Helping for the Long Run

You have a deadline approaching.  One of your employees is struggling to get the job done.  His ability to do the work timely will impact the team's ability to meet the deadline.  What's really going on?

Slow down and think it through in order to move to a productive solution.  How likely is this scenario to trigger some frustration or anxiety for you?  There are so many possiblities.  Maybe you blame yourself.  You ask yourself, why didn't I see this coming?  How could I have prevented it from getting to this point?  Or, maybe you direct your frustration at the person who isn't pulling his weight.  You blame him for not being more productive and organized in his work.  It's not you, it's him!  You might tell yourself to be patient with him and try to work it out.  You remind him of the deadline and maybe you approve overtime to get the job done, but your real goal is to make sure you protect your own reputation.  You could feel sorry for the individual and the pressure he is under.  You help fix the problem by taking the work back from him and doing it yourself.  What if you were thinking more collaboratively about the situation?  You might see opportunity for him to learn, for you to grow as a manager and for the team to collaborate more effectively. 

Sit back and recognize your own response to the situation.  What's the energy behind your thoughts and how does that help or impede finding a solution?  It's tough to be creative at solving a problem when we're feeling stressed.  The facts of the situation are unchanged, the deadline is fast approaching.  It is your beliefs about what is really possible that drive your reaction or response.  How can you get out of your own way and move forward productively?  The next time you find yourself in a similar situation, try this:

1) Recognize your initial response to the situation.  If it's not productive, challenge yourself to let it go.  You might take a few deep breaths to center yourself and relax.  Choose to believe that it will all work out in the long run.  What if the challenge you're facing is actually a gift?

2) Ask, don't tell.  Find out what's getting in the way for the employee.  What are the challenges he is dealing with?  How can you help?  What solutions does he see?  Listen without judgment, seeking understanding and insight.

3) Think through your options, not just the initial obvious ones.  Is there someone else who can help?  How true is it that you have to "fix" the situation?  How will that help or hurt in the long run?  What's the real opportunity to learn and grow as a team?

4) Ask yourself how the person you want to be would handle the situation at hand.  Be that person.

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