Tag Archives: conversations

You Don’t Have to Like Those You Manage

16 Oct

It’s yet another reorganization and, as the manager of the customer service department, you now have Marilyn reporting to you. It doesn’t take long before you secretly decide that you don’t like her. She has annoying habits that get under your skin. For instance, like most people, you hate to be interrupted and invariably, when speaking with her, she frequently, and unhesitatingly, boldly cuts you off in the middle of a sentence.. To make matters even worse, in meetings she has the habit of correcting you in front of others over the most trivial of items. She also anticipates what you are going to say before you have a chance to finish your sentence. She’ll say, “I get it,” when you believe she really doesn’t. Keeping this picture in mind, what do you need to do to motivate yourself to work with and develop this employee?

Let’s be honest, you need not think of yourself as the only manager who has had to come to terms with a situation like this. While it may take a lot of energy on your part, here are some tips to consider before you actually go into action and approach this type of employee.

Tip #1: Liking a Marilyn is not a prerequisite to dealing with a Marilyn

To begin with, even though you dislike this employee you must not be discouraged from managing her effectively. As a manager, no one ever postulated that you have to like the people who report to you. Your job and role as a leader is to work with them. If you have ever played competitive sports or acted in a play, you’ll easily recall how important it was to focus on the overall goal and to pull together, even if all the players didn’t like one another. It’s a similar situation here. Once you adopt this mental framework, you’re now ready to create an atmosphere of acceptance for criticism. That’s right! Once you realize that by using the proper application of criticism as a way of diminishing the behaviors that get in the way of the major goal of working effectively together, it is then that you are on your way to a successful working relationship. At this point, you are not pointing out Marilyn’s behaviors that annoy you. Instead you are investing time and energy to build a common understanding of how best to work together, so that future conflicts will be minimized and any criticisms delivered will be perceived as helpful.

Tip #2: Create an Atmosphere of Acceptance for Criticism.

Like most people, you might think that criticism of others is a sure way to invite conflict. But, the truth is that criticism, used properly, can be one of the best and most effective learning tools available to managers. It can actually enhance trust and respect in relationships. Most people fail at the effective use of criticism mainly because they do not first create the atmosphere in which it can thrive to everyone’s advantage. To establish an atmosphere of acceptance means taking some time to develop a clear understanding of how best to approach each other when criticism becomes necessary . What’s important to emphasize during your discussion with Marilyn is the role criticism plays at work and how it is linked to helping her to grow and develop. This is a valuable discussion to have because most employees have received little to no training on this subject. Furthermore, if your organization has painted over the word ‘criticism’ – like so many have – then like others in the workforce, Marilyn will be very confused and will need to understand this essential aspect of communication. To further encourage a two way exchange, find out if Marilyn has encountered bosses in the past who have engaged in candid conversations about her performance and what she can do better. By taking this broad approach you are positioning yourself to enter more easily into a discussion about how best to approach Marilyn with criticism. You should never have to guess about how best to approach her. During you exchange, the focus is to develop a common understanding of expectations. If you are wondering whether or not Marilyn would be able to engage in a conversation where she expresses her preferences for how best to be approached, fear not. It’s been my experience that every employee knows what turns them off and what turns them on. They just need to be asked. Millennials, in particular, are looking for feedback. What they are sensitive to is how it is delivered. It needs to be digestible.

Tip #3: Have a Marilyn’s Best Interests in Mind

It’s also essential for you to let Marilyn know you have her best interest in mind so she readily recognizes that the criticism is meant to be helpful. One way you can convey this is by making sure you always show value when delivering criticism. In order to show value, you need to link the criticism to what’s important to Marilyn or to her career goals. Let’s say in the six weeks that you’ve worked with Marilyn you’ve learned from talking to her that she places importance on being respected. Knowing that makes it possible for you to point out to Marilyn how her interruption of others sends the wrong message. More specifically, point out to Marilyn that interrupting others is not only rude but also conveys the notion that what she has to say is more important than what they have to say. It also communicates that she is not interested in listening to what the other person has to say, and that indirectly says she doesn’t respect them. Perhaps your reminded of the following expression, “I wouldn’t give you the time of day if I didn’t respect you.” So listening without interruption sends an indirect message of respect. Now, Marilyn will readily understand where you are coming from as opposed to concluding incorrectly that what you have to say to her is trivial or that you are picking on her.

By taking care to create an atmosphere for effective and acceptable criticism you are ready now to communicate with the Marilyn’s out there and turn them around from someone who is tough to work with to someone you can get along with and go forward. By putting these important tips to work you will immediately find that being open and transparent will be interpreted as helpful and that’s motivating, not only for Marilyn, but for everyone on your team who has to interact with Marilyn.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).


Whatever Happened to Executives “Following Up” with Direct Reports? (…and vice versa, for that matter)

18 Aug


Not too many years ago it seemed like most supervisors and managers, as a matter of routine, regularly followed up with their direct reports on a one-on-one or one-on-group basis. As a common practice, weekly meetings were scheduled where the boss inquired about what was going on in their direct reports’ worlds – be it generally or on a task-specific basis. But lately, I’ve been noticing that in many organizations following up with reports or “checking in” is no longer the matter of routine that it was at one time. Nor, does it seem that it is even an expectation, let alone the rule, for that matter. Now, maybe this is a result of the increasing popularity of texting, instant messaging, or e-mailing. Or, it could be the evolving unspoken manners and business rules that are changing – like a new implied trust in employees to keep their bosses abreast regarding what is going on. Well, that’s what my clients are finding – especially at senior levels.

While you still can’t beat the regularly occurring “one-on-ones”, they seem to be erratic and never long enough. So, my clients have found it valuable to communicate from afar – like e-mail. However it’s done, besides passing along top deliverables for the upcoming week, my clients and I have found that it’s extremely valuable to note key interactions they have had throughout the previous week. The reports can be brief and informal or tedious and formal. It all depends on the most acceptable style preferred by those who are involved. Typically, these reports are no more than a page. Once made aware of the obviousness of the need to keep abreast regularly, I have found that most bosses at the executive level prefer brief weekly updates, in addition to the typical monthly reports. Interestingly, executives rarely say anything. However, quit sending the weekly report and the senior manager typically gets a note from the boss asking where the weekly update is!

It just so happens that my clients are very creative. For instance, some have developed their own one-page briefing report that summarizes their past week while providing a sneak preview of top deliverables for the coming week. Some have a color coding system to note progress made on the deliverables and they use the same color coding to rate the qualities of the interactions. A few have also incorporated an “ideas” and/or “potential barriers” section.

As I tell my clients, try this approach for 60 to 90 days and then be sure to ask the boss if he/she finds the weekly update to be of help and a good use of their time. During the discussion, you will pick up very valuable insights that will help you in your efforts to stay aligned, which is of utmost importance. Guaranteed! As a final tip, you should be aware that what bosses really like about these brief updates is that it helps to make sure that they are not caught by surprise! That, by the way, is an old rule that hasn’t changed – and most likely never will.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Watch Out for the Grammar Mines!

11 May


Watch out for the poor use of grammar. Just recently, while I was coaching a young, very successful manager who has great potential, I heard him say, “between him and I” rather than “between him and me.” The misuse of “him and I” is, sadly, not an uncommon occurrence these days. Or what about those who say “often” by pronouncing a hard “t” instead of keeping it silent? Or how about something that might stand out a little more like, “We shoulda went that way….”

Now you might think, “Not a big deal.” After all we hear those in the media making the same mistakes. I know, I know, language evolves and what becomes popular might rightfully become the new and acceptable norm. But, just because others whom we may admire use poor grammar doesn’t make it right for you in your environment where it might just effect your career. You might say, “I never hear anyone correcting anyone’s grammar. That would be rude.” Well, keep in mind, Bud, that just because no one says anything doesn’t mean someone using sloppy grammar is getting away with it. Just as you think, others may not want to appear rude, but, they nevertheless, remain aware.

If you want to aspire in your career, avoid using poor grammar when mingling with top executives who are, generally speaking, well-educated and silently well aware of the improper use of the English language; guaranteed they will spot it and make a mental note when they hear it. Unless you are some kind of genius, or have a rare talent that’s in demand, the executives I’ve worked with will interpret the poor use of grammar as a sign of your “not being ready for prime time” when it comes to key customers and those who really matter.

Few but your closest career allies will let you know when you’ve stepped on a grammar mine – so watch out! Your image could be at risk.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).


Sure Fire Tips for Effectively Handling Pressure: Symptom #2

7 Jan


Symptom #2 – When engaging in conversations with others about work, you experience tightening in the chest, dizziness, panicked feelings and overall body sweat.

Cause and Cure:  When you talk to others, the words you use can have a direct effect on the amount of pressure you feel.  After all, have you ever felt more relaxed after saying to a friend, “Oh, I have so much to do right now”?  Other pressure-producing words to avoid using include, “have to,” “must,” and “should.”  These words, when used repeatedly for one task, may rev you up, but when there is a pile of things to get done, these words may create additional pressure that pushes you over the edge.  By paying attention to the words you use with yourself and others, such as, “want to,” “need to,” and “like to,” you can better modulate pressured feelings.

Stay tuned for Symptom #3!

Giving Criticism: Tip #3

16 Oct

Tip: If the exchange is unproductive then END IT and come back later:


When you are giving criticism and you find that the receiver is becoming upset, and the exchange is quickly deteriorating, it is best to end the exchange and visit it at another time- especially if the situation isn’t deemed as urgent.


Carolyn has completed her fourth week of a twelve-week sales training program. At the end of each training week, she meets with her manager, Ted, to review her activities. Carolyn works hard, but she tends to catch onto things more slowly than some of her counterparts. Her progress to date is average at best.

After having reviewed her numbers for the week, Ted, decides before moving to the last item on the agenda, to point out an error in how she had filled out the Sales Activity Report. While Ted is pointing out the error, tears start to well up, as Carolyn becomes visibly upset. Ted senses her discomfort and asks her if anything is wrong. Carolyn says, “I’m sorry. I’ve just lost it. I’m having some personal problems at home and I didn’t mean to allow them to enter into our meeting. I’m sorry.”

How should Ted handle the situation?

If the situation is urgent, the best thing the giver should do is explain that, “I will be back in about 10 minutes so we can finish this conversation”.  Doing this allows the receiver to regain control of her emotions.


Why not offer the receiver an opportunity to go to the restroom?  Because this would require having the receiver leave the meeting room and walk down a hallway. Making the receiver visible to other employees may fuel the rumor mill as employee’s question why the receiver looks upset.


After taking that 10 minute break, Ted decides when returning to the meeting that the situation isn’t urgent so he says to Carolyn that the situation can wait until tomorrow.  Before ending their meeting, a new time is set for the next day.

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