“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting, and their solutions so constructive, that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.”
– Paul Hawken, American environmentalist
It’s Friday evening, and Nancy is starting to relax after a difficult week in the office. The smell of the lasagne in the oven reminds her that she didn’t eat much during the day.
As she rinses the salad tomatoes, Nancy’s mobile phone pings. Her stomach tightens. She dries her hands and opens the email.
She knows she should have dealt with a troublesome team member before the weekend. This person tends to get angry and blow things out of proportion, so she’d decided to leave it until Monday. But she’d had a feeling he wasn’t going to wait.
Nancy was right: he’d sent her a strongly worded email, and copied in all of the senior managers. Her problem just got a whole lot more complicated!
Do Your Pain Points Manage You?
All managers experience pain points. And, because they’re not the most pleasant things to deal with, it’s easy to fall into the same trap as Nancy. She allowed the pain point to manage her, instead of taking the initiative herself.
How do you know if your pain points are managing you? In my experience, there are some common warning signs:
- You avoid dealing with issues that could potentially lead to more problems.
- You avoid talking with certain people about their performance or behavior.
- You have a constant feeling of dread concerning a particular person or issue.
How to Manage Your Pain Points
Managing your pain points isn’t just about tackling the issues. It’s also about changing the way you think about them. You need to take control of yourself, and of your behavior. Here are four things that you can start doing immediately:
Keep your pain point in perspective. Don’t inflate the issue. The more you think about it without doing something constructive, the worse the problem seems to get. Soon enough, the story you tell yourself about it becomes so big, that you feel unable to deal with the real problem.
Don’t take it personally. When you deal with difficult people, remember that it’s not about you. Their behavior is how they choose to act, and you can’t control it. The best that you can do is to influence the outcome by taking care of your own attitude and behavior. The Betari Box is an excellent tool that can help you to understand the link between attitude and behavior.
Think creatively. Find new ways to deal with old issues. If you feel that your approach so far has not been successful, change it. Use your favorite brainstorming tool to see what new ideas you can come up with.
Work from a position of “and,” rather than “or.” In her book, “The Triangle of Truth,” author Lisa McLeod explains a simple but powerful principle. When you talk or think in “or” mode, you see the other person as an opponent. You think, “It’s either your opinion or mine.” But when you switch to, “Let’s listen to your opinion and mine,” the other person is no longer your opponent, but your ally.
Daily Pain Points of Managing a Team
In our Twitter chat last Friday, we discussed the pain points that apply to all managers, including how to deal with difficult people and how to deal with conflicting demands. We also focused on the problems experienced by new managers. Here are the questions we asked, and some of the responses:
Q1. What are some typical pain points you experience as a manager?
@MurrayAshley Equally and fairly balancing processes, tasks and people.
@harrisonia Remaining impartial during employee issues and keeping personal feelings out.
Q2. What makes these points so painful?
@sittingpretty61 It’s like a swamp, in that everything sinks to the bottom and the manager needs to stay afloat above it!
@s_narmadhaa They’re distracting. And it makes us shift our priorities a lot. Which only makes us less efficient.
Pain Point 1: You’re a New Manager
Becoming a boss can be tricky, especially if you’re managing your former peers. Many of you emphasized the importance of having open, honest conversations, and of seeking help when you need it.
Q3. When would you feel OK to ask for help from others?
@PG_pmp It’s always good to consult others when one is unable to get a solution around the problem area… it helps to add another brain to find the way out.
@maat333 At any time that is necessary. Having doubts and asking for help is a sign of maturity and, in the case of leadership, a clear sample of the same.
Q4. A former peer resists your leadership. What steps do you take to bring him or her on board?
@KobusNeethInst Have a very open one-on-one conversation with this person in a neutral environment such as a coffee shop. Ask how you can help, but don’t feel compelled to be the fixer. They need to own their behavior.
@nitinwelde Have an open conversation. Tell them that you need their support, expertise and experience. It is perfectly fine to say you need them, rather than they need you. Roles change in life, but friends remain.
Pain Point 2: Dealing With Difficult People
Our participants had a broad range of opinions about dealing with difficult team members!
Q5. A member of your team dominates team discussions and is quick to criticize others’ ideas. How do you handle the situation?
@PIPability Tackle the dominating aspect by acknowledging their point, and then taking control of the discussion and asking others directly what they think. Handle the critical situation as a behavior issue in private.
@SaifuRizvi You need to educate your team that they have the right to disagree, but they don’t have the right to disrespect!
Q6. A team member sees the negative in everything and drags down team morale. How do you deal with him or her?
@KLC2978 Coaching and supporting them on development needs. Consider disciplinary actions if all else fails. The person needs to accept responsibility for their own actions and face the consequences. Look for underlying reasons for behavior too.
@Ganesh_Sabari A pessimist is either lazy or a coward. Overblows issues and undermines opportunities. Create intermittent checklist parameters that ensure progress.
@MarkC_Avgi Tell them in private they are being negative, inquire as to a possible reason, and indicate that negativity without offering solutions is not to anyone’s benefit. They may not realize it, and it may just need to be constructively pointed out to them.
Pain Point 3: Coping With Conflicting Demands
You had some great ideas about how to juggle your many responsibilities.
Q7. How do you respond to questions from your team when you have been asked by seniors not to disclose information?
@JKatzaman Listen to team questions and tell them you will pass along their concerns. Also, truthfully tell them you don’t have information for them on that issue right now.
@BrainBlenderTec This is like tangoing on a rooftop: you step carefully as not to divulge sensitive information while still keeping your team in the loop.
Q8. What strategies do you use to be available to your people and to do your own work, too?
@PramodDrSolanki Set aside some time for such meetings and let the team know that you are available at the given time. This ensures that the rest of the time is used for your work and you are still available to your people.
@ZalkaB Make your availability known in advance and assign times for one-on-ones, team meetings, briefings, or just a coffee-catch-up. It makes it so much easier rather than to leave your employees wondering or even searching for you if you’re needed.
Managing in General
Finally, we turned to the importance of shared goals and team cohesion.
Q9. How do you instill team spirit, a shared purpose, or a collaborative work style in your team?
@MicheleDD_MT We begin all team meetings by connecting with each other – it builds strong relationships. Team meetings focus our work on what’s most important to the business and to the team.
@Midgie_MT In addition to having a team charter, hold regular team social events. This could be at lunchtime, during working hours (even for a one-hour get-together) or after work (yet some might not be available).
Q10. What can you learn from your pain points?
@carriemaslen Pain points force us to find creative solutions, remind us that we’re human, and provide an opportunity to share how we overcome.
@Yolande_MT Realize that your behavior influences your team. Make sure that you’re an authentic, true and generous person to yourself and others.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat.
Books are one of the greatest sources of knowledge, and many of us turn to books when we feel stuck and need help. In next week’s #MTtalk Twitter chat, we’re going to talk about the books that have changed your life. But first, we’d like to know when you’re most likely to turn to a book for help. Click here to see all the options and to cast your vote.
In the meantime, here are some resources that will help you to learn more about dealing with the daily pain points of managing a team:
How to Be Flexible in the Workplace
Dealing With Angry People
Dealing With Sloppy Work
Five Ways to Deal With Rudeness in the Workplace
Into the Deep End
Bad Behavior at Work
How to Be Organized
Members of the Mind Tools Club can also access the full versions of the following articles:
Managing Your Boundaries
Confidentiality in the Workplace
Seven Surprises for New Managers
Avoiding Managerial Self-Sabotage
Dealing With a Wide Span of Control
Dealing With Conflicts of Interest
Dealing With Difficult People
Dealing With Bossy Co-Workers