Tips and Techniques to Manage Difficult People

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How to Motivate Your Manager – 10 tips for success

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Let me ask you a simple question – does your manager motivate you? If you’re lucky then the answer will be yes. However, when I’m running a seminar for managers and team leaders on team motivation, the comment I hear most is – “How can I motivate my team when my manager doesn’t motivate me?” So the next question is – what are you going to do about it?

One of the best ways to motivate your team is to give them feedback on their performance. You tell them when they do things you do like and you tell them when they do things you don’t like.
It’s exactly the same with your manager. Now, I appreciate that we’re getting into scary territory here but you’re going to have to take some action. There’s no point in saying that your manager needs to change because that’s unlikely to happen unless you do something about it.

The rules for giving your manager feedback are almost the same as those for your team.

1. Do it ASAP – When your manager says or does something you do or don’t like you need to say something right away. If it’s something you do like, it’s not much use saying something weeks later – “Thanks for helping me with that difficult customer last week Dave.” Dave is going to have a bit of a problem remembering that situation and the effect of the feedback is totally wasted.
It also makes sense to tell Dave about something you don’t like as soon as possible.

2. Do it in private
– You really don’t want members of your team or your colleagues hearing what you say to your manager be it good or bad.

3. Check that it’s okay to speak – Make sure that you have your manager’s full attention. There’s no point in trying to make your point if they have something else on their mind or they’re working on their computer. It’s also good manners and shows respect.

4. Announce your intentions – If your manager is not used to receiving feedback from you, what do you think runs through their mind when you pull up a chair or ring them on the phone – they think it’s bad news, or your about to complain about something or you’ve done something wrong or there’s a problem.
It’s important therefore to tell them up front what you want to speak about.
You might say – “Linda, I’d just like to thank you for something you did today.” Or if it’s something you don’t like you might say – “Linda, I’d just like to talk about something you said today that I’m uncomfortable about.”

5. Tell them how YOU feel about their behaviour
– This is nothing to do with any one else. Don’t say things like – “The team don’t like the way you speak to us.”  Use lots of “I” messages; say things like – “I’m unhappy with the way you told me how to do that job today. It made me felt embarrassed in front of my team members. Would you be prepared to speak to me in private in future?”

6. Focus on one thing at a time – Don’t confuse your manager with a whole list of behaviours. If it’s things that you do like then you’re in danger of coming across as patronising. If it’s things that you don’t like, then it may come across as a whinge.

7. Be specific – When you’re giving your manager feedback it’s important to focus on job related behaviour and not on the personality of the individual.
If you feel a bit uncomfortable, try to focus on the manager’s behaviour in terms of how they said or did something. That’s what you’re giving feedback on, not them as a person.
It becomes easier if you’re using “I” messages and being very descriptive about what you’ve seen or heard. You could say something like – “I liked the way you showed me how to layout that report – thank you Jeff.”  Or – “Jeff, I’m concerned by the way you told me how to do that report. It’s important for me to get it right, would you be prepared to spend a bit more time explaining what you require?”

8. Include the customer and the organisation – Whenever appropriate; relate what your feedback is about to how the customer or the business could be affected. This of course could be an internal or an external customer.

9. Get input – When giving constructive feedback, it’s important to get the manager’s input. You might say – “I’m unhappy with the number of tasks you’ve asked me to do this week and I’m concerned that I may not be able to do them in the best interests of the business. However I’m willing to listen to what you have to say and discuss how we can make efficient use of my time.”

10. Don’t leave them low – This is particularly important after giving feedback on something you’re not happy about. This isn’t an attack on the manager; it’s about job related behaviour. Think about how you feel when one of your team speaks to you about something they’re unhappy about. It can leave you low and possibly stressed. Some years ago after a particularly “difficult” meeting with my sales team I was feeling a bit low. However, at the end of the meeting one of the team said – “Alan, we’re all going for a beer and we want you to join us. We have no hard feeling towards you and we like you as our manager.” You can bet that made me feel good.

There’s still a culture in some organisations that doesn’t allow the boss to be challenged. It’s a case of – “The boss tells me what to do and it’s my job to do as I’m told.” It’s also the case that some managers don’t want to say anything to their boss for fear of being perceived as negative or a whinger.
Be brave and give your boss some positive feedback. The occasional compliment or descriptive thank you will work wonders for your relationship. And if the boss is doing or saying something you don’t like, give him or her some constructive feedback using the rules above. If you follow these rules, then you’re much less likely to be seen as a whinger.

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Productive Managers Keep the Team Focussed on Outcomes

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It is very important to focus on outcomes as far as your team are concerned. Whatever tasks your manager is putting on you, don’t allow yourself to do the same to your team.

Sometimes your team members will be only too happy to do other little jobs and tasks that you ask them to do. I’ve had salespeople say – “Oh, I’ll deliver that to the customer, it’s on my way.” Customer service people will say – “I’ll go and talk to distribution or finance department about that.”

You have to keep asking yourself the question – “Is what they’re doing helping me to achieve my outcomes”? If the answer is “no” then don’t let them do it.

Make it clear to your team what the outcomes are, and don’t concern yourself too much about how they get there. Now that doesn’t mean that you encourage a salesman to get a sale at any cost, or a chef to use inferior ingredients. And you obviously don’t want a maintenance engineer cutting corners that could jeopardise safety. However it does mean using the thinking part of your brain and listening to your inbuilt programs.

Your people may not do a job the way you would do it but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong.

I’ve often listened to a salesperson speaking to a customer and found myself thinking “That’s not the way I’d do it.” The temptation then, is to jump into the conversation or speak to the salesperson afterwards. However I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut, because many times the salesperson closed the business, the customer was happy and it probably was better than I would do it.

The successful manager defines the outcomes to the team members and then lets each person find their way of getting there. That doesn’t mean you walk away nor have no idea what’s going on. If you are a Motivational Manager, then you’re constantly out there with your team, watching and listening and supporting what they’re doing.

Two characteristics of Motivational Managers are:
1.    They get the job done
2.    They do it in the easiest and least stressful way possible
I’m just reminding you of this because to try and control your team’s activities and get them to do things the way you want them done, is extremely stressful. It can also mean that you de-motivate the team and then it’ll be much harder to achieve your outcomes.

Let me know what you think!

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Motivational Managers Concentrate on Strengths not Weaknesses

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When was the last time you gave the members of your team, some feedback? Successful managers realise that it is vital to give team members feedback on their strengths and also on their weaknesses. However these will only be weaknesses that we know the individual can do something about. It’s a waste of your time and effort trying to sort weaknesses that can’t be sorted.

Some people just can’t build relationships with customers; others can’t work as fast as you need them to, and others can’t write a report to save their life.

Many managers spend the majority of their time with team members trying to resolve weaknesses. They then don’t have the time or sometimes the capability to give feedback on strengths. Your most productive time as a manager will be spent giving feedback on strengths and how to develop these even further.

One company where I worked as a Regional Sales Manager had very strict procedures on how a field salesperson should conduct themselves. They had to present the sale to a customer in a particular structured way. They had to dress in a certain way and do their paperwork in a certain way. Their car had to be clean and their product samples had to be laid out in the trunk of their car in the ‘company’ way.

My boss, the General Sales Manager, was a stickler for these rules and regulations. However, needless to say, certain sales people in my team didn’t always do their paperwork on time or have their car laid out in the required way. They did however bring in the sales and as their manager that was the outcome I needed from them. Therefore, I was extremely careful how I gave them feedback on their performance.

I knew that I’d be ultimately be judged by my manager on the sales performance of my team so I concentrated on reinforcing their skills in that area. I didn’t ignore untidy paperwork or samples that weren’t laid out properly but I definitely kept any comments to the absolute minimum. I’ve witnessed a salesman, in another team, handing a big order to his manager and then being reprimanded for having an untidy car trunk.

If that’s the approach you take, then what you end up with is tidy car trunks and fewer sales.

What do you think?

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How to Have More Energy

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Tell me, does this describe you. You’ve just had a hard day at work. You’ve had difficult customers to deal with; your boss is giving you a hard time and you wish you’d gone to bed earlier last night. You feel that you don’t have any energy and you just want to go home a veg out in front of the TV.

I found myself feeling somewhat similar the other day. I’d had a hard day and I’d booked a circuit class at the gym. I nearly cancelled and went home but I’m glad I didn’t because I just remembered two things. We have brain energy and we have body energy.
Your brain energy may be depleted but your body energy may be okay. So when you get that tired feeling it may just be your brain that’s had enough.

Now, if you have a particularly physical job, then your body energy may also be depleted. However, many of us nowadays sit behind desks and the only physical activity we get is punching the computer keys or picking up the phone.
Even when you feel tired, you may feel a whole to better after some exercise.

Now I know you think you don’t have the time. You may also be the type that doesn’t want to go to the gym and lift heavy things or leap about in an aerobics class; however, you need to take some exercise that makes you sweat a little.
I’m sorry, but a round of golf doesn’t count, it isn’t the kind of exercise you need. Golf is great and it’s good for the stress but it doesn’t make you sweat.

If you’re going to walk then walk fast for a distance, enough to push up the heart rate and increase the breathing.
Start to think how you can make your exercise enjoyable. I see some people at the gym making the whole business a real chore. They get on a bike or a rowing machine and try to kill themselves for twenty minutes. If that’s your thing then fine but please don’t make it a chore, plug into the sound system and catch up with what’s on TV.

As I’ve said, I like to do circuit classes with a whole group of people many of which have become friends. I enjoy the chat beforehand, the music and the exercise.

So do yourself a favour, the next time you have a hard day, take some physical exercise. You’ll feel a whole lot better, you’ll sleep better and you’ll feel less stressed.

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