Posts Tagged ‘CONOPS’

Leader driven Harmony #42: Working in the Big City

by Mack McKinney on October 29, 2011

It seemed like a small thing but once I finished it, I realized that it was actually a really big deal!  A friend recently left her job in New York City (NYC) and moved to a much smaller city in the southern US.  Today at lunch I saw her file in my Outlook Contacts and when I opened it, noticed that her NYC work address was still there.  As I deleted that address, one character at a time on my Blackberry, I got the most delightful feeling of relief when the last number of the NYC zip code disappeared into the ether!  It was as if I closed a chapter of her life.

I recalled the stress that the City levies on her residents, the constant fear of violent street crime, the challenge of grocery shopping without a car, just the general uneasiness my friend seemed to have whenever I visited her there or we talked on the phone.  She and I watched a drug deal go down across the street from her apartment one summer night.  And the cost of living in Brooklyn was surprisingly high – – -it took almost everything she made to buy the $5 boxes of cereal and the $3 quarts of milk.  And she was always sick.  Sinus infections, a bout of MRSA in a knee that she nicked shaving, a chest cold that wouldn’t go away: There was always something going on with her health.  A physician’s assistant friend told her “Yep, you’ll STAY sick for your first year in NYC because of all the germs that exists there and nowhere else, and the constant influx of immigrants from all over the world – – – nobody has immunity when they first arrive and it takes at least a year to build up a resistance to the bugs”.  We will never know if that would have been true in my friend’s case because she left at the one-year point.

She said the idea of renewing her apartment lease and living another year there was not at all appealing.  She enjoyed the work there as a TV producer and she really liked the company she worked with.  And she liked most of the social life and she loved the restaurants.  But she said the final straw for her was being so tightly packed in a subway car one morning that, with every breath, she inhaled into her mouth the stranger’s hair in front of her.  And she was too tightly sardined to move.  Turning her head helped a little but she apparently made a decision to change jobs (and cities) that morning.  I don’t blame her at all.  I wouldn’t have lasted a month there.  Maybe not a week.

So here’s the deal:

  1. Have some respect for people who endure the City.  They put up with a lot.  And if you need them in your business, as a supplier to you for example, or a customer, be thankful they put up with life there.  It isn’t easy.
  2. Try it yourself sometime.  If your industry/career values time spent in a major metro area, consider NYC for a 6-18 month stint.  You might even like it.  And lastly, well, I don’t have a third point – – –  I’m just VERY glad my friend is out of there and in a friendlier, slower-paced city in America’s southland.

No place is perfect, there is some crime everywhere and she may have issues what some facets of life in Charlotte in the years ahead but the big cities come with their own challenges, which sometimes, get the best of even the bravest and the most enduring!

In Summary: When you conduct business with what seems to be someone who is a little irate, or cold or unapproachable… be patient; you never know what they have endured just to get to that meeting or to make to that conference call…

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Leader driven Harmony #41: Read a Book, ANY Book!

by Mack McKinney on October 14, 2011

Have you Gen-Yers noticed how seldom any of your friends mention a great book they have read?  Not an online article or a short news article but a real, honest-to-goodness BOOK?  Not very often, huh.

I know.  Why bother?  You can learn everything you need to know about most any subject with just a quick search on Google or Wikipedia, right?

Wrong.  An insidious, sneaky thing is happening to us.  We are losing the ability to read.  Book sales have plummeted in just the past 5 years.  This is more common among young people than middle-aged and older people.  And here is the danger – – – if you don’t read books at all, very soon you’ll notice that you NEVER read books anymore and now here is the contentious question:  WHY is that?  Why do we stop reading books?  Several respected studies and books conclude that the reason is as follows:

  • When we read short articles, and get quick answers, two things happen – – – 1) our brain gets a shot of the feel-good chemical dopamine as a result of our completing the research task we assigned ourselves and 2) our attention span shrinks just a bit.
  • Soon we are more comfortable tackling short-duration tasks and so we do just that – – – every study task becomes a short-duration task as we force the problem-solving job to match our now-shrinking attention span.
  • We are almost never required to consult a book to solve a problem or learn a new skill since someone else usually has developed the Cliff Notes © version which spoon feeds us ONLY what we must know to gain a basic familiarity with any new subject, computer, phone, TV, etc.
  • Eventually, we no longer have the patience to tackle a thick book with its slower progress and less fulfilling (no dopamine) effect on our minds.  The lure of the quick fix has dominated our actions for so long that any process that requires deep, detailed, significant thought will be avoided in favor of a shorter, more intense-feeling approach. And since we lose what we don’t use, before we even know it has happened to us, we no longer CAN read a book on a complex subject that requires deep thinking, introspection and internal debate.

Multiple studies are showing that it is just becoming extremely hard for young professionals to force themselves to read a book, ANY book, even on subjects of great importance to their chosen professions.  Begrudgingly, they will read a book when assigned by their boss or as part of a course of study but not otherwise.

We get best at the things we do most frequently.  If we never read deeply, many of us lose the ability to think deeply especially over a long period of time, which is the very type of thought required to solve tough problems in life, to make decisions about courses of action (one career vs other candidates, where to live, etc.).  If we ONLY make decisions quickly, after little/no deliberation, several things can happen and most of them are bad:

  • We start to view ALL problems as being relatively simple, lending themselves to knee-jerk solutions.
  • We lose the ability to stay engaged in a course of study over a long period of time, without getting bored.  So we begin to avoid making decisions about any problem whose solution is not apparent after a few minutes of deliberation.  And such “vexing” problems fester and often worsen, leading to crises in our lives.
  • We don’t just enjoy the short-cycle of thinking and acting that shallow thinking brings us, we actually begin to need it.  Studies show that the same people who do not read books also text frequently and spend a lot of time online.  We’ll discuss this more in a later post but there is ample scientific evidence that Gen-Ys who seldom read books and who are constantly texting and tweeting and browsing Facebook and other social network sites are rewiring their brains in ways that we don’t yet really understand.  But the need for constant social stimulation appears to be a byproduct of the rewiring process.

So here is some advice for people whose brains are in development, people between the ages of 12 and 24.  Read a book, any book!  Hang out at the library once a week for an hour or two.  Download  a book to your Kindle.  Take your Color Nook to Barnes and Nobles and read eBooks there for free!  No matter how you do it, just find subjects that interest you and read books on those things.  Then branch into related topics.  Go where the ideas take you and read, read, read.  Or before you know it, you won’t have either the patience or the ability to do so. Use it or lose it!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

You are a new college graduate and have just landed your first real job.  You’ll be moving to a large Metropolitan area and you’ll need to find a place to live in the new town.  Looking at the Apartment Finder booklets, the Sunday paper and Craig’s List you find there are thousands of apartments available, across a 100 square mile area!  You don’t know anyone there so you tell your colleagues at the new office you want to rent a two-bedroom apartment and ask their advice on location.  Here’s what they say:

Suzie says “Drive around and look for “apartment for rent” signs and find something within your budget.  Neighborhoods are all pretty much the same here.”

Jan says, “I live in River Estates and they have apartments for everyone’s budget.”

Bob says, “Any place is safe in the metro area if you just stay alert.  Pick a location like I did near the shopping mall.  It’s a longer drive but worth it”

How do you pick the right one?  Here’s a decision tool I’ve used many times when I changed jobs and moved ourselves or our family members:  Think Safety, Security, Proximity and Value, in that order.

  • Safety:  Avoid living in high crime areas even if it means you must drive further to work each day.  Go to www.CrimeReports.com  and check the crime statistics for the areas you are considering for apartments.
  • Security:  Only seriously consider apartment complexes (or apartments in houses) that are bright and well lit at night.  If you’ll have a car, look for off – street parking in a secure area.  (If without a car, look for easy, well-lit access to public transportation — wide, bright sidewalks for example)
  • Proximity:  If driving to work remember you’ll be doing that every workday so pick an area to live that has several routes available to and from work, preferably an interstate-sized highway and another major route.  This gives you options when an accident blocks a route.  And choose a location as close as possible to your work location (biking/walking distance would be ideal for many people).  If you are moving with another person[1], and they will be working at a different site, to be fair try to pick a living location that requires each of you to drive roughly the same time to and from your work.  And, of course, proximity to recreational areas, downtown restaurants and shopping areas will need to be factored into the decision.  Then drive these routes at rush hour and/or the times you’ll be commuting.  An open road at 3 PM can become a rolling parking lot at 5:30.
  • Value:  As the list of apartments being considered shrinks, you’ll think about value and amenities — What you’ll get for your money.  A list of pros and cons will help you make the decision:  number of bedrooms, baths, washer and dryer, fitness center, pool, proximity to work and other locations, monthly rent, length of lease, acceptance of pets, amenities fees, etc.

If several apartments are equally desirable, a tie breaker might be the direction (and the times) you’ll be driving to and from work.  If working 9-5 you’ll want to drive generally westward in the morning and eastward in the evening, so the rising/setting sun is always at your back and not in your squinting eyes!  All else being equal for nine-to-fivers, live east of where you’ll be working.  Traffic congestion is often aggravating enough without the added stress of a sun-glare-induced headache twice daily, not to mention the ever-present risk of traffic accidents due to poor visibility (ask Los Angeles – dwellers about this)!

Who knew there was a preferred process for picking your new place?!?


[1] Agreeing on priorities for each of the four factors—and then adding a weight (importance, twice as important, three times as important), before looking at the first apartment or neighborhood, can prevent debates and arguments.

Leader driven Harmony #38: ACE Your Life

by Mack McKinney on August 19, 2011

ACE stands for Always Control Expectations and we teach it in all our classes.  It means no surprises for your colleagues, friends and family:  If you say you’ll do something, then be certain that you make it happen.  Senior people sometimes use the old saying “Mean what you say and say what you mean”.  Lots of wisdom there.

In buying or selling services or products, treat people like you would like to be treated (the old Golden Rule).  And be sure you understand your organization’s internal processes so you can over deliver (and under-promise).  If you promise a signature or a delivery in one week, do it in 3 days.

In negotiations, don’t strive to win at all costs.  Build the relationship first and subsequent business will go much smoother.  Securing a tough, one-sided deal that costs the other party most of its profit is guaranteed to cause ill feelings and will get the relationship off to a rocky start. It might get you that deal, but won’t get you another from the same customer.

Worldwide, I have found that people do business with people they like, all else being equal.  Or maybe not  even equal . . . heck, I’ll pay a little more for insurance if Eddie Fields at State Farm sells it, because I trust him.  I’ll pay a little more for construction work if Ronnie Cooper does it, because he is fair and detail- oriented.  I’ll pay more for sushi at Sakura’s in Moyock, NC because it is fresh, the staff is super friendly and Wing and Wing Ha are great chefs.

In the end it isn’t about the money.  It’s about the friendships, the trust, and the people whose paths you can make just a little smoother as we all take this trip through life together.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Leader driven Harmony #37: Eating, Drinking & Business

by Mack McKinney on August 12, 2011

What should you eat at a business meal or social gathering?  Do cultural sensitivities really matter these days?  Here are some basic, common-sense rules for business dining etiquette:

  • Don’t eat sushi around squeamish people whose faces turn fainting-white when you mention that raw fish is on the menu.  Those people are as rare as the fish, thank goodness (I love sushi and sashimi).  Just be sensitive and watch their facial expressions when the menu is discussed.
  • Don’t eat pork when dining with Jews or Moslems (or with both – – – yes, it has happened to me).  Just the idea of pigs can make some people nauseous.

Should you drink alcohol at business functions?  Some business gurus say drinking is OK and then others advise total alcohol abstinence!  My answer is . . .  yes, you can drink, but with a few caveats.  First let’s discuss the cultural issue.  In many cultures, business meals are occasions to get to know people.  Alcohol is viewed as the universal social lubricant.  And only after the other party gets to know you and likes you, will they have meaningful business discussions with you.

If you are dining with people from Western Europe, the Slavic countries of Eastern Europe, the Scandinavian countries, Japan, Korea or China, bring a spare liver!  Drinking alcohol is likely to be an accepted part of the business experience and you’ll seem odd if you don’t partake at least a little.  Sorry but I don’t make the rules of international business.

With other groups of people, in the US for example, you have more options.  Here are some basic guidelines:

  • If everyone else is drinking and if you would like a drink, then have one.  But limit it to one or two drinks throughout the activity.
  • If you don’t drink, say so and don’t drink!  You don’t owe anyone a detailed explanation but if you feel obligated to explain, say you are slightly allergic to alcohol and it upsets your stomach.  That should settle it.
  • But if you are hosting a guest at a business dinner (prospective employee, client, possible teammate, etc.), you should order a glass of wine.  Period.  Do this either when initially seated or with the meal but do it.  Do this whether you drink alcohol or not.  You do this to clearly indicate to your guest(s) that their having a drink is fine with you.  Words won’t communicate that point nearly as well as your $7 glass of red wine.  And if there is a toast, you have something to toast with (you can put it up to your lips and then set it down).  If you don’t drink, let it sit and get tossed after the meal.  If asked why you didn’t drink it, say that you didn’t like the taste (they won’t know if you tried it or not).

One more rule here:  If you are a US defense contractor, you’ll need to deduct the cost of the alcohol from the total receipt, showing it separately.  It is not an allowable expense in most cases.  Your company may or may not reimburse you for your drink.  And they can only deduct half the value of the business meal anyway in most cases (thank you IRS).

Who should pay for the meal?

  • If the meal is with teammates (other firms) and they will have the chance to reciprocate rotationally at their facilities, then the host organization should pay.  This should be by prior arrangement among the principles.
  • You, personally, should pay if . . .
    • You invited the others to dinner and no Dutch Treat (each person/team pays) arrangement was discussed.
    • You are trying to win the business of the guests and they are not government employees.  Most US Federal and State government employees are prohibited from accepting meals or gifts of any kind.
    • You are trying to win the business of the guests, they are from other firms, and those firms do not prohibit their employees from accepting gifts (including meals) from potential suppliers (like you).  Some firms’ ethics policies prohibit their employees from accepting meals or “anything of value”.  Other firms prohibit anything above a dollar limit, $25.00 for example.  And some firms have no policy at all on this subject.
    • Split the check if your firms are of comparable size, you will benefit equally from any subsequent business, you are not on an expense account and are expected to be frugal with the company’s travel budget, the other side sincerely offers to help pay, and there is no expectation of future meals out like that one (no expectation of reciprocation “the next time”).

In short, use your common sense regarding eating and drinking at business functions.  And if you drink, limit yourself to one or two drinks.  When in doubt as to the appropriate behavior, ask the financial or legal people in your organization.  And I’d ask them either before or after a trip: Calling their cell phone, from the restaurant, late at night, might get you an answer you DON’T want!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

You know the old saying “If there is only one lawyer in a town, he’ll be poor.  But if there are two lawyers in a town, they’ll both be rich!” The insinuation is, of course, that they will convince the people in the town to sue each other.  I’m sure you know a dozen other lawyer jokes.

People say they hate working with lawyers – – – they are expensive, they speak a language few others understand, they are deal-breakers not deal-makers, and . . . did I mention that they are expensive?  But if you are in business, lawyers can be a necessary and valuable part of your team.  And even the most rabid anti-lawyer person changes his tune completely and rapidly when he has a legal issue: He cannot seek out a good lawyer fast enough!

In a company, lawyers will be involved in bidding large jobs, to make sure the proposal team doesn’t inadvertently commit the enterprise (company, service, agency, etc.)  to do something inappropriate or impossible.  They will also be involved in mergers and acquisitions, employment agreements, patent applications, teaming agreements, employee terminations and other such stuff.  But let’s say you are a low level employee in a company, doing your job and staying out of trouble.  When should you, personally, seek the advice of an attorney inside your company?  Anytime one of these events occurs:

  • You are asked by ANYONE (even your boss) to do something you know would be illegal.
  • You learn that a government person, either in the USA or abroad, might be paid to steer a procurement award toward your company.  (This is Foreign Corrupt Practices Act issue and people can go to jail.)
  • You hear a client say anything even hinting at legal action against your organization, even if just a hypothetical discussion.
  • You find something wrong (missing, broken, not installed correctly, etc.) on a deliverable and your supervisor won’t listen.  Before that gear gets shipped to a client, talk to your boss and then to his boss, etc. until you get that equipment fixed.  And if nobody will listen to you, talk to a company attorney.
  • You see someone being discriminated against because of their race, color, religion, sex, etc. and the reporting chain won’t stop it.
  • You see an unsafe condition on the job, where coworkers or customers could be hurt, and nobody in the immediate management chain seems concerned.

There are more examples but certainly in any of the above cases, a company lawyer who must defend the company if sued for improper action, or not taking a required action (known as errors of omission or commission), will be VERY interested in what you have to say.  They will want to head-off any impending legal disaster and will go right to the top of the company if needed.  Yes, you may have some explaining to do with your management chain if you bypassed some of them as you sought out the lawyer but in a decent company, you’ll be rewarded , not disciplined, if you acted in good faith and with the company’s reputation foremost in mind.

Here are some basic do’s and don’ts regarding working with corporate lawyers:

  1. Involve them earlier rather than later.  They can sometimes easily fix a problem if told about it early enough.  If you wait too long, problems can cascade, their hands may be tied and very bad things can occur (lost jobs, lawsuits, criminal penalties, etc.)
  2. Come completely clean.  Tell them everything about the incident/problem/issue and leave nothing out.  They cannot help you if you lie to them.
  3. Get to know them when you aren’t having a crisis. Invite them to proposal-completion parties; ask their advice on almost-routine things just so you can learn how they think; invite them out with customers so they get to know the clients.
  4. Don’t “shave” the rules.  If something you are considering would get you in trouble with the legal staff, do not do it.

In short, treat lawyers like you would want to be treated.  The old Golden Rule applies to the legal beagles too.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

In our last post we dealt with situations where we didn’t want to intervene because we questioned the impact on our personal safety of doing so. Now we will look at some situations where intervening and trying to get a person to change their behavior would be safe, but might not be the wisest choice.  We must always ask ourselves if a person’s aggravating behavior really justifies our getting personally involved in a possibly confrontational situation?   Like everyone else, you have a threshold of tolerance for bad behavior by others.  Can you just ignore the behavior this time?  Can you perhaps even use the situation to your advantage later?

Example #1:  You casually mention to a new hire an idea you have regarding cost savings.  You then learn that the new employee took that idea to your mutual boss and presented it as her own.   The boss loves the idea and publicly thanks the new employee for the great idea at the next all-hands meeting.  Assuming it would be safe to confront your colleague about the unethical behavior, should you?  Does the action rise to the threshold for you to confront the person?  Probably not.  Unless it was a HUGE cost savings for the company, you will only appear petty and selfish.  Instead, I would work into the next private conversation with that person, somewhat jokingly, that I am happy to provide additional career – enhancing ideas for her and then watch her reaction.  If she has any ethics at all she will apologize and then she’ll tell the boss that the idea was mine.  And then she owes me a major favor.  THAT debt is worth something in the big scheme of company life!

Example #2:  You are entertaining business clients. A group of 8 people seated near you at a restaurant are noisy and keeping you and your clients from enjoying a quiet evening.  They are often laughing loudly and seem oblivious to the tables of people near them.  Do you:

  • Confront the people and ask them to quiet down because, after all, you deserve a nice dining experience with your business clients?
  • Complain to the restaurant manager and ask him/her to talk to those people?
  • Begin hinting loudly to your clients and colleagues that “some people should consider the effect of their behavior on others nearby”, hoping they get the hint but secretly daring those hooligans to say anything in response.

My first choice is none of the above.  Ask to be reseated elsewhere, someplace away from that group of happy revelers.  They are obviously enjoying themselves (birthday, anniversary party, etc.) and we strongly support low-stress, happy occasions with friends and family.  Either let it go, join them, or move to a different table.   Your business clients will be impressed at your patience, tolerance and flexibility.

Example #3:  You are driving to work, in the right lane of a 4-lane highway and another driver slices into your lane in front of you, a little closer than you are comfortable with.  You didn’t need to hit your brakes but it aggravated you and you honked your horn.  A mile up the road, you and that driver are side-by-side at a traffic light and his window is down.  You want to say to him “Wow, such a nice car and it doesn’t even include turn signals in the basic package”.  You could do that.  But, it is likely to cause the other driver (especially if it is a guy and he is not alone) to confront you.  And once that happens, he will be defensive and your chance of changing his behavior drops to zero.  So don’t even bother.

My response?

  • If the other driver was trying to get over to an exit off the roadway and just didn’t take the time to signal his lane change, and he didn’t really endanger me, I will let it go.  In fact, he may begin a conversation at the traffic light with “hey man, sorry I cut you off back there.  I was about to miss my exit here.”  I have had that happen several times on the road.  And if he had waved to me to acknowledge me or thank me for not hitting his car, then I have no real issue with him at all.
  • On the other hand, if he was just being a jerk and couldn’t care less about me, then my disapproval will fall on deaf ears.  But I want him to know that I saw his stupid behavior and I choose to let it pass.  So at the light, I will look right at him until his eyes meet mine.  Then I’ll smile and look back to the front and shake my head side-to-side in the universal international expression of disbelief.  I make your point, he knows his silliness didn’t go unnoticed, and no words are needed. [Note: In Germany adding an index finger tapping your temple says “you are an idiot” and can cause a fight.]

So let’s assume we have decided we are going to confront someone about their behavior.  We have decided that it is safe, it is worth our involvement and we believe we can (and should) get the person to change.   In the next post we’ll look at some time-tested techniques for getting other people’s attention, building rapport with them and getting them to actually change their behavior so they cause less stress for you!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

In our last post we looked at two scenarios where, even though other people were causing us stress, we did not ask them to stop because we could not do so safely.  Here is the last scenario before we move on to subject of “is it worth your time to intervene”?  What would you do here?

Scenario:

A lay-off recently occurred at your company and a week later one of the terminated people comes to the receptionist’s area at the office.   You come back from lunch and walk into the situation.  He is obviously distraught and is yelling about the unfairness of the lay-off he mentions that he now has no reason to live.  You know the guy, he seems harmless enough and you just want to end the disruption his ranting is having on the employees.  He has two young children and you just want to take him next door for a coffee and give him a chance to vent awhile.  Should you ask him to stop disrupting the office and offer a shoulder to lean on?

Answer:  Absolutely not.  Doing so would be unsafe for you and your coworkers.  When he 1)  showed back up at the office and 2) mentioned “no reason to go on living”, he crossed a line.  Anyone who seems unstable, no matter how small or harmless looking, must be considered dangerous even if you know them personally.  Crime stats are filled with disgruntled former employees who return to the company and attack former bosses and coworkers.  Quietly lock the door to the work area, have somebody call the police immediately and encourage your people to leave the area where the guy is screaming.

Something like this actually happened to me twice as a manager at a major corporation back in the 1990s.  The first time was when we terminated a PhD in electrical engineering in my organization.  He was odd, lazy and didn’t get along with our other technical staffers so at the end of his 6 month probationary period, we let him go.  He then called a company manager at home, very drunk, and mentioned that he was thinking of returning to the office with a machine gun and killing everyone there.  He asked to meet the manager and talk about his grievances.  The manager correctly declined the meeting and immediately called our security who called the local cops.  The police went to his apartment and had a chat with him and then his photo and a description of his vehicle were posted at every gate to our facility.  Nothing further came of it and we didn’t press charges.

The second time was during a contract in the Arabian Gulf during the build-up to Desert Storm (aka Gulf War 1).  I was leading a team of 105 Americans working on ships and one of them began acting strangely.  He provided (unarmed) pier security on the night shift (6 PM to 6 AM) to prevent pilferage and he complained to coworkers that when he returned to his hotel room each morning, his belongings had been moved around.  He said that the CIA was routinely searching his room!  Nobody else took him seriously but when he started leaving razor knives on storage crates every 50 feet down the pier “in case somebody jumps me” his behavior started to stress the other workers.

These same coworkers warned me that they considered him mentally unbalanced so I asked him to join me for a friendly, private walk-and-chat.  He told me that, beyond any doubt, the CIA was “after him”.  I told him that, were I him, I would take that as a serious threat and I added that maybe the CIA had him confused him with some other person.  He obviously had not thought of that and while he was pondering the ramifications I told him I thought the best thing we could do was to get him out of the Arab Gulf immediately.  He agreed and was on the flight to Amsterdam the next evening, and then home to California’s Long Beach Shipyard.  In this case, I was forced to intervene with an unstable person because I was responsible for the job getting done and the person’s behavior was stressing the rest of the team.  But always do this gently, with kid gloves. Do not be confrontational.

OK, assuming a person’s behavior is causing you stress and you have decided you can intervene without risking your personal safety.  But should you?  In the next post we will learn some proven techniques for determining what type of stressor we are dealing with and how to then get them to stop stressing us out!

In the last post we identified five common types of stressful behaviors:  Day Dreaming, Comparing, Time Traveling, Gut Reacting and Grade Schooling.  Before we get into details about how we will change these people’s aggravating behaviors, we want to encourage you to first use some common sense about deciding if you should undertake the task at all.  You are not the behavior police and some people deserve a WIDE berth.  You should only intervene when you are not risking your personal safety and the person’s behavior is so aggravating that you cannot just let it pass and when you think by confronting the person you might actually have some reasonable chance of getting them to change their behavior.

So in every case, for any type of stress-causing behavior other people exhibit, the three questions you must ask yourself (in this order) before you intervene are

  1. Is it safe to confront this person about their behavior?
  2. Is it worth my effort to confront this person? and
  3. Do I have any real chance of changing their behavior?”

The answer to all three should be “YES” before you intervene.  So let’s look at a few scenarios and see if they get past the first of our three criteria for intervention – – – our personal safety.

Scenario #1

On your way to work in Los Angeles, a car full of men in their early 20s, with shaved heads and their bodies covered in tattoos, stops beside you at a traffic light with their music blaring.  The music is deafening and they appear not to even notice the discomfort it is causing in people nearby.  Do you get involved?

Answer: Are you serious?  Just asking them to turn it down could get you shot.  And you have ZERO chance of changing their future behavior.  So control your testosterone boys (women are smart enough to not even CONSIDER intervening here), keep your eyes forward and drive on.  That was an easy example.  Now for one that is not-so-easy.

Scenario #2

You and your office colleagues are standing in line to order at a fast food restaurant.  A guy near you is acting odd— standing too close to you, fidgeting a lot, looking around nervously and mumbling to himself.  He seems to be in a hurry to get his food but his behavior is annoying.  Do you ask him in a stern voice to step back a bit?

Answer:  No.  This guy is possibly mentally unstable or on drugs or both.  Very odd people should trigger a “flee” response in you. I would just walk out of the restaurant, to my car, and wait for him to leave.  Do not confront someone who may be on drugs and/or mentally on a different planet.  Asking him to “give me a little room, please” might trigger a bizarre response.  Don’t become a statistic.

In our next post we will see an all-too-common scenario, the corporate lay-off, and a disgruntled coworker whose behavior  stresses his colleagues.  Would you ask him to stop?  You may be surprised at the correct answer.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

In the last post we talked about the special needs of new Gen Y workers.  Now we will look at how every new employee, Gen Y included, is judged in their new organization.  Then we will see what savvy teams are doing to help newly hired Gen Ys hit the ground running.

Upon arrival at a new job, every new employee is judged (I know, we shouldn’t “judge” people, but we do).  They will be scrutinized by established members of the organization in three areas:

  1. Why are they even here? They require salary and benefits.  What do they bring and contribute to the operation (education, technical skills, certifications, clients, special abilities)?
  2. Will we be able to rely upon them?  What kind of person they are (how is their head wired, what are their values, integrity, reliability)?
  3. Are they going to cause problems with our other people?  How good are their people-skills (how well will they work with others)?

Knowing that every organization’s current employees will be judging new people in at least those three areas, the organization should be proactive.  For each area where the new person will be judged the organization should bias the system in favor of success for them.  Give them the strongest possible start in each area. Let’s look at these one at a time:

The Gen Y’s work contribution

Find ways to put new hires to work, in their chosen field, the first week. But only do so with help from a mentor, just a few years senior if possible, who is already adapting nicely in the organization.  Before any formal training begins, have the mentor show the protégé the facilities, introduce peers, demonstrate his (the mentor’s) job, in short – launch the socialization process.  This mentor’s own, specific job in the organization is less important than having good people skills and good work ethics.  You are trying to set a good example.  And remember that new people view the organization in ways established employees no longer can.  So listen for suggestions from new hires, even fresh from school GenYs, as to how the organization can improve.  When a great idea emerges, adopt it and publicize it. (In fact, documenting and showing the disposition of EVERY suggestion in an organization is a wonderful way to demonstrate that every suggestion is important; also noting why it was implemented, deferred or rejected can be a great morale booster.)

The Person

Assume the new Gen Y is a reliable, reasonable person of integrity and reinforce that with organization-specific ethics training immediately.  Studies have shown that a person’s failure to perform can almost always be attributed to either poor training or poor motivation:  they either (1) don’t know exactly what is expected of them, so they don’t do it or (2) they know what is expected but are not sufficiently motivated to do it.  So tell them what you want in the initial in-briefings about ethics, integrity, reliability and honesty.  Then show them people in the organization living those values and being rewarded for them.  People usually rise to the benchmark their peers and bosses set for them.

You won’t know an employee’s deepest values until they are tested in some way but you can often shape a Gen Y’s still-impressionable sense of right and wrong.  You do this with a clear position written in simple English (not by lawyers) for every behavior the organization will (and won’t) tolerate.  These points can be part of an initial briefing or provided by a mentor or boss and they must be reinforced constantly by management.  Some examples could include:

  1. Expense accounts – don’t pad them. Keep thorough records and spend the organizations dollars as carefully as if it is your family’s money.
  2. Speak plainly – say what you mean and mean what you say. (* with one exception, discussed later).  Don’t use big puffy words, don’t “spin” your positions and don’t exaggerate.  Don’t understate things either. Be factual and be evidence-based.  Steer away from drama of all kinds here.
  3. You are unknown here.  From the very start, build a reputation as a hard worker who pitches in to contribute, without complaint, who speaks plainly and honestly, who shows up early and stays late.  Succeeding here can be thought of as a marathon with occasional sprints.  You must be able to do both.
  4. When you need help, ask for it.  We are a team here.

Well, you get the idea  . . . . This sharing of values and standards, repeated and demonstrated over time, is how individuals are brought into a team with shared goals, interdependencies and mutual rewards.

The organization and the new hire must agree to “meet halfway” in the process of individuals joining the team.  In our next post we will see what savvy companies are doing to help new Gen Ys improve the people skills they will need to succeed and we will look at the number one thing a newly hired Gen Y can focus on to quickly be accepted in a new job.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation