Two Sides of the Same Coin

Over the last several months my practice has expanded to include corporate clients in addition to individuals. Admittedly, I have dragged my feet as I struggled to find the right voice. After all, how can you advocate for the individual and the organization at the same time? Actually, I have always felt that self-aware individuals who know what they want, are more motivated, more engaged and more productive. This was proven to me when several clients who came to me looking for a job/career change actually ended up getting a promotion and staying in their jobs. From this perspective, I offer you my first attempt at a newsletter that considers all parties.

One of the things I hear most often from clients is that they want to feel confident. I get it. When we feel confident, we are powerful. We attract people to ourselves and to our endeavors; life and work are easier and more fulfilling. Almost as often, clients tell me that they want help with time management, procrastination and focus. How are these two related?

I was recently invited to see a talk by Kenneth Barish and read his book on parenting called “Pride and Joy.” Parenting seems like a different topic but families, like organizations, have to do their best to keep everyone happy and productive, in a closed system with clear authority relationships. What’s more, we need support and acknowledgement throughout our lives, not just in childhood.

The author suggests that when children act up, refuse to do their homework, or get distracted, we often think we need to impose more structure and discipline. We think that setting limits and bearing down will correct errant behavior. His perspective is different. He says that children, like us, fundamentally want to be excited about their work. They want to show us that they can do a good job. Like us, they want to feel a fire in their bellies. So when a child is resisting doing a good job, he or she is actually discouraged. They don’t feel confident that their efforts will get them the results they are after. Sound familiar? We get off track in the same ways. We procrastinate, lose focus and get overwhelmed, not because we are inadequate, but because we are discouraged.

What workplace lessons are available here? One of the major things you hear in leadership development today is that employees are not engaged in their work. If you’ve ever been that employee, you know how painful it is. First, Dr. Barish recommends finding out whether the child has any learning deficiency. At work, this sounds like doing a temperature check. Are the expectations you and/or your boss bringing to the job realistic? Are your skills aligned with this job? Do you need further training? Maybe you need to manage expectations and give yourself a break.

Then, the author recommends listening without judgment to the child. How often have you really listened, without offering advice, to a friend or colleague? I find that once they get clear, they usually find their own solution. People thrive when the boss listens and keeps an eye on results, but doesn’t jump in to “fix it,” to micromanage. So if you are the boss, resist the urge to bear down, or jump in. On the employee side, what can you do to build your boss’s trust in you so that you get more autonomy? Sometimes a small shift to doing it “their way” can ease tension and give you back some freedom. For help on effective listening and feedback , check out “Guide to Interpersonal Communication” by Joann Baney.

And finally, the author recommends positive reinforcement. I am a huge advocate. We need support, yet it is human nature to focus on our weaknesses. And companies often reinforce this tendency. As a boss, how about writing down the five accomplishments of your direct reports each week. Then, shoot them an email that specifies what the accomplishment was, and how it supported the organization. Build a bank account of trust. On the employee side, how about asking your boss for regular feedback on your work. I find that when you call it “feedback,” it doesn’t sound needy or insecure, like, “What do you think of me??” Done right, it just sounds constructive.

When we are less discouraged, the procrastination and overwhelm tend to melt away. Try it! And have a wonderful rest of the month.


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6 thoughts on “Two Sides of the Same Coin”

  1. Binnie Ravitch

    Thanks, Claire. Really useful to consider both perspectives. By the way, I always found positive reinforcement useful toward my bosses as we’ll.”Thanks for explaining it that way. I know exactly what you’re looking for now.” “Thanks for trusting me to manage the project. I’m enjoying the challenge.” … Everyone benefits with positive recognition.

    1. clairesteichen

      Hi Binnie-
      Yes! Great addition. Good feedback and clarification in both directions is so important.

  2. Great article, Claire! It really made me think about speaking up to ask for additional training and information I need to take me to the next level at work. Thanks for the inspiration!

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