Before they become full-fledged enemies, Susan Cramm recommends the following:
• Stick to the facts. No one has “enemies everywhere.” The leader above has two — not 10 — people who are making his life difficult: A boss who wants more information and a peer who expects adherence to the standard process. Settle down, breath deeply, and write down what you know for sure — the facts, not your interpretation of the facts.
• Don’t take it personally. No one is trying to make you fail. People are way too self-involved and much too worried about their own failure to give much concern to yours. If you ever find yourself thinking, “If it were me, I would never…” stop right there. Trying to psyche out someone else’s motivators with our “me-oriented” brains is always fruitless.
• Talk it out. If someone is bugging you, odds are, you are bugging him. If left unresolved, negative feelings reverberate back and forth and ultimately harm the relationship. “He cancelled my meeting,” becomes, “He always cancels my meetings,” and balloons into, “He doesn’t respect me.” Talking it out requires stating the facts, tentatively offering up your interpretation, and asking for feedback.
• If you can’t talk it out, work it out. If a colleague repeatedly cancels your meetings, drop by her office to chat. If she requires more information, inundate her. If she wants you to jump through process hoops, jump early and jump often, so that her hurdles don’t slow you down.
• While you are working it out, spread it out. Distribute authority by forming a governance board, consisting of your frenemies and the powers-that-be, so that key decisions are made collectively, not individually.
• If all else fails, relax. Adjust your aspirations and your timelines to align with the tempo of the organization. Some organizations embrace leaders who judge their progress every 10 minutes, some every 10 days or 10 months. If you are holding yourself and others to a standard that is higher than the organization at large, your nagging will do nothing more than label you as a leader who lacks political savvy and “doesn’t know how things get done around here.”
• Rinse and repeat. As work changes, relationships need to change as well. At the end of each day, clear your head, review this list, and get ready to do this again (and again, and again).
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Susan Cramm is the founder and president of Valuedance. A former CFO and CIO, she is an expert on IT leadership. She is the author of 8 Things We Hate About IT.
In this series, Bob Morris poses a key question and then responds to it with material from one or more of the business books he has reviewed for Amazon and Borders.
When asked to identify what is most important to them, employees throughout the world consistently rank constructive criticism from supervisors among the highest. In three sequential Q&As, I share some advice from Howard M. Guttman, author of recently published Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance. Here are “four cardinal rules” that Guttman recommends when delivering constructive criticism:
1. Pay attention to time and place. While there are times when it may be appropriate to question someone’s behavior in front of others, it is almost always better to deliver the message in a private, one-on-one meeting. If you have any doubts at all, arrange a talk behind closed doors, at a time when you there will be no interruptions.
2. Focus on the facts. There is never any room for emotion or personal attacks when delivering feedback, whether to anther team member or to the leader [i.e. “speaking to power”]. Stick to commenting on the specific behavior you have observed – or failed to observe – and the tangible consequences for the team.
3. Take full responsibility. You are not there to represent others, unless you have been asked to serve as a spokesperson for the team [or have that responsibility as its leader]. State clearly that you are only voicing your own observations. Do not put words into others’ mouths.
4. Contextualize the discussion. Look for ways to frame the discussion within the larger context of the organization’s strategy, operational plan, or team charter, and then point to the impact of a leader’s [or team member’s] behavior on these.”
Note: Most experts recommend the “sandwich” (i.e. praise-constructive criticism-praise) approach: compliment the person on something positive, provide the constructive criticism, and then express confidence in the person’s ability and willingness to benefit from it. If there is nothing to praise, then the situation requires much more than constructive criticism.
Comments, questions, requests, or suggestions? Please share them. They will be most welcome and I thank you for them. Best regards, Bob