Thursday, June 16, 2016


Starting over sounds like fun.  Remember when Billy Madison got to do all 12 years of school over again?  He challenged his father to let him redo each grade from 1st to 12th for two weeks per grade.  The goal was for Billy to show that he can work hard on his own, and therefore, be qualified to take over the family business.  And as a gibberish-speaking, Nintendo-playing, flaming bag of doggie poo lighting, raging drunk, that was going to be quite a feat.

Now perhaps you work for such a company owner.  Maybe, like Billy, your leader beat the odds and somehow ended up in the leader seat, despite having to wear loafer or Velcro shoes only due to an inability to tie a shoelace.  Maybe you’re wishing for your own do-over, or least the quickest escape. 

We both know that repairing the mistakes of others is an uphill climb.  It’s exhausting and it’s deflating to the soul.  Better would be to have a prevention plan in place and work from proactivity.  But this is for another blog….

What stands out from this is a positional consideration.  It’s very true that being at the ready with a dust pan and brush stinks, but consider using different tools and a different context.

If you’ve been positioned as a janitor, despite being hired for what you thought was a different role, act like you’re working in the position you were hired for.  Stop taking on only a cleaning role, but more, stop letting others think that is your role.  You can’t always quit your job and just start over somewhere else.  It’s not that easy.  Enact subtle changes now to re-position yourself into the role you were hired for originally.

What if, instead of loathing the company owner described above, you chose to be a partner?  Put yourself on his/her schedule for breakfast or lunch.  Ask about his/her hopes for the company.  Ask how he/she hopes to get that done.  Ask how he/she sees the organization needing to change or bend to make that happen.  Put down the broom and pick up a pen (or iPad).  Have a couple of meals together to unpack these questions and the ones they’ll lead to.  Take notes.  You’ll see the small ways you can insert your expertise and ideas into the conversation.  You can begin to change the view of your role in that leader’s eyes.

Come back to mission and vision.  Plan, in your second to fourth meal time, to bring up what you understand the mission to be.  How does your manager see it?  Are there connections to the expressed hopes for the organization?  You’re now moving into an analytical posture with your leadership.  That’s an attractive position because it opens the door wider for analysis of the organization.

Look at the team around you, too.  Where are strengths being used?  Where are they lacking?  And is the right person doing the right thing?  You already know that your role has mutated unhealthily, so don’t be surprised that others are suffering in the same way.  Put down the dust pan and pick up a conductor’s baton.  Pull them out of it and put them in places to showcase the hirable skills originally displayed.  And if there are tasks that need to be done, get them done, but be smart about assigning them.  Look to see where those tasks make the most sense.  Remember, you can then speak to your manager about this thoughtfulness and restructuring in the context of the conversations you’ve been having with him/her.

That alignment is a display of giftedness meant for your role.  Granted, clean-up is important, especially when you first get to a company.  However, don’t stay in that posture.  Just because you can clean up doesn’t mean you should always do it.  And if there is that much going on, something is broken and you can fix it.

A stumble along this new path may occur.  You might find that the last week has put you back into clean-up mode only.  It’s okay.  You’re re-training yourself as well as others.  A step back is not uncommon.  Just make a course correction.

You can start over right where you are.  Make weeks into escapades rather than preparation to escape!  You don’t need to go back to first grade to prove you have something valuable to offer.  But, if you start seeing giant penguins running around the office, the pressure has definitely gotten to you.  Time to use some PTO.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Are We Ourselves?

Assertive versus Aggressive.  Confidence versus Conceit.  As a leader, we might display one over the other.  There was a guy I knew in high school who parlayed confidence into conceit on a regular basis.  He annoyed the crap out of me, but I found myself swimming in his lane to fight back.  I had become that rude jerk.  I was merely trying to be an assertive alpha male (my skinny frame didn't make it so easy to do....stupid track team), but it didn't translate that way to others.

While an assertive person channels and promotes good communication, the slide into aggression parlays that into interruption and talking over people.  It's a subtle slide.  There are characteristics that start healthy enough but then become twisted and contorted by a shifting foundation.

Is there something more lurking just a little deeper?  A lack of self-esteem may be at play.  It's not to say you don't have any self-esteem, but rather it's development might be askew.  Dr. Michael Miller, former editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, says, “It’s more likely that self-esteem will come as a result of accurate self-understanding, appreciation of one’s genuine skills, and the satisfaction of helping others.”  As managers, is this our stance?

Observations for years show me how much management often find their identity in the work they do.  This becomes the basis for self-worth and self-esteem.  And this is a simple recipe for disaster.  When we base our esteem upon shifting sand, such as a particular organization, the work being done or even the people we work with, the foundation is based upon change.  People leave, we leave, the work changes and organizations are sold, merged, restructured or altered.  If we live for the company, we will be disappointed.

Our audience, however, might be receiving management poorly based upon the dilemma of assertive/aggressive or confidence/conceit.  Again, if it's a matter of self-esteem, your staff can easily identify the difference.  When a manager is over-the-top or a micro-manager, the talk among employees will start rather quickly.  It sets a tone for response that's based upon someone's individual needs (in this case, the manager) rather than the good of the whole.  Staff begin to look for ways to avoid the wrath of a manager or even seeing the manager at all.  These goals supersede the goals of the department in the work to be done.

Such a backwards setup.  We short-circuit the efforts towards our department's goals by the way in which we struggle to handle ourselves and the workload, for instance.  Help is an okay option.  It's not a sign of weakness, despite the possibility that your employer may think so.  And while I know your job is important to you (your finances, for example!), it cannot be that you should become less of the person you are or are meant to be.  Simple to say, right?  But what does it profit you to be aggressive, struggling with self-esteem or self-worth and not meet the goals you've set for work?  Right the ship.  Take the time necessary to unravel what's been going on.

Typically, managing the esteem of a manager is not on a job description, yet we see it happen.  Don't be the manager putting employees in this situation.  Get grounded outside of the work.  Then, when work needs to be done, it is a matter of how to best do it, apart from it fulfilling some esteem needs.  And while I am far from a self-help guru, I do know enough that there is truth that a person must discover for himself/herself that is separate from work, from a person or from status.  Take the time to examine yourself and find out what's true about you.

In human resources, we can find ourselves giving so much to others, which is a part of our job, that we tax our own foundation.  We must be sure to connect inwardly.

Pushing the envelope is worth it.  Don't fear being assertive.  It does matter in driving the goals of your department.  However, it is meant to be done with a specific goal in mind for the organization, not for your esteem.  If work defines you, take a small step back and look at the bigger picture.  Your role needs you to be as with it as possible.  You are the one in the role for a reason.  Get back to you.