I was recently at one of my clients and saw a slogan on the wall that could be a summary of reality, many people I meet every day face. “Who sows ASAPs, collects F * CKUPs”
I sometimes get the impression that in the race called “career and life” we forget about the important values that are responsible for the sense of accomplishment in life. I often see inadequate attempts to replace the “HEALTHY SLEEP” with a set of ineffective mystification of the so-called “MY FANTASIES ON THE …”.
If the LAST MINUTE deadline, becomes our standard of living and begins to fill most of our life activities, sooner or later we will land on the couch with a powerful harvest gathered on the way of ruined relationships, a sense of personal disaster, lighter or heavier addictions, or deep depression.
I recently had a situation with another client, who wanted to cancel the workshop date that has been set for more than a month, explaining that I quote: “His people have gone and there are no attendees in place.” I disregard the fact that he was surprised by the question of my compensation, which in such situations is at 100% rate.
He responded that after all the workshop is not cancelled, he just want to move it to a different date. I would be curious of his reaction in the opposite situation – the whole management team is going to a tomorrow’s workshop and then I’ll call him, telling him I’m away and will not be there tomorrow. Of course, I shouldn’t have to worry because I’m not canceling a meeting, I just move it. I know many people for whom such a turn would be difficult to accept.
I wonder what reel you have to be running in to treat managing human resources as a secondary issue. Of course, there are many justifications. However, it is worth remembering that the excuse is, just like the truth, dependent on a person. Unfortunately, the excuse does not really move us forward. It gives a temporary emotional relief, but it does not affect the reality that will always catch up with us.
Efficiency in action is a function of two factors: effectiveness and dexterity, where effectiveness is doing the right thing as quickly as possible, and dexterity is doing the right thing. In order to be highly effective, it is necessary to introduce both of these aspects into everyday management, but reality is often far from ideal. We are seeing more and more effective managers who can not be efficient because they have lost the sense of direction they are facing. Their weaknesses connected with setting priorities they try to compensate with high activity, because being mega busy, you may forget for a moment that you do not know what the purpose is. Gilbert’s cartoon is reminiscent of the fact that his company mainly produces meetings. The only question arises is what these meetings really are and whether they sometimes do not resemble filling one void with another void.
How to fix this?
While conducting a management workshop, I asked the participants to completely turn off the phones. Not to switch the sound to vibrate, just pressed the “Off” button twice. Very interesting experience. Several people did not remember their PIN number. Part was unable to do so justifying the need to be online. I wonder where is the boundary between the conscious decision to be online and the addiction to the phone.
I was recently in the elevator with a woman who traveling to the 16th floor turned on and off her phone three times checking … not sure what. Acting on such a strong impulse, we do not have time to grasp the direction and meaning of our actions. In a continuous run forward, we forget why we are running at all. The situation is a bit like a hamster, which after running all day in a reel in a cage, finally jumped out of it and discovered that he had been there before.
I am a huge advocate of being online, the benefits of it are unbelievable – the efficiency of the action can increase many times, but the effectiveness is already driven by completely different tools. Its key question is the question of why am I doing what I am doing and how does this affect my long-term goals. After such an analysis, it may turn out that many of the issues we deal with in person may be delegated to someone else, either in the organization or outside. By releasing resources in this way, it turns out that we have no time for what is really important and what builds our result and strategic advantage in the long run.
One of participants asked me what to do when he receives about 20 emails per hour. I offered him two solutions for simultaneous use. First, to work in intervals of 45 – 15 – 45 minutes, 45 of work in focus, 15 minutes of email verification and again 45 minutes of work in focus and 15 minutes of e – mail. Second, to go to the fast reading course, because most of the content sent to him does not require an answer, only assimilating information.
Another method is to evaluate each day and week in terms of the effectiveness of their activities. A friend of mine, who did M.B.A. at Harvard University, told me that at the beginning of his course, every student received a copy of The Journal of Personal Reflection. At the end of each day, the task was to devote 5 minutes to reflect on all the actions they had taken and answer three questions:
• What did I learn today?
• What will I change tomorrow?
- What did I do today to be closer to my goal?
The simplicity of this approach is interesting. I remember when I heard about it for the first time I decided to put such a journal to use. To my surprise, at the end of the first day, I had difficulty answering these questions in a meaningful way. I realized how far I am from personal effectiveness. However, with time the answers began to appear and after some time the results were the best justification for this practice.
The third way is to give yourself time to answer. We operate in an environment where more and more things that surround us are instant – instant coffee, instant messenger, etc. Frequently we are expected to respond immediately. However, it turns out that if we answer in an hour, the world will continue to exist. On the other hand, for us this hour can do a lot. So next time you should ask yourself the following questions:
- What happens if I do not respond immediately?
- Do I have resources to take on the task?
- What will happen if I say NO?
- What will happen if I say yes?
This moment of pause and reflection is very orderly decision-making and emotional, and therefore has a positive effect on the level of personal effectiveness.
Instead of a summary
I sometimes feel that instead of practicing in a fast-paced reality, it’s a good idea to stop and work on efficiency for a while. Give yourself time to rest and ask some key questions about the direction, purpose and meaning of your activities – not only professionally but also personally. Answers to these questions usually do not come easily and require time, which unfortunately we are constantly missing. But without a pause, there is no chance to change the perspective in which we function, nor to generate creative solutions that will improve the quality of the reality in which we operate.
This upcoming June weekend, maybe it’s a good time to give it a go and look at life from a different perspective. Not a week, a month, or a quarter but many upcoming years. The next ten that are ahead of us. And instead of escaping into your favorite activities compensating for a strong emotional arousal, give yourself a reflection on what might be a new direction for your life or business in which you function.
Last month, I outlined a complex game in the organization, which can last for days, weeks, even months. Yet, we also encounter other form of games in the professional environment, which are mostly played between two people. And this article elaborate on that topic.
When we reflect on the past month or quarter – has there been a situation when after exchanging views with another person, both of you left dissatisfied. Questions arise of why, despite all the good intentions, we allowed for such a behavior one again? Why do I keep meeting these kind of people in my life? Why am I unable to change this?
Try to distance yourself and answer a question of whether that situation resemble others in which we have participated? Of course, the context might have been different, we might have been younger, and the people different, but the ending leaves a similar, negative emotional experience. If yes, then you probably (unconsciously) took part in a psychological game.
What is a game?
There are a few definitions of psychological games. According to an author of Transactional Analysis – Eric Berne, it is a series of complementary, hidden transactions leading to well-defined, easily predictable result or to explain it a little better – it is a series of behaviors, which appear harmless but there is a hidden motivation behind them – very often unconscious. It becomes obvious once participants change their behavior. It often leaves them feeling disappointed, confused, or misunderstood which leads to blaming one another for the situation. Eric Berne extended his initial definition to the so-called „G Formula” (Game), which will be elaborated upon later. So much for theory, lets move on to practice.
A group of colleagues goes for lunch. When they are about to leave, one person suggests for them to go to an Italian restaurant just around the corner. Most of them agree, but one of the colleagues does not want eat Italian food second time in a row. They are walking and another proposition comes up, to go to an Indian restaurant. Unfortunately, it’s too spicy for our friend. They go farther and see Thai food. But it doesn’t suit him either. One of the people can’t bear it anymore and says to a fussy friend that either he decides upon something or he will be eating alone, since they are hungry and don’t have time for such fussiness.
A subordinate is asked by his boss to prepare a proposed solution to a problem given. He spends the whole weekend preparing the project, trusting that his boss will like it. When he comes to work on Monday and presents his idea, superior says that the proposition is interesting yet he is not convinced. Subordinate tries to come up with another idea and once he is ready he comes back to present it. Unfortunately, it is not on point either. He prepares the third proposition, but yet again, it gets dismissed. Faced with unsatisfactory solutions presented by the subordinate, the boss recommends his own but makes the subordinate responsible for incorporating them.
In both situations, we are faced with a psychological game of „Yes, but…”. These seemingly trivial social situations show how omnipresent in the world games are. When we take a closer look, we can distinguish a few typical traits:
Games tend to repeat themselves – it often turned out that we are faced with a concrete behavior of the other party (colleague, boss, friend, foe, etc.) and our reaction to it. Context and people may change but concrete behaviors and reactions are very often repeated.
Games more often than not are played unconsciously – typical interactions with other people are so inscribed into our ritual of conduction that we do not reflect on the scheme: stimulus – reaction – stimulus – reaction. At the end of the turn, when we are faced with our own negative emotions, we ask ourselves: Why did it happen to ma again? How is it possible? Unfortunately, rationalization mechanism often turns on at this point and justification, which often is not dependent on us compliments the picture and seldom do we know that we were the active factor which caused the situation.
Emotions experienced at the end of the game are rather unpleasant – each round ends up violating balance in participant’s relationship and leaves a bad taste in their mouths.
Games are played on two levels: social and psychological – they are often about rational exchange, but on psychological level scripts of personal behavior are being realized, which often were inscribed many years earlier, sometimes even in childhood. Games are characterized by a moment of surprise and confusion – usually, during the game, the culmination of behaviors in the role play occurs when the players swap roles.
Exercise part I
It takes 10 minutes. Write down answers to the following questions on a sheet of paper:
- What situation happens to me a lot? Comes back to you like a boomerang?
- How does it usually begin?
- What happens next?
- What secret motivation guides your behavior?
- How does the turning point looks like?
- What secret motivation guides other persons behavior?
- How does this end?
- How do you feel, how does the other person feel?
Eric Berne created a model, which explains the mechanics of the game:
Eric Berne w miarę rozwoju swojej teorii stworzył model, który wyjaśnia w jaki sposób przebiega gra:
Lure + Weak point > Reaction/Response > Turning point/Switch > Consternatiom and Payout
Let’s analyze how it looks like on the example of the boss and subordinate:
Lure – the boss asks a subordinate to prepare a proposal to solve the problem. On the open level, the boss delegates the task, but unconsciously he competes with a potential candidate for his position, which at some point may be a threat. So far, the employee has shown an extraordinarily high level of engagement and has been recognized more widely in the organization, the more so since he himself has joined the company’s talent development program.
A weak point – an area of employee’s hidden motivation to prove himself and prove to the boss that he is worth the responsibility. This motivation may be due to lack of self-confidence, the desire to be perfect, or the need to meet the needs of others. This causes the player to grab a lure and continue playing.
Reaction / Response – is a set of transactions between game participants leading to the climax. In this case it is the criticism of the first and subsequent ideas and the adequate response of the employee, who is doing everything to meet the requirements of the boss.
A turning point / switch – is the moment when the roles change – the boss of the person trying to solve the problem becomes the decision-maker who assumes responsibility and proposes his own resolution of the situation.
Consternation – In the face of such turnover, the employee is surprised by the turn of events. He had the impression that his involvement and recommendations would be rewarded, but in the meantime they were proved worthless.
Payout – the consequence of this game is the disappointment on both sides. The employee feels that he has not met the task and leaves the game with a scratch on his or her own image and the feeling that he is not as much as he thought. However, the boss after a short satisfaction has the feeling that unfortunately all is still on his shoulders, he can’t trust anyone in his team, because even such a simple problem he had to solve himself, because even his best employee did not deliver.
Exercise part. II
Now lets analyze your answers looking at the model and try to think about the similarities in your story. Do you notice them?
Exit the game
The question arises: if we are entering games unconsciously, can we break out? It’s hard when we are being unconscious. However, when we realize that we are in the game, then it can be easier.
- First of all, it is important to remember your weaknesses and our reactions when tested by others.
- Second, pay attention to whether a particular situation tends to repeat in our lives.
- Third, before you speak, ask yourself what out partner wants to achieve. And when we are already in the game and we realize it, we should pause, give a name to our hidden needs that we want to play and ask ourselves whether the game is worth it.
First month of new year has passed and along with it a new set of goals, tasks and projects, which unsurprisingly go over standard work hours of a manager. There is a question on how to distribute this Christmas gift between subordinates so it won’t all come back to us in a while.
I decided to take up the topic of delegating tasks, because it comes up very often during workshops that I run. Interestingly, most of the management knows how to do it, yet in practice it gets more difficult. This is why I would like to share a few practical tips, which can accelerate efficiency of managing a subordinate team.
Why can delegating be tricky?
In order to delegate effectively, one has to remember that basic difficulty is distinctively time consuming task of preparing an employee to perform a task, which the supervisor wants to delegate on him. When one starts thinking about another meeting, introduction to the task and explaining the complexities, manager very often decides to get the job done himself or he doesn’t make enough time for introducing a person to the task. The effect is easy to predict, in the first situation the amount of things to do rises and in the second the probability of mistakes is high. What should then be considered when talking about delegating?
Preparation for delegating
Delegating can be a foundation for a win-win situation between the boss and the workers if the basic criteria are met. Thus, before the manager gets to work, it’s good for him to ask himself the following questions:
Can somebody else perform this task or does it requite my personal engagement?
Does this task have a chance being repeatable and becoming some sort of routine?
Does accomplishing this task give a chance to develop new competences for particular subordinates?
Does a manager have enough time to prepare an employee to perform the task and to monitor his progress?
Is there a team member who could benefit from this task (develop competencies, widen the horizons of functioning in the job position or organization)?
At the phase of preparing to delegate, it is good to remember that there are certain tasks that should not be delegated, such as:
holding strateging meaning to an organization or department,
Confidential, which should be accessed only by a manager,
Short-term and low probability of mistakes
It is good to remember that through valid delegating, the manager builds a higher sense of responsibility for the results and motivation because employees feel that organization trusts them more and develop their competences.
Just like any other process, delegating too consists of different stages. Its effectiveness depends on the quality of performing each of them and any inadequacy rises the risk of failure in the end.
Setting clear expectations – manager gives the details about a particular task to the employee:
What is the task about?
What is the standard to refer to when performing it?
When should the employee get back with initial results?
How will the manager monitor the progress?
What are the deadlines?
Note: a crucial aspect of setting expectations in highlighting the way of monitoring the progress and deadlines at the very beginning. If the manager forgets to inform the employee that his progress will be monitored and do it ad-hoc instead, there is a high possibility that the employee will feel controlled instead of motivated – it will be like the supervisor questioned his capabilities.
Definition of a deadline can be interpreted differently by different team members so it is good to calibrate this definition instead of being disappointed later on. To exemplify, I want to share some deadline definitions I encountered:
It is a date, when…
… an initial draft should be presented,
… final draft will be presented,
… a task will take it’s final form and come to an end.
It is good to keep in mind that a new task will take an employee more time than it would take a manager. This is why more time should be given to an employee so he can deliver it on time.
2. Creating a sense of ownership – at this stage the manager clarifies the WHY behind delegating the task to a particular person and shows benefits of such situation to the employee. Later on, he discusses possible ways of realizing the task as well as creates a plan for an employee to realize different stages of the task.
The reasons why are very important to the employees because then they know that the manager isn’t using them to avoid the things he himself doesn’t want to do but is an expression of trust, appreciation and engagement and an opportunity to develop professional competencies. And so, one of the elements of building authority of the leader among subordinates.
This stage should end with agreeing on methods of communication and monitoring of progress, which is acceptable by both sides.
3. Results monitoring – this stage should be helpful both for the manager and the employee as a tool for exchanging information and not only control. It is crucial for the manager to stick to the agreement concerning monitoring.
Asking about the progress too often can be irritating and – in the long run – demotivating and disengaging to an employee.
Monitoring allows to correct any discrepancies that occurred in the process of realization and grants time to make changes calibrating the end effect.
4. Feedback – this stage is extremely important to keep the motivation of the subordinate to the task accomplished and to create a working environment in which the subordinates will be willing to take on more and more difficult tasks to perform.
There are many feedback models, but they have one common principle: “Hard to the problem, soft to the human.” Unfortunately, many bosses seem to forget this principle. Therefore, it is important to remember the main purpose of feedback: to build motivation to change behavior. Only then will we achieve the long-term development of the subordinate and create the demand for feedback from the boss. Any feedback should answer the following questions:
What should be changed?
Who will do it?
After that, how will one know that one has completed the task in the expected standard?
And conclude with closing of the communication loop, thus obtaining a confirmation from the subordinate that his way of understanding is in harmony with what the supervisor understands.
5. Prize – this is a step very-often overlooked by superiors, and that’s a pity. Because it is an opportunity when a supervisor can celebrate success with an employee, appreciate his or her contribution and commitment, and show other members that the attitude is rewarded and expected by the organization.
It is worth remembering that recognition is as important to people as money. Therefore, the boss should not allow himself to defraud the resources by refraining from appreciating and objectively evaluating person’s individual contribution to the development of the organization. By bypassing this stage, the leader loses the extremely rare opportunity to build an atmosphere of engagement, collaboration and creativity of subordinates, because appreciating employees who receive delegated tasks makes the rest of the team develop their competencies by engaging in new responsibilities.
At first glance it may seem that delegation causes more trouble and costs a lot of time, but when done consistently allows the team to generate above average results, and lets the manager redirect key activities for his Business task. It will thus create an engaged team that develops their expertise and builds the authority of the leader.
You recognize an effective manager by his results. Yet, in order to be a leader one has to build a strong team besides having good results. Many organizations, however, don’t pay much attention to that process. The situation can be compared to a unicorn – everybody talks about it, yet no one has ever seen it.
25 years in the job market gave me the opportunity to observe three kinds of bosses: those, who have the results but are unable to build the team; those, who neither have results nor a team (short-term position) and those, who have both, the team and the results. Interestingly, those first ones are on demand recently. Justification is quite simple – the strategic horizon of organizational development changed and many project has to deliver within one fiscal year. Unfortunately, experience proves that most changes in organizational culture need more than 12 months to settle. Therefore, a discord occurs between expectations of the organization and the ability of actually incorporating them into everyday life. This is why the approach of exploiting the resources instead of developing them, wins. Havoc is very often an effect, which such manager leaves behind, when he goes to another organization and his successor has to deal with all that mess.
Talking about the second type makes no sense since such managers are only a temporary fix and when occasion presents itself, they are being replaced.
The most interesting type are the leaders, who can realize goals that are set for them no t through so called „managerial engineering” (such as exploitation of resources, cost cuts, switch in motivational system), but through the team they had built.
Team building, what is it exactly?
According to professor Robert Bales from Harvard’s University Psychology and Social Relations Department, leadership is defined as a process of uniting a group of different people into an effectively working team, which realizes its goals even in difficult times through eliminating the phenomena of a scapegoat, usage of mediation as much as possible and reasonable usage of power. The conclusion can be drawn that the foundation of a well-functioning leadership is building a team and this is the topic covered by this article.
In order to talk about the process of team building, we first have to define what the team is. A team is a group of at least two people cooperating with one another, which leads to emergence of a social attachment; striving for a common goal, working in a particular structure, having a sense of individuality and distinctiveness from other groups of people, having a sense of community.
While discussing the process of team building and tips for a boss on how to strengthen this process, a model known as The Stages of Team Development by professor Bruce Tuckman will be helpful.
Stage 1: Forming
In the fist stage of team building, rules of functioning and cooperation are not yet precise. It affects behaviors of team members that can become very facade. People are putting on masks, which seem to be effective at this point. Due to the fact that many variables are still in the process of being defined, it is good to be distanced and behave „appropriately”. Often, these behaviors are not a result of individual differences but a resultant of what behavior pays. This is why people may tend to hide their weaknesses, which in the future can become a source of misunderstandings, when everybody will be focused n realization of tasks entrusted.
At this stage, team goals are not yet well-defined, only general team vision is known and meetings are often chaotic because of too many variables, which need clearing out. This stage ends when members of the group begin to see each other as a coexisting organism – they know that their individual results will depend on work of their colleagues. This moment it key for a group to enter the second stage called „Storming”.
Which behaviors of a leader are needed to get the team through this stage?
It’s worth remembering that interpersonal relations are dynamic and highly depend on individual differences. This means that despite supervisor’s best intentions to shorten this process, it will last as long as each member of the team needs to go through it. Still, there are certain behaviors, which can accelerate this process. Supervisor should lay down precisely roles and goals for each person and determine the relations between these roles as much as possible. It leads to setting concrete standards, which become the minimal standards of effectiveness for team members and a foundation for its organizational culture. Moreover, the leader knowing that a social facade is a barrier in open communication should encourage expressing individual opinions and justification of such. Being respectful of different points of view and at the same time calibrating the set standards, the boss is affecting behaviors of his subordinates by creating a desirable model.
It is important not to get into emotional discussions, when they emerge, because the leader is a guard of standards and the whole team, not individual interests of particular team members.
Stage 2: Storming
This stage starts when the social facade is beginning to drop and people start accepting their individuality and independence. It is an interesting moment because on the one hand, the authority of the leader isn’t yet grounded and on the other informal team leaders emerge. This stage is often accompanied by personal conflicts, which are a natural result of creation of internal team structure. Thus the name of the phase, which resembles a storm at the sea. Some reactions might be exaggerated and emotional therefore the crucial element of leader’s behavior is emotional distance towards emerging conflicts. Storming ends when all members of the team accept their roles and structure in which they will operate. This is a crucial requirement for the team to go into the next stage. From my personal experience of working with organizations, a sad conclusion can be drawn. Many departments swing between first and second stage, without a chance to get into a third stage due to „individuals in the team” among other things. These are very often high class specialists, who are not ready to cooperate with other team members. This is when the organization has a hard nut to crack. On one hand, in order to unblock the process of team development this person has to be let go off, but on the other, that person is valuable and hard to replace. I encountered a solution of creating a special job position for such person, which didn’t engage her into team’s daily operations.
Which behaviors of a leader are needed to get the team through this stage?
At this stage, supervisor’s emotional self-control is tested, who should be distanced while still controlling and eliminating team destructive behaviors. It is good to remember that energy created during personal conflicts can’t be swept under the rug because emotions buried alive don’t die. It has to burn out on its own but in a controlled environment. The supervisor can sometimes become a mediator, who confronts two sides but without stating his/her own opinion, because it can only escalate the conflict. Emerging difficult situations can become a chance for the leader to establish or ruin his position and trust in a team. It all depends on his choices.
Stage 3: Norming
At this stage, subordinates have accepted informal structure in the team and they can concentrate on tasks entrusted instead of focusing on relations between them. Group unity occurs and team interests are more important than individual ones. It is especially crucial when performing tasks that require cooperation and high level of time engagement, sometimes even sacrificing personal preferences for the good of the team. This stage ends when within the team there starts to occur first signs of distinctive organizational structure that shows in informal habits of team members, typical behaviors which need no explanation, common value system and acceptance of differences, which instead of interrupting can become a topic of common jokes bonding the team even more, among others.
Which behaviors of a leader are needed to get the team through this stage?
This stage is a chance for a leader to pass responsibilities in the field of goal setting and ways to realize them on a particular team members. It can be a challenge in this sense that not all team members might be ready for such thing. Thus why it requires a leader to use a variety of management styles and subdue them to a particular person and situation.
Conflicts at this point can be openly discussed because a platform for searching for solutions had been created. There is a new task for a leader now, to create and encourage situations aiming at informal integration, which can bind the team not only professionally but also personally.
Stage 4: Performing
At this stage roles in the team are known and accepted, tasks performed with engagement, individuals identify with team goals and focus is put on best performance instead of relations. It can be said that a team is self-organized and the main task of the supervisor is to watch over deadlines and quality of tasks entrusted. This is a stage, when the supervisor can delegate his responsibilities and in justified cases minimizing the spectrum of control and builds trust and sense of responsibility for realization of team goals.
The question is, do teams which managed to go through all the stages, stay in the last one? Not for long, unfortunately. It turned out that after some time some independent variables emerge such as new member of the team, change of the boss or employment reduction, which bring the team back into the forming stage. It is good to remember that the team can’t be created, it is creating. It is, therefore an open process, which requires the boss to be very sensitive toward adequate behaviors and particular stages. If only the organizational circumstances will be favorable, the result will be worth it.
When you look at your colleagues and friends, have you noticed that there are some people, who do unimportant things for most of their time and omit those crucial ones? Are there also people who can’t get their priorities straight and all tasks are labeled as very important by them?
These people very often tend to concentrate of short-term and administrative tasks, such as organizing the environment, responding to e-mails and scrolling through social media feed. They often wait for a perfect moment to act upon what’s important. Unfortunately, what’s crucial is often hard and consequently a subject of procrastination.
It’s like these people don’t want to deal with reality and run into vicarious activities. In result, they are incredibly exhausted and feel that their lives are not progressing despite all their actions.
Such behavior does not hinder at first. It is a source of temporary emotional mollification and it builds a sense of being constantly busy and having no time. This leads to the decrease of capability of self and is like handcuffs, and becomes a habit which leads to decrease in satisfaction with a quality of such person’s life.
What is procrastination?
Procrastination or leaving everything for the last moment is a behavioral tendency concerning postponing, dragging out and delaying in time activities, which can be problematic. Procrastination means conscious postponing of realization of activities planned despite being aware of negative consequences of such behavior. Interestingly, a person who is procrastinating is most often than not aware of what he/she is doing. But the emotional barrier, which stands on the way to realization of the task is very hard to overcome.
Such behavior is strongly conditioned by our longing for pleasure and escaping pain. Consequences of not completing a task seem to be very distant in time, and discomfort connected with acting now is too overwhelming. A person who – more or less consciously – chooses to procrastinate, is in fact choosing an instant emotional gratification connected with escaping into what’s easy, known and very often – pleasurable.
It is worth remembering that procrastination as such is not a problem but only a symptom. Therefor, in order to effectively fight it we need to get to the source.
What are the causes of procrastination?
According to the so far done research, the basis of procrastination consist of personal ways of dealing with emotional discomfort, anxiety and self-control.
In the 60s, an interesting research was conducted by a professor of psychology Walter Mischel at the Stanford University. It concerned postponed gratification.
The participants of the research consisted of children age 4-6 yo. Each of them was invited into the room, where there was a chair, a table and on the table were sweets: marshmallow, cookie, pretzel (depending on what the kid liked). Kids were informed that they can eat sweets now or if they wait for 15 minutes, they will get twice as many sweets to eat. Mischel wanted to find out how many children can use emotional self-control and not give in to the temptation.
It turned out that out of 600 kids, only 1/3 waited till the end of an experiment and got their reward. But the most interesting part of this story is actually another research that Mischel conducted 20 years later and unexpected correlation between results from the first research with the results form the second one. It turned out that those kids, who could refrain from eating candy, had higher professional competencies and better SAT results. And the latest research conducted in the first decade of 21 century, proved that they have a better developed frontal lobe and are less prone to addictions.
Does it mean that procrastination is inevitable for some of us? Absolutely not. A conclusion can be drawn that most kids did not have mechanisms that would allow them to deal with emotional discomfort connected with abstaining from pleasure so they could get rewarded.
Whereas other participants could not give in to the temptation of instant pleasure because they knew how to regulate their own behavior despite emotions.
What should I do when I catch myself procrastinating?
When we catch ourselves postponing tasks that seem difficult, instead of getting into a temporary fix it is good to pause and ask ourselves a question:
- What are my thoughts concerning this task?
- What is really blocking me from accomplishing this task?
- Why is it good to take action right now?
This short pause might have a good impact on functioning of our nervous system. Instead of ignoring the signal and trying to quiet it, we notice it and give it some of our energy.
It’s worth writing down the answers on a piece of paper. After taking a close look onto our answers, lets try creating a plan of activities needed for the task to be completed so we see a way to the goal. Next, we elaborate on each of actions and divide them into simple and easy tasks. This is how the action plan is created, which now needs only to be realized.
What is important, once it’s created we have to realize the first step from our list so it is accomplished. Then we deserve a reward. And we are all experts on that. It is beneficial to continue such cycle until task is completed.
If we succeed one time, we will succeed second time and third. The more we use this method the easier it gets and procrastination itself will become just a foggy memory from the past.
There is a story about two friends, that will be a great end to this article. One men when asked what he was doing, answered: nothing important. The other then said: nice job, but the competition is quite big. This is why, if you don’t want to end up like more procrastinators with big – yet unfinished plans, it is beneficial to start realizing them now. Step by step. There will never be a better time to do just that.
Many managers wonder how can teams or organizations increase the value of their resources by tens of percent. According to research conducted by consulting companies, such differences are achieved by organizations characterized by a high level of organizational climate. Let’s take a look at key factors that influence this indicator and ways to create motivating work environment.
Organizational climate, what is it exactly?
Literature gives many definitions of this concept, but the best suited one in terms of this article is the one proposed by J.P. Campbell, M.D. Dunnette, E.E. Lawler and K.E. Weicka, who describes it as “a collection of peculiar characteristics of an organization that points at its behavior towards employees and the professional environment”. It is based on both procedural and customary rules according to which a particular company or its components operate.
The above-mentioned specific organizational characteristics can be grouped into specific collections that make up the so-called „borders of the organizational climate”.
Responsibility is defined as the degree of freedom held by workers to make decisions necessary to accomplish the tasks assigned to them and to choose the methods of performing their duties. Employees in most situations are guided by their own judgment of the situation and take actions and decisions they judge as appropriate.
Since tasks are allocated not only by the skills they already possess but also by the skills they are developing, these tasks are an ambitious and important addition to routine tasks. However, workers are not left alone in implementation of these. They get the necessary support from the supervisor which makes them feel safe and they have the opportunity to take reasonable and calculated risks. It gives them the opportunity to experience not only the successes but also the failures resulting from their own decisions and actions. The boss, who in such cases acts as an “implementer” of new competencies, helps subordinates learn from experience, thereby becoming an active growth factor for his team. In turn, employees learn to calculate risk, make decisions, and ways to implement them with respect to best practices and comments from their supervisor.
Through collaboration, the supervisor knows exactly how much he can trust his subordinates, and with which decisions they still need his support. In time, greater responsibility is transferred to the subordinate team, thereby increasing the involvement of individual members in the achievement of group goals and leaving the leader with more time previously used for operational activities.
Transparency is defined as the degree to which the employees understand the direction of the organization’s development and the degree of their awareness about the organization’s expectations for its individual members.
Employees are aware of not only the mission of the organization, but also of its key strategic ways to realize goals and how they are implemented into daily operations. The supervisor has to translate long-term organizational goals into short-term tasks performed by subordinates and to show them the relationship between the key indicators measured in the reports. It is important that the reporting methods, both the activity and the level of performance are reduced to the bare minimum and do not overlap.
The second important element is to determine what is expected of the individual employees at a given stage of their development, how their success is measured and what they need to be able to follow the career path.
Overlapping responsibilities or duties affect the reduction of engagement and ownership of processes or projects.
Standards of work are understood as the degree of achievement of the ambitious goals set by the organization and the improvement of the achieved results.
High standards of work, though difficult to achieve, support the creation of motivating work environments and improve team climate. Employees observe a supervisor who, by his or her attitude and behavior, sets high standards in the organization, does not accept the mediocrity and shortcomings when delivering the results. If this is the case, he provides factual and supportive feedback that helps employees improve their duties. Acting in this way, the supervisor builds the not only substantial authority but also himself as a leader, who in the long run becomes a factor in the integration of the team.
Employees feel that they are expected to raise the bar in the execution of tasks, but they also know that they have a substantive foundation in their supervisor, allowing them to cross their own limits, since improvement is at the root of his motivation for action.
Openness and flexibility are understood as the degree to which organizations are aligned with performance, by limiting the formalization and encouraging innovation of employees. Employee’s initiative is not limited by internal bureaucracy, and his new ideas are willingly accepted, analyzed and, if justified, implemented.
The supervisor observes to what extent the effectiveness of people is limited by unnecessary bureaucracy, procedural difficulties and over-formalization of important processes. It also engages in activities aimed at making them more effective as much as possible.
This includes collecting suggestions on how to better operationalize and process them further in the organization. It is not uncommon that some of the guidelines and procedures – necessary in the past – today are a formal limitation in carrying out tasks. There is a necessity to change them, rather than unreflective acceptance only because “it has always been that way.”
The organization adapts not only to shareholders but also to its other stakeholders – employees. Bottom-up initiatives are eagerly discusses and implemented after the analysis to streamline the company’s strategic tasks and objectives through its operational activities. Openness and flexibility also refers to the response time to employee suggestions and feedback from company executives.
Rewards and recognition is defined as the degree of employees’ satisfaction with appreciation and reward for the results they produce. This dimension also applies to intangible means of expressing appreciation from the supervisor.
The results of the research show that employees consider verbal praise as part of pay. So one can ask, if you are a leader and you don’t use verbal praise, how much value are you „stealing” from your subordinates? Some of these reflections, though painful, may prompt you to change course.
Often, the superiors do not receive the necessary financial resources from to meet the demand of employees from the organization. Do not forget about praise. The boss should make time to “catch” the employee on what he does well and appreciate it. Many managers forget about the key principle in applying the so-called „stick and carrot” – to make the stick work, there should be twice as many carrots.
It is worth remembering that there is also a phenomenon called habituation, ie the weakening of physiological and psychological responses to a prolonged, known stimuli. Because people quickly get used to the situation and the external and social conditions of the supervisor, who constantly criticizes the subordinates, loses influence. On the other hand, a supervisor who uses the contrast principle – praise and correction – increases his influence on the behavior of a subordinate. In addition, when the boss creates a demand for praise in the team, employees will be willing to make extra efforts to be rewarded by it, and this will be perceived subjectively as a better reward.
When discussing the topic of rewarding your employees we have to mention the dependence of paying by the generated results and the employee’s personal influence on the results achieved. An important element is the criteria based on which awards or bonuses are distributed. They should be simple, clear and understandable for all team members. The more clear and straightforward the relation is, and the so-called recognition of bonuses reduced to a minimum, the more employee’s involvement in the performance of duties increases. The second element is the employee’s personal impact on the results – the smaller the impact (because for example it depends on the functioning of other units or departments of the company) the more the sense of responsibility for the results decreases.
Engagement and cooperation can be defined as the degree of personal identification with the goals of a group and activities designed to achieve them through collaboration, assistance and support to other team members. In teams with a high organizational climate, members recognize the superiority of a group goals over the individual ones and want to help each other achieve them. Employees in such organizations are proud to belong to them and feel complete identification with the team. Impressed that they are a part of such department or company. It usually happens when the values of the team are consistent with their inner belief system. The internalization of the two worlds is personal and professional, resulting in a high level of commitment and dedication to corporate goals and dedication to other team members.
Workers believe that when they help their colleagues, they will themselves be better because the team will achieve more. The atmosphere at work makes the employees come to the company with enthusiasm and readiness to cross personal development barriers because they know that there are coworkers who they can count on and the boss who demands and supports them.
Organizational climate, on the one hand, affects the efficiency and motivation of employees and, on the other, reflects the satisfaction of the organization’s participants in the work environment. It is therefore understandable that a leader and his management style are very much influenced by it. The manager, using skillful management styles, has the opportunity to shape a motivating work environment despite the limitations imposed by the organization. This may effect in enhancing the results achieved by the subordinate team.
If you want to shape others, it is always a good idea to start with yourself, stand in front of a mirror, and ask yourself: am I ready to be my own best boss – do I know my direction and my goals? Do I take responsibility for my actions, or do I drop it on others? Do I expect enough from myself and will I deliver on time? Are my standards of work high and improving? Can I appreciate the work and commitment of others? Do I build teamwork among my subordinates through my decisions and actions?
After publishing recent articles, I received questions about tools that could support the new leader coming from outside the organization to an existing team. What seemed to be particularly interesting was the possibility of reducing the time of assimilation and avoiding unnecessary errors not associated with intent, but rather with the way they are implemented in an unrecognized business context.
One of the more effective tools that can be used to implement a new leader into an organization is the process called “assimilation of a new leader”. This is an interactive facilitation tool that speeds up the process of mutual learning, minimizing the number of unknowns, and allowing for basic expectations and frameworks to be established. Properly conducted, it helps participants to shorten the time of mutual testing and error of learning and, as a consequence, channel the team’s energy to achieve goals within the new organizational framework.
Let’s start by discussing the context in which it is likely to be successfully implemented.
The emergence of a new boss in the organization immediately generates a multitude of questions that demand answers. All available official and whispered information are being checked. It is easy to imagine that most of them are burdened with many perceptual errors. Subjectivity evaluates over facts, and the transmission of this data by the mouth-to-mouth method only increases the amount of distortion. This is a bit like playing Chinese whispers when one message passed by many people changes its semantic context at the end of the process.
The distorted data gotten is then discussed within the organization, which fosters the development of many hypotheses for future cooperation and possible decisions. As a consequence, when a new leader appears on the first day in the organization, he meets an image of himself created by his new team. Interestingly, in critical situations, individuals are more likely to interpret facts in relation to an image created by themselves than the actual image of the boss. This is obviously justified emotionally. There is such a stereotype that it is better to predict the worst than to be disappointed. In a situation of changing a boss, which is perceived by many as a threat, this attitude is fully emotionally valid, though often ineffective.
How can this be helped?
The guiding principle of the “Assimilation of a New Leader” process is to verify unknowns, fears, doubts, and possible hypotheses that arose in a team about this new boss with real answers directly from the source. Because direct contact with the supervisor may make it difficult or challenging to ask specific questions, it is important to have a facilitator who is outside the organization and who guarantees impartiality and discretion, which in turn promotes greater openness in verifying personal concerns or doubts about the future cooperation with a new leader.
Components of the process
“Assimilation of a new leader” is a four-stage process in which both the boss and the team have the opportunity to get to know each other’s expectations, their preferred style of co-operation, and to define the rules on which to lay future co-operation.
Stage 1 – Introduction
During this phase, all participants (new boss and team) will know the rules of the assimilation process. The main assumptions and objectives are discussed as well as the different stages of this process. Particular emphasis is put on the principle of discretion and anonymity when generating individual questions for the leader and the need for openness when communicating their doubts. An external facilitator guarantees that the individual questions will not be identified with a particular person, which could have negative consequences in the future.
Stage 2 – Question generator
The boss leaves the team, who stays with the facilitator of the assimilation process. This starts with the process of raising fears, doubts and hypotheses in the form of questions that will be asked of the new supervisor. Below are the most frequently asked questions grouped in terms of areas of cooperation:
Style of action:
- What are your strengths?
- What weaknesses should we know about?
- What do you do when the team fails to deliver results?
- What do you do when someone makes the same mistake several times?
- How often do you want us to update you on progress?
- To what extent can we discuss your decisions?
- What makes you nervous?
- How do you behave when you lose control?
Communication and solving problems
- Do you accept draft of proposals, or should they be in final form?
- To what extent do you want to be informed about the problems?
- To what extent do you assist in developing solutions?
- What are your preferences for emails, phone calls, meetings?
- What time can I contact you by phone?
- What time will you expect us to be in reach of “e-mail, phone, etc.”?
- To what extend are you open for changes in established processes, rules, procedures?
- What can we do when you are around?
- What is you unacceptable for you?
- Do you consider the team’s opinion when making decisions?
- How do you communicate it?
- Is it possible to discuss controversial decisions with you?
- How can we appeal against decisions that are not in line with the team members’ inner conviction?
- To what extent will you encourage independence in team members’ decision-making?
- Will you maintain the current areas of responsibility?
- If they change, what are the basis for the verification?
Evaluation of employee’s competencies
- What will you pay attention to in regards to cooperation?
- How will group and individual goals be set?
- What makes a given employee highly appreciated by you?
- How will feedback be provided?
- How will you support the development of professional skills of employees?
- What is your attitude towards training and development programs?
Step 3 – Preparation of a new leader to address these questions
In this phase, the facilitator returns to the leader with a list of questions and together they prepare to meet the team and provide substantive answers to the questions asked. If the answer is inaccurate or impossible, the facilitator will support the leader in finding the right answer to this question. When all points are addressed, the fourth stage begins – the leader’s meeting with the team.
Stage 4 – Leader meets the team
There are three parties involved in the meeting: team, leader and facilitator. The leader’s role is to provide precise answers prepared in advance, and the role of the facilitator is to ensure that the process is smooth and factual. It often happens that some answers generate new questions or doubts, then the facilitator supports team communication in situations of misinterpretation of the team’s actions or intentions, ensuring confidentiality.
Moreover, at this stage, there may be differences in the ways in which the boss and team may function, which in the future may be a source of misunderstandings or conflicts. Facilitator, who is an external observer seeing the symptoms of these situations if possible, tries to solve them on continuously – moderating the determination of a particular action plan. And if that is not the case, he prepares development guidelines for the leader after the meeting with the team.
Such an encounter can also become a catalyst for previously undiscovered dynamics in the group. This is the best moment for both the leader and the team to face any dysfunctions in it and redefine the basis for its functioning. The result of this phase should be established rules of cooperation both with the leader and the whole team, which from that day forward become the decalogue of its functioning in the organization.
In order to complete the process of assimilation of the leader, individual meetings are required which take place without the presence of a facilitator. They are designed to meet team members and to align the rules of the work – setting mutual communication preferences and individual cooperation principles in the context of presentations from a group meeting. Of course, it is worthwhile to make arrangements for the meeting to be kept in writing so that you can return to them freely if necessary.
What to keep in mind?
The process of assimilation of a new leader is an attractive approach when introducing a new leader to an organization or team. Unfortunately, I encountered situations when this process was applied to the boss, who has already finished his trial period. Over the first 100 days in the organization, there have been misunderstandings and then someone comes up with the idea of using this method to straighten the situation.
Experience shows that such ideas often fail, because this process will only work if the new boss is not yet active in the organization. To paraphrase a famous saying that the first impression can only be made once, I would say that the assimilation of a new leader can only be done at the beginning of his functioning in the organization.
I decided to write an article about the changes in management strategies faced by the managers of the Y generation, because this topic comes up more and more often in the discussions during the development programs and meetings. But before I go into discussing my observations, I would like to clarify some basic definitions.
According to different sources, generation Y are people, who were born after 1982-1985. Their managers are usually the X generation, ie people born between 1965 and 1982/5. Interestingly enough, the highest level of management in companies consists – quite often – of so-called „baby boomers”, which are people born between 1945 and 1965. Of course, these frames are evolving.
To emphasize the specific characteristics and dependences, I decided to operate at the level of generalizations and stereotypes. This means that the tendencies analyzed may differ from the specific cases that would not confirm the rule. However, the discussion will explain general trends and present solutions, based on the conclusions drawn. In English Y generation (Generation Y or Why) has a double meaning – it is either an indigenous name or an indication of what is particularly important for the Y generation.
But let’s start with a context that is as crucial as it usually is to understand the concrete dynamics of the labor market today.
Genesis of the generation Y
People born in the eighties and nineties were growing up in the context of a free market economy that had a great impact on their structure of perceiving and functioning in the world.
In times of economic transformation in Poland, most of the twenty- and thirty- something were busy providing for their families and finding themselves in the realm of free market economy. After a very economically and socially unstable 1980s, when a chance came to normalize their lives, a large part of society decided to use it and fell into a whirl of fast careers and entrepreneurship. This resulted in endless workdays, fatigue and shifting focus from the family relationship to the economic situation of the household. Spending time with the family, deepening the relationship between its members gave way to success, improvement of the material situation and career development.
Parents often sacrificed all of the other values to ensure that their families lived according to new standards, but they forgot the most important thing – that their children did not have them by their side when they were growing up.
The children of people, who were building a new Poland at that time, were brought up by their grandparents who remembered and lived in the realities of the former Poland. It was not without significance that the model of life passed on by the elders. Children on the one hand were raised in the sense of unconditional love of grandparents and absent parents who had been trying their best to compensate their absence with the various substitutes of love, such as gifts or trips to attractive resorts for short vacations, resulted in generation Y shaping a worldview different from what was driving their parents. Observing frustration, disintegration of relationships, and the deepening emptiness of their parents’ value system for years, Generation Y decided that their lives would not be like that.
One must not forget about the impact of technology, which was of great significance to the cognitive-behavioral factors of the Y generation.
Growing up in an online environment, instant messaging, social media, and instant access to information, they have developed a high level of mobility in the complex world of data and the knowledge they need. Unfortunately, just like everything, this too had its limiting consequences. It weakened the persistence and need for exploration of a particular subject. This results in the fact that the Y generation is quite bored with the task if it is already mastered, repetitive or difficult. It has been observed that one of the basic mechanisms for reducing these stressful stimuli is substitution – that is, the replacement of unreachable targets with easier targets, the change of the object to which the drive is directed. There are two main forms of substitution: sublimation and compensation.
Sublimation is one of the defensive mechanisms of personality, which consists in shifting motives (needs, motives) from a goal that can not be fulfilled due to nonconformity with the accepted rules, to a substitute object or action.
Compensation is rewarding yourself for shortcomings or defects. It gives a momentary pleasure, but repeating can cause the subconscious association of a given defect to pleasure and make it difficult to fix it or remove it.
The use of each of these mechanisms is often unconscious and often leads to difficulties in delivering concrete results not only in the workplace but also in personal life. Consequences are far-reaching as they can result in difficulties in building long-term relationships, engaging in a project despite the difficulties, frequent changes in interests, working and discovering new areas and abandoning those old ones. The reluctance to uncritically accept external authority manifesting itself in questioning the decision and losing interest is also significant.
For a manager of the X generation, such behavior can produce many distorted interpretations that can limit the effectiveness of management and build a sense of helplessness in intergenerational contact. So how can we use the opportunities that are created in intergenerational synergy and will result in significant competitive advantage for both the team and the entire organization.
The meaning of what I do vs this is the task that needs to be completed
When in the 90’s we were learning capitalism, everything was new to us, and often uncritically and unreflectively we adopted western patterns. Over time, it turned out that some of them were rejected by Polish reality and replaced by native models, which are not only well-reasoned but also fit for our society. Interestingly, the flexibility to change models did not follow behavioral patterns. Generation Y, having access to innumerable information, is taught to filter them so that from the noise of arising information they find what is important for them. That is why they frequently ask: Why should I care about it or what is the deeper meaning of what I do?
Generation X was raised on different questions. With limited access to information and lack of native practices, such questions were rare. Much more often they asked: What is there to do and how to do it?
That is why today’s managerial staff is facing the challenge of giving the right meaning to the actions performed by their subordinates. I recently read an article in which the author describes the case of a telephone seller who refused to sell a credit product, which by using several product tricks costed several times more than the limit allowed in the antitrust law. Deloitte has conducted a survey The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, showing that employees of the Y generation rely on their personal values to resonate with their careers so the values of the company they work for. If there is a dissonance millennials change work. This is a tremendous change in employee attitudes and a major challenge for the organization, which should care about consistency between the values that it proclaims in all marketing communications and those that they implement on a daily basis.
Authority vs hierarchy
“My manager wants me to respect him. Why should I respect him if he hasn’t gained my respect yet? Respect is acquired through skills and not through some hierarchy,” the millennials say. With business everyday reality more and more often there comes a model of a boss, who has to become the leader who coherently implements the declared and proclaimed values in everyday work life. For many years, we have heard similar statements at conferences, congresses, or trainings, but business reality often goes in a different direction, and the practices mentioned above are actually rare.
Generation Y begins to verify them. They expect their supervisor to be a real leader in the practices and standards he/she requires from them. Only in this way can he earn the authority of the boss. Organizational hierarchy means little to them unless it’s backed by concrete experience and results.
Engagement vs delegating
The Millennials also expect changes in the way tasks are being delegated to them. They perceive the leader’s position more as a teacher than the critic, evaluator and the task distributor. They require a full commitment to introduce them into their new responsibilities, and assess them through prism of practical utility and communicativeness. They expect the manager to push them out of the current comfort zone, but when faced with difficulties, he has to be ready to provide them with help and support. If their expectations are met with a lack of understanding, they immediately redirect their attention to activities that are not difficult. Hence often the boss feels that the Y generation is not persistent and is quickly bored. This interpretation, though catchy and extremely comfortable for the boss, often exposes his low personal commitment to the development of young subordinates.
Diversity vs exploring the subject
Another area is the ability of the Millenials to engage in multiple activities simultaneously, the so-called „multi-tasking” – a skill that is a challenge for many previous generations. It is worth mentioning here that it is not a manifestation of lack of concentration, but rather a consequence of the conditions in which the generation was raised.
Many bosses still can not fully utilize this potential. It turns out that instead of linearly deploying a new employee to a particular activity, this process can be implemented in a multi-level manner. Start with a few aspects of work and step into each of them. This will ensure a great variety of duties and maintain a high level of commitment.
Unfortunately, in this case, the current management practices need adaptation, because instead of adjusting the environment to himself, the boss should adapt to changing circumstances. Leadership should be accompanied by a motto to: Teach proper behaviors, not your own. What works for the boss, might not work for a subordinate, because we talk about a completely different personal design.
When I read articles about Generation Y and confront them with personal experience, I get the impression that most negative opinions come from a certain natural tendency to stop what is inevitable and unwillingness to change personal patterns of functioning in a professional environment.
We have to deal with structural change in the work environment. What was once a standard will never come back, so adapting management styles to the new generation is not just a challenge, but a necessity that management is facing.
Of course, this involves discomfort, like any change. However, escaping into rationalization and finding new and higher explanatory interpretations of high rotation can become one of the stronger brakes that hold back the organization. So instead of concentrating on the limitations of Generation Y, it is worthwhile to use all the development opportunities that this generation change brings with it. And instead of defying it, adapt the way of functioning to changing social conditions.
I decided to address the topic of the role conflict, because I often encounter this issue when talking to clients. Many of the mistakes that they could avoid need not only a good understanding of the topic of changing the professional role, but also requires being more attentive to the emotional and behavioral aspects of the process. We sometimes forget that a man is primarily an emotional being, and rationalization of choices and decisions is a secondary process. This is crucial to our functioning not only within the family but also in the professional environment. It is impossible to leave the emotion area when entering the workplace and suddenly become another personal construct – a rational automaton that left the emotion at home. That does not work because man is an unified system that combines mind and emotions. The sooner the manager becomes aware of this characteristic, the sooner he or she will begin to build his/her long-term management effectiveness.
When we look from a larger perspective on our career or personal life, we see some regularity – a series of cycles of ups and downs that are in a specific order: Change (crisis) – stabilization and improvement – formation (preparation for change) – change (crisis).
Looking from this perspective, it is impossible not to quote the classics “The only constant in life is change.” Crisis situations bring a root of development potential to the picture, which, if developed, shifts us into a qualitatively different area of operation, but also entails a risk of failure. Risks, which often come from the tension between the need to introduce new ways of thinking and acting, and the desire to stop what is known.
Hence the topic of the role conflict, or more specifically, one of its aspects – namely, the acquisition of a new professional role by the manager.
Promotion for a management position is not only associated with a set of lucrative benefits, but above all with a change in expectations for the social functioning of the organization. Management is after all a representative of the mindset and decisions made by the company’s executives. To put it plainly, behaviors towards colleagues from work that were still accepted yesterday, must today be permanently deleted from the so-called „basic set of behaviors” and converted into different one. The difficulty in the first stage after promotion is the synchronization of two processes: social and individual.
From the social perspective, which I would compare to digital (that is, zero – one) on the day when a colleague becomes the boss the professional environment’s expectations changes immediately. This is not uncommon, as the relationship with colleagues from work changes from vertical to horizontal. This means that while being members of one team, people stay in the relationship with each other. After the change, however, the structure of this relationship is transformed, which results in significant consequences in the way individuals function in the group.
This goes hand in hand with the expectations of the superiors, who require the promoted person to change his perspective from the employee to the manager, which is linked to a change in his or her day to day work in the professional environment.
However, from a personal perspective (of the person promoted to managerial position) this change takes time, because it often involves redefinition at the level of the value system – so it is analogous. It is easy to see here a dependency which is one of the underlying causes of a role conflict – a shift in time between the fulfillment of the ambient expectations of the individual (on the one hand) and the ability of the individual to meet them (on the other). By complementing this diversity of individual readiness to change personal patterns that are at the foundation of its functioning in the professional world, a full context of role conflict begins to emerge as a situation where role requirements do not meet the characteristics, desires, and capabilities of the individual to fulfill them.
The internal contradiction that arises as a result of new professional circumstances will be resolved by redefinition of oneself, introduction of new ways of functioning and elimination of those which are not accepted by the organization on the new position. It is worth remembering that the speed of this adaptation is a matter of individual factors and an organizational environment that is not always supportive.
Manager vs employee – what changes when I become a part of the management team
I’ve been running leadership development programs in international organizations for over a dozen years, which include a workshop component in which participants define their expectations with respect to their superiors and to themselves.
Here are the answers to the question – What are your expectations toward your supervisor? – those, which appear most often (words were not edited – they come straight from the flip chart):
• Building trust
• Clear and precise job outsourcing
• Communicating specific expectations to subordinates
• High personal standards
• Compliance with rules and regulations
• meeting deadlines
• Push out of the comfort zone
• Sharing responsibility
• Submission of important tasks
• Joint development planning
• Concrete and accurate feedback on a regular basis
• Create a platform for sharing information and sharing ideas
• Time to listen to the opinions of subordinates
• Drawing conclusions from both successes and failures
• Create team creativity
• Caring for teamwork
- Celebrate success together
And now the answer to the question: What a supervisor should never do?
• Give promises without coverage
• Respond to colleagues’ emotions
• Manipulate information and subordinates
• Use subordinates to handle his job
• Charge subordinates with private matters
• Not respect the arrangements and rules that apply in the team
• Use information about the personal life of a subordinate at work
- Treat iunequaly – favorable
• Make subordinates hostile to each other
• Exaggerate his merits
• Crossing out subordinates after a single “slip”
• Depreciate goodwill
• Criticize his superiors
- Arouse unnecessary emotions
And the last question: What do I expect from other members of the management team?
• Honest communication
• Sticking to agreements
• The implementation of established decisions
• Delivering duties entrusted
• Open communication within the team management
• Feedback, even if it is difficult to accept
• Information in advance
• Direct communication
• Looking for solutions to the situation
• not complaining about the organization in the presence of subordinates
• not transferring tension and emotions between levels
• Being focused on the interests of the company, not the particular interests of the departments
By reading these statements it is impossible to refrain from the impression that moving from an employee position to a managerial position requires a lot of work and commitment to the personal change process.
What to keep in mind when going through the role conflict?
Going through the role conflict, it is worth remembering a few points that will make it possible to run faster and to deal with less emotions.
Colleagues became subordinates
Maybe not from mine, but from the perspective of my colleagues I became their representative to the board and the representative of the board before them. This means that they have specific expectations from me that they want to be fulfilled from day one of my new position. It is worth talking to each of them individually about the change in this perspective to establish the rules for cooperation in the new constellation.
I represent the management of the company and I represent it to my subordinates
From the first day of work in a new position I start to think of myself as a representative of the management. What yesterday was allowed to me today can be interpreted as abuse of power. This includes behaviors like cynicism, joking with colleagues, criticism of board ideas, gossiping, etc. It is worth remembering that the manager is always in the spotlight. Subordinates expect the boss to be in a good mood, have the time and energy to motivate subordinates, is open to suggestions, flexible in action, etc. Just as if they forgot that the boss is also a man and worse days happen to him too. It may be fun, but one mistake of the new manager and a scratch on the image will remain for a long time.
I am an example of the principles I am implementing to others
“To lead others, you must first lead yourself,” writes Daniel Goleman in his book “Emotional Intelligence in Practice”. It is worth remembering that if I want somebody to follow certain rules, I should myself set an example. Only then do I establish a relationship of true leadership to my subordinates. I do not have to talk about the rules that I follow at the time, because my behavior testifies it. If, however, I demand from others and I do not follow them myself, they will immediately begin to interpret this behavior as abuse of my position and conduct not fair to them.
Employees have to respect me first, then they can like me. Being a manager, I am entrusted with a specific area of responsibility – delivering results with the use of my resources. Often these resources are not enough and a trap is emerging that threatens new managers. A newly appointed head starts to take on too many tasks, because implementing a team member in a new area would require changing his or her current responsibilities, and this in turn may involve potential dissatisfaction. As a consequence, the manager’s time is running out, he is tired and inefficient, because he works in two roles on a single job – an employee and a boss. This situation is irreconcilable in the long run, so it is good to start reorganizing the team so that new goals can be implemented in the new configuration, focusing on the most effective transition from this difficult period of conflict.
Changes at the highest levels of management are often accompanied by changes at the lower levels. In addition to external opportunities, there is the possibility of internal promotion in the organization. It happens that a member of the team is offered the opportunity to take the position of managing his/her colleagues. Then what?
Analysis of the organizational system
Looking at the possibility of promotion, you should look at this situation from a broader perspective and answer some basic questions.
Who, in the company, depends on my promotion and why is that so?
It is no secret that the informal structure in the organization is of the same importance, if not bigger, than formal structure. There are groups of interests that shape the organization. The higher the hierarchy, the more importance they hold.
If we receive a promotion proposal, it is possible that apart from our professional competences our values and attitude related to the informal structure and our role in its future have been appreciated. Very often another thing happens too. There is a promotion proposal, because there is a need for someone who will prepare the team for a new boss, who, for various reasons, is not ready to take up this position, and we are exceptionally suitable for this task. And after a while, it may turn out that what we thought was a promotion, consequently, turned out to be a temporary assignment to new duties.
Of course, this information is rarely stated straightforwardly, but it is worth taking some time to do a preliminary analysis and make some hypotheses that we can then test in the organization.
How does this proposal fit into my career path?
This question allows us to create alternative scenarios when we consider saying „Yes” to the proposition. Writing down all possible arguments „for” and „against” in four areas widens the prospect of looking at the situation, and can make us aware of the potential opportunities and threats that, because of positive emotions, are not noticeable at first.
It may be helpful to do an exercise. Complete the following matrix according to the pattern shown.
What will happen? What will not happen?
I will accept 1 2
I will not accept 3 4
What happens if I accept the promotion offer? There are four fields in which to answer the following questions:
1 What will happen if I accept the promotion offer?
2 What will not happen if I accept the offer of promotion?
3 What will happen if I do not accept the promotion proposal?
4 What will not happen if I do not accept the promotion proposal?
This exercise requires time to focus and distance oneself from current affairs. It also involves asking oneself a few questions about long-term personal goals and the potential consequences of our decision.
If we still think we are ready to accept the proposal, another question arises:
Is this proposal consistent with my social motives profile?
I discussed a few months ago the model of David McClelland’s social motives and their impact on personal performance at the workplace. The theory is that when the job is tailored to the individual motive profile, then it is possible to achieve over-standard results in a long time. However, in a mismatch situation, it turns out that, despite many efforts on the part of the employee, he/she gets at most average results.
As a personal counselor, I have the opportunity to encounter situations where management believes that coaching is able to solve all difficulties. Unfortunately, when the problem is structural, behavioral changes are not permanent. After time, the person returns to his personal preferences.
Many organizations experience the phenomenon of converting a very good salesman into an average manager or a brilliant operational manager into a frustrated departmental manager. Often, the difficulty lies with the internal structure of the person and the degree of non-adjustment to the new duties and responsibilities. As Marshall Goldsmith writes in his book on executive coaching „What Got You Here, Won’t Take You There” people who find themselves in a new position, qualitatively different from the former, and who want to use their own usual behavior instead of the behavior suitable for the new role often fail spectacularly. This is due to not only to the lack of adjustment to the changed role, but also to the change in expectations of both our employees and supervisors towards our people after promotion.
So the answer to the above question is important because it increases the likelihood of accomplishing the goals entrusted on the new position, because they are consistent with the individual profile and instead of experiencing burnout – people are fulfilled at work.
If, after asking the above questions, we are determined to accept a promotion, it would be important to look at the boundary conditions of performing the duties entrusted.
Do I get ant management tools in addition to the new responsibilities?
In case of internal promotions – from the team – a direct supervisor often decides on the gradual transition of management tools such as salary and bonus arrangements, team structure, division of roles and responsibilities among its members, etc. This approach is justified because the new person should be introduced to the particular issues step-by-step. However, the difficulty arises when a direct supervisor has a vision of keeping most of the tools to himself, and the new boss is going to be left out with an increased responsibility. There is a risk emerging the so-called ”organizational bypasses” double reporting by team members (to the new boss and his supervisor) and potential conflicts.
In order to counter this, it is a good idea to draw up a list of available tools and talk to your potential supervisor about how they will be handed in over time.
Is the current team able to meet its organizational goals?
By taking up a new position, it is necessary to analyze team resources and to answer whether they are sufficient for the organization’s performance. Several times I encountered a situation of internal promotion and locking positions. Which in practice meant a job lock and a doubling duties of a new boss. What may seem as an attractive approach from the perspective of HR indicators, is extremely burdensome for the department or unit concerned.
It may turn out that what has been only an interesting topic during coffee breaks becomes a personal challenge for us. A colleague who has so far pursued most of his passions outside of work and has had an insufficient effect on his duties is now a subordinate creating problems that are no longer solved with friendly pleas and suggestions.
The question then arises:
Do I have the power to restructure the team and if so, to what extent?
It concerns not only the resources and organizational capabilities, but also our decision-making in the new position. Perhaps, the desire to change the way the team works or even introduce new people to it, will be met with resistance from the organization.
Being aware of those threats, it should be one of the topics to be discussed before deciding on a promotion.
It may turn out that within the team there are the so-called ”sacred cows” – employees who, despite their low performance rates, have for various reasons secured their place in the organization. It is good to be well aware of the context in which we will act when we choose to advance.
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The promotion proposal is usually a positive event in our career. On the one hand, it shows that the organization appreciates our competence and commitment to work, and on the other gives us a chance to develop and take another step in professional career. However, such a decision can involve many unknown threats to our careers, so it’s worth taking some time to find the answer to the key questions before accepting it.
I used to have a supervisor who used to say that there are two kinds of decisions that need to be taken immediately:
First decisions are those, which save a person’s life, and the second – those unreasonable ones.
If someone is limiting us time for making a decision, the red light should light up – maybe that person does not want us to think this through.