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Do you feel as if you are dragged through a ringer after a day at work? Do others challenge you? Ignore your directions? Seem oblivious to your presence?

It’s great when we work with others who seem to understand us, want to work with us, or just remain civil when we disagree with them. But it’s draining when our leadership is disrespected, manipulated or ignored.

I dreaded working with certain individuals and looked forward to working with others. You know who I’m talking about. We have difficulty when people ignore meeting requests, don’t complete their work on time, challenge every idea unless it is their own, or spend their time becoming informal leaders undermining our efforts.

It took me a long time to come to grips with my part in each of these scenarios. Hopefully, these stories will help you on your journey.

Body Language

I didn’t realize, until I took a real step back, that I became rigid prior to a meeting with certain individuals. I spoke clearly and directly and quickly went to my main point. I didn’t waste any time.

What did I learn?

The main lessons were:

  • I wasn’t connecting with people who challenged me in any way,
  • I hadn’t deposited anything in their emotional bank accounts,
  • I didn’t know if I had anything in common with them, and
  • I didn’t see conflict as healthy and normal.
As soon as I was able to view my body language as others saw it, I was able to start the slow road to change. It meant making sure I held my hands in the steepling position which I call ‘basketball’ when I spoke. I smiled when I greeted them, because my tendency is to look serious.

Make a deposit into other people’s emotional bank accounts

I put a sticky note on the corner of my desk and made little strokes each time I deposited in each person’s emotional bank account. I must admit that it was much easier to deposit in some more than others, but I persisted until I focused on their strengths before I saw their needs/weaknesses.

I listed the things I’m interested in and deliberately began to find out what interested each person. Soon we had lots in common and could easily share.

Leadership
The hardest part for me is loosening up, determining when a topic was serious but not earth-shattering, and when it could lead to disciplinary action, and adjust my body language accordingly.

Timing

I did things and said things when it was best for me. I didn’t think about the appropriateness for the other person. After all, I was only fulfilling my role, wasn’t I?

Have you ever given a directive as you passed someone’s desk? Let the tone of your voice tell the other person how you are really feeling at that moment? Raised your voice as if the other person was hard of hearing? Commanded when a request was sufficient?

Maybe you haven’t, but I sure have. I did regret it after the fact. What I needed to learn was how to take a moment to look at the situation from the other person’s point of view.

In fact, I really had to learn that it wasn’t about me at all. It was about the receiver. Sometimes I expected too much too soon. Other times, the current distance from where the person’s thinking and skills set to what was required was too far. I didn’t know anything about ‘nudging.’

With guidance I learned how to determine how far each person was from what we expected, provide the appropriate time and learning experiences to enable them to fulfill the expectations.

I learned to be more patient with myself and others. I was kinder, gentler and a better problem solver.

I began to accept that some people will never be able to accept the responsibilities assigned to them and I could not own that. I could counsel them out of the role but I couldn’t require them to change.
Leadership Knowledge

Knowledge

Have you been made to feel as if you should have all the answers? It isn’t a nice feeling is it? It’s impossible to know everything. I’m not sure when it became inappropriate to say, “I don’t know but I will find out.”

Leading doesn’t mean knowing everything. It is about respecting others’ knowledge, asking great open-ended questions, listening to what is said and being left unsaid, reading non-verbal cues, and trusting others.

It is easy for others to try and make us feel inadequate. It took me a little time to learn not to take their sarcasm or negative comments personally. I had to feel confident that I was okay bringing others to meetings, asking experts for their input, and reading all relevant documents.

I had to be comfortable with others ignoring my input or making a decision I would never make. When they had the right to make the final decision, I respected it.

Story

I had to question the story playing in my head. Maybe you come from a background where you were made to feel great about yourself all the time. Not me.

Sometimes I felt like an imposter. Other times I felt I wasn’t good enough, knowledgeable enough, or enough of a people person.

That tape held me back. I could feel myself folding inward in certain circumstances. I had to learn to accept own my story, identify my strengths and honor them at all times. The hardest part was to change the tapes that automatically played. I had to rewrite the stories, become comfortable in my own skin, and allow others to put their best selves forward.

I began to limit the time I spent listening to my old stories and judging circumstances through the old lens. Moving forward was the only way to go. It took time but it was well worth it.

Related: Own Your Story

Leadership Story
Listen to the tape in your head. Is it playing a positive supportive story or is it criticizing you and pointing out all your weaknesses?

You have no reason to remain in the old story. You are wonderful. You can learn any skill. Claim what you need, lean on your strengths and show the world a confident person.

Confidence

Everyone talks about the importance of confidence but what does that mean in action. I needed the tools that I could implement without having to beat myself up, spend years in psychoanalysis (which I didn’t think I needed), or blame my caregivers.

What I learned was to:

  • Picture someone I considered to be a confident person, determine what I thought made them seem confident and copy those behaviours,
  • Stand tall, making sure my shoulders were back,
  • Smile,
  • Speak my truth (of course, I had to discover it first) with ease,
  • Listen and let the other person know I heard them,
  • Be accountable and fulfill all commitments, and
  • Honor diversity.
It took a few months and it was worth it. Leading isn’t always a piece of cake, but you can do it; you ARE capable. It’s worth taking the time to honor and respect yourself and putting your best self forward for all to greet.

Management Video Series

Management would be so much easier if individual personalities and preferences didn’t get in the way of progress and change. Sometimes the issues emerge because difficult people work with us. Other times our approach is what affects the outcomes.

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