Line managers play a crucial role in coaching, developing, retaining, and supporting talented employees.
This forms a large part of their HR-related activities. For more details, see – The Role Of Line Management In HR.
Coronavirus and the move to home-working have only made the role of line managers in coaching and development more important.
This article examines:
A line manager is someone with direct day-to-day responsibility for a small number of employees.
In turn, line managers report to more senior managers within their organisation.
They provide a vital part of the chain of command. Relaying information up and down the organisation is a key part of their role.
Their responsibilities typically include:
For full details see our article: What Is A Line Manager?
Coaching and development describes the work organisations do to help employees improve their personal and technical skills.
In many cases, the terms “coaching” and “development” are used interchangeably, or as a single term, “Coaching and development”.
Technically they refer to different practices, and both are part of the broader category of “Learning and development”.
Let’s quickly look at each term a bit more closely.
Coaching is the process of instructing and training an employee to achieve a particular goal.
Many organisations offer coaching to employees they have identified as having the potential to achieve a senior leadership position.
As these individuals progress through their careers, the specific focus of the coaching will change depending on what their biggest challenge is.
Coaching is usually a one-to-one activity and explicitly targeted to the individual involved and their goals.
This one-to-one interaction allows the managers carrying out the coaching to build much deeper relationships with their team members, in addition to:
If you’d like to see coaching in action, this video has some great examples of coaching conversations.
Development is short for employee development.
It is the process by which employees in an organisation benefit from professional training to boost their skills and improve their knowledge.
Development does not just refer to optimising an employee’s skill set for one particular role. It is a broader term and refers to an ongoing programme of learning that employees will undertake as they move through their careers.
A well-designed employee development programme will:
A huge number of studies have been carried out on the impact that line managers have on corporate performance.
Almost universally these studies have concluded that the line manager/employee relationship is vital.
Both of these studies established the fact that team members with effective line managers value their managers greatly.
In many cases, a substantial part of the value of the relationship is generated by the line manager’s focus on employee development.
This YouTube video explains Google’s findings on the impact that managers can have.
There are 5 different areas that line managers get involved with staff coaching and development:
Line managers are usually responsible for the induction of new staff members.
They will show new staff members how corporate systems and processes work and ensure that they are appropriately set up (for example, with computer logins and the like) when they join the business.
Line managers will also often organise for new staff members to initially work alongside experienced staff members for a period of time. This ensures that the new staff member learns the correct way to carry out the task before working independently.
Broadening team members’ skillsets develops the individuals involved and improves team communication and resilience.
Line managers are often responsible for facilitating team members rotating through other roles and sometimes other departments.
The team member involved will get practical experience of roles and build their broader understanding of how the team and business works.
This can be done through formal job rotation or a job-sharing scheme that buddies up employees to learn from each other.
Similarly, as a team member becomes increasingly familiar with their role their line manager will be responsible for allocating them more challenging work to keep them engaged.
Line managers often provide informal coaching and mentoring for their team members, in addition to any formal schemes that they are involved with.
For example, a line manager might call a meeting during a lunch break. During the meeting, the team would discuss recent issues and look at ways to resolve them.
Alternatively, a regular conversation with a team member focused on an area for development can offer a very effective way to mentor a team member and develop their skills.
In many organisations, line managers have active roles in recommending team members for promotion and designing appropriate development programmes for them.
Line managers have the most detailed experience of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. They are the best person to build a development plan for that individual as they can compare the individual against the key qualities that they need in their team members
Depending on the organisation this development plan could include external training and courses, certifications and exams or attending conferences and seminars.
In the modern workplace, experienced line managers now take the lead in organising formal training courses. This can range from structured day run by internal experts to external courses run by professional accreditation bodies.
Line managers will work with their company’s HR department to deliver coaching and development to their team.
If you are a new line manager you should make developing a good relationship with your HR department a priority.
It will allow you to be far more effective.
The HR department is staffed by HR specialists and has overall responsibility for all aspects of HR within your organisation.
The other side of coaching and development is working with difficult or under-performing team members. This will involve some problem-solving and planning from HR and the individual’s line manager in order to build a plan appropriate to the situation.
This could be a simple as having a simple, direct conversation about the issue and opportunities for the individual concerned to change.
At the more serious end of the scale, this would involve formal, documented conversations with the individual and detailed plans being agreed by both parties to solve the problem.
To succeed in a line management role, you should put team coaching and development high on your to-do list.
Research has shown how highly team members value this.
Make a start today, and your employees will thank you with better retention and higher performance.
Not everyone will like you.
That is a fact of life.
Throughout your career, you will have to work with all sorts of different types of people.
Some you will get along with, some you won’t.
You will need to learn to deal with hostile people/audiences.
A hostile audience is simply anyone who has an issue with your topic or with you as an individual.
They may be hostile by nature, or there may be an underlying reason for their behaviour.
The thing you need to remember is that hostile people are just like you and me, but they are feeling helpless, wronged, or overlooked for some reason.
To better understand hostile people, check this article that lists the following types of a hostile audience:
The more you understand the reason for their hostility, the more you can adjust your approach to deal with their issues.
“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
Knowing your audience well is crucial to your success.
A hostile audience will not agree with you. They may even be working against you.
Lets look at some tried and tested ways to deal with hostile audiences.
Humour works well when you don’t overdo it.
In his book, “You Just Have to Laugh,” the stand-up comic David Naster emphasises the importance of humour as an effective tool in dealing with difficult people.
“Laughing can be an incredible emotional release, and it eliminates the negatives that cause tension in our lives,” says Naster. “When you laugh, you blow out internal negative garbage.”
Using humour will make your audience less tense and consequently less hostile.
No matter how much you disagree with someone, you still may have some points to agree on.
It might be harder than finding common ground with people you already get along with. However, it will pay off when you can connect with your hostile audience.
Try to find the aspects that you can agree on with hostile people. You can do this by focusing on shared interests.
For example, if you meet with an angry customer, ensure that you both are working to resolve the issue and focus on that. Your common goal is the customer’s satisfaction.
Do not set unrealistic expectations for your communication. You are very unlikely to be able to convert a hostile audience completely to your way of thinking. Aim to change their minds on a few key points.
Being clear from the beginning about your goals will spare you disappointments.
Plan your goals and be flexible about them.
Since your audience is set against you, they will question every piece of information presented to them.
Be prepared with facts, statistics, and resources. Do your research beforehand.
When discussing a problem with a hostile audience, try to present realistic, actionable solutions. When you offer a solution, make sure that you are committed to it.
Promising your employee a raise when he’s aware you can’t afford it is not very wise. He will figure out that you are just trying to win him over with false promises.
Being honest with your hostile audience may not win you the conversation right away, but it will build trust in the long term.
Do not attack your audience or their position. Do not let them turn you into a hostile person.
When they ask you provoking questions, try to remain calm. Stay professional and don’t indicate that their negative attitude has hurt you in any way.
When you are relaxed, you are in control of the conversation. Everyone prefers to work with calm people.
Throughout your communication with a hostile audience, make it clear that you are looking for a win-win outcome.
They need to know that you are determined to solve the problem in the best possible manner for both sides.
It’s not about you winning an argument – you just want to reach the best possible outcome.
Communication through computers, emails, and messaging has become very cold and impersonal.
Connect to the human aspect of your work relationship.
Go out for dinner or drinks with your difficult colleagues and learn more about their personalities. This will help you a lot when you are dealing with them in challenging work situations.
Logic and basic reasoning are the best way to sort out objective, technical problems.
Evidence-based reasoning is hard to disagree with. When you use logic to solve a problem, you appeal to your audience’s rational mind. This makes them set emotions aside and analyse things before reacting to what you are saying.
The rule of connectivity states that the more we establish a connection with people, the more we can persuade them. Building a bond with your audience will make them more comfortable around you.
The hostile audience is not hostile towards you on purpose – there are certain reasons triggering their behaviour.
When hostile people start feeling comfortable around you, they will express their ideas freely. You will know the reasons behind their hostility. Then you will be able to understand the situation and adjust your approach.
Let’s also have a look at three very common mistakes that people make to help you avoid them.
We’re wired to react to aggression with even more aggression. This is “fighting fire with fire”, which results in destruction and compromised relationships.
No matter how experienced you are, you may still fall into this trap because it’s part of your human nature.
We can avoid this by preparing and training ourselves before interacting with someone who’s hostile. There are techniques we can learn to help us succeed at confrontations without fighting back with aggression.
Here are five principles that we can learn to put out the fire:
· Listen, paraphrase, and empathise
· Never react in anger
· Never defend yourself
· Redirect the focus
· Develop exit strategies
Practising these principles will give you the calmness needed to handle a hostile audience.
Ignoring the elephant in the room means ignoring the reason for that person’s hostility or delaying the bad news you need to deliver.
This will annoy your audience more. Address the issue as soon as possible. This will quickly disarm your hostile audience. They may even calm down just because they feel seen and understood.
A common mistake is to invite your hostile audience to ask questions at the very end of the conversation.
Some of the questions will probably stir up negative feelings again, and if this is the last thing they hear, that is what they’ll remember.
Instead, save some time at the very end of your meeting to summarise your ideas. People tend to disproportionately remember what was last said, so try to end the conversation with your points.
Getting a hostile audience to listen to you is your ultimate goal.
By following these techniques, you can make any hostile audience more easily manageable. Once they listen to you, you can start convincing them with your ideas. You may even move them to a neutral audience, or better a positive one.
Dealing with a hostile audience cannot be avoided. It’s part of our professional life and can be make or break for your career.
Luckily there are tried and tested methods to calm hostile people down and win them round to your way of thinking.
Are you afraid to ask your boss for approval for that project you have been dreaming of bringing to life?
The ability to influence your boss is a crucial part of a high-flying career.
Learning the art of influencing your peers and other stakeholders is a skill that we’ve looked at in previous articles on influencing.
In this article, we will look at how you can develop the skill of influencing upwards so that you can build an excellent relationship with your manager.
Managing upwards will get you more ‘Yes’s from your manager and make you more influential throughout your organisation.
Managing upwards is looking for ways to make your boss’ job more straightforward.
It means understanding your boss’ responsibilities and helping them accomplish what is expected of them.
Managers manage down, helping subordinates achieve what is required.
Managing upwards is the same concept applied to your boss.
For obvious reasons, it is a great way to develop your relationship with your boss.
For more detail on managing upwards, see this excellent HBR article.
Managing upwards done well can be compared to having the wind at your back at work. Everything just seems to go that little bit more smoothly.
Developing solid and constructive relationships with those senior to you will offer benefits throughout your career.
Having the ear of senior management will allow you to get buy-in for your ideas and projects much more quickly.
Other benefits include:
Improved visibility with senior management is likely to lead to more explicit recognition of your achievements and rapid promotion.
Happy people are generally more productive and more satisfied.
Having a good relationship with your manager will remove one of the main possibilities for stress and unhappiness at work.
You need to be on the same page as your manager to influence him/her positively.
Spend a little time trying to understand what makes them tick. Everyone is different.
Do they like detailed reports, or do they prefer a summary?
Email or phone? Most people have a preference for one or the other.
Understanding these types of things will make things run more smoothly between you
Find out what your manager’s key issues are.
Then look at your career goals and see if you can find out where they overlap. That is a great place to start managing up.
You can’t help with all of your bosses goals. You have to choose where you can best help them.
Suppose you can find an area where there is an overlap with your goals. That’s the place to start. You’ll be most motivated.
For example, if one of your goals is to improve your data skills and your boss has a problem with reporting and data, that’s an area to focus.
You’ll effectively be ‘killing two birds with one stone‘.
Learning to listen is essential to managing upwards.
Things change, and your manager’s priorities will change with them.
Listening means you will be able to adjust your approach as things change.
Results speak louder than words.
If you deliver consistently for your boss, they will notice. Reliable, dependable team members are always highly valued.
Your boss will be able to trust you to deliver.
If you do what you say you will, your manager will increasingly listen carefully to your opinions.
Managing upwards is not the same as taking over your boss’s position in the company.
It doesn’t mean assuming 100% of your boss’ responsibility. It means understanding the issues your manager is facing and suggesting and/or implementing fixes for SOME of them.
Remember, you don’t know all of the issues and tradeoffs that your boss is facing.
When you come up with suggestions, present them as that.
Don’t be overconfident. There is probably plenty that you don’t know about the situation.
If you try to force your ideas on your manager, they will understandably resent this and push back.
For more advice on how to present your ideas to your boss, see this article. https://hbr.org/2014/12/your-boss-wont-say-yes-if-emotions-are-running-high
You need to tailor your approach to different people.
Just because an approach has worked in the past with a previous manager, that doesn’t mean it will work in the future.
Managing upwards is influencing, it isn’t manipulative.
It is simply putting yourself in your manager’s shoes and then thinking about how you can help them to meet their targets.
This will make you a more valuable employee and increase your influence as a result.
Next time you’re in a meeting with your boss, look for clues as to what is concerning them. Give them some suggestions for ways that you could help them improve things and see how they react.
I bet they’ll be delighted.
Do this a few times and deliver on your suggestions, and they’ll start to see you in a whole new light.
In this summary of “Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini, you will learn the six principles of influencing people, how to use them and how to defend yourself against them.
Influence is a fantastic book and the defining study of this subject in our view.
We would strongly encourage you to read it in full if you are looking to improve your influencing skills.
We would also encourage to take a quick look at our previous review of ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
The main idea behind “Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion” is that humans react predictably to certain triggers. Understanding what they are and how they work will make you less easily manipulated against your will.
Six principles make people more likely to comply with a request.
Of course, they won’t all work all of the time. Understanding your audience is the key to knowing which technique will work best.
This principle states that “Humans have the natural urge to repay gifts and favours, which they have received.”
When someone does something for us, we feel an obligation to repay them in some way. We feel obliged to them until we have repaid them in some way.
Businesses use this principle in giving free samples and small gifts both before and after purchases.
To defend yourself against this principle, learn to identify the true intention of the requester.
If someone starts to make demands after giving you a gift or doing you a favour, recognize that it was probably not a real favour.
We tend to remain consistent with our commitments once we have made them.
For example, if you agree to a small request, you are much more likely to agree to a larger request in future.
One study compared the response rate when asking people to put a large sign encouraging safe driving on their front lawn with people who had previously agreed to put a small three-inch “Drive carefully” sticker in their home window.
Those who had previously agreed to the small sticker were four times more likely to agree to the large sign on their front lawn.
People wanted to remain consistent with their prior commitments and so were much more likely to agree.
This rule is the basis of writing down your goals. Writing them down acts as a form of commitment and so increases your chances of sticking with them.
People are influenced by what others do. This principle means we tend to follow what others are doing.
When we are unsure how to behave or react in a certain situation, we look to others for answers. We assume that if lots of people are doing something, it must be correct. This is why we tend to buy popular products with lots of customer reviews.
This principle is widely used.
TV shows add laughter. Hearing others enjoying themselves makes us more likely to enjoy a program.
Bartenders ‘seed’ their tip jars at the start of the night with some money. Thinking that others have previously tipped a bartender will encourage others to tip them.
This principle means that we prefer to say YES to the requests of people we know and like.
Friendship and personal relationships have a strong influence on our choices. Hence salespeople trying to strike up a conversation and make small talk before they try to make a sale.
We tend to like physically attractive people, people who are similar to us, and those that we associate with success, praise, or co-operation.
This principle states that people are more willing to follow the directions of someone in a position of authority in a hierarchy.
We obviously are heavily influenced by people senior to us in our work hierarchy. See this article for full details of workplace power.
In addition, we generally trust people with authority whether we are part of their hierarchy or not. Think of the way you respond to doctors, lawyers, business people, police officers, etc. This tends to
The fact that they have expertise and authority in one area seems to have a ‘halo effect’ on all their decisions.
This means that it is always wise to ask yourself if someone has real expertise in this specific area.
This principle states that we value and desire things more when they appear less available.
For example, in an experiment by Stephen Worschel, people rated chocolate chip cookies better when they came from a jar having two cookies rather than a jar having ten cookies.
This principle is used in limited-quantity products, limited-time offers, and auctions.
The answer is that it depends on your intentions.
If you apply the above principles in someone’s best interest, then they are ethical.
For example, the current drive to encourage people to get vaccinated against coronavirus uses some of these techniques, but they are being used in the audience’s best interests.
However, if you apply them to try to persuade someone to do something that isn’t in their interests (buy a car that isn’t a good fit for them), it is unethical. It is then manipulation not influencing.
Ultimately if someone knew what you were doing, and why you were doing it, would it make them trust you more or less?
That is the acid test for your behaviour.
Learning to influence people ethically is a fundamental career skill for all of us.
You can use the principles from this book to positively influence others while protecting yourself from deception.
Whenever you meet someone next time, pick one or two principles and give them a try (ethically, of course!). You might well be surprised by the results.
“Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.” Mahatma Gandhi
Conflict is an unavoidable part of life. Whenever there are groups of people, there are conflicts.
Learning to deal effectively with conflict is a vital part of developing your influencing skills.
For many people, the word “negotiation” has negative connotations, as they find it uncomfortable.
Negotiation does not have to be a negative experience. Learning to reach a win-win outcome can turn negotiations and/or conflict into opportunities to build positive relationships.
This article will show you what a win-win outcome is and how to look for one in any situation.
“Win-win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.” Stephen Covey
Win-win is to find a mutually acceptable outcome for you and whoever you are trying to reach an agreement with.
Neither side gets everything that it wants, but both sides gain more than they lose.
It is a way of handling an issue that should allow everyone to move forward happy that they’ve been considered and leads to net positive outcomes.
Seeking win-win outcomes:
Win-lose, on the other hand, is not the optimal solution to conflicts.
Imposing your will on the other party may be possible in some circumstances, but it is not advisable even then.
A win-lose attitude means that you seek to win regardless of the loss to your colleague. It is a competitive, zero-sum approach that often leads to manipulative behaviour.
Seeking win-lose outcomes leads to:
Let’s have a look at a couple of examples of win-win and win-lose in action.
Your boss asks you to stay late to finish an urgent task when you plan to meet friends. Your boss knows about your plans.
A win-win approach
Your boss says, “I know you have plans for today and I’m really sorry to ask you to stay late to finish this project. If you agree to stay, I’ll make sure that you leave early next week to make up for it, and perhaps you could meet your friends then.”
This is a difficult situation where someone is going to be unhappy. However, the way your boss has approached it, he has also given you something and is trying to help you organise a fun night out with your friends.
This way, your boss gets the project done one time, and you get your night out with friends, even if it isn’t on the night you had hoped for.
In taking you into account and giving something, he is creating a positive work environment and trust.
A win-lose approach
Your boss says that if you don’t say late, there will be consequences for your career. He just imposes his will on you.
He does not consider your situation. Although you will probably comply, it’s unlikely that you will trust him or be particularly positive about your job in future.
You ask your boss for a salary increase, but you don’t know that company resources are limited, so a salary increase won’t be possible.
A win-win approach
Your boss explains that company resources are stretched, so a raise will not be possible in the short term.
However, they say that they will make sure that you are given more responsibilities and authority to put you in the best position for when an increase might be possible.
While you don’t get the raise you are looking for, your boss is showing empathy for your situation and helping you to be best prepared for the future when a raise might be possible.
While you may feel frustrated that you don’t have the raise that you wanted, you will leave the interaction feeling positive about your boss. He has shown empathy for your situation and is helping you achieve what you want.
A win-lose approach
Your boss flatly refuses the salary increase, saying that it’s not possible.
This will leave you far more frustrated than the example above. While you’ll still be in the same situation (on your original salary), you’ll now be less positive about your boss.
Image source: Pexels
Seeking a win-win outcome requires you to consider the needs, aims, and interests of the other side.
This approach turns a negotiation into a way to build and reinforce relationships.
In their book “Getting to yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In,” Roger Fisher and William Ury of Harvard Business School described a good negotiation as “wise and efficient, and which improves relationships. Wise agreements satisfy both parties’ interests and are fair and lasting.”
There are five different ways we can use to reach a win-win outcome.
Focus on solving the problem, avoid blaming the other person.
Remember that your disagreement is with the other person’s opinion on this one item, not with the person.
Getting a win-win solution requires you to express your point of view clearly so that they can understand how you see the problem.
However, if you focus on how you see the problem, they will not take the point personally, which keeps the conversation open and productive.
Equally, when they explain their position, be sure to use active listening techniques to understand how they see the problem.
“What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?” This question ultimately drives all our decisions and arguments. Our interests are what triggers our actions.
When negotiating, if you focus on the other sides interests rather than their position, you’ll have a far more constructive discussion.
The negotiation is there to find the optimal solution for everyone, so don’t get hung up on positions. Focus on interests and getting to the best solution for everyone.
It is helpful to explain why you think what you think to the other side.
To help them understand your viewpoint, it is beneficial to give them as much information to support your perspective.
A successful way of resolving differences is to generate and discuss a variety of potential options. To create and sort options:
Very occasionally, it won’t be easy to find common ground.
If the outcome is genuinely (this is very rare!) binary, there may not be shared interests.
When this happens, it is helpful to use objective criteria to reach a conclusion.
If both sides can agree to the criteria, they can ensure that their interests are considered.
To ensure that this works well, the criteria should be:
If an objective outcome isn’t possible, you might want to think about deferring the decision to an independent but mutually acceptable third party.
Image source: Pixabay
A win-win solution is not always appropriate.
There are times when it is impossible to get to a solution that satisfies all parties, or it just isn’t an appropriate time to be negotiating at all.
For example, once a decision has been made, the entire focus of a team should be on executing that decision as quickly and effectively as possible.
During a decision-making process, thoughts and ideas from the entire team should be actively canvassed. This is the time for team members to provide their input.
Once a decision has been made, it is unhelpful for team members to be questioning the decision. Discussions at this point should not be encouraged.
Similarly, occasionally you meet someone who has a diametrically opposed view to you on an issue. You should engage with them and look for a win-win solution, but sometimes it just isn’t possible.
In this case, it is often better to ‘agree to disagree’ ultimately. You can’t spend your whole life negotiating and discussing.
If the discussions have been thoughtful, you may walk away with more respect for the other person even though you didn’t reach an agreement.
Finding a win-win outcome is an essential career skill.
As you rise through an organisation, you will face more and more ambiguous and multi-faceted decisions, and so this becomes an increasingly valuable skill.
Before your next discussion with someone you disagree with, take 5 minutes to think through ways you could facilitate a win-win.
Whatever the outcome, we’re willing to bet it will be a lot more productive conversation.
‘The best investment is in the tools of one’s trade’ Benjamin Franklin
Influencing and persuading are critical skills to develop during your career. They expand your impact and ability to get things done.
Of course, in order to actively listen, you need to get the other person talking.
This article looks at open-ended questions which are a straightforward, effective way to get the conversation started.
Open-ended questions are questions where the asker is seeking a detailed answer and which can’t be answered with a straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
Its counterpart is a closed-ended question. That is a question that invites a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer.
Open-ended questions are generally explorative in nature. They invite the respondent to take their time and add detail to their answer.
Closed questions are generally specific to a particular point. The way they are asked does not usually invite the respondent to expand on the topic. They are seeking a quick one-word answer.
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
All of the open-ended questions are inviting detailed answers, whereas the close-ended questions are inviting short responses.
As with all tools, there is a time and a place to use open-ended questions.
They’re not appropriate in all situations.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using them.
Open-ended questions are very good at gathering detailed responses.
They are great to use when you are looking for detailed, expansive answers.
Open-ended questions are also perfect when you are:
Open-ended questions do not limit users to answers from a few options.
When you ask an open-ended question, you are signalling that you are interested in the other person’s views and opinions.
You would like to spend some time hearing and discussing their views. This is a great way to build rapport with someone.
Making people feel valued and ‘heard’ is a vital part of relationship building. For more on this, see our review of “How To Win Friends And Influence People”.
There is a time and a place to use an open-ended question.
Let’s look at their disadvantages so that you can see when it would be a bad idea to use them.
Asking an open-ended question is a signal to the other person to spend a little time answering the question.
If you are short on time, you should probably avoid using one.
Open-ended questions allow the respondent to answer in all sorts of different ways. They are general in nature.
If you need a specific answer to a particular question asking an open question is risky. You may not get the answer that you need.
Ask your questions clearly and concisely. Try to ask your question directly so that the person you’re asking is clear on what you’d like to understand.
If you are inviting them to answer at length, it’s essential to make sure they’re talking about the correct point, so try to be precise.
Try not to ‘lead the witness’.
If you’re asking an open-ended question, try to be neutral when asking the question. That way, you are more likely to get the other persons genuine view.
If you signal your preference when asking the question, you’re likely to alter their answer and also make the question more closed.
For example, asking ‘Can you tell me why you think this problem arose?’ is something you might typically ask when trying to resolve a conflict, rather than asking ‘Do you think that this problem arose because of issues with XXX?’
Don’t rush the person you are talking to.
Let them take a little time, and if they pause to think don’t rush to fill the pause. You may cut off their answer halfway through and lose some valuable details.
A great way to show that you’re really interested in what the other person has to say is to ask them to email if they have any thoughts later on.
We’ve all had the experience of thinking of a great answer after a meeting has finished. Usually, we won’t then send the thought to the person we were speaking to as we think that the time has passed.
If you let them know that you’d really appreciate any further thoughts that they have, then you’re signalling your real interest in the moment, and also increasing the chances that they will email you any follow-up thoughts that they have.
Open-ended questions are a hugely valuable tool. They can transform your relationships and management up and down your organisation.
Next time you’ve time to prepare for a meeting, try to think of three really good open questions to ask and see how much difference they make to the interaction.
They are a great basis for exploring someone’s issues and so starting to move towards a win-win outcome for everyone.
Self-confidence affects all areas of life.
Without it, people struggle to make significant progress in all areas of their life.
It has a cascading effect on all aspects of our daily life.
For example, it directly affects resilience, which is the ability to bounce back from setbacks. If you’re not confident you can get through something, the chances are that you won’t even try.
If you have learned that you are resilient and can overcome problems, the odds are that you will be.
The opposite is also true. A strong belief in yourself about achieving something actually increases the chances that you’ll do it and do it well.
In an increasingly complex and unpredictable world, being confident that you will be able to overcome emerging issues is often the difference between progress and stagnation.
So, how do you develop self-confidence? What is it anyway? Are you born with self-confidence, or is it something you can develop?
We explore the answers to these and more questions below.
Self-confidence is a general view of how likely you are to accomplish a task or goal based on past experiences.
According to psychologist Albert Bandura, “self-confidence is the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.”
How you perceive your skills, abilities, and judgment obviously affects your self-belief and so your view on how likely you are to succeed at any given task.
The benefits of self-confidence are shown across the board.
Unhelpfully lots of people use these terms interchangeably. They actually refer to different things but they’re all closely related.
Self-confidence is your faith in your own abilities.
Self-esteem is your feeling of self-worth. This is not just about your abilities but relates more broadly to your sense of self.
Self-efficacy refers to your belief that you have the capacity and skills to achieve your goals. It is more specific than self-confidence and refers to behaviour.
Self-confident individuals display several unique characteristics that set them apart from others.
Assertiveness: Self-assured people set and maintain clear boundaries. They know what they want and ring-fence their time and resources to achieve their goals.
Decisiveness: Self-confident people make calculated decisions and follow through when executing them.
Taking risks: Self-confident people take more calculated risks. Why? Because they expect their actions to yield successful outcomes.
Saying “NO”: Self-confident people have mastered the art of gracefully saying “No.” Rejecting unnecessary requests that eat into your time improves your ability to focus on what matters, leading to better control over your time, and your emotional and mental health.
Open body language: People with self-confidence have open and inviting body language. They go through life with their heads held high, and shoulders squared regardless of the challenges in their lives.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after challenges or setbacks. Resilient people typically dare to pick up the pieces, learn from their mistakes and move on.
Trying something again when you’ve failed several times requires guts. That’s where self-confidence comes in.
Research shows that self-confident people are more likely to bounce back and that they do so faster after a setback. Their belief in their ability to succeed allows them to do this.
They chalk up failures as learning opportunities and use the lessons to build back bigger and better.
While genetics play a role in shaping a person’s character, its contribution to confidence is less than you might think.
Self-confidence is earned.
You develop self-confidence. You learn that you can and will overcome problems as you go through life and experience new challenges and situations.
A result of this is that it is known that early childhood experiences have a significant contribution to self-confidence. As a child, you learn that you can overcome problems and keep going.
Yes. You can have too much of a good thing.
Excess self-confidence ultimately tips over into overconfidence.
Overconfidence distorts a person’s abilities and can lead to a number of problems .
Do you regularly take on more than you can handle?
When you frequently take on too much and fail to deliver, that’s a clear sign of overconfidence.
People with too much self-confidence display other unmistakable traits as well:
Any one of these traits on their own doesn’t say much. However, having more than one may mean it’s worth thinking about this further.
Overconfident people are often resented and disliked. In the short term, they get things done. However, as people often feel coerced into complying rather than going along willingly, this is a short term benefit but a long term problem. This article talks about coercive power.
Do you tend to shy away from projects with more responsibilities? If so, it might be a sign that you have low self-confidence.
People with low self-confidence shy away from challenges. Confusingly they also tend to accept whatever is thrown at them without pushing back as they don’t have the confidence to do so.
Other characteristics of people with low self-confidence include:
Self-confidence is a learnable skill and comes from four primary sources:
1. Mastery experiences: Completing a difficult or new task boosts self-confidence and primes you to attempt bigger projects in future.
2. Social modelling: This is how most people learn in early childhood. Seeing other people similar to you succeed will in turn raise your belief that you can also succeed.
3. Social persuasion: Receiving encouragement or positive feedback from other people alters your mind’s perspective and allows you to start believing you can achieve a goal.
4. Psychological responses: Moods, emotions and physical health affect how self-confident you feel. For example, somone who is exhausted is likely to be less confident about taking on a demanding project.
Work from the inside out. For example, when your boss asks if you can handle a particular project, take time to evaluate your skills and current time commitments before you answer.
That way when you answer you’re doing so from a position of having thought things through and so a position of confidence.
Comparison destroys self-confidence.
There will always be someone more affluent, more intelligent or more accomplished than you on one area, but remember you don’t know what’s going on in the rest of their life.
If you have to be competitive, make it with yourself. Compare yourself with who you were yesterday. Are you doing better or worse?
Focusing on your growth and how far you have come is a great way to boost your self-confidence.
A healthy body does wonders for your self-confidence.
You will feel better and that will show itself in everything that you do.
Following a simple regime of healthy eating and exercise will boost your confidence pretty quickly.
If you’ve successfully achieved a goal in the past, then you can do it again.
Make a list of past accomplishments that you are really proud of and keep it close.
Go back to it regularly for inspiration. Remind yourself of the awesome things you’ve done in the past to inspire what you can do now.
If you failed at your goal in the past, what can you learn from it?
This is closely related to point 2 above.
Self-confidence is about handling new and uncomfortable situations.
Therefore, doing small things that stretch you every day is a great way to improve your self-confidence.
This can take any form. Strike up a quick conversation with a stranger, try a new hobby. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, even a little, and you do it anyway it’ll help.
How you dress influences how others perceive you. It also impacts how you perceive yourself.
Research shows that wearing different clothes leads you to think and act differently.
To boost confidence, dress how a confident version of yourself would. Go for clothes that accentuate your best features.
Setting and achieving goals, even small ones, significantly increases self-confidence.
Your brain will increasingly believe that you can achieve your goals.
As we talked about above, this starts a virtuous cycle of accomplishments and expanding self-confidence.
Setting unrealistic goals can equally lead to a vicious cycle of failure and reducing self-confidence.
Positive self-talk if a product of positive thinking. It fosters self-compassion and the ability to take on new challenges.
For example, instead of telling yourself, “This is impossible,” or “I can’t do this,” rephrase it into “I can do this” and “Anything is possible if I set my mind to it.”.
Remember you don’t ‘have’ to do anything. You ‘get’ to do something.
This might feel silly at first, but posture affects how you feel about yourself. Try power poses that can alter your frame of mind.
According to research by Ohio State University, sitting up straight can help you feel more self-confident about the task at hand.
Self-confidence improves every aspect of a person’s life, but it is earned.
With it, you can accomplish more at work, improve relationships and, more importantly, improve health and well-being. Use the tips above to foster and develop yours.
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Stress is a natural reaction to concerns that you might not be able to meet the demands and expectations being put upon you.
A certain amount of stress is normal. Life doesn’t always go as you want it to.
Being stressed for a short period will improve your performance.
However, ongoing chronic stress can have serious implications for your physical and mental well-being.
In order to be resilient and effectively manage life’s ups and downs, you need to learn how to manage your stress and look after your physical and mental health.
This article gives more details on the relationship between stress and resilience.
As many as 70% of adults in the United States admit to feeling stress and anxiety daily and so there is plenty of research on ways to manage your stress levels.
The trick is to figure out what works for you.
Planning your day will give you a sense of control and purpose. It will help you to get away from the feeling of just fighting fires all day long.
Learn time management and the importance of planning is a great place to help get your stress under control.
Maintain a balanced, healthy diet. Make sure you are drinking sufficient water.
Avoid excessive caffeine and sugary snacks. They may give you temporary relief in the form of an energy boost but the crash will come and leave you feeling more tired.
A healthy diet will give you the energy you need to keep going.
People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience stress and anxiety.
Being physically active has a very good impact on both our physical and mental health.
All exercise helps whether it’s a walk around the block, a bike ride, or a trip to the gym.
Regular exercise will help you to keep your energy up and your stress levels low.
Stress can make sleep more difficult. Sleep can make you find difficult situations even more stressful.
Some people can get into a vicious circle of poor sleep, leading to more stress and even poorer sleep.
If you are having a difficult time it is important to make time for sleep.
Much like sugary snacks, cutting back on sleep is a short term strategy that will ultimately make things more difficult not less.
A study finds that people with few social connections are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.
If you are having a tough time don’t cut yourself off from others.
Spending time with others is a great way to manage your stress.
It even better if you know them well enough to discuss the issues that you’re facing.
Ask them for their advice. Most of the time just talking about the issue out loud will help reduce the anxiety and stress.
What is it that’s getting you stressed? Many people find that writing things down, or journalling, actually reduces their stress.
It stops their mind from spinning and allows them to keep things in proportion.
Take a pen and
Working from home can mean lots of video calls.
Zoom burnout is real and you need to manage it.
Keep an eye on your calendar and decline invitations if you feel that you’ve just got too many calls in a day.
Learning to use relaxation techniques is vital to help you through very high-stress days.
Many of these techniques are well known. The challenge is applying them consistently.
Methods we would recommend looking at are:
Managing your stress levels is vital if you want to perform at a high level.
Taking 30 minutes daily to do so is a very wise investment. It will make you far more resilient to lifes ups and downs.
Image credit: Pexels.
Workplace resilience is a fundamental characteristic of successful people.
No one goes through their career without facing adversity and multiple setbacks.
If setbacks send you wildly off course then you’ll struggle to compete with your more resilient peers who will forge on regardless.
Let’s take a look at what workplace resilience is, and then, more importantly, how you can improve yours.
Resilience is the distinctive ability to “bounce back” and thrive after setbacks.
Ask 8 people what resilience is and you’ll probably get 8 different answers, however, they will all probably include:
A 2020 UK workplace survey found that 79% of British employees experience work-related stress, a rise of 20% from 2018 findings.
Increased stress takes a toll on productivity, mental health, job satisfaction, and well-being.
It also leads to burnout, illnesses and absenteeism.
For employers, this is a productivity and staff morale issue. Resilient workforces will perform better and have lower levels of illness and absenteeism.
For individuals, this is also a productivity and morale issue. If you are not resilient you will reduce your ability to perform consistently with knock-on effects on your career prospects. You will also make your working life more difficult and less fun than it otherwise would be.
Good time management skills help you work faster and smarter – not harder.
Regardless of how busy you get, you’ll at least be confident that you are working on the most important tasks and feel you have things under control.
By contrast, poor time management leads to:
A great first step is to sit down and truly prioritise your to-do list, focusing on only the most important tasks in front of you.
What, if done properly, moves you closer to your ultimate goal? Start with that and fit other less important tasks later, or accept that there just won’t be time to get them done.
The sense of control that this gives you is tangible. Learning tactics like this will help you to build resilience and look after your mental health.
Mindfulness helps you be in the here and now.
In an increasingly distracted workplace characterised by non-stop meetings, emails, and notifications, is it any wonder that most employees can barely get anything done?
With mindfulness, you train your mind to limit distractions and focus on the task at hand.
A simple way to start is that once you ‘pick up’ a task you see it through to completion without breaking for a distraction. That means no social media, emails, or unnecessary breaks until you finish a task. This includes trying to multitask during Zoom calls.
Again this is a great way to develop resilience. It will give you a sense of control and develop your resilience in the workplace.
If you can persuade others to do the same to help them build resilience then you can develop a work culture that helps everyone via social support.
Employees who practice mindfulness report increased resilience at work because it reduces stress, improves collaboration, and boosts well-being.
The other benefit of focusing on the task at hand is that it means you are not focusing on future uncertainties. Dwelling on future uncertainties too much is a sure-fire way to increase your anxiety levels and reduce your mental toughness.
21st-century workers face a deluge of information.
How do you manage all of this? The answer: batching.
According to the American Psychological Association, batching (also known as compartmentalising) tasks reduces task-switching costs that can affect productivity by up to 40%.
Resilient people avoid hopping around and handle one task or a set of related work-tasks at once. This minimises the cost of task-switching and increases productivity while also reducing stress.
A simple example of this would be, only deal with email at specific times instead of constantly switching between email and your most important task of the day.
Multitasking and rapid task switching will increase your likelihood of stress and burnout.
Taking breaks seems counter-intuitive when you’re trying to get more done.
The evidence shows that your concentration and mental clarity plummets after about 90-120 minutes of intensive work.
Detaching from work for a break will boost your energy and clarity. It will also help you avoid that frustrating and ultimately stressful feeling of working hard but feeling like you’re getting nowhere or making silly mistakes.
A resilient workforce is the foundation of a resilient organisation.
Supporting, motivating, and training your staff to be resilient and handle work-related stress will make your organisation more resilient and is a good start.
Other ideas for supporting your employees include anonymous workplace-satisfaction surveys. These can identify issues and cases of stress early and allow you to proactively deal with them before they become big issues.
A sense of mission and striving for a large goal can help people navigate day-to-day ups and downs.
An organisation with an exciting and ambitious goal will help employees keep their stress under control.
Organisations that routinely come together to review problems and work on solutions are lower-stress places to work.
This practices makes employees feel supported and also understood as it is accepted that there will be problems and that solving them isn’t the responsibility of any one person. It is a group issue and requires a group response.
Workplace stress is an ever-growing issue and has been for a number of years. Coronavirus has only served to accentuate this trend.
Resilience both individually and as a team or organisation can be learned and practiced. There are well-established techniques for improving resilience and managing stress.
A bit like insurance it is work looking at this when you don’t need it and all is going well as when you do need it it’s usually too late!
Time is all that we have in many ways.
People struggle with time because despite it being limited, it is also free and given to everyone equally each day.
We trade time for money when we go to work.
We’re paid more if we’ve previously spent time learning something that someone needs, for example building up skills or a deep network in a specific area.
The reason that people pay us is that they don’t have the time to learn and do something for themselves……it all comes back to time.
So good time management is a fundamental life skill.
If you want to have a fulfilling, impactful life you need to learn the basics of good time management at a minimum.
Good time management will look different for everyone but the outcome will be the same in every case.
People who have their time under control spend most of their time on the things that, to them, are most important. This is the sign of someone who is managing their time well as they are ensuring that their time is being used effectively.
Obviously when this says ‘the things that, to them’ that could be raising a family, a hobby or the priorities that your boss has set for you. Everyone’s priorities are different.
Good time management is a key part of a fulfilling life. Everyone has something that they feel strongly about.
Not focusing your time on that thing (or things) means that you are wasting some of your time which is to no-ones’ benefit.
Good time management is not a fixed goal. It is not a ‘one and done’ activity so you can’t aim to achieve good time management.
It is a process. Something that you do day-in and day-out to keep on track for your goals.
Just as regular exercise is part of ensuring a healthy life, regular time management is part of ensuring a productive life.
So good time management is regular and effective time management. There is no one way to ‘good time management’.
Everyone needs to find the particular process that works best for them.
Good time management is a way of maximising what you achieve.
As you work on improving your time management you will find that there are a number of substantial benefits along the way:
It is impossible to know if you spending your time well without defining your goals clearly.
The clarity and specificity that a time management process brings to your goals, and then monitoring your progress towards your goals, is usually one of the first benefits people enjoy.
When you are clear on what matters to you and why you are much more motivated. This means that the frustration and irritation that comes with procrastination will either disappear or reduce dramatically.
To focus on your most high impact activities you must free up time.
Good time management means delegating activities that don’t play to your strengths.
You will generally know what these are and find the need to carry out these tasks frustrating and irritating. By delegating them you will free yourself for these tasks.
Good time management at work is critical to success.
The discipline that you need in order to manage your time well will ensure that you are a productive and valued employee.
The benefits that you will see include:
There is no greater waste of time than a project that doesn’t get completed. You are far more likely to stick with and complete projects where you are really clear on the goal and expected return. See this article on sticking with projects for more details.
Focusing your time on a few very high-value projects and driving them through to completion is a sure-fire way to have an impact. As you will have a substantial impact on the few projects that you get involved with (rather than having a passing involvement in lots of projects) your contribution will be obvious to people.
Good time management is actually relaxing, contrary to what many people think. If you know you’re spending your time wisely and on valuable projects and tasks, your stress will reduce. Relaxed, motivated people are happy and so fun and positive to be around. So as you get your time under control you will naturally become happier and more relaxed and be a nicer, more fun person to be around in the office.
Time management skills apply just as much outside of work as they do at work.
Just as at work you have a limited amount of time and should aim to get the most from it. Good time management skills and project management skills (depending on your hobbies) will make sure that you focus on important tasks and avoid time wasters.
The same time management techniques will apply.
There are lots of different ways to look at time management. For us the 4 key tools or steps are GAPS:
Hopefully, this has helped clarify a few things. Everyone takes for granted that good time management is key but often people aren’t that clear on exactly why.