This is a guest post by Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama.
Uncertain times always invite a little more drama, particularly in the workplace. One reason is because the brain craves certainty. When you feel uncertain, the amygdala, an almond shaped structure in the brain shoots out chemicals through your blood stream that make you experience feelings of fear, doubt and anxiety.
Fortunately leaders can use this information to create a sense of stability in an unstable world, which increases and eliminates much of the unnecessary drama plaguing so many workplaces today. Here are seven ways leaders can increase trust and reduce workplace drama by creating a stable environment and seven questions to help you get to the root of the problem.
Just because you are unclear does not mean you have drama, but I can guarantee where ever there is drama there is a lack of clarity in some area. The lack of clarity could be in your policies, mission statement, job descriptions or even the methods of communication.
When there seems to be negativity or any other form of drama, ask the question, “Where might there be a lack of clarity?”
Often a leader can add to the confusion unintentionally because of personality and wiring. In my book, Stop Workplace Drama I talk about the creative genius boss and the idealist, two traits often found in high driving entrepreneurial types. The creative genius drives employees crazy with “flavor of the month” ideas and emergency deadlines only to change course at a whim.
The idealist contributes to lack of consistency by starting out strong then losing momentum when the new wears off, or when realism sets in and resources are scarce.
When you see the morale dipping or you sense a lack of engagement, ask the question, “How might my behaviors be perceived as inconsistent?”
Shorten the Gap
Most of us know from experience that plans that look good on paper don’t always work in the real world. One way to keep clarity and consistency is to shorten the gap. In other words, chunk down the goals into very small measurable parts. The idea here is to give the vision and the overview, but explain that plans may change as new information emerges. Then at the designated stopping places, celebrate the successes and then explain the next few projects and pieces and how the changes will contribute to the stated goals.
When you get ready to make a change, always provide a pilot period for the change rather than announce the change is here to stay.
When you see negativity, frustration or overwhelm, ask the question, “Where do I need to shorten the gap so it seems easy?”
Keep your Word
When you are in the midst of change, regular communication, scheduled communication and documented promises are a must. Even a simple, “I’ll get back with you” can create a sense of uncertainty and inconsistency if you don’t do what you say you are going to do. When you say, “I will let you know” or “I’ll get back to you on that,” schedule a time in your blackberry or calendar and make sure you follow through. Make your word golden and you will build loyalty and trust in your organization.
When you stop getting ideas, curiosity and questions, ask yourself the question, “Where do I need to follow up or tie up loose ends?”
Every time I have interviewed employees on what makes a good boss, listening is always the first response, and respect is the second. Rather than always being the one with the answers, learn how to ask a good question. When you really listen, you increase engagement, which is always a sign of trust. The good thing about listening is remembering that you don’t have to have all the answers. When you start to feel overwhelmed, stuck or confused, ask yourself, “What could I learn from my employees if I was willing to listen?”
Before I became a professional speaker and trainer I had some bad habits unbeknownst to me. I would either roll my eyes, or use sarcasm as a way to keep people at a distance when I did not agree or when I felt misunderstood. I was not aware of these habits until someone pointed it out to me. Eye-rolling, interrupting, or using innuendo and sarcasm may keep people in their place, but these habits will also build a barrier instead of a bridge. In addition, you will be viewed as a persecutor instead of as a leader.
If you perceive distance from your peers or your employees, ask yourself, “What habits do I have that could communicate disrespect?”
Master Your Self
William Penn said, “No man is fit to command another who cannot command himself.” As a leader, the worst thing you can do is to let your emotions rule you. No matter what the reason, flying off the handle, cursing, yelling or throwing fits does not benefit your corporate goals or inspire your team. No one wants to work for a bully or a hot head.
Excuses such as “that’s just the way I am,” or “You would feel the same way” indicates a lack of discipline and emotional maturity.
If you feel the pressures piling up and you have difficulty mastering yourself, ask yourself these questions: “Is my behavior and thoughts adding value,” and “How can I get my needs met so I can represent myself appropriately?”
Tumultuous times offer great opportunities to increase your leadership skills. Rather than focusing on the outside circumstances, now is the time to become a creator and lead from within by creating stability even in difficult times.
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