The Self-Awareness Guy
Team Building: Expectations and Workplace Relationships

Team Building: Expectations and Workplace Relationships

The leaders and employees I train frequently talk to me about not feeling like they connect with certain people in the workplace.  It’s almost as if they expect the other person to behave a certain way or read their mind.  This is a very common experience in workplace relationships: One person expects a certain kind of interaction while the other seems oblivious.  This dynamic leads to a lot of frustrated people and poorly functioning teams.

The difficulty arises when people hold on to their expectations even when they see repeated evidence that they will never get what  they want.  They hang on to their hopes for a long time waiting for something to magically change.  Expectations can easily become an obstacle to building positive workplace relationships because they expect things to go a certain way rather than working with what’s in front of them.

No amount of hope can change the course of your work relationships and you can’t wish your way out of a negative situation.  The only way you can introduce positive energy into your relationships is by taking action and doing things that change the patterns you’ve established.

Changing the way you do things is the only way to affect your situation.  No amount of hope or expectations can take the place of applying effective behaviors such as excellent communication, team building or problem solving skills.  The great news is that you can do things to change the course of your work relationships, it just takes some courage and taking action to move in a different direction.



It’s OK to Say No

It’s OK to Say No

An important part of self-awareness is allowing yourself not to do everything that people ask you to do. A lot of well-meaning individuals expend a great deal of energy doing things for others rather than remaining focused on their own goals. You get to decide whether you live your own life or someone else's. Saying no doesn't mean being rude, it's just letting people know what your limits and boundaries are.



Empathy and Diversity

Empathy and Diversity

One of the key skills that people building diversity programs can benefit from is empathy. This often-used but seldom-understood term is the underpinning of much of the practice of inclusion. It consists of a basic question, "What am I doing today to ensure that I fully understand how another person experiences the world?"

We have a limitless capability to understand others but it requires self-awareness and the ability to put our own experience of the world on the shelf, stand back and enjoy learning about other human beings. People run into challenges when they see diversity as a necessary evil and then proceed to ram their own ideas down each others' throats. Everyone stands around pontificating about how it should be but nobody stays still long enough to really get to know someone else.

Ask yourself the following questions next time you are building any kind of diversity initiative for your business, organization or in your life.

1. Do I fully understand what this person is thinking?

2. Have I removed myself completely from the equation?

3. How can I include the other person's beliefs/behaviors in my own life starting today?

4. What percentage of my time is spent listening to others?

5. What have I done today to boost inclusion and build diversity?

Diversity doesn't have to be a scary or foreboding concept. We can actually use it to become more open to ideas and can literally build a path toward innovation and greater collaboration. Those who practice these ideas benefit from moving beyond their own experience and harness the power of other people's experiences.


10 Things Bosses Do to Make Things More Difficult for Their Employees

10 Things Bosses Do to Make Things More Difficult for Their Employees

I've coached and trained many bosses over the years and I've frequently noticed that many of them do their best to lead well but don't truly understand the impact of their actions or how they might adjust their leadership approach to get better results. A large percentage lead in a way that reflects what they experienced in their families or picked up along the way from other reactive bosses. Here are ten things bosses do, mostly unconsciously, to make things more difficult for their employees.

1. Lack of Consistency

These bosses say one thing and do another, change the rules midstream and treat some employees differently from others. This creates a work atmosphere where employees don't know what to expect and are sometimes required to change their approaches midstream even when everything is going well.

2. Limited Self-Awareness

This type of boss talks a lot about how insightful and in touch with his leadership style she is but it's not reflected in what she does in the workplace. What you'll often observe is someone who routinely destroys things in her path but doesn't seem to have a clue that she's causing the chaos.

3. Losing Their Temper Unpredictably

They get angry at people or exasperated easily; sometimes over trivial or arbitrary events. This makes everyone's job more difficult because they have to avoid the boss' wrath instead of communicating and participating openly in the workplace.

4. Don't Explain Things Clearly

These bosses lack the ability to explain processes and procedures, which is really just a basic lack of understanding of how to communicate effectively. They expect everyone to understand their garbled communication style and get upset when employees don't. They rarely ask their employees if they're explaining clearly or if they understand.

5. Don't Apply the Same Rules to Themselves

They enforce different rules for different people. For example, they ask people to get to work on time but don't do it themselves. When bosses have more leeway or don't follow the same stringent standards that "regular" employees do, it sends an unambiguous message that some employees are more important than others.

6. Micromanage and Don't Delegate Effectively

This boss doesn't trust her employees to do their own work unattended. She feels she has to supervise every part of the operation even when it makes things run less smoothly. This person also has difficulty letting other people work independently because she doesn't want to let go of the power and control.

7. Don't Encourage Employees to Use Their Talents

These bosses are so wrapped up in their own needs and reacting to every event in the workplace that they fail to recognize that their employees have valuable talents that could make their workplace run even better. Instead, they label their employees and tell them to stick to their job descriptions.

8. Lack of Organization

These bosses are simply overwhelmed by their job and are hanging on for dear life. They make things more difficult for everyone by not prioritizing tasks, creating timelines and setting clear expectations. This leads to them constantly being in crisis mode trying to fix something they've overlooked.

9. Look for Ways to Trip People Up

These bosses don't celebrate the things their employees are doing well; they obsess on what's going wrong. They'll even go as far as setting people up for failure by asking them to do things that are outside their area of expertise or where they lack training and then say, "I told you so," or "It's not as easy as it looks."

10. Expect Employees to Prove Themselves

This type of boss believes that employees are constantly trying to take advantage of her and the organization and requires them to constantly prove their worth. She'll often double-check the work employees do "just to make sure" it's done correctly. She'll also say things like, "You're suspect until proven otherwise," or "Trust is earned."

Take a moment to think about whether you do any of these things and how your actions might affect the functioning of your workplace. If you recognize yourself in any of these examples you might find it helpful to try new ways of doing things to achieve better results. The goal isn't to make things more difficult but rather to make things easier for everyone in your workplace. What will you do to help your employees succeed?


20 Ways to Tell Your Organization Doesn’t Value People

20 Ways to Tell Your Organization Doesn’t Value People

Proactive leaders "get it" about treating their employees well but I run across many others who don't share that perspective.  Many leaders and organizations tend to focus on the bottom line at the exclusion of everything else.  This leaves their employees struggling to keep up with ever-increasing demands to do more work in less time and at a higher level.  This has the predictable result of burning people out and creating unhappy workplaces.

I've found that organizations can be highly productive and support their employees but that approach isn't even on the radar in many workplaces.
Leaders and organizations demonstrate how much they value their people by the actions they take.  Here are 20 signs you might be valuing other things instead of your employees.

  1. You have high employee turnover.
  2. You give out commands but don't ask for feedback.
  3. HR is just a way to avoid lawsuits.
  4. People get shown the door quickly if they don't like company policies or go against the status quo.
  5. There is low morale and motivation and people seem unhappy.
  6. Productivity is low even though you've tried many things to increase it.
  7. Your employees shrug or look perplexed when you say, "Employees come first in this company."
  8. Your workplace is consistently more stressful than it has to be and it's affecting people's performance.
  9. Leadership doesn't listen to employees.
  10. Leadership makes unilateral decisions without seeking input from employees at every level.
  11. Information is hoarded at the top.
  12. There's little two-way communication between leadership and employees.
  13. Employees are viewed as expendable, as in, "There's more where she came from," or, "If you don't like it, I've got a hundred other people who could fill this job."
  14. You offer very few opportunities for advancement.
  15. Limited or non-existent training and educational opportunities.
  16. You say things like, "At least he's got a job," or "I'm providing jobs for people," to justify a less than wonderful work environment.
  17. Touchy-feely is a bad word in your organization.
  18. Diversity is a scary and contentious concept in your workplace.
  19. You notice chronic ongoing conflict between employees.
  20. Lack of benefits for employees.

These types of behaviors happen all the time in innumerable workplaces.  The remarkable thing is that many leaders seem to think that it's the only way to run an organization.  Thankfully, we now know that we can create thriving and highly productive organizations while treating our employees well the moment leaders choose to do so.  What do you do to make sure your employees feel valued?