Do you like your coworkers?

When I ran a staffing office the hardest job to fill was one for my team in the office. There was extra stress for me to make the right decision because we spent so much time together. Our environment was high stress and if I brought the wrong person into the mix it was going to make it that much harder.

coworkers

I know that we all at some point or another work with someone we don’t like. I learned very early in my career to find a way to work with people I didn’t like, but when it’s a high stress environment and I can avoid bringing someone in that’s going to rub the rest of the team the wrong way I’m going to do my best to avoid it.

It’s much easier to avoid people you don’t necessarily enjoy working with when its a larger organization, but when its a small team you inevitably have to interact.

I recommend offices with a small team find little ways to have fun together during the work week. It’s also important to be as transparent as possible because trust is a huge element to the success of a small team. The funny thing is, the more you bond the more you learn to trust each other.

A few minor ways I would tackle this in our 6 person office:

  • I would often order lunch in for my team and we would lock the doors and ignore the phones for an hour. It wasn’t the corporate offices favorite idea, but I needed to be able to protect a lunch break for my team and the best way to do that was to close the office for the hour and all of us take a lunch break at once. We found that sometimes in staggered lunch schedules it could get tense when someone was waiting on someone else before they could leave.
  • Sometimes we would take a break to play horse in the office with a small back of the door basketball hoop. No pressure, just to walk away from a project for a few minutes and reset.
  • I would turn training into small 15 minute training games that were interactive. For example, to train the team to think faster on their feet we would tell stories where someone would start and then hand off to the next person. I would put a bunch of items in a bag and the team would each get to pull one out and take 3 minutes to sell it to the rest of the group. They were cheesy, but they also served a purpose and allowed us all time to laugh together and share suggestions for improvement.

If you can’t find SOME WAY for your small team to have a little bit of fun together at work, your small team is in trouble. Take 15 minutes this week to put your team in one room and have a laugh. Then do it again next week.

Dear Manager

A few things to remind you about the manager you set out to be, you know for when you have your next gig as a manager. What better way to hold yourself accountable than to put it online for the world to see. So here goes:

letter writing

Dear Manager,

Remember the type of manager you wanted to be. Much like the type of manager you wanted to work for. Remember that. Are you that manager now?

Believe in your people. When you no longer believe in your people, have that tough conversation with them…fix it. Do you believe in your team right now?

Fight for your people. No need to fight for your people, if you don’t believe in your people-see previous item. Fight for them to have the resources they need. Fight for their needs. Fight for their interests. Will you fight for your team today if you need to?

Stick up for your people. Stick up for your people. Stick up for your people.  Don’t let anyone belittle your profession and do not let anyone belittle your people. If you aren’t comfortable sticking up for your people we need to revisit the belief you have in your people. Will you stick up for your team today?

Remember what it was like to be in the trenches and use it for something. Don’t use it for horror stories and telling your team to suck it up and press on. Don’t use it to tell your team that it could be worse, it was worse. Use it to think of new ways your people can get their work done more efficiently. Use it to help your team think creatively to solve problems. Use it as a reminder to not take your people in the trenches for granted. Use it to keep yourself from getting frustrated with your people in the trenches. Some days were tough. Use it for improvement. Do you remember what it was like?

Don’t use the phrase “that’s just how we do that here,” or “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Don’t discourage your team from thinking creatively and/or understanding processes. You cannot undo that. Are you discouraging people?

Don’t set your people up for failure. You can prevent that.

Grow your people. Grow your people in whatever way they are willing to grow.

Forgive your people when they make a mistake.

Listen. Listen to what their needs are, what their wants are, what their goals are. How can you help them today?

Finally, keep adding to this. You can’t have too many reminders to bring you back to what it was like. Don’t just say you don’t want to be a certain way when you’re manager, act on it. Hold yourself accountable and do what’s right.

Sincerely,

The younger you that knew she needed a break from being a manager. It can be tough on both sides of the table. 

Making room at the top

Once upon a time my favorite NFL team made a tough decision. A decision that I was not behind at the time. A decision that led several people to jump ship from supporting their organization and start supporting another. They made a decision to change and some people just couldn’t swallow that.My favorite NFL team decided it was time to end a 14 season relationship with Peyton Manning. While some fans jumped ship, I stayed put. Even though I was extremely sad about what had just happened I stayed put to see what was going to unfold. Don’t get me wrong, if Peyton had gone to the Redskins or the 49ers I probably would’ve followed, but the Broncos? Nah. Just kidding. #coltsforlife Full disclosure: I choose not to cheer for the Broncos, but I do enjoy watching Peyton play. The fans that did follow Peyton to his new home, or simply stopped cheering for the Colts because of this decision were only focused on one person and not the best direction for the entire organization.

Let me be perfectly honest and share that I adore the Mannings, they are something special! Every time “The Book of Manning” is on, I watch it. If an article about the Mannings surface, I read it. When Peyton hosts SNL, I watch it. I think Peyton has proved himself to be a great player, a hard worker, and an amazing leader. I would even dare say he was the Colts top talent. That’s a phrase we love in HR and recruiting right? “Top Talent.” He may have even been their “Hottest Talent” 😉 Anyway, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what it takes to keep our top talent and we watched the Colts cut theirs a few years ago.

Why would an organization do that? Why would they cut a prior number one draft pick, a quarterback who had done so much for their team and brought in so much revenue? Well, because it was time. Because they had to make room for new talent. All good things must come to an end (and I’m starting to think that all the best talent gets fired at least once in their career). So what does that have to do with us? Our organizations don’t work like the NFL, right? Or do they… I remember going to the Colts/Titans game in October of 2011 and screaming from our seats  “SUCK FOR LUCK” the entire game. We had no desire to turn around a losing season at this point, it was all about charging forward through a terrible season to land the number one draft pick of the 2012 draft. There’s a recruiting strategy you don’t see in the workplace. Let’s have a really terrible year so we can have dibs on the best up and coming talent out there…

suck for luck

Rambling on, change is hard. Change is difficult. Change is a challenge… when you don’t understand where it can take you. When Colts nation realized that a terrible season meant a really good chance at landing Luck who was having an amazing season, we started to believe. When we understood the possibilities for the future of our team that we loved and cheered for it was easier to face change. Granted, I still held out hope that the Colts would keep Manning and let him mentor Luck-but who has room for two amazing quarterbacks other than my fantasy football team? Having a new amazing quarterback didn’t make Manning’s accomplishments any less or discount anything he had done in 14 seasons, it just meant that the Colts had another bright future ahead of them. Making room at the top, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Taking Charge vs Leading

Did you know there is a difference? Once upon a time I didn’t know and when I say once upon a time I pretty much mean most of my life. I can think back as far as a 3rd grade group science project that I was in charge of and how little patience I had for two of the kids in my group that didn’t “get it.” Oy vey! Just thinking about it now messes with my blood pressure-it wasn’t a hard project (yep, I can remember the project exactly too!).

I just know what you should be doing...

I just know what you should be doing…

Anyway, at my last position I had many trials and tribulations in the area of leading… mostly because I have an obvious lack of patience and a low bs tolerance, but I learned a lot!  So my aha! moment came one Thursday night after work when I was sitting at my desk with absolute shock and anger at the fact that my staff wouldn’t do their jobs the right way, CMON MAN! And I was called to the carpet that very day for being short with them… My response to that was just blank stares and a lot of “REALLY?”… [what an amateur response right?] So I dial-up one of my allies in the company just to get some perspective and kind of vent, SOOOOO NOT expecting this person to give me an aha! moment. He asks me what happened and what I said so I begin to tell him… he stops me in mid-story and says “THERE, RIGHT THERE!” What? Right there what? “If someone said that to you, you would be so offended…” You know what, I would’ve been, but my defense counteracted with a smart aleck “No one would have to say that to me for me to get offended because I would be doing it already!” Well sass-pants that’s not the point now is it? The point is you can’t talk to people like that and expect them to respond… So the back part of the aha! moment was this: I’ve got to stop talking to my staff like I’m a co-worker and start talking to them like I’m their leader. When I say that I talked like a co-worker, I think many times I did & it’s similar to when a parent tries to play the role of a friend and not necessarily the role of a parent – it’s confusing. I was pretty much creating my own problems because I wouldn’t let go of my stubbornness because “If I can understand it why can’t they?” was a staple in my reasoning.

So after a few days of licking my wounded ego and pretending I wasn’t in the wrong I started a change, a change that wasn’t as evident then as it is now, in how I talk to people not just staff. It started with little steps like replacing some words in a request with nicer words, becoming sincere, practicing patience of course and trying to understand why it is that someone doesn’t understand what I feel I easily understand. Some of these were steps that I already knew I should-be doing, I was just too stubborn and some if it is advice from my great group of HR peeps and of course a book or two helped guide me. It’s exciting for me to see the difference in how people respond to requests from me and I feel like I’m really back on track to getting this leadership thing down. Taking charge of a project has always come easy for me, but leading a project, I know now, is way more enjoyable!

Just for fun...

Just for fun…

Bonding vs Building

As far as internally at our location we are a small group and we spend a large amount of time together. I’m all for some team building and lesson learning type activities for us to do, but today we kicked it easy and did some bonding. It was a lot of fun and to see the girls appreciate the value of learning more about each other was incredible. (As a young/inexperienced office manager little things like this mean a great deal to me, dont judge me. 🙂 …). Each person gave me two “trivia facts” about themselves that the others probably didn’t know about them. I made a list and had everyone write in their guess on each line and turn it back in. Almost ALL of them were wrong so everyone did a great job digging up little known facts about themselves. At lunch I read off each trivia fact and let the group share who their guess was and why and then the person it was about would confess and then tell the story related to their fact. We learned some hilarious things about each other today! From tattoos, karate chops, “dream” kid names, absolute won’ts and places they’ve traveled. We had so much fun and the timing was perfect.

Team building exercises don’t always have to be work related tasks-sometimes they can just be “bonding”.