Self-Awareness Workshops

5 Steps to Stop Disciplining Employees

See if you recognize this pattern.  An employee does something against the rules and sets in motion a complex series of consequences which may include a verbal warning, counseling, reprimanding, written warning, heartfelt lecture and so on up to termination or taking away their TV privileges.

While I understand that workplaces need a standardized, consistent way of dealing with behaviors that break the rules, I’ve found it helpful to encourage an alternate approach that treats employees like thinking, capable people instead of children.  Here are 5 ideas to help you deal with negative employee behaviors before you even think about going to the HR manual.

1.  Ask the employee what happened and then listen without interrupting.

2.  Ask the employee to tell you what they did that worked well toward fixing the situation and listen to them.  Then ask them what didn’t work as well and listen.

3.  Ask the employee to come up with three recommendations of what they would do to remedy the situation.

4.  Ask the employee to take action on the most important recommendation and give you a time limit by when they will do it.  When they report back ask them what three other things they recommend doing and have them follow-through on the top one of that set of ideas and report back.

5.  Praise the employee for the corrections he or she has made.

The trap we fall into when disciplining employees is that we have to correct behaviors through consequences or punishment from the outside rather than help them learn positive behaviors.  This overlooks the concept that employees are able to think for themselves and correct their own behavior.

When I talk with leaders about this approach I invariably get the question, “Well, what if the employee has no clue what to do?”  My answer is, you won’t find out until you give them an opportunity to do it.  Leaders are so used to running to the rule book that they forget that there are many other ways of resolving all kinds of workplace challenges.  The key to this approach is practicing it until people get really good at it.  This leads to employees who are able to think critically and problem-solve their own situations.

How will you stop disciplining employees and start involving them in improving their own behaviors?

Take care,


10 Signs You Need to Delegate More

I’ll often hear leaders talk about the importance of delegating and in the next breath they’ll describe how they micromanage things and check up on everything their employees do.  There’s a big difference between saying you delegate and actually doing it.  Here are 10 signs that you might need to delegate a little more.

1.  Your employees keep giving you hints they’d like to take on more responsibility.

2.  Your employees keep reminding you that they’re able to do certain things without supervision.

3.  You notice conflict or dissatisfaction arising when you give orders or assign tasks.

4.  People don’t tell you key things or avoid consulting with you on important matters.

5.  Your employees don’t seem all that happy or motivated.

6.  There’s not a whole lot of creativity going on in your workplace.

7.  Things are always done your way.

8.  People aren’t encouraged to come up with new ways of doing things.

9.  Employees seem dependent or can’t get things right when you’re not there.

10. People you supervise keep leaving the company.

How many of these occurrences do you recognize?  If you do then you might want to make some small changes to create a more balanced workplace where people can think and act independently.  An additional benefit is that your employees will feel more valued and you won’t have to be on top of them all the time.  How will you delegate more?

Take care,


3 Key Ways to Encourage Emotional Intelligence in Your Workplace

Many leaders have discovered that emotional intelligence isn’t about being weak or indecisive.  It’s a valuable tool that helps them connect with their employees and create happier workplaces.  The trap we tend to fall in is thinking that only certain emotions are acceptable in the workplace and others are inappropriate.  Emotions are a valuable tool to understand how our employees are doing and what may need some additional attention.  Here are three key ways that leaders can use emotional intelligence to improve the functioning of their workplaces.

Be Able to Read People More Accurately

Have you ever worked for someone who seemed to react the same way regardless of the situation?  Perhaps they had no idea that people have emotions for a reason.  Emotions signal that something needs attention.  A leader who has a high degree of emotional intelligence will be able to tell what’s going on with a person and will be comfortable dealing with whatever emotion comes his or her way.  They use emotions to create workplaces that run more smoothly instead of environments where everything comes to a screeching, uncomfortable halt when someone feels something.

Build Empathy

Empathic leaders understand what their employees are going through and are able to let them experience their own feelings.  They can step outside their own heads and give importance to someone else’s perspective.  Leaders like this aren’t uncomfortable when emotions come their way and they comprehend that other people’s way of dealing with things may be different but is not inferior, weak or inappropriate.  They understand that emotions aren’t something to run away from but an opportunity to make a difference and help people grow.  Empathic leaders set an example by accepting emotions and using them to create more cohesive and caring workplace.

Being Comfortable with Your Own Emotions

Many experienced leaders have found out that when they are comfortable with their own emotions (and not just happiness and anger) they are able to deal with a range of situations in the workplace.  Healthy leaders have learned how to deal with their own emotions and use them in a positive way that improves workplace functioning.  They know how to not let their own personal feelings affect others negatively and lead from a perspective that uses emotions as a way to build better relationships with themselves and others.  Leaders who understand and accept their own emotions are less likely to overreact or behave inappropriately toward others.

The next time you notice some kind of emotion visiting your workplace think of these three key tips to use it as a tool to improve your workplace.  You’ll find that, as you and everyone else get comfortable with accepting emotions, your workplace becomes a more enjoyable place to be.  How will you encourage emotional intelligence in your workplace?

Take care,


Diversity Training: 10 Benefits of Workplace Diversity

Walk into any workplace and you’ll get a pretty good sense whether their leadership values diversity.  Better yet, visit the executive suite and see whether their leadership reflects their workforce.  I’ve talked with leaders who get bent out of shape about diversity training because they think it’s about redistributing power or opening up wounds.  I like to think of it as a way of building a stronger organization.  Here are ten benefits of workplace diversity.

  1. Employees get along better.
  2. People trust employees outside their own group.
  3. Everyone is welcome and respected.
  4. All ideas and perspectives are welcome.
  5. People’s talents are recognized.
  6. The company culture encourages positive interaction.
  7. Cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives.
  8. Leadership and employees aren’t separate.
  9. No cliques or privileged groups.
  10. Celebration of all people.

Think of what your workplace would be like if you enjoyed all ten of these benefits.  Resourceful leaders understand that having their people get along and support each other creates a much more effective organization than one filled with mistrust and strife.  How will you start enjoying the benefits of diversity in your workplace?

Take care,


Team Building and Autocratic Leadership

I was reading a discussion on a business site about team building recently.  Two vocal contributors talked about how team building was only a fluffy, superfluous activity that could only lead to coddled, lazy employees.  What was needed, they contended, was discipline and a strict adherence to rules and directives.  They added that employees were there only to carry out the leader’s vision and not to have a good time.

I said to myself, “Where do I sign up?  Sounds like a great place to work.”

Many leaders still function under the paradigm that the only thing that matters in business is to drive people until they break.  They genuinely believe that organizations are solely about their leaders and the rest of the employees are just there to carry out their vision.  Everything is wrapped around one charismatic disciplinarian who leads his flock bravely off the cliff into glory.

This style would be much more effective if people had no minds, no dreams, no independence, no skills and no need to grow or be fulfilled in any way in the workplace.  In the real world, there are very few people willing to have someone boss them around mercilessly all day.  So what’s a budding autocrat to do?  I might look at relaxing a bit and letting people be who they are.  I don’t say this to make leadership more difficult, I offer it as a way to create workplaces that run better because people feel better about themselves and the organization.

Feeling good is a difficult concept for leaders bred on discipline and order.  Many equate feeling good with being weak but I tend to think that it’s about people performing well while feeling like they’re important individually and collectively.  There’s a big difference between doing work because you have no other choice or because you want to intrinsically.  When leaders motivate their employees from within they can count on them using their natural talents and abilities to greater advantage.  The trick is finding a way to encourage people to succeed based on their own inner motivators rather than those imposed from someone on the outside.

Team building requires the ability not only to have people produce but also to move beyond simply requiring people to perform tasks in some predetermined way toward a single goal.  It’s about providing choices and opportunities and recognizing that people are able to think for themselves if given the chance.  It’s easy to boss people around but much harder to have them direct themselves.  How will you practice excellent team building?

Take care,