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There is no way we can adequately say "thank you" for all the help, guidance, consultation, advice, consolation, and old fashioned hard work you've done for us! We've come a long way these past ten months. You have been our guide.

--Organization CEO

Leading with Impact

Impact, not intention, is what counts. You may have the kindest, most fair intention, but stress and perception makes the difference in how your words and actions are taken. Now more than ever you want to pay attention to how you’re affecting others at work. This is not a time to give yourself a ‘pass’ when your stress gets in the way of other’s success. These days people are stressed because of the challenge of keeping their business afloat, keeping a job or even taking advantage of opportunities made available in this economy. With your own self discipline, you can make the difference between a workplace where people feel supported or stressed. Support doesn’t mean ‘anything goes and it’s all fine’, it means people have the discipline and organization to solve problems and make plans without blaming, it means contributors are fostered and those who aren’t an asset get to make other career choices.

There’s a sequence in being stressed and worried. People tend to pressure others to be more productive. Your intention is to improve performance and profitability. The impact may be to come down on people so they respond in kind or hide from you. They become so stressed they don’t perform well, which makes you tighten the screws even more. This sequence turns into a cycle that spirals down until everyone is miserable.

If your intention is to increase accountability and improve performance try these ideas:

  1. Tell employees/team what your objective is – why you’re doing it (I’m asking you to give me specific sales targets including name, appointment time, estimated sales amount because we need to be very careful about our margins now) The impact is they understand you and the situation, they don’t wonder about your motivation.

  2. Ask for ways they can help; explain why a suggestion won’t work or that you will try it for a specific period of time. (We’re all in this together, so let’s think about how we can all be successful and get through) The impact is they have a sense of being included and have some control over their work, extremely motivational for people.

  3. Ask people to tell each other if stress is too much so each can have a little grace – (I’m really uptight about how things are going so if I seem abrupt, please forgive me) The impact is everyone knows it’s difficult and they can help each other, not back-bite.

  4. Give people (and yourself) time out – don’t contaminate others with negativity. A workgroup can agree to this ahead of time. The impact is you have a way to keep each other more positive.

  5. Set a time for a review of work and stick to it. (I’m anxious about this, let’s look at this every other day at 4 pm) the impact is you are not a nag and micromanager, you’re trying to bring everyone along. If you’re not intentional about follow-up, rules and policies will become a symbol of poor management. Without follow-through cynicism creeps into the workplace and you’re in worse shape than you were before.

  6. Do not be sarcastic. If you’re concerned, say so, making snide remarks is a cheap laugh. The impact of sarcasm is to create defensiveness in others.

There is a temptation is to make rules, policies, and essentially force people to conform to what you think should be done. Many studies tell us the least effective way to change behavior is to unilaterally tell someone what to do.

The other temptation is to justify outbursts (raised voice, etc) because people ‘need’ it. Any display of anger or frustration should be very calculated, if at all. The impact is people seem to work hard at first, but then become afraid and hunker down. It doesn’t create an expansive, imaginative, creative, well performing workforce.

Your impact on others makes the difference between people wanting to work with and for you and people having to. If your stress makes you want to blame people instead of problem solve, take a minute – take an hour – and get back to being the self you want to be.

We may think we’re fine and other’s are ‘touchy’ or ‘just don’t get it’. Ask a trusted colleague if you’re coming across as you intend, and don’t shoot the messenger. One inquiry recently revealed managers doing an excellent job direction setting and following through. Another inquiry revealed several people were impacted by a manager’s stressful outbursts. Both valuable feedback. If you know how you impact others, you can manage it much more effectively.

© Lunell Haught, PhD, CMC

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