Before COVID-19, getting stuff done with difficult people has always been a challenge for most of us, which is why I wrote the book How to Work with Jerks Getting Stuff Done with People you Can’t Stand. This pandemic has caused even greater challenges to how we work with one another, interact with one another, build relationships, and get stuff done. Companies are trying to stay afloat by cutting discretionary spending and reducing costs. Social distancing has created more barriers to how we communicate, resolve conflict, and engage with one another during these turbulent times. People are frustrated, afraid, and confused. We must find new, more creative ways to adapt to this ever-evolving situation and engage with our coworkers, clients, and colleagues while keeping our sanity intact. So how are successful leaders leading through this crisis? And how are they leveraging these unprecedented circumstances to engage their teams during these turbulent times? I had the pleasure and privilege to interview Steve Browne, Vice President of La Rosa’s, Inc., a chain of pizzerias serving neighborhoods in Cincinnati, Greater Dayton, Central Ohio, Northern Kentucky, Southeast Indiana, and central Tennessee. Steve is a human resource professional and has been leading in the trenches and engaging with his colleagues and employees daily to not only offer support and guidance, but to build and preserve relationships during this crisis. He shared his leadership insights in the first installment of my leadership series titled: Leading through COVID--19: How to Engage your Team in Times of Great Turbulence.
Before you read any further, let’s be crystal clear: Life as we know it will NOT return to the way things were before COVID-19. Therefore, I encourage you to read the below leadership insights as a roadmap to build engaging, productive teams during these turbulent times so that you can pivot and flex to the new normal. Whether you have a leadership title or not, this article will help you survive now and thrive later.
Since COVID-19, Steve observed people feeling overwhelmed, anxious, embarrassed, and frustrated over the various challenges this pandemic has caused. He realized that his employees are not always looking for guidance or solutions to their issues--they are looking to be heard. They want a platform where they can safely vent their issues and express their frustration. As such, Steve provided an outlet to allow their employees to safely vent their frustrations.
This outlet allows Steve to appreciate each of his employees’ circumstances. It has allowed him to engage with them more while being less of a barrier to his staff during social distancing. By listening to them vent, he is able better assess their situation and be proactive to their needs and safety concerns.
How have you adapted your team/ organization to this crisis? What has helped you cope with it all?
Working from home changed how we worked--- period. Before this pandemic we were all used to working in the office. We put together a work from home policy, invested in laptops, VPN, and other equipment so that our employees can work from home. This change in work helped us realize that we can continue to provide excellent service to our customers and get work done without being in the office.
We ensured our employees are compensated correctly under these circumstances and reduced hours of operation when necessary to ensure the safety of our team members. We had to make ourselves flexible to meet the ever-changing needs of the business. We have been more team member focused and more empathetic to our employees’ specific situations. Some are dealing with various personal issues to support their friends and family.
What are the obstacles and challenges while leading through this current crisis?
One major obstacle we have been able to overcome is working in silos. Information flows fast and changes often, so it’s a challenge to provide timely, transparent, and accurate information to everyone at the same time. Sometimes companies struggle with determining what information to share with their employees. This pandemic is not compartmentalized---it impacts everyone. Our leadership at LaRosas have used this pandemic to rally our team because we are all in this together. We have been more united and transparent than ever which will not only help this organization during this current pandemic but help us learn how to deal with a future crisis. During this pandemic, all differences are forgiven and has disappeared, and we have been more united than ever. We are working through the dynamics of working together. We are running our business strategically and dealing with issues day by day on a case by case basis.
What is the best advice you have gotten from someone on leading through a crisis and building teams in times of great turbulence?
The best advice I have received has been from my boss. My boss told me, “there’s always time.” Calm down, assess the situation, and not be impulsive. When we act like things are on fire, it’s difficult to control our emotions and deal with situations. So as the level of urgency increases, it’s important to respond to that urgency calmly and strategically. Taking the time to breathe and think things through strategically prevents impulsive responses. Employees will appreciate this approach as well because they look to leadership to be calm and poised under pressure. Taking this approach has helped us become more agile and focused in how we run our business and serve our customers. Because of this approach, we were able to strategically convert our dine in and pick up services to curb side pick-up in one day.
In your opinion, what is the secret sauce that many miss when it comes to building your team in turbulent times
Don’t be genuine, be authentic---and there is a difference between the two. Being genuine means being approachable. It means you are willing to hear someone else out, listen to their ideas, be accessible. The word ‘authentic’ has lost its meaning. There are people who say they are authentic but are unapproachable. They say it because it sounds good during an interview and because it’s what people want to hear. But in reality, these people are what I call an “arm’s length” leader. These are people who are more focused on their leadership titles and believe that that gives them the authority and latitude to behave and lead in a certain way. As a result, they misconstrue true leadership. Leaders may not be the person who solves their problem, they just need to shepherd them, be accessible to listen and support them when necessary. If that means providing resources or putting them in contact with the right people, so be it.
What is the key practice or tactic you keep coming back to when a crisis emerges or things hit the fan?
Leaders can’t be freaked out. They must be unflappable. Keep calm, focus on the team, and don’t take the humanity out of work. The more you take care of your staff and provide a safe environment for them to thrive, they will go above and beyond and be highly engaged.
What if anything will you plan, think or do differently with your team/ organization during these turbulent times?
In order to be an effective leader, you must be people centric. Practice self-awareness and understand that there are people who are suffering and passing. Some companies are focused on managing their bottom line and achieving their metrics. Once we get those results, we develop a process for those results and come up with a process for their results to improve. People have been forgotten in this process. Incorporate people into the process to get the results. It’s time to reset organizations to be people first, genuinely, intentionally. You can’t fight metrics, but you can improve people.
Eric Williamson is a professional development consultant, keynote speaker and author of the book How to Work with Jerks. Order your copy today on Amazon or contact him for a signed copy. He works with people who love what they do but hate working with jerks. To that end, he helps organizations promote a jerk free environment. For more information about leading through COVID-19, engaging your teams during turbulent times, or a strategic working session on How to Work with Jerks visit www.tailoredtrainingsolutions.com.
Working with a jerk? You’re not alone. Employees often define a “work jerk” as someone who is rude, sarcastic, bossy or worse. They make our lives at work stressful.
At their core, work jerks are people who don’t have the social skills to be successful or even tolerable to work with. They fail to leverage workplace relationships to improve productivity, performance or morale.
There are two types of jerks we may encounter: those who are unaware they are jerks (after all, any of us could exhibit jerkish traits unknowingly when faced with conflict or stress) and those who are aware they are jerks but don’t care. They act that way because, for whatever reason, they choose to.
These types of jerks also exist in the real estate industry and with the weather getting warmer, there is ample opportunity to work with one. In a profession that requires cultivating and leveraging relationships, some real estate professionals acknowledge the challenges building those relationships when working with clients, vendors, and fellow agents who act like jerks.
Not addressing the “how to work with jerks” challenge can be costly and draining for real estate professionals. They may even go to great lengths to avoid these jerks and do the bare minimum to help them. These agents are unlikely to nurture these relationships which may lead to low referrals, which is vital to an agent’s success and longevity.
According to Brian & Buffini, one of the largest real estate training and coaching companies in North America, 25% of agents generate more than 50% of annual business through referrals. 88% of buyers claim they would use the same agent or refer them. The average agent earns 42% of business through referrals. 82%of real estate transactions are referrals.
Establishing Good Workplace Relationships
By nurturing and cultivating relationships with clients at the early stages of their buying and selling journey, clients will see you as a trusted advisor. They need your help to deal with the most important financial decision of their life. If you can do this in a meaningful way, you are more likely to get referrals and receive a boost in your revenue.
Cultivating relationships with vendors and fellow agents are equally important. It doesn’t matter how experienced, talented and gifted you are; you can’t do your work or be successful without relying on them during the buying and selling process. You will always be at least somewhat ineffective at what you do, if you can’t establish healthy working relationships with fellow agents and vendors.
So, how can you build better relationships with clients, vendors, and fellow agents who act like jerks and people of all types?
The AAA Method for Not Letting Your Emotions Get the Better of You
When dealing with conflict from jerks, we tend to let our emotions get the better of us and react without considering the consequences of our actions. This response not only makes a bad situation worse, but it can cause us to behave like jerks, too!
Instead of making an impulsive decision, when engaged in a heated discussion during the buying and selling process, we need to take a more measured approach, demonstrate poise, stay focused, and respond thoughtfully and professionally.
Consider this three-step process that helps you manage tough situations, improve your relationships with clients, vendors and fellow agents, and achieve better results with the people you can’t stand (especially the jerks). It’s called the AAA Method: assess, analyze and act. The only way it works is through deliberate practice, and it requires a conscious effort to employ these steps while in conflict.
Step 1: Assess the Situation
When dealing with conflict at work (or in your personal life), it’s important first to assess the situation. This assessment involves not only being aware of your emotions and how you are feeling but also how the other person is feeling.
Buying and selling a home can be nerve wracking for everyone involved, especially if things don’t go as planned. The emotional elements of real estate transactions magnify other’s personalities. Assess these emotions early and often.
For example, when you are dealing with a client who appears to be rude, reflect on that specific situation. What did your behavior or body language signal to the other person in response to her rude behavior? What behavior or body language did that person signal to you? Sometimes, when we are stressed or dealing with a difficult situation, we can unknowingly exhibit physical reactions, such as a faster heart rate, shortness of breath, clenched muscles, eyerolls or sweaty palms.
How do you respond when stressed at work? You should be aware of your body gestures and others’ body gestures in addition to the current situation. For example:
Step 2: Analyze the Situation
Once you have assessed the situation and are aware of what your emotions and behaviors are signaling to others, the next step is to analyze your emotions and behaviors themselves. Determine why you are feeling stressed and seek to understand and reflect on the thoughts and feelings of the other person involved. For example:
Why is your client acting rude or abrasive toward you?
Step 3: Act
Once you have a full understanding of the situation, you can respond and act most appropriately. This final step prevents your emotions from getting the better of you and keeps you from making an impulsive decision you will most likely regret.
Remember, in conflict, we cannot always be right. When you take the time to assess and analyze the situation, you may determine you are in the wrong, which may require you to apologize or adjust your response.
Practice Makes Perfect
We are not always able to choose the clients and colleagues we work with. We can, however, choose how we handle our relationships with them, including the jerks.
Often, when we are caught up in the heat of the moment, we skip directly to step 3 and act based on how we are feeling. This response causes more problems and may worsen relationships or even jeopardize our careers. Following this AAA process, in order, will help you communicate more effectively with your clients and colleagues, mitigate conflict before it comes to a head and prevent you from making a rash decision that you may regret. Ultimately, this will lead to increased referrals and less stress.
Relationships are the most consequential factors to your success in the workplace. Whether it involves working with jerks and other people you can’t stand, managing conflict, or simply working with others to get stuff done, I’m sure most of you would agree that managing relationships is no easy task. It takes patience, skill, and a whole lot of effort. But failure to build successful relationships can be costly. It can lead to low productivity, create an environment of low morale and a disengaged staff who do the bare minimum in the workplace. In fact, according to multiple studies including one conducted by Gallup, over 60% of employees is disengaged, translating into over $450B in lost productivity!
So what steps can you take to build successful workplace relationships? Consider rapport. Tony Robbins once said, rapport is power. Rapport also leads to higher morale, better engagement, and increased productivity. Check out these tips for leveraging rapport to build better relationships in the workplace:
1. Practice Three Up, Three Down
This is an approach to providing fair and honest feedback. It helps leaders build rapport with their employees when it comes to not only building relationships, but managing performance, building trust, and keeping them engaged. Not just any type of feedback will do – it must be specific, constructive, and BALANCED. Some leaders believe that only pointing out the areas where an employee needs to improve upon will lead directly to improved performance. Other generations in the workplace such as the Baby Boomers may relate more to this type of “tough love” feedback as part of a hard day’s work. But in today’s multi-generational environment where relationships matter more than ever, and where employees are increasingly empowered to have a say in their career development, focusing only on what an employee can improve upon (or what some call “focusing on the negative”) can ruin rapport between a leader and his or her staff. When leaders focus exclusively on the negative, employees can end up feeling defeated — as if they are not capable of doing their job effectively because they’re constantly being told what areas they need to fix. An employee is also more likely to tune out their boss and be disengaged in the discussion if they feel like their boss is being too negative.
Instead of emphasizing the negative to the exclusion of the positive, leaders should take a more balanced approach. I recommend a technique called the “Three Up, Three Down” approach. It was first introduced to me by Laura Liswood in her book, The Loudest Duck.
The “Three Up, Three Down” approach is a method for balancing both positive and negative feedback when leaders hold performance discussions with their employees. This balanced approach is effective because it allows for a productive two-way conversation and alleviates some of the stress associated with having crucial conversations. When a boss acknowledges some of the good things an employee has done, they are able to build a stronger relationship and establish common ground. The employee is less likely to take the negative feedback personally and will be less defensive because the employee is more apt to accept the feedback as honest, fair, and constructive.
2. Stop Phubbing
I’m a fan of technology just like the next person. But when we rely too much on technology such as our laptops and cell phones, we begin to practice phubbing: the practice of ignoring others in order to pay attention to one's phone or other mobile device. And that’s rude! When it comes to using our laptops, there are people who literally sit next to someone at work and communicate via email or instant messaging instead of speaking face to face.
This lack of human interaction stunts our interpersonal development and our ability to establish rapport with the people we work with. We miss out on observing the tone, the context and the body language during face-to-face meetings — all of which can be vital to comprehension and the health of a relationship. When we rely mainly on email and other forms of technology to communicate in the workplace instead of conversing face-to-face, things can get lost in translation, which can weaken rapport.
The best way to combat this problem is to achieve the right balance when using technology. Give someone your full attention by putting away your laptop or cell phone during a face-to-face conversation. Better yet, if you have an important phone call to make or email to read when someone wants to talk to you, inform that person that it may not be a good time to talk, but be sure to schedule time later for that conversation with your undivided attention.
Practicing these two tips goes a long way to build rapport and strengthen workplace relationships. This will lead to more engagement, better morale, and increased productivity.
How do you build stronger workplace relationships?
Eric Williamson is a keynote speaker and author of the book How to Work with Jerks. Order your copy today on Amazon. He works with organizations to build stronger customer and client relationships to promote a jerk free environment. For more information about a keynote speech or training workshop for your organization, visit www.tailoredtrainingsolutions.com.
Dealing with a bad boss? You’re not alone. Throughout my travels across the country delivering keynotes and leading workshops, I have encountered plenty of people who are frustrated with dealing with a bad boss. I have heard countless stories about ineffective supervisors or poor performing managers who fail to motivate their staff, set clear expectations, or provide clear direction. Some employees are fed up with working for people in leadership positions who lack accountability and fail to hold poor performing employees accountable for their actions. I have heard stories about how bad leaders fail to confront problems in the workplace and instead sweep the issues under the rug. But to be fair to these types of leaders, it’s not all their fault. Sometimes they are promoted into a leadership position based on doing their former job effectively well---but lack the skillset needed to lead people.
It reminds me of what my mentor told me when I got my first job out of college. What got you here won’t get you there …
It’s true (and it’s also the title of a fantastic book by executive coach Marshall Goldsmith). Most people promoted from technical, tactical roles into management need a new set of skills to lead people. They need to be trained to excel at their position.
But these bad leaders who lack the skillset needed to lead people sometimes cause talented, hard-working employees to leave their job in search of a more satisfying place to work. You may have heard the old but still relevant saying, people don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses. But what’s worse than employees leaving? The output from employees who stay! They remain in the toxic work environment dealing with the fallout of poor leadership: low morale, poor performance, and arguably worst of all, employee disengagement. Without effective leadership, these employees do the bare minimum in the workplace and are unwilling to go the extra mile to get stuff done. This has a real monetary impact on company growth and productivity. In fact, according to a Gallup poll, 60 percent of employees are disengaged, translating to over $450B in lost productivity!
This lack of leadership leaves employees feeling hopeless, helpless, and powerless because their boss is unwilling or incapable of creating a more positive and productive work environment. But you don’t have to feel this way. There is a solution. You don’t have to be in a leadership position to invoke positive change in your work environment. You can lead without the title. I have provided the below tips to show you how you can fill the void of ineffective leadership, improve your engagement, and boost your morale.
Eric Williamson is a keynote speaker and author of the book How to Work with Jerks. Order your copy today at https://www.amazon.com/dp/0999456695/. For more information about a keynote speech or training workshop for your organization, visit www.tailoredtrainingsolutions.com.
February marks a month of compassion, appreciation, and recognition for many great people and loved ones. Not only do we celebrate Black History month, President’s Day, and Valentine’s Day, we also celebrate random acts of kindness in the workplace. While you may have no desire to have a work jerk be your valentine, you can still celebrate random acts of kindness in your workplace by fostering respect, appreciation, and morale among your fellow colleagues, including jerks.