Have you ever learned something that empowered you to help others throughout you career? Sharing stories is the focus of this series. Here is another gem from my past designed to help with managing people. This core concept/analogy has also been used many times to help employees and friends who are having issues with others to find a productive path to solving their own communication issues.
This initial challenge occurred early in my career when I was the assistant manager at a bank. Three of the employees were upset (I’ll call them the choir). The core issue was stated to be the behavior of one particular employee. She seemed to do things that caused angst. The rest of the team wanted nothing to do with her and frankly slowed their performance. The offending employee did get her work done with decent quality. Many customers gravitated to her.
When I drilled down on the actual things that the employee was doing, her actions were somewhat defensible, but certainly were not cooperative or team oriented. She was pretty and glided like a princess, expecting others to pamper her desires. She was very self-centered and while she thought she was a team player, she was not. It was one of those situations where her sense of self was out of sync with her actual actions. In fact, she was a prima donna. She got her confidence from her looks and relationship with the reigning Regional Vice President that was ultimately everyone’s boss. Locally, she didn’t care that she offended others, perhaps she actually liked it. I think that the more she offended, the happier she was. I think it made her feel powerful.
What solved that situation was to get the choir to stop putting out egg shells (I’ll explain shortly) in her path and to stop reacting when she stomped them out. The concept that the choir subconsciously tempted the prima donna was something that they were unaware of. They originally wanted me to direct her behavior on each and every issue. I call that a traffic cop solution. The choir stopped putting out egg shells so when the prima donna started stamping, nothing broke and the choir started to see her for what she was. Shortly thereafter the prima donna changed her behavior and stopped stamping and the whole atmosphere changed in a positive way.
The concept of using egg shells which are easily broken is an analogy for something that is easily offended. The analogy can be very useful in focusing one on what they are really doing and in changing behavior. It’s kind of like baby proofing a house when you have a toddler … or avoid unwanted critters by stop putting out food in the backyard.
One moral is to store your fine China (things that easily upset you) out of reach because people will be people. A second lesson here is to avoid being a traffic cop or referee. Otherwise you’ll be doing that permanently. First, understand the core issue and not just the symptoms, then find a solution that can be a catalyst to the core problem resolving itself.
Bob Stackhouse – President, Asset Commercial Credit
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