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Go Ahead, Let Them Rant

Mary Carol had never seen Jim quite so upset before. He came into her office, pulled out a chair and just launched into an all out rant about his colleague Joyce. Jim was really dumping some negativity. Mary Carol had no idea that Jim had these hard feelings toward Joyce.

As Jim continued to rant, Mary Carol felt torn. She did not necessarily agree with all of the negative comments he was making about Joyce. Both Jim and Joyce worked on her team. Each of them was a strong team member. To listen to Jim complain about Joyce almost felt disloyal. Almost. Then Mary Carol realized that in this moment, what she could do was to provide a safe place for Jim to express his feelings. It was better for Jim to rant to her, than to Joyce or to others about Joyce.

Still as Jim continued to rant, Mary Carol wondered what she should do differently. She wanted to allow Jim to get these hard feelings off of his chest. At the same time she did NOT want Jim to allow these hard feelings to set the tone for the rest of his day or to damage his professional relationship with Joyce.

After a few minutes Mary Carol, held up her hand, “Jim, could you stop for just one moment?”

Jim replied, “I know, I know, I should not come into your office and speak poorly about another team member.”

“That is not it at all,” replied Mary Carol. “You may consider this a safe space and a safe conversation. But let’s work to make this time even more productive. Try this with me. I am going to give you ten more minutes to rant about Joyce. Say whatever you need to say. At the end of those ten minutes you need to switch topics. You need to then list the good qualities that you see in Joyce and the positive aspects of working with her. After you do that, you are going to set an action plan. Maybe that action plan is to go take a break and calm down. Maybe that action plan is to find a way to discuss your concerns with Joyce. Or maybe that plan is to spend some more time considering just why it is you are so upset with her.”

Jim listened to what Mary Carol said and then abruptly replied, “Great, can I go back to ranting now?” Mary Carol nodded while thinking, “Well so much for THAT approach.” To her pleasant surprise, Jim did not even need ten more minutes to rant. All of a sudden he took a deep breath and switched gears. He began to discuss what a good job Joyce does in analyzing difficult problems. He recalled the time that he lost his place in an important executive presentation and she stepped in and joined him, as-if that had always been the plan. He listed some other positive qualities that Joyce exhibited and then he stood up and headed for the door.

As he opened the door he turned to Mary Carol and said, “My action plan is to use this approach with my friends, family and colleagues whenever they need to go on a rant

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There is NO Magic in New Year’s Eve

Make YOUR Own Magic

Make YOUR Own Magic

“New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday.” — Charles Lamb (And woman’s….)

There is a lot of negativity around 2016 right now. People are calling it their worst year ever. There have been some high profile celebrity deaths. Are there more deaths this year than last year or are we all falling victim to our own tendency toward negative news?

If you take a look at social media, you will see statements and stories on how people are so ready for 2016 to be over. Are you looking forward to the end of the year? You probably do have some years when you are happier than usual to close the door on the old year and get started with the new one. Perhaps 2016 is one of them.

Have you created a belief that once you make it through to the end of the year, everything will be good again? Poof – New Year, a new clock ticking and you will instantly be re-energized!

Of course YOU know that life does not work that way. Anytime you fall into this type of thinking you are really falling prey to a false deadline. I don’t mean the kind of false deadline your project sponsor gives you to make sure that you are ready in plenty of time for the real deadline. I mean a false deadline as in, non-existent, completely not real. All in YOUR head.

Life does not know about the pages of the calendar. There is nothing about the experiences you are having (happy, sad or tiring) that are specifically tied to a time of year. There is nothing about the calendar flipping from one time period to the next that makes your experience change. There is no magic time genie that looks and says, “Wow she had a long year with some challenging experiences but all of those challenges will disappear as soon as it is a new year.” Life does not work that way. Life brings what it will bring and your job is to celebrate the good and to meet the challenges to the best of your abilities.

You do not need the date to change; you need to make a change. If you are feeling worn out, then you need to rest. If you are looking forward to ending an assignment, then you need to evaluate why you are happy to end that assignment. That is true ALL of the time; you don’t need to wait until month end, quarter end or year-end for this to be true.

Marking time is something very convenient we do as human beings. It is good to recognize seasons and special dates and milestones. And celebrating the New Year can be lots of fun. And looking back over the past year can provide valuable insights. But to view a new month, quarter or year as some kind of magical completion date at which you will no longer be ill or tired or have difficulties; that my friends is working toward a false deadline.

 

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How to Survive Your Office Holiday Party

9networking-tips_pmstudentheader

It’s that time again, peace on earth and good will to all.  Or at least it would be if you were not worried about those darned office parties.  What are they anyway?  Are they work or are they parties?  Here are some tips to help you navigate the maze of professional pitfalls that lurk behind that innocent invitation to celebrate with your co-workers.

Keep these tips in mind and emerge with your reputation clearer and stronger that ever before.

9networking-tips_pmstudent2

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Resilient, the word for the day is Resilient

Bend do not break and move forward.

Bend do not break and move forward.

The team had just suffered a crushing blow. They had been competing for a specific contract for months. They wrote an amazing response to the RFP (request for proposal) and made it into the top five and then into the top two. When their potential new customers asked them to build a prototype, they rose to the challenge and provided a high-quality prototype and held an exceptional demonstration session. And yet, they lost the contract.

The reason they were given was that the other team came up with some additional requirements that were not requested in the initial RFP.

The competing team provided an upgraded version of the prototype.

As Mary Carol gathered the team around to discuss the loss, strong feelings began to surface. Some team members were angry and felt that the process had been unfair. Others were mad at themselves and others for not expanding the requirements. One person started to say, “I told you so.” Mary Carol let them vent. Eventually they realized that she was just sitting there watching them. The team fell silent and stared at her expectantly. They did not know if she was angry, if she would chastise them, they waited.

Finally she spoke. “I have an assignment for all of you and it is due in two hours.” The quality control lead interrupted her by saying, “I know, you want us to come back with our lessons learned, our what we could have done to prevent this.” “There will be time for that later.” Mary Carol replied. “What I want you to do right now is go back to your desks and by yourselves consider what it means to be resilient. Meet me back here in two hours with your thoughts on resiliency.”

Two hours later the team came back together. While one or two were still puzzled by this unconventional assignment. Most of them embraced it, many of them bringing quotes to help them express their understanding of resilience. Like the assignment, some of these quotes were unconventional:

“Sometimes Grace comes in the form of a punch in the face.” Mary Elder

And

“Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.” Muhammad Ali

Other quotes were more traditional:

A good half of the art of living is resilience.”  Alain de Botton

And

Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit .“ Bernard Williams

“It’s not the winning that teaches you how to be resilient. It’s the setback. It’s the loss.” Beth Brook

And

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

      The lead, initially so quick to assume they would be working on their lessons learned was one of the first to see the point of this assignment. The point was to transition them away from a place of loss and upset and to begin to move forward with a sense of strength and ability. It was also Mary Carol’s way of letting them know that she was not angry with them, she did not think they had done a poor job, they were just bested by the competition. Now it was time for them to move forward.

Wishing you resiliency whenever it is needed.

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A Team Divided

“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”
― Winston S. Churchill

Tug of War

After much research and brainstorming, Joe’s team had come up with two solutions to solve a problem that had plagued them all for more than a few weeks. One of their highest priority customers had discovered a glitch in their software. The good news was that it was not impacting any other customer. The bad news was that for some reason it was causing problems for this customer on a daily basis. In fact they had taken to completing some of their work manually. Joe’s organization was paying for two temporary workers to perform this manual processing. The customer certainly appreciated this assistance and the recognition of their inconvenience, but was anxious for a permanent solution to be implemented.

And now the team had devised two possible solutions. Each solution was equally likely to be successful, neither solution would disrupt current processing and both took about the same amount of time and effort. Despite the similarities between the solutions, there was enough of a difference in how they approached the problem that team members did not agree on which was best.

As Joe listened to his team discuss the merits of both approaches, he realized that they were going to need help making a decision. He knew both approaches were good, he knew all of the team was qualified to weigh in and he knew he did not need to make the decision. Based on this information Joe stepped in and told the team that they would vote. And if a clear majority emerged, that approach would be the solution that they would use. The team agreed.

Joe then asked the team to take a thirty-minute break. During this time he considered how to move forward after the vote. He did not want to move forward with an ‘us versus them’ mentality. With that thought in mind he made up a simple voting ballot. Instead of attaching the name of the person who came up with each solution, he labeled them ‘Solution A’ and ‘Solution B’. Each had enough of a description so that everyone would know where he or she was placing his or her vote. He knew that he could easily collect and tabulate the votes. Despite this he purposefully planned a team coffee break for after the vote. He found some fun and short video clips to show during the break.

Joe also gave careful consideration to the solution implementation team. And once he saw that solution A had received the most votes, he made a risky move. He decided to place the person who was the biggest fan of solution B in charge of the solution implementation team. He then carefully populated the team with a mix of approximately half people who favored solution A and half people who favored solution B. Their first assignment was to create an implementation strategy and to present it to the rest of the team. EVERY person on the solution implementation team was required to present a piece of the strategy.

Why was Joe putting so much effort into the decision-making process and the outcome of that process? He had a high-performing team. This was a team who worked well together and met challenging goals. A team who could argue, and then break into laughter. This time the team felt a bit more passionate about the issue at hand. The divide seemed a bit deeper than during any of their previous disagreements. Joe knew the importance of rebuilding the team after such a disagreement. He knew that if he wanted them to retain their strength that he needed them to see each other as partners and not as rivals, the sooner the better. Joe wanted his team to be free of strife so that they could continue to support one another and meet the challenges that were surely coming their way.

 

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