In my coaching practice so many of my clients come to me to seek ways to get the lifestyle they want without the stress.
For many of us it’s about clarity or lack thereof in what we are supposed to be doing; in life, work or both.
And often a simple exercise in clarity clears the way for success…
A wee fictional example:
John’s been working at a factory as operations manager for 3 months in a newly promoted position and is fighting fires all over the place; with the buyers, with the machine operatives and with distribution.
He’s constantly chasing his tail and feels stressed. He’s constantly ringing round making sure materials are cvoming, orders have gone out the warehouse to make room for his work in progress and with his own team to make sure things are on track.
His boss is beginning to wonder if this was a good appointment, and so is John who just wants things to work but doesn’t know who should be doing what and is afraid to ask for fear of seeming incapable. After all isn’t he supposed to know everything, isn’t he?
For many of us we bring about this stress, (I know I’d prefer to think it was all someone else’s fault too, but unfortunately it’s not), by not seeking clarity because we are scared to have the hard conversations and instead fumble along like someone having their first sex; pretending we know what we’re doing but in reality we’re groping in the dark. Er so to speak.
We’ll quite happily pretend we know what we’re doing and keep getting scratched and grazed and not having very much of a good time, all the while unsure of what we are doing when we could get clarity by having one difficult conversation right up front…
“Is that the way you like it?”
“Oh I see that’s a pain in the proverbial. How about this then?”
“Oh you like it when I do things this way?”
“So if I do this, and you do that we’ll both be happy??”
“How can I make this more pleasant experience for both of us?”
As with first time sex, so too with workplace/difficult conversations.
So how do we go from the death by a thousand cuts to a good clean understanding where no one gets unexpectedly, er screwed over?
Steps to Clarity…
- First get permission to engage in an honest and frank discussion that will help each party to understand the rules of play.
- Do this NOW. Not tomorrow , not when the boss/colleague/you are in a better mood; NOW! Believe me you’ll thank yourself for it once you have clarity.
- We’re looking to establish exactly what we’re each going to do for each other and what the output of this interaction is going to be.
- Be honest; Don’t know the answer? Say so! It’s better to get the tiny embarrassment you may perceive out of the way than go along being hampered by your lack of understanding. Believe me your colleagues will thank you for your candour rather than you bumbling through.
- Be as clear as you can with any communication; leave no room for ambiguity (to allow you to wriggle out later – yes I know you know you’ve done it). State what you intend to do/want from the other person clearly. No Bullshit, and no flimflammery.
- Admit when you’ve got the understanding wrong in the past and seek to set a solid foundation to move forward. (Don’t fight your corner making excuse after excuse for why you did it wrong – you’ll only get in to an adversarial conversation.)
- Set clear intentions and action plans that both parties understand moving forward. Oh, and make sure both parties agree to these and clarify where necessary.
So, back to John.
John sets up a meeting with his boss to clear the decks and have the difficult conversation today.
He explains to his boss that he is unsure of where the boundaries of his responsibilities lie, and to what extent he has authority and responsibility to suggest changes that might impact other departments.
His boss asks what he needs.
John suggests having a clear guideline as to what he should be getting involved in and where his responsibility and authority stops. In other words, where he can add most value.
His boss also suggests that he have a weekly half hour with his boss to go over his action plans for the next week until John is more confident in his role.
No more fumbling in the dark for John. No more wee slaps on the hands and happy colleagues all round.
What difficult conversation do you need to have today that would give you clarity and relieve your stress?