: only if we feel safe, secure, accepted and trusted can we free up our brains to grow as an individual and so benefit the team and the organisation.

the major contributors to stress

Back to the Observer article, which suggests that the contributors to stress at work include:

  • emails – too many, too frequently and intruding into home life
  • level of demand on people’s time / long hours
  • reduction in personal control over work
  • poor relationships
  • lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities
  • inability to adapt to change
  • generally insensitive management practices

managers as role models

Again, back to our management training where we put a lot of emphasis on skills to understand and support individuals within their teams, as well as role modelling working practices to better manage their time.

Managers also have a responsibility to see that change is initiated and implemented in a way that addresses our basic need for information and involvement, so that we feel better able to cope. (More tips on the RiverRhee Managing Change page.)

Performance appraisals are an ideal opportunity to review and nurture the conditions in which every individual, team and the organisation as a whole can reduce (negative) stress and focus on thriving and growth.

What will you do to create these ideal conditions?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

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Difficult people are not necessarily being difficult!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 31st March, 2015

How to work with difficult people is a subject that many managers struggle with

How to work with “difficult” people is one of the topics Janet Burton and I explore in RiverRhee Consulting’s 3-day Introduction to Management course , and in our tailored in-house supervisor and line manager courses. I also previously referred to this subject in one of our newsletters on the subject of creating exceptional managers.

Elisabeth Goodman presenting the Introduction to Management course

How to work with “difficult” people is one of the most popular aspects of our courses, being one that many new and even more established managers can find quite challenging. I wonder whether it’s because the whole area of managing interpersonal relationships, dealing with conflict, emotional awareness and intelligence is something that is largely neglected in our educational system. We are so focused on academic achievement, that this essential aspect of work and indeed home life can be under-developed, unless other people in our lives have helped us to learn about it, or we have taken the initiative to explore it ourselves.

Difficult people may just be being different – we should take time to understand them

As I wrote in the newsletter, difficult people are not necessarily being difficult, but just different! Our different personalities, perspectives on, and beliefs in life will lead us to approach our work differently, communicate differently and generally act differently. At any moment in time, there will also be other circumstances happening in our lives that might be influencing how we think, feel and behave.

When faced with what seems to be a difficult situation or person, we would do well to step back and reflect on why they seem to be difficult, and to also step forward into the other person’s shoes. It may indeed be some aspect of our own behaviour that is creating or at least contributing to the situation.

We all make assumptions and try to mind read. One of the most obvious solutions, but also the one a lot of people will avoid, is to actually have an open conversation with the person concerned, to understand their perspective as well as communicate our own. Several of the managers we’ve worked with have dared to have those conversations as a result of what they’ve learnt on our courses and have been greatly relieved by the outcome.

Other strategies and tools to help us understand “difficult” people

There are various other strategies at our disposal, such as active listening, coaching and assertiveness that can help us to better understand what is leading to people being “difficult” as well as helping us to influence any associated behaviours and situations in a positive and constructive way.

We use various psychometric tools in our training ranging from Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles, to NLP representational (or communication) styles, Belbin’s Team Roles and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). These can be very illuminating in terms of understanding our different perspectives and approaches to life and work.

I’m in the process of reading “Working Together”[1], a book about transactional analysis (TA) in the workplace. TA, and the “OK corral”[2] originated with Eric Berne in the 1970s. It’s about understanding our beliefs about ourselves and how we believe others view us – often something we have inherited from childhood – and how that influences our behaviour and interaction with others. It can lead to individuals being generally passive or aggressive rather than assertive in their behaviour, or to responding passively or aggressively in certain situations.

The OK Corral - based on the work of Eric Berne

The OK Corral – based on the work of Eric Berne

In an organisational setting, the nature of the “OK” dynamic between individuals can influence the dynamics within teams and make a difference between a dysfunctional team and one that thrives on open discussion and attains high performance. The open and positive behaviour of senior and middle managers can make a difference between engaged and ‘empowered’ individuals in what Wickens (1995)[3] calls an “ascendant” organisation, and one where people are alienated, acting in an anarchic way, or where there is total apathy.

In conclusion – it’s worth spending the time to understand people, to create a more positive working relationship

As one of my own exceptional managers once told me, the work of a manager can be as much as 80% about people, and only 20% about tasks. If people are being “difficult” we should take the time to understand why they appear to be so. The root cause may be something that we can do something about or otherwise influence.

As Mountain and Davidson point out: people working together don’t have to like each other to still be able to work effectively together. In my own experience, better understanding can lead to something that is more akin to liking (if that was not there already), and certainly to a more positive working relationship.

[1] Mountain, A. and Davidson, C. (2015) Working Together. Organizational Transactional Analysis and Business Performance. Farnham, England, Gower

[2] Eric Berne’s 4-box matrix matches the various combinations of “I am OK”, “I am not OK” and “You are OK”, “You are not OK”. The “healthy position” being “I am OK, You are OK”.

[3] Wickens, P. (1995). The Ascendant Organization. Basingstoke, England, MacMillan Business

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.