Deal with tension in the office- or risk this

Every office I've ever worked in or worked for has some degree of tension. Tension isn't necessarily bad. In fact, a lot of business and organizations skillfully use tension to spark new ideas and innovation.

However, there is lots of unproductive, interpersonal tension out there. This kind of tension happens when there are misunderstandings and unresolved issues between employees. It typically starts small and builds over time. Each person involved is keeping score. They count up slights, criticisms, and decisions that didn't go their way.

And whether you're involved or not, you feel it. It comes out in snarky, sarcastic comments during meetings or in the "meeting after the meeting" when subsets gather for a debrief on what they really think.

Avoiding tension and not dealing with the problems head on erode productivity and trust. The ramifications are worse if you're in a leadership position. Issue avoidance is a signal of weakness that will undermine your ability to motivate and get big goals accomplished.

With that in mind, I wrote this recent article for my Inc.com column on how to deal with tension in the office before it gets out of control.

Robin Camarote

I'm the co-founder of Federal MicroConsulting and strategic planning consultant based on Falls Church, VA. I am intent on helping leaders get more done with fewer headaches by outlining clear, creative strategies and solutions that build momentum and buy-in at all organizational levels. In addition to consulting, I write regularly for Inc.com, GovExec.com, and Bloomberg Government on leadership and how to increase your positive impact at work. She is the author of a best-selling book on organizational behavior entitled, Flock, Getting Leaders to Follow and Own It: Drive Your Career to a Place of Happiness and Success. I live with my husband and three children in Falls Church, Virginia.

The Surprising Trick to Selling Yourself

It turns out the selling yourself is neither about you or what you're selling. It's about the benefit someone else will get after engaging with you. Whether you're in business or in government, we're all in the position of having to share our ideas or ways of doing something and get another person or group to buy-in. It's the nature of how we work.

Maximize your effectiveness by focusing not on yourself but on the results to be gained. Check out this recent article for more on the topic of selling yourself.

Robin Camarote

I'm the co-founder of Federal MicroConsulting and strategic planning consultant based on Falls Church, VA. I am intent on helping leaders get more done with fewer headaches by outlining clear, creative strategies and solutions that build momentum and buy-in at all organizational levels. In addition to consulting, I write regularly for Inc.com, GovExec.com, and Bloomberg Government on leadership and how to increase your positive impact at work. She is the author of a best-selling book on organizational behavior entitled, Flock, Getting Leaders to Follow and Own It: Drive Your Career to a Place of Happiness and Success. I live with my husband and three children in Falls Church, Virginia.

Are you tracking what matters most?

Performance metrics matter. We know this and yet we continue to track things that have little to do with our goals. The better alternative is to make sure that you're measuring progress against the things that matter most to you and your future. Here are four steps to think through that process.

I'm trying to move away from outputs-- such as number of contracts-- and focus more on outcomes. Did I create a connection with a client? Did a client come back after the project to ask more questions or start another task? Would we both want to work together again?

What do you track on a regular basis?

Improve employee engagement by focusing on attitudes, not roles

INCREASING BUY-IN BY SHIFTING FROM ROLE-BASED TO ATTITUDE-BASED EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

Gaining buy-in is something we often treat like a "check the box" exercise when, in fact, it's much more complex and costly.

Whether you think in terms of effort or dollars or both, what makes some projects so hard is the anticipation of resistance you will meet along the way. But take a breath, get some coffee and consider how you might apply these three things to improve communication and buy-in today.

What’s the end objective? Shift from role-based (project manager, engineer, HR Director, etc) to attitude-based messages to increase buy-in by more precisely addressing each group’s unique concerns and challenges.

How might this shift from role-based to attitude-based outreach work?

MESSAGE SEGMENTATION

 Perceptions Matrix

Perceptions Matrix

Role-based communications is critical when communicating job requirements but is not precise enough to address an individual’s unique perspective of concerns.

 Develop attitude-based communications

Develop attitude-based communications

To more precisely target outreach efforts, program managers should segment their stakeholder community by creating attitude categories. The matrix above includes two dimensions including 1) perceived program value (high or low) and 2) implementation pace (early adopter, passive supporter, and resistant). 

  1. Refine the categories to mirror the categories of concerns
  2. Estimate the percentage of staff within the broad stakeholder community that fall into each bucket. This will provide some focus and sense of areas of importance
  3. Develop messages and outreach opportunities that match the needs of each attitude category
  4. Roll-out approach, recognizing there will be multiple messages released in parallel

EXAMPLES OF ATTITUDE-BASED CATEGORIES AND SAMPLE MESSAGES

As shown above, there are two broad dimensions of perceived program value and pace of adoption that help define attitude categories.  Using the combinations, attitude groups emerge that can help inform targeted outreach efforts. 

To implement this approach, program managers have to morph the traditional thinking on outreach.  Specifically, key assumptions include:

  • The believers or people who rate high on the perceived value of the program and are early adopters are critically important. These people are continually looking for ways to improve and advance program within their part of the organization. They might be frustrated with the negative feedback because “it’s working just fine for them.”  Confident program managers should encourage this key group to run with their ideas to push the program forward.
  • Reaching out and trying to convince the most stubborn, resistant staff (depending on their role) should be a lesser priority or not done at all. 
  • Outreach efforts should be focused on the top and middle tiers with the belief that they’ll create the momentum and have the most influence.
  • Every opportunity to highlight accomplishments should be seized upon.  Amplifying the positive leaves less time and attention for the more negative, counter-productive attitudes.

In sum, an attitude-based approach will help target messages—regardless of role within organization—and more precisely address their issues and needs for better buy-in.

increase your power and influence in a day

Too often we think about the long list of things we need to do to to advance within our organizations. What we don't reflect on as often are the small things we can do each day to increase our power and influence- positively. 

Here are three simple ideas of things you can do tomorrow. You will end the day with more say and sway then you started with. Promise.

  1. Be a connector.  Internally or externally it doesn't matter.  Opportunities come up all the time to make a warm introduction that will benefit someone in their professional pursuits.  This isn't just about new jobs or new business but more about helping people within your circles broaden their horizons and hear another perspective or lesson learned from someone else who's been in their snow boots.
  2. Curate your own commentary.  We all have a running internal dialog filled with reactions and ideas.  Some are more practiced than others at filtering what comes out. Curating your own commentary means only jumping in with input that moves the conversation forward. When time is limited (and it always is) negativity, unnecessary examples, and meaningless amplification irritate and waste time.
  3. End office drama. Nothing crushes productivity and morale like office drama-- and most office drama is manufactured. Opt out. Even the most inane issues can become super distracting if allowed to grow or continuously flow. Ending the drama means avoiding talking about anyone not present, firing or reassigning staff quickly when needed (if you're in charge), and helping colleagues balance two beliefs-- our work is important and it's all going to be okay.

Robin Camarote

I'm the co-founder of Federal MicroConsulting and strategic planning consultant based on Falls Church, VA. I am intent on helping leaders get more done with fewer headaches by outlining clear, creative strategies and solutions that build momentum and buy-in at all organizational levels. In addition to consulting, I write regularly for Inc.com, GovExec.com, and Bloomberg Government on leadership and how to increase your positive impact at work. She is the author of a best-selling book on organizational behavior entitled, Flock, Getting Leaders to Follow and Own It: Drive Your Career to a Place of Happiness and Success. I live with my husband and three children in Falls Church, Virginia.

Stand Out or Risk Getting Lost in the Shuffle

  By Dmitri Popov

By Dmitri Popov

Across the government, agencies are getting ready for the new politicals to show up. Fresh from their not-so-easy confirmation hearings, they'll be anxious to get to work. Transition teams have helped get the big picture. However, the briefings don't stop there. Thousands of PowerPoint presentations will be created to tell the individual agency, bureau, and program story to someone new to their job.

The risk isn't getting picked on and put in the defensive- it's getting missed or ignored and having to fight for attention and resources for the next four years. 

Traditional briefing decks are dry and loaded down with dated images and graphics and even dustier explanations of exactly what you do on behalf of the American people.

There's a better way and some great lessons to be learned from the pitch decks used by innovators seeking to sell new products and services. Using these characteristics of a great sales deck as a jumping off point.

Here is a done-for-you template to shake things up in a positive and interesting way.

Robin Camarote

I'm the co-founder of Federal MicroConsulting and strategic planning consultant based on Falls Church, VA. I am intent on helping leaders get more done with fewer headaches by outlining clear, creative strategies and solutions that build momentum and buy-in at all organizational levels. In addition to consulting, I write regularly for Inc.com, GovExec.com, and Bloomberg Government on leadership and how to increase your positive impact at work. She is the author of a best-selling book on organizational behavior entitled, Flock, Getting Leaders to Follow and Own It: Drive Your Career to a Place of Happiness and Success. I live with my husband and three children in Falls Church, Virginia.