Earn Your Employees Trust: Change How Your Employees Feel At Work.

You have a TRUST Situation:
  1. You are a leader.
  2. You have a new team member.
  3. The new team member is reluctant to take on responsibility and make decisions.
  4. You need him to make decisions.

Reasons:

There can be many reasons.

Possible Reason #1. They may want to relax and take it easy and therefore not take on the responsibility of making a decision. This means you didn’t hire well. I’m sorry to say, this is your fault… not theirs.

Possible Reason #2. Your new employee may be avoiding decisions because he doesn’t feel empowered… he has been burned by leaders in his past.

SOLUTION to Reason #2: 

Simply telling your new employee they have authority will not have positive impact. They likely feel scared to make decisions because they were yelled at or embarrassed or were made to feel bad about decisions they made in their past. A trauma he had in his past is influencing his behaviour to not make that mistake again… he is avoiding feeling bad by avoiding making decisions.

Your words alone will not change how he feels.

Emotions cannot be changed by reason… existing feelings have to be changed by making him feel new emotions… by having new positive emotional experiences.

You have to SHOW your new employee you trust his opinion when he makes a decision. If he makes a decision but it isn’t how you would do it BUT his decision still works, leave him alone and say nothing. You have to show him you have his back on the decisions he makes (as long as you do trust his expertise and decision-making process). And, you have to reinforce your behaviour in order to reinforce the new behaviour you want.

Changing how anyone feels – changing someone’s emotion will take time; it will take repeated reinforcement and investment on your end. Your new employee has to feel your trust – he has to learn to trust you and he has to learn to trust himself.

Real Experience

This happened to me years ago.

I had a lady who reported into me when I took over managing a department. Her previous boss made her feel stupid (literally). Whenever she gave her opinion or made decisions they were never good enough.

Reality was – she was so smart and experienced.

All any of us ever really want is to feel trust and respect and to learn from our shortcomings – not be beaten up by them.

It took a few months but in my case this employees’ trust in me grew… and her trust in herself grew. She now runs a whole department. What an amazing transformation.

What we do every day of our lives is what matters.

We hope you enjoyed this post.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Generational Differences, Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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Examples of Noticing and Reinforcing Each Others Work, at Work.

One of the most effective ways to get the behaviour we want is to see in others is to sincerely reinforce that behaviour when it happens. In many ways this falls into the space of intrinsic motivation.

That said, providing feedback can sometimes feel like we are babying your co-workers. Get over it. We are not babying them or hand-holding. What we are doing is letting them know their efforts matter; that they are important and are making a difference.

One easy approach I would recommend is to focus on their effort and/or outcome and not make it too personal.

Here are some examples.

Awareness / Caring I

  • “Bob, you came in later today than usual. That’s very different for you so I just wanted to make sure everything is OK and ask if there is anything you might need?” Or
  • “Is that a new jacket? It is a great looking jacket.” Or
  • “How did your team enjoy the conference yesterday? They seemed really excited to attend.”

Awareness / Caring II

“I noticed you started the training meeting by reviewing the departments vision, values and how the training fits into us all achiving our goals. That really helped me focus my attention on how to use the training and where I needed to change.”

Appreciation I

“Thank you for your hard work. Your attention to detail made a difference.” (a focus on their effort)

Appreciation & Collaboration I

“You both found an interesting way to solve the problem and work together to complete the project even though you are in different time zones. Well done.”

Appreciation & Collaboration II

“Thanks for helping the marketing team get those financial numbers together. Having the finance departments input and suggestions helped clarify the expenses and potential ROI.” 

Being Clear – Getting To The Point

“You shared the objective and desired action item in the first sentence of your email. I want you to know this really helped us understand the reason for the detailed background you then provided.” (a focus on email etiquette / email writing technique)

Reinforce Desired Behaviour I

“Everyone is here on time and ready to start meeting. My thanks to each of you. This should help us get out on time as well.” (a focus on time management)

Reinforce Desired Behaviour II

“Before we close off today’s update meeting, I want to point out I noticed everyone gave each other the opportunity to speak without interruption and with an open, inquiring mind. Thank you – I think it is great how our team is really coming together.”

Reinforce Desired Behaviour III

“Bob, you worked really hard on this proposal outline and submitted it on time. It looks really good and gives each of the other managers a great foundation to all add their content while keeping a consistent objective and a consistent look for the company. Well done.”

It’s important to sincerely reinforce behaviour. If we are not sincere – it will show. It’s also important to say something as close to the behaviour as possible; don’t wait for their next performance review.

As with all things, practice makes perfect. When you see behaviour you want, especially if it’s behaviour that’s in the process of changing, try letting that person or people realize you see their effort and the positive impact they are having.

Reminders and positive feedback help others (and ourselves) visualize and recall expectations and the skills / actions associated with the behaviours we want to see / experience. The characteristics of good reminders and positive feedback include being:

  • Simple and brief (not a lecture)
  • Focused on the positive (what is), not the negative (what is not)

Little things matter.

Happy communicating, leading, mentoring and learning.

We facilitate courses including email etiquette, time management training, leadership skills, generational differences training… and more.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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Work-life balance: How not to be buried in email when you return from vacation.

One of the challenges of work-life balance is getting ready to go on vacation… and coming back from vacation.

First, lets look at how you can prepare to be away. Then, we will look at what you can do while you are away (and not checking your email), so that you are not buried in email when you return from vacation.Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 5.48.04 PM

Before You Are Away

Two best practices that I like to use to prepare to be away are to:

  1. Notify all of your important contacts a few weeks before you go.
  2. Use an Out-of-Office email notice while you are gone.

Notifying your important contacts is a great best-practice. This lets you and your network either take care of important tasks before you leave – or plan to take care of these tasks when you are back. In short, you are managing their and your expectations – and I don’t think there is a better way to show respect to your network than managing their expectations.

There are two relatively easy ways that I like to notify your important contacts before you go on vacation:

  • One of the easiest is to remind people when you are speaking with them. I like to create a list of important people to tell and then check their name off as I go. This way I am not telling the same people over and over again – which can sound like I’m bragging about being away.
  • Another is to add a short message to every email you send – just before your salutation. Again – this is a note you add to the email you write for the week or two before you go. This message can be as simple as, “Please note, I will be on vacation from X to Y and will not be accessing email or voicemail during this time. Please contact Amy or Bob while I am away. Thank you.”

While You Are Away

Use an Out-of-Office email notice is pretty easy as well… but this is one place where you can make your work-life balance so much better upon your return. Here is a trick of the message you might like to write,

“Please note, I will be on vacation from X to Y and will not be accessing email or voicemail during this time. Experience tells me most issues will be addressed / taken care of by the time I return, therefore I will be archiving and not reading any of the many email I expect will come into my mailbox while I’m gone.

If you do need me to act on something when I return on Y, please send me a new email on Y. This will help me address your email as quickly as possible because it will not be buried in a very full in-box. 

If you need immediate information / help, while I am away Amy or Bob will be covering my main files. Thank you.”

This last approach seems a bit extreme. The beauty is that this approach stops you from reading weeks worth of email and an endless number of long email strings only to discover the issue has been resolved and/or is no longer important. In short – archiving and not reading any of the email really that come in while you are away will help you manage people’s expectations and help you be productive quickly and efficiently. The one thing I want to clearly point out is that you make sure you archive the email / not delete them. For some situations going back and reading the email string will be important.

I hope these tips on how to keep a sense of work-life balance both before you go and after you return from vacation.

Bruce

Happy communicating, mentoring, learning and vacationing.

We facilitate courses including email etiquette, time management, leadership, generational differences training… and more.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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Are You Racially Bias? How To See Bias Within Ourselves.

There is a surge of discussion in the news about cognitive bias, and more specifically, unconscious bias. Much of this discussion is because of an incident on April 15, 2018 in a Philadelphia Starbucks where two black men were arrested after simply asking to use the restroom while they waited for a business associate to arrive.

Following this incident, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said the officers “did absolutely nothing wrong.” On the flip side, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called the incident “reprehensible” and quickly apologized. Johnson also began making plans to “help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again [at Starbucks]”.

How did Starbuck do this? In no small gesture, Starbuck’s closed all of its 8,000 US corporate stores and offices for the afternoon on May 29 to provide employees racial bias training. Anti-bias training in Canada was on June 11.

What are cognitive biases and how do they impact our behaviour?

Cognitive biases act like short-cuts our brain uses to make decisions instead of analysing every piece of information. Many times throughout our day, cognitive biases like unconscious bias speed up our decision making at work or keep us safe in unfamiliar places. However, it’s true that these short-cuts can lead to ill- informed decisions and/or negative judgements and therefore misguided behaviour.

Another important fact about biases is that once we make a decision about someone or something, our biases will begin to find information and other examples to support our belief. In short, we will begin to see what we want to see. So, if we were to unfortunately learn to ‘discriminate’ against a person, a body type or a culture as in racial bias, it’s highly likely we won’t see our judgement or behaviour being negative or being driven by an unconscious bias.

Where do we learn biases?

We learn biases everywhere and all the time. We learn by absorbing messages from our family and co- workers, suppliers, the media, from society, from our social network, the books we read, the movies we watch and the history we study. A huge challenge comes when we limit our access to information. For example, if we only watch one news channel, don’t read much and don’t engage in open dialogue with people who challenge us, imagine how our beliefs and behaviours… our biases might slowly become skewed.

Also, because our brains try to create shortcuts every chance it gets, sometimes biases are formed based on only one piece of data; this is called a halo bias. Examples of halo biases are:

  • If I believe someone to be honest – I will see honesty throughout their character. I may even ignore, downplay or justify dishonesty.
  • If I believe someone to be greedy and incompetent I will see greed and incompetence.
  • When we find someone physically attractive, our biases often inflate our trust, respect and honesty of this person.

Two other types of bias are:

  • Confirmation Bias: This is when we favour information that confirms to our existing opinions and beliefs. In addition, confirmation bias may even urge our unconscious to discount evidence that does not conform to our existing opinions and beliefs.
  • Self-Serving Bias: This is when we blame external influences when bad things happen and give ourselves credit for being smart or creative when good things happen (as an example).

Can we learn to control our biases including our negative judgements?

Psychologists and lead bias researchers Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald seem to think the answer is mostly yes, we can control our biases and our negative judgements / prejudices. The key to any transformative process begins with awareness.

One approach to learn to control biases is to study Mindfulness. Why Mindfulness?

Awareness of why and how we do and/or say things is a serious characteristic of Mindfulness. Because of this direct connection Mindfulness has effectively helped people become aware of their biases and learn to control and/or change them.

Conclusion

Biases help us react quickly and when we are faced with imminent danger this is good. But, when our biases (like discrimination), risk our long and short-term success it’s time to take action. For Starbucks taking action meant helping their employees to learn to recognize when they may be discriminating and to learn to respond with controlled, mindful, thoughtful intent. Can we expect that change will happen after one half- day training program? Likely no… but every change event has to begin somewhere.

In many ways our biases inform our expectations of ourselves and other people. When any of us study our own cognitive biases‚ especially when we begin to discover our unconscious biases it will help us:

  • Recognize the behaviours we expect to see in other people.
  • See how we treat people and even better, it helps us evaluate ‘Why’ we treat people the way we do.
  • Take better control over our actions and responses.
  • Change. Become better partners, employees and better community partners.

My belief is that until we learn about our own personal and professional biases we are all at risk of doing or saying something we may regret later. This is especially true when we are stressed, tired or multitasking.

I hope this article helps you explore your own cognitive biases including your unconscious biases at home and at work.

Happy communicating, mentoring, listening and learning.

We facilitate courses including email etiquette, time management, leadership, generational differences training… and more.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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How impressive is your employee retention when you hire Millennials?

Millennials have just become largest population in our workspaces with approximately 42% of the labour population. Next in line at work are:

  • Gen Xers – about 33% of the labour population
  • Boomers – about 25% of the labour population
  • Generation Z – just coming online

How do you attract quality Millennial employees (and soon to be Gen Z), who will stay more than 1 year, work hard and work conscientiously?

Generational Breakdown

  1. Give Millennials leadership responsibilities, give them leadership training and mentor them to become great leaders.
  2. Beyond leadership, they want to be changing – constantly. Professional growth is very important for most Millennials.
  3. Let them know their work is important by sharing WHYit is important. If possible, let them see / experience the difference they are making.
  4. Respect them. Say thank you. Take notice when they plan ahead and solve a problem before it became a problem. And let them know you appreciate their initiative.
  5. They want Work-life balance… preferably tied to flexible work schedules.
  6. They want work to be friendly – to make friends with the people they work with… and even with your clients.
  7. For the most part, they like to collaborate – to work in teams. This is a bit different from Gen Xers who generally are OK working alone and Boomers who prefer to work alone.
  8. They want to work ethically / environmentally / for the society… for their community and they want the company to do the same behave ethically.

How well do you do (as a leader), and how well does your company stack up?

If you can answer ‘YES’ to most (or all), of the above then you are a great leader and likely, your organization is a great company to work for. If you answer ‘YES’, then I expect recruitment is reasonably easy for you and retention is a bit higher than your peers, and your team are committed to your clients… you… the company… and to the work they are doing.

Happy communicating, hiring and mentoring as you create a remote / flexible workplace culture .

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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Judgement: How it can damage your success and relationships.

When we judge someone we are most likely creating a cognitive bias or reacting to an existing cognitive bias we already have created.

What do I mean?

A cognitive bias acts like a short-cut our brain uses to make quick, reaction based decisions. These unconcious decisions are often helpful – keeping us safe as we walk through high-traffic areas for example. However, it’s true these short-cuts can also lead to ill-informed decisions like when we quickly judge someone we don’t know based on only one piece of superficial information.

For example, perhaps you experience a driver of a BMW cutting in front of you and other cars. You may quickly pass judgement creating an unconscious bias the person is reckless, irresponsible, entitled and self-centered. You may even create an unconscious bias so that every time you see a BMW driver you treat them as if they are reckless, irresponsible, entitled and self-centered. But what if in that same moment you also learned there was a sick person in the car and the driver was rushing to the hospital? Exactly… in this case a very positive, cognitive bias would form.

What researchers suggest is that once we have judged someone, it’s difficult to fully clear that judgement. Our unconscious mind keeps track of the initial assumption (the initial short-cut). In many cases our biases will even selectively notice certain behaviour or selectively ignore or discount certain other behavior in an attempt to unconsciously reinforce the bias. Yikes – can you imagine? In short, our mind begins to see what it wants to see – we stay stuck with the unconscious bias we made (because of our initial judgement), whether or not the circumstances change.

Now what if we wrongly create negative biases about people we work with, clients and sadly… about friends and family? Imagine how judgements can damage our success and relationships.

Our brain is about efficiency. It wants to make decisions as quickly as possible and this is one way it accomplishes its goal. Sometimes it works for the best and sometimes it hurts us.

So my recommendation is to be careful making any judgements. As best you can try to:

  1. Be Self-Aware – Know your personal moods and emotions. Also be aware of what sets-off your positive and negative triggers.
  2. Self-Manage  – Manage your personal preferences & actions and how you react… and respond.
  3. Be Socially-Aware – Try to ‘see’ other people’s feelings, needs and concerns. Take note of your surroundings and what is important to others.

Our judgements can keep us from ever trusting someone who may be important to us now… or in the future. When we judge someone, we may be throwing away an opportunity to learn about ourselves, about them and about the world around us.

And… never forget, “Those who judge will never understand, and those who understand will never judge.” (Wilson Kanadi)

Happy communicating… and be careful of the cognitive biases you may be creating.

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Should We Embrace A Remote or Flexible Workplace Culture?

The answer to, “Should we embrace a remote or flexible workplace culture?” is YES!

Actually, I believe two BIG questions all businesses should be asking is:

“How can we be a company that equally supports remote employees and on-site employees?” And, “What do we have to do to learn, change and grow so that we are a leader in our market?”

These are two important questions that examine the future of workplace flexibility as a serious, strategic cultural decision.remote or flexible workplace culture

That said, I find the more common question is:

“How can we help employees who want to work remotely or on a flexible schedule?”

This question is lovely but lets face it, it’s one step away from doing nothing. It’s a reactionary position not a proactive position. The company is making change because it has to, not because leaders see it as an opportunity to be market leaders. They are making a change because existing employees are asking and they want to slow down attrition and, they are making change because most of the people they are interviewing for new positions are asking. When company leaders are asking this question (and only this question), they may not realize they are not embracing all of the advantages of flexible and remote options. It’s like going to a restaurant and only allowing yourself to order off the first page of the menu. After making all the effort to get to the restaurant, not only do you miss all of the entrees, you also miss the desserts – by choice.

Now, my personal preference is to try to look at the advantages of doing something, (you know… glass half full), but in this case I’d like to explore some of the disadvantages a company will be missing if its leaders choose to not fully embrace a remote and/or flexible workplace culture.

Disadvantage 1. The company will not be as attractive to most workers… of all ages. Boomers and Gen Xers want more flexibility and choice to enjoy life and/or deal with parents and children that need support. Millennials and Gen Z want more flexibility and choice because flexibility and choice are second nature to them.

This is both an attraction challenge and a retention challenge for companies (or an opportunity… your choice).

Disadvantage 2. The company will only be able to hire people who are geographically close to the office. The alternative is that a remote or flexible workplace culture empowers leaders to hire the best people no matter where those people are.

Again, this is both an attraction challenge and a retention challenge (or an opportunity… your choice).

Disadvantage 3. The company culture will be fragmented and employees may be confused on what they should do. People will wonder things like, “Do we work this way or that way? What should I do? Is there a political gain to work one way versus the other?”

In reality I hope every company and every leader wants to create a workplace culture where everyone feels valued and part of the team no matter where or when they work.

Again, I see this as both an attraction challenge and a retention challenge (or an opportunity… your choice).

Disadvantage 4. If leaders don’t fully embrace remote, flexible and on-site employees equally it is most common that there will only be a partial investment in the IT (technology) solutions needed for all of their employees to communicate and collaborate effectively. And, for the IT solutions that are installed, it is common that many employees, especially employees who choose to keep working within the traditional work structure will not fully embrace the new technology which only makes the communication and collaboration challenge worse. In short, all employees are disadvantaged.

So one last time we see how company leaders respond turns into an attraction challenge and a retention challenge (or opportunity).

How is IT an attraction challenge and a retention challenge? Because staying current and marketable is important, especially for Millennials and Gen Zers. Most quality potential employees will check your technology out before accepting a job proposal, and if they see your IT as insufficient or non-existent they will think twice before joining your team. And, existing employees that get frustrated trying to do their work with insufficient technology will be some of the first to start looking for other places to share their experience and talents.

Conclusion
Creating a culture that fully embraces a remote / flexible culture takes work and takes commitment but it is worth it. When leaders embrace a remote or flexible workplace culture it quickly begins to pay off by driving significant improvements in employee attraction, employee retention, productivity and profitability. And, in many cases, when done well a remote / flexible culture reduces costs, from recruiting to compensation to the hard costs of real estate.

Happy communicating, hiring and mentoring as you create a remote / flexible workplace culture .

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Measure Your Attitude Toward Your Career… And Your Future.

When investing in your career or your business, what traits do you have lots of… or few of? Where might you need to get some help by either hiring talent… or hiring a coach?

Being successful isn’t easy. You can’t do it on your own or by always being in your comfort zone.

To be successful you have to use all your strengths. To be successful you also have to keep developing those strengths… working outside your comfort zone and being OK with that. Your attitude toward your career has to help you overcome what is difficult… because difficulty helps you grow, difficulty helps you do what needs to get done.

So, which of the following 4 traits do you have lots of… or little of? Knowing yourself is important! Rate your comfort between 1 and 6 for each.

Diligence… #1

Steadily applying yourself, not letting yourself off the hook… no excuses for not doing what you said you would… your plan, your priorities. You are usually best off when you are diligent about talents of yours in which you can say, “These are my core competencies. I am either using them or improving upon them.” The good thing is this can take you off the hook from doing laundry, book keeping or mowing the lawn.

Diligence Measurement

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 7.07.39 PM

Conviction… #2

Another word for conviction is confidence. Do you believe in yourself and what you are offering? Do you know your unique value proposition? Do you trust your suppliers (if you have them) to deliver at or above your quality standards?

Conviction Measurement

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 7.07.39 PMCourage… #3

You may be an introvert… but to succeed you sometimes have to show you are courageous. It means doing what needs to get done… not what feels comfortable in the next 5 minutes (or 5 days). It means knowing what procrastination looks like… for you, and when you recognize you are procrastinating you stop and you do what needs to get done. It means being bold, be brave (even when you are not brave), and most especially, it means being proud of what you are doing… especially when doing something that means pushing your boundaries.

Courage Measurement

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 7.07.39 PMKnowledge… #4

Knowledge is power. It just means something different today than it did 20 or more years ago. Today, the ‘boss’ needs to know about vision, quality, motivating a team who are networking, managing contract talent. Today, knowledge is about knowing enough to spot challenges but not needing to be a specialist. Today, great leaders are self-aware and realize leadership is also a specialty and are confident in their abilities to be supported by specialist… by people who may know more than they do in a certain topic.

Knowledge Measurement

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 7.07.39 PM

Where are your strengths? What comes easy to you… and where do you need to pay attention to ensure you don’t step back from the success you know you are capable of?

Do what it takes to make your dreams come true.
Choose actions that are in your own best interest.
The solution is already within you.
Don’t stop yourself from getting what you dream.

Go…. enjoy. Knowledge is power. Experience is the best teacher.

Bruce

We hope you enjoyed this post. Happy mentoring and climbing the corporate ladder everyone.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Generational Differences, Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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How To Work With A Negative Person

This article is for anyone who works with a negative team member. You know, the cynic who has an uncanny ability to point out every disadvantage and the smallest risk. This article is not about managing toxic or chronically angry employees; those are bigger challenges and may need assistance from human resources and external coaching / mentoring.

If you do work with a negative person I invite you to step back and consider these four things.

  • People who point out disadvantages and potential risks are valuable. Sure, it gets annoying if cynicism is their natural state. But, when their negativity is balanced and relevant, (if you are reading this they may need your help to learn how to do this), their observations can provide opportunity for the team to take something that is good and make it great.
  • Your cynic may not realize they come across as negative. The reality is that even most uplifting people are not aware of the impact their moment-by-moment actions have on others. We are all working hard and putting out fires as we run from meeting to meeting on auto-pilot saying and doing things without considering how others may react.
  • Most negative people want to be part of a productive team and do feel they are helping. In fact, they often get surprised (and hurt), when people respond impatiently.
  • Ask yourself, “Is your cynic really negative, or are they not as enthusiastic as you or the rest of the team?” Take it from this guy whose natural state is quiet and reflective that my silence has often been interpreted as me being uninterested… and therefore negative, opposition or disagreement. I’ve been called arrogant by some people who just meet me – and once they get to know me they call me helpful and thoughtful.

So, if we consider most cynics may not notice their impact and only want to be part of a productive team, what matters is how we – as their leader (or perhaps parents or partners), help maximize their contribution. It’s also important we help them minimize any damage to their negative reputation has on their co-workers morale and the company performance. Let’s look at how.

Where Did Their Behaviour Come From?

I don’t believe most of us are naturally cynics. I think our natural state is one of openness, curiosity, empathy and compassion. To prove my theory all we have to do is look at young children; they are completely inspired and in wonder and thirsty to learn about the world around them. I also believe many of us learn to shut down our curiosity and begin to see the world as glass half empty. I believe you and I learn our communication style over many years from our family, teachers and other social influencers. And, it is also likely your cynic has been influenced by their first boss or two. So, now is your chance to be a boss who has a positive influence on them.

How To Help Your Cynic

I often say in my Difficult Conversation training that we go through our days reacting… not responding… and we have to learn to respond versus react. Reacting is good when there is an out-of-control bus heading for us because our reaction will be to jump out of the way. Responding means we are being thoughtful… attentive to our needs and feelings and the needs / feelings of the people around us. So, responding is good when we are in meetings or when we are discussing important things with people who matter to us.

Take it from me – as a recovering cynic – I used to spend a lot of time reacting to the world around me. Thankfully, early in my career I had someone point out my negative communication style to me and was able to change.

To help your negative person, here are six steps I’ve learned that can help:

Step 1. I invite you to see your cynic as more than negative… try to see them as they may see themselves… as helpful, valuable members of your team. If you or your team has been working with them for a while, your naysayer has probably worn down your patience. It’s natural you may have learned to ignore them or consider what they say as ‘chronic noise’. Try to override that instinct. Look on their participation with fresh eyes.

Interpret your cynics emotions and input as valuable and help them adjust their communication style so that they can make the world – or the project as good as they want it to be. Unfortunately, dealing with tough situations from time-to-time is part of what it’s like to be a leader.

Step 2. Take a deep breath and prepare to have a one-on-one discussions with your naysayer. Do this sooner rather than later. It’s easy to convince ourselves, “it’s not that bad” or “my cynic will come around eventually.” Well… it probably is that bad.
It may be a difficult conversation but negative people often take down the energy of the team or stop creative conversation because nobody wants to ‘deal with them‘. This is bad for the team, the customers and the company. This can also lead to higher turnover as other valuable team members quit because they want to work in a more positive space. This conversation may be uncomfortable… but having it is important.

Step 3. Share what you see – strive to build (or keep), a trusting, respectful relationship with your cynic. Talk with them about the impact their approach has on others. Don’t call them moody or tell them they have a bad attitude… this may shut them down or will very likely make them defensive… wouldn’t it make you defensive? This is a time you need to demonstrate some emotional intelligence. Don’t be too ‘robotic’ or unemotional.

Your first sentence is really important. It will set the tone for the conversation. Start with something supportive like, “Greg, professional development is something I try to support each member of my team. Can I give you some feedback that may be difficult for you to hear but I think can be an important growth opportunity for you?” What comes next from you should be nonaggressive stories, some specific examples of the behaviour you’ve witnessed (it cannot be hear-say), where you think they were trying to be helpful but it was interpreted as negative.

Step 4. This step is less about you and more about them. Your employee has to recognize their behaviour as a challenge. As suggested above, this may be a surprise to them – they may not have recognized they have been negative. So, your cynical team member may need some time to process this before they can move forward. They may feel embarrassed, or angry. Help them through this. Hopefully they begin to see what you see and choose to work with you on it. This will be your time to give them some coaching / mentoring.

If they don’t see their approach as a challenge, you will have a bigger problem than you would like… but you have to stay on this. Keep having conversations with them. Keep documenting your conversations. Keep offering assistance. If you haven’t, now is a good time to begin talking with your HR department.

Step 5. When they accept their responsibility, use your professional experience to help your employee come up with their own ways to resolve the situation. This will help them both understand the challenge and its complexities… as well as help them be more committed to the solution. Help them evaluate their communication style and how they can improve in certain situations. For example:

  • To change, they have to learn to also being to see and express the positive. They may have to learn to begin to respond – not react.
  • Ripping apart an idea in front of someone’s bosses boss may make their co-worker feel vulnerable… and rightfully upset.
  • Help your cynic be aware of their negative tone and the impact it has on others. Help them discover ways to express themselves, to support teamwork and respect other opinions. Most of the time tone is an involuntary reaction – not a voluntary response. Help your negative person be aware of the tone they use.
  • Instead of blurting out a challenge they notice, start a sentence with something positive… something like, “I like where this is going – can I share a challenge I see and would like your help to work out.”
  • There may be times when saying nothing would be better. For example, if what they are going to point out will have little or no difference. Help them protect their reputation and see when they should save their ‘constructive feedback’ for big challenges.
  • Help them evaluate their body language. Do they sit through meetings with their arms crossed, scrolling through their smartphone and or looking on with a frown.

Step 6. Help your team… help them respond not react as well. Everyone can benefit from learning how to pause, be a better listener and learn to say to themselves, I am feeling XYZ now – and now I have a choice to respond with X or respond with Y. When we are in this state we have switched off our reaction button – for the greater good.

Help your team see that healthy opposition and debate are important parts of a decision-making process. Some of the most effective and successful teams not only have disagreement, they actually try to inspire respectful disagreement (in a controlled meeting), as part of a brainstorming exercise. Being aggressive, angry or hijacking conversations is not healthy or accepted. Encourage your team to embrace everyone’s differences.

Negative intention lead to negative actions and mostly… negative outcomes. Compassionate intentions lead to compassionate outcomes.

Conclusion:

Every organization has one or two cynics. Ignoring them is not healthy. If you have a trusting relationship with one of them, you may be able to successfully point out their impact to them… and help them adjust. Never undervalue the benefit of connecting with other people.

If your cynic is a new employee – set them straight early. If you have just taken over a department – do it early in your new role.

If your cynic ever wants a leadership position, you need to help them realize they are going to have to listen more than they may be used to – even if they think they know the answer long before their team member is finished speaking.

When you are speaking with someone, stay present to what you are needing, feeling and believing… and what you think they are needing, feeling and believing; this goes for your naysayer and everyone else, in every conversation you have.

BONUS: What is a Toxic employee? Some people exude negativity. They don’t like their jobs or they don’t like their company. No matter who their boss is, they are always jerks and they are always treated unfairly. The company is always going down the tube and customers are worthless.

So, there you have it. We hope you enjoyed this post. Happy communicating, listening and working from home.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Generational Differences, Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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Energize Your Team by Igniting Your Corporate Values

Do your employees know how to use your corporate values to make every day yes/no decisions? What about using your corporate values to make critical planning decisions, write copy, guide behaviour, support diversity and even hire the right people? Values are remarkably powerful performance management – performance enhancement tools.

A Real Example Of ‘Trust’ As A Corporate Value

Imagine a company shows their sales team ‘Trust’ by giving them the ability to discount customer pricing on the spot. I experienced this early in my career when I was in corporate sales. Having the trust and the autonomy to discount pricing empowered me; I felt in control. The company’s trust made me feel proud I could use my expertise and judgement in real-time. This was true for the whole corporate sales team.

Values guide how your company fulfills its purpose and
infuses your corporate personality.

Controls and measurements were of course in place. Every month the sales team and management received sales results and percent discount by sales person. Sure, this helped keep us in check; it also created a fun competition to see who could have the highest sales and the lowest discount ratio. We were not rewarded by this ratio, it was a number that helped us sell based on the long-term benefit of the client relationship – not ‘sales by discount’. The main point is, simply knowing the company ‘Trusted‘ us also empowered us – and I believe made us more successful.

When To Define Your Company Values

If you haven’t looked at your values recently, consider this an opportunity to build something special with your employees. This is as an enormous professional development, team building and performance management opportunity. Not only can defining your company values streamline decisions and behaviour… the process can be invigorating.

How To Define Your Company Values: A Sample Process

I don’t believe any two processes will ever be exactly the same. And, this is an important step for your future and the future of your company. It’s often best to have an experienced and impartial facilitator from outside your company helping you stay on track and ensure all voices are heard.

Here are some other things to know and/or do.

  1. Know your desired outcome / your purpose. How will you use your values moving forward?
  2. Introduce the project to all your employees. It’s important everyone understands why you are doing this. This supports the process and buy-in when you roll out your core values.
  3. Have the right people available:
    • If you are a large organization, I recommend all employees should be surveyed for input. Then, perhaps assemble a large strategic group to fine-tune the suggestions. Then, have only a senior team or a special advisory team evaluate and select the final ‘serious’ Values Definition Session(s).
    • If you are a small organization, try to include everyone in most of the process… leaving only the final edits – the last 20% of fine tuning should be done by your senior team or a special advisory team made up of people from all levels and all areas of the organization.
  4. What are your ground rules? Employees must feel safe and feel everyone will be listened to.
  5. Know when you want to have it done by.
  6. Have time to interview external people / customers.
  7. Have time set aside for the Values Definition Session. You will possibly need:
    • Time for a big session, likely a half-day is a good start. This would take place after you did an internal survey and spoke with external people / customers. Look for common themes – group your findings.
    • Time to fine-tune… but don’t let this drag out too long. Keep the process moving forward.
  8. Plan to have a launch day. Announce them to your team, customers, website / social media.

Sample Questions For Your High-Level Values Definition Session: Level I

This is not meant to find FINAL results… just get you 80% of the way. Let’s assume you have a gathering of your 75 employees. Bring everyone together in a large room. Set aside at least half-day for this process. In many cases, an outside facilitator will work best. Ask your employees:

  • What’s important to us?
  • What are we most proud of about:
    • Our company?
    • Our culture?
    • Our employees?
    • Our customers?
    • Our suppliers?
    • Our product / service?
    • Other?
  • What do we want to be known for?
    • What are our Core Competencies?
  • What do our customer need / want / value?
    • What are their fears?
    • What might be important to a customer relationship?
  • What do these proposed values mean?
    • How will they guide behavior?
    • How will they be used to make decisions, develop your corporate culture?

Sample Questions For Your High-Level Values Definition Session: Level II: The Last 20%: Refining Findings From Level I

  • Are these values we are willing to hire on?
  • Are these values we are willing to fire on?
  • Are these values we can apply to:
    • Customer relations?
    • Internal development?
    • Product / service development?
    • Other?
  • What do these final values mean?
    • How will they guide behavior?
    • Why are they important?
    • Can we measure them?
    • What will they cost us? For Example: Customer Service costs an organization – but it also drives Customer Satisfaction, Customer Loyalty and Employee Loyalty (all four can be measured).
    • How will values be used develop your corporate culture?

Conclusion

Corporate values require thoughtful identification of the what the organization is and what it wants to be.

Organizational culture is as powerful and as fragile as a living personality – made up of the energy, actions, decisions and behaviours of all employees – and often customers and suppliers.

Happy communicating, mentoring and working with people from all generations.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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