Archive for September, 2011

7 Ways to Reduce Workplace Struggles

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Does going to work sometimes (or often) feel like you’re headed into battle? Do you feel like you have to fight “the powers that be” every day just to be able to do your job properly? Do you feel a great deal of resistance from others? Does there seem to be a lot of unnecessary drama or angst in your workplace? Do you ever wish that work – and/or the people you work with – weren’t such a struggle?

I can relate to all of the above. At different times in my multi-career life, I have experienced all of those scenarios – and more. Those situations and environments are terribly draining – and usually unnecessary. But if you don’t know what to do to break out of them, they can bring you down physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. The good news is that there are practical ways to minimize those feelings of struggle in the workplace – and in life.

Recently I read an article about personal relationships that described how one couple refuses to experience the day-to-day differences and disappointments that are part of married life as struggles. Instead, they have chosen to work through the rocky times with humor or laughter instead of with resentment or negativity.

Since reducing one’s struggles in life sounded good to me, I wondered how to apply that suggestion to the workplace. Although humor and laughter certainly may reduce tension and provide some relief from one’s feelings of struggle, they may not work for everyone, or be appropriate in every situation. So here are a dozen other suggestions for actions or attitudes you can take or adopt that will help to reduce your struggles in the workplace:

    1. Presume others’ good intent, even when history shows it’s not always justified

    2. Approach people and ideas with a sense of curiosity instead of judgment

    3. Embrace challenges as opportunities rather than view them as obstacles

    4. Ask how things could work instead of looking for ways they won’t work

    5. Make “imperfect success” your standard, rather than perfection

    6. Check your ego at the door

    7. See the “glass” as half full instead of as half empty

Which of the above approaches resonates the most with you? I challenge you to find just one that you think with work for you, and give it a try. You might just improve the quality of your life dramatically by reducing your struggles!

© 2011 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

The ROI of Leveraging Differences into Opportunities

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Recently I was asked to speak to participants in a statewide leadership program about generational differences in the workplace. With four generations in the workforce today, it’s only natural that there is a great deal of interest in this topic, especially since some of the differences we read about seem irreconcilable. Interesting stuff! But definitely the wrong focus this group. Why?

First, generational differences are only one type of difference; the workplace is rife with others. Leaders must educate themselves about other kinds of differences as well. Second, and more important, focusing on differences, whatever their source, is unproductive at best, and destructive at worst. Here are eight reasons why this is true:

    1. Differences foster an “us vs. them” mentality, dividing people rather than enabling them to collaborate and work productively.

    2. Differences often encourage distrust, which cripples collaboration and productivity.

    3. Differences generally are based on traits that cannot be changed – e.g., age, race, gender, ethnicity – and that usually are irrelevant to the task at hand.

    4. Focusing on differences doesn’t allow people to see what they have in common or to discover what they can learn from one another.

    5. Making employment-related decisions based on some of these differences is illegal in the U.S. – not to mention that doing so is a bad management practice.

    6. Focusing on differences emphasizes what WON’T or DOESN’T work rather than on what DOES work.

    7. When we seek differences, we find them. Too often, forward momentum then comes to a screeching halt.

    8. Differences often are seen and treated as obstacles to success instead of as enablers of greater outcomes.

Would you want to work in an environment with those characteristics? What if, instead of focusing on differences, leaders kept the spotlight on what people have in common? Here are just a few of the reasons why emphasizing how we are alike makes good business sense:

    1. Changing the question from “How are we different?” to “How can we be successful together?” opens the door to entirely new and actionable answers.

    2. Commonalities allow people to move forward by focusing on opportunities instead of on obstacles.

    3. When we seek opportunities we will find them, which means the sky becomes the limit. While we won’t always reach the stars, we will get much closer to them than if we had set our aspirations much lower.

    4. Differences among people are not going away, so sticking your head in the sand won’t change things.

    5. Commonalities “seasoned” with differences create immense learning opportunities and unleash creativity and innovation.

    6. The emphasis is on what WILL or COULD work.

    7. Emphasizing commonalities opens the door to the best of all worlds, allowing us to move forward by learning, adapting, and growing as individuals and as organizations.

    8. Commonalities are seen as enablers – of action, creativity, innovation, collaboration, and knowledge sharing.

While it’s important to learn about what makes people different so we can understand others’ perspectives, it would be a mistake to dwell on those differences. Consider what a difference it would make in the work environment if leaders emphasized what’s common across human beings – i.e., that people generally want to succeed, to be respected and feel valued, to be part of something bigger than themselves, and to enjoy what they do. Imagine what could happen in YOUR organization if people focused on what unites them rather than on what divides them. In which environment would your employees be most productive, engaged, and committed? The choice is yours. What will it be?

© 2011 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.