How to Prevent Those Tough Conversations...
We’ve all had THAT conversation. You know the one. It’s the one where you leave your manger's office in worse shape than you entered it. Over my career I’ve had my fair share of “constructive” conversations. Some have involved yelling and some have been more monotone in nature, but the point is they have happened. Invariably, as I left the office and sat back at my desk I knew that there were things I could have done to avoid that conversation. This post was written to help you avoid as many of those tough conversations as possible.
Evaluate Your Manager
Working in corporate America is like playing a game of poker. In poker, you do not play the game with the cards you are dealt. Instead, you play the game against the other players. You must read them by observing their facial expressions, noticing slight changes in their behavior, and picking up on their tendencies in important situations. This is how you should approach dealing with your manager as well. Unless you are a new employee you should know what your manager expects, how they expect it, and when they expect it. In addition to your daily duties, implicit in your role is being able to execute on the key areas that your manager wants you to execute on. You should ask yourself the following questions:
Is your manager a stickler for being on time?
Is your manager a numbers person? Do they like to back up their points with facts and figures? Do they prefer you do the same?
Is your manager longwinded? Does he/she like to tell stories or does your manager want bullet points in conversations and emails?
Is your manager heavily involved civically or in the community?
These are a few of the questions you should be asking yourself. The point of the exercise is to begin the process of evaluating personalities. If you do this enough you will find that there are patterns with personalities, but we will save that for a later post. Today, we are focused on recognizing the patterns of your boss in an effort to give him or her what they want. A natural question that might be emerging in your mind is “Do you want me to be a yes person?” The answer is an emphatic no. Implementing this method provides you with the ability and the freedom to challenge your manager more effectively especially since you will be presenting them a counter point in the manner in which they best receive information.
Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends reported that only 13% of employees around the world are actively engaged at work. This means that if you are truly commited to your role then the field of your REAL competitors is very small. Success for you should almost be assured due to the fact that there are so few people in the actual race to be successful. If you have not fully committed to your role try it! In my career, I have spoken with employees who are not achieving the result they want for one reason or the other. More often than not it is because they are disengaged. There is always enough blame to go around as to why you are disengaged, but if you are receiving a wage you should be committed to the goals and objectives of that organization. You should be seeking to not only meet the deadline, but beat it! If you are in a role where doing more than your share is not rewarded and that fact bothers you then you should look at changing industries. Being “all in” or fully committed is easily seen by peers and management. Those tough conversations become much easier when the one giving the conversation knows and understands the commitment.
It's Not Personal
When receiving criticism it is important to not take that criticism personally. The tone in which it is presented may not be to your liking and it may not be presented in the best light, but if the message is correct then there is something to be learned. In business, it is important to disassociate day to day to matters from those of a personal nature. If the criticism is given in a manner that besmirches your character and is wholly unprofessional that is one thing, but a strongly worded critique is just that. Instead of being defensive look to see the validity of their point and how you can, in the future, improve. Seek their guidance and ask them, or your coworkers for help. Always remember that your manager has a manager too. If you are not meeting the standards set out understand they will be held responsible. In business, as in life, focus on the things in YOUR control. Your ability to not take criticism personally is head of that list.