182. Tough Moments of Leadership – A Q&A Session
About this Podcast
Ep. 182 – If you’ve ever found yourself in an awkward place that requires you to address a difficult topic while maintaining trust, then you don’t want to miss out on this episode.
Listen in as I face rapid-fire questions from my colleague Melody Wilding about everything from “How do you keep feedback from turning into a therapy session?” to “What do you do when someone is underperforming due to personal issues?”
You can watch us on YouTube here.
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Episode 182 Transcript:
Ramona Shaw [00:00:00]:
Welcome to this episode of the Manager Track Podcast. I have something special for you today. This is what I call A-Q-A session on the topic of tough moments of leadership. Now, a few weeks back, I was invited to join a group, a cohort that was run by my friend Melody Welding. She is a best selling published author, a very successful LinkedIn learning and instructor. She also is an executive coach and her work mainly focuses on topics such as resilience, emotional management, and navigating the workplace. As an empath in the conversation that I had with her, she asked me a series of questions that came from the group the Cohort of Leaders in her program, mainly on the topics of feedback and difficult conversations, or navigating those tough moments of leadership. The conversation I thought, was really insightful and I want to share this with you here as well.
Ramona Shaw [00:01:01]:
Now, if emotional management, empathy, resilience, or all those topics really resonate with you and you feel that’s a big part or challenges that you navigate in the workplace, I cannot recommend enough checking out Melody’s work. We will link to her book in the Show Notes, her website, as well as the program that this cohort was in that I joined here for this session. She does amazing work and she’s a wonderful human being that if you don’t know her yet, I would love to introduce you to. So without further ado, we’re going to dive into this conversation. It is somewhat rapid fire, so one question after the other, but mostly related to difficult conversations and feedback. So let’s dive in. Have fun.
Ramona Shaw [00:01:45]:
Here’s the question how do you successfully transition into your first official leadership role, build the confidence and competence to lead your team successfully and establish yourself as a respected and trusted leader across the organization? That’s the question, and this show provides the answers. Welcome to the Manager Track Podcast. I’m your host, Ramona Shaw, and I’m on a mission to create workplaces where work is not seen as a source of stress and dread, but as a source of contribution, connection, and fulfillment. And this transition starts with developing a new generation of leaders who know how to lead so everyone wins and grows in the show. You’ll learn how to think, communicate, and act as the confident and competent leader you know you can be.
Melody Wilding [00:02:29]:
Ramona, I’m so happy to have you and thank you again for doing this. Ramona’s in Switzerland right now, so, yeah, I’ll just kick things off with introducing you to Ramona a bit. I know I’ve shared her podcast, her book, her website with all of you, and then we’ll get into the questions we have for her. So Ramona is a friend and a colleague of mine, and she is a certified professional leadership coach. She is the host of the Manager Track Podcast. She’s the best selling author of the Confident and competent New Manager. Did I get that right? Yes. Excellent.
Melody Wilding [00:03:08]:
And her specialty is really helping new and mid level managers become leaders people love to work for and I know as sensitive strivers that’s important to all of you. So today we’re going to talk a lot about leadership communication skills, specifically around tough conversations, feedback conversations, conflict situations. So Ramona, before we jump into that, anything else you want to add or share with us about how you got into this work because I know you have a pretty illustrious corporate background yourself. Yeah, sure. And first of all, thank you so much for inviting me to the call. It’s always nice to see new faces and sort of experience new groups such as yours and Melody, obviously. I don’t know if you notice all, but I met Melody sort of coincidentally through another coach. But I’ve been following Melody’s work for quite a bit before she knew I existed, I knew she existed.
Ramona Shaw [00:04:13]:
Likewise Ramona. I think we were like ships passing in the so, maybe to add, my first part of my career was in the finance world. And definitely a time where and this may come up here too. So for context, a time where I was working for a private equity company. It was very fast paced, very performance driven, very masculine. Very oftentimes I was the only woman in the room. Oftentimes it was expected that you just work. This is life, this is family, this is life, this is everything is your job.
Ramona Shaw [00:04:59]:
And if you don’t put in your 70 hours a week, you’re most definitely not going to get a promotion in this company. So that has changed because they couldn’t scale that way. But at the time where I was working for the nine years that I was with this company and moved into a VP role, ultimately that was very much a dynamic and oftentimes I sort of had to white knuckle through. I had three kids, three maternity leaves along the way and it was definitely challenging on multiple fronts. And I think my inner motivation to also just persevere without really tuning in to look at what is that costing me and how is that working for me and also how do I lead with my own values in an environment like that. That was something I had to navigate and learn the tremendous amount that I’m grateful for. Now I then through my experience as moving into leadership and really needing a lot of support, outside support and leadership training and a leadership coach, I’m not an actually born leader. I really had to learn it the hard way, I had to put the hours in to figure out how do I do this in a way where my team enjoys my leadership style and I enjoy my role as a leader.
Ramona Shaw [00:06:14]:
Those are two parts that I had to work for and I recognized how much there is to learn from others, through others, through programs and got fascinated and really passionate about this work and hence now I have for the last five, six years built my own practice in the leadership development space. Yeah. And I mean, I see heads nodding and I know so many of the women who will be listening this can relate to that experience of feeling like you have to white knuckle through this experience. And so much of what we’ve even more recently been talking about in the program is how are you defining success on your own terms, even if that’s not advancing, climbing the ladder, fitting the normal corporate mold. And it’s hard because it’s countercultural. So thank you for sharing that too. So today I want to start out with the topic of feedback because as sensitive strivers, we tend to be a little more passive or we struggle to deliver feedback. And in particular, I would love to get your perspective on what is the best way to deliver feedback that is personality based.
Melody Wilding [00:07:33]:
So for example, you were talking about in the corporate culture you are in, it’s very fast paced. You have to think quickly, act quickly. And so we’ve had a number of members who actually notice they have people on their team who also seem like sensitive strivers. They are overthinking things, they are maybe taking situations too personally. How do you give someone feedback like that without offending them or without saying you need to be different than you are? How do you do that tactfully when it is personal? Yeah. First of all, I would say I’ll get to the actual question here in a moment, but I would say that with people who are very aware themselves and overanalyze or even are overly questioning or doubting themselves, the feedback we really need to turn feedback into a discussion, a conversation versus the assumption that we have to give some kind of feedback. So if I’m in a situation where I notice I’m working with someone who’s very self critical and also aware, my default approach is to only close the gap. What I mean by that is I let them reflect and talk out loud to first capture what do they already know, what do they already see, what are they already aware of before I then close the gap.
Ramona Shaw [00:09:12]:
And the gap is either things that I see on top of what they’re already seeing. So if I say, how did you experience this meeting with the client? And I go on and I’m like, oh my gosh, this worked well. This didn’t go well. I really messed up that I didn’t say what I was supposed to say. I felt like awkward in this situation. So then I either close the gap on what I see that I think they could also improve, or it’s also important to point out as a growth or a learning moment. And I’ll also close the gap where I think they’re overly critical and I’ll try to boost their confidence. So both on where I think they’re a little too harsh on themselves.
Ramona Shaw [00:09:48]:
This was actually not a problem. It could turn into a benefit. I’ll boost their confidence where I think there is something else for them to pick up and learn here, but they didn’t see that themselves. Then I’ll add that, but I will never jump in with feedback from the gecko. Yeah. And trying to lead someone it’s much easier to lead someone to their own or you’ll have someone be much more receptive if you can lead them to their own conclusions. Yeah, they come up with their own conclusions already. And we’ve all been in this situation where someone gives us feedback and we’re like, yeah, I knew that yes was bad, right? Yes.
Melody Wilding [00:10:29]:
And you were talking about that works especially well when someone has a level of self awareness. What happens when you’re trying to give feedback to someone who doesn’t see or doesn’t agree that their behavior is a problem? Like, for example, someone may be coming off as snarky with a client, but they just see that they’re being direct and if you try to express it to them, it’s not connecting. Yeah. Similar to how I would actually add on that first question of what do you do if someone’s overly critical is at the end of the day, it is all about creating the behavior, supporting the behavior that we’d like to see more of. So if someone in the beginning is actually too overthinking it, then I need to push them on the positive side and iterate and really hone it in on the one thing that I want them to see more of or do better of and get all other noise out of the way. Similarly, when someone is resistant or disagreeing with me and I say, okay, what is really the one thing I do want them to change and why? And any feedback conversation we should walk in knowing that now it’s hard enough to change our own behavior. Changing someone else’s behavior is harder. And changing someone’s behavior who doesn’t want to change a behavior is impossible.
Ramona Shaw [00:12:11]:
And we’ve seen this, right? It will work for about two weeks and we’ve all heard this. Like, I gave them feedback, it works wonders. And then two weeks later, we’re back to the way it used to be. It works for about two weeks and then people fall back into their old traps and their old patterns for it to be sustainable, they have to want it. They have to see why. And so we can’t even move on into implementation and application of it, of the behavior until they’re actually seeing and agreeing with the feedback. I think too often we move in your question one in now question two here. Too often we move into here is what I’d like to see you do more, or what I’d like you to see you do less.
Ramona Shaw [00:13:03]:
And that is like way over there on the plan. We have to do all this upfront work first. It’s all the thinking, all the feeling, right? All the understanding, all the mindset that goes into it before we can actually talk about the behavior. The behavior is like the tip of the iceberg people actually see. But all the other stuff. I think in my book, I have like a triangle like this, and there’s a ball on the dot on top feet move the behavior without also moving the thinking, the thoughts, the mindset and all that underneath the behavior that fuels the behavior. If we don’t move both over to the right and we only try to move the action over to the right, the ball on top will trumble over, and that’s the result. And it’ll just get nowhere, in effect, will make it worse.
Ramona Shaw [00:13:56]:
There’s this study out just as a reference point. Who’s this study for? I can follow up with you on who wrote the study or conducted a study, but it shows that a third of feedback is effective, a third of feedback is neutral, has no impact, and a third of feedback actually leads to negative results. I believe that’s really tricky, and we can mess it up. So if we move too quickly to the behavior stuff, we can create distrust, trust, and more friction in the relationship. That then will make it harder for them to get on board, to trust us as a leader, or for them to change the behavior, wanting to change the behavior in the future. You’re right. Most specifically, if you talk about the thinking, there really trying to understand where is the gap, where do I see something very different to how they see it? And then if I can, I let them explore it on their own. If I say, Well, I think you said something with the snarky client, right? Yes.
Ramona Shaw [00:15:01]:
If I say, okay, so you don’t think that’s a problem. You’re thinking that’s just a normal way of communicating. Why don’t you check in with them? Or why don’t you maybe not the client, but someone else and saying like, hey, I’d like to understand how that message landed with you. How did you feel about it? And have some exploration or ask a few other people. Maybe you have conversations with your colleagues to see how you come across so they learn it. So 360 assessments are beautiful this way because black and white, we’re not arguing. This is what your coworkers say. And so here’s the impact.
Ramona Shaw [00:15:38]:
This can be very helpful if you don’t have that. Let them explore the impact, bring it to their attention, roll it forward. Sometimes it’s the client, okay? They might disagree with the client, but imagine other leaders similar to me agree with me and see you interact this way. They will never expose you to their clients. And so that will now diminish your opportunities to engage with them and for you to expand your role. We have to get really creative at look at all the ripple effects of the impact but never move into actions until they actually are on board with it. Well, I love that tip of do the imagine just play along with me. Imagine other people agree with how I’m seeing the situation.
Melody Wilding [00:16:24]:
Right, that’s great. I’m just curious as a follow up question to that, what other ways do you recommend getting into someone’s thoughts and feelings about the situation without it turning into a therapy session? Yes, and I’m sure we all wouldn’t mind the therapy session, right? Yes. But we want to skirt the line of boundaries. Yeah. Often is in the nuance of the language. So if I say how did that make you feel? It sounds very therapisty, right? So if I instead say so in this situation, how did you interpret this? How did you analyze this? Especially when you work with analytical people, how did you analyze this? What do you think they walked away with? How do you think they perceived this? So the word choice is really important here. Especially if you have people who would never use a feeling word. They never talk about the emotions, avoid things such as feelings, emotions, frustration, anger, doubts, anxiety, worry, any of that.
Ramona Shaw [00:17:46]:
Just really tell me more, tell me more. Why is that? How come elaborate on this and try to uncover now this all sounds great in a textbook, not possible with everyone. And that’s just also just a fact. There are some people and Melody, you probably agree in coaching conversations too, there are some people where we can go really deep, really quick and then other people we’re like staying right up here for a very long time and we do whatever is possible right here. And the same is true with all the people in our lives, including our work environment. Some people we can get there really fast or sometimes it’s a little harder to crack it open and then we get there and some people will never go there and they make a really clear boundary, past experiences or overall personality type or preferences that will never get us there. And so then we’ll just work within that march and there if you can’t get to the feelings, people are open to talking about interpretations usually especially in the workplace of like, walk me through how you analyze the situation and people will start talking. At least get a little bit out of that.
Ramona Shaw [00:19:02]:
Now if you can’t go deeper, but you tried, we have to accept it. Well, that’s so smart. I love that just the language creates reality, right? And just that subtle switch makes someone so much more open and comfortable because it doesn’t feel as invasive or judgmental or heavy. I feel like this whole conversation around feedback really begs the question, I’m going to go out there on a limb and make an assumption that a lot of this is much easier when you work in person with people. How does being hybrid or fully remote change this? Because for most of the people here, they’re going into the office maybe max two to three times a week, or they’re managing people that are across the country or across the world from them. So how does all of this change when you have those dynamics in the mix? Yeah. And it would be naive to think it doesn’t change. I think, especially as this keeps going on, like, imagine fast forward five years of this kind of physical distance.
Ramona Shaw [00:20:22]:
It naturally will create a distance in relationships. Right. And it’s harder to maintain the trust. And trust is key in any feedback conversation or at the core of it working well. By the way, trust has different facets, so we don’t need to have the deep, profound trust. But like a ape component of trust, I think there’s part of it that, yes, important to be listening really attentively, to look at body language, to check in with people after a feedback conversation. Ideally not a week or two week later, but maybe a day later. Because we can’t see, they can pretend and then turn off and then vent or freak out or shut down or whatever they do.
Ramona Shaw [00:21:12]:
We don’t see any of that, and no one else will in an office environment. Right. They may walk off the meeting room, but then they go gossip or vent or get frustrated, or you see them walk away, take a coffee break and you know, oh, I think that hit them hard, or they’re having a hard time processing what just happened, or you hear it from someone else. In a remote world, none of this happens. So you have to be a lot more in tuned follow up with them, lead the conversation at the end of a conversation, hey, you recap, like, can you recap? What did you take away from this? What are the next steps? Really pass the ball or the buck to them? I think a big mistake would be for you to recap the feedback and email it. It’s all great for like, HR tracking so often suggested. I suggest to ask them to recap it to you. Can you recap what you took away from this, how that landed with you? Give it a couple of days, send it back to me, and then we can catch up in your next one on one follow up again.
Ramona Shaw [00:22:16]:
How was that? Any suggestions? To me? Right, so be open to receive feedback as well, to create that open dialogue. And so there is that part. But I think more importantly, especially as we have a bit of a longer time horizon and we’re not trying to optimize for only a short period here, is to invest proactively in the relationship, into the relationships. I think we can’t with the people that we work with closely and feel a responsibility or have to officially have the responsibility to give feedback, the having meaningful conversations is inevitable in order to do this well in a hybrid or remote environment. And even if you’re virtual or we have too many meetings already and there are zoom fatigue, finding ways to connect with them on a weekly basis and as regularly and consistently as possible will prevent a lot of misalignments and friction down the road. Yeah. And so what I hear is be overly proactive, put ownership in their court, find more frequent opportunities for communication because you have to be so much more explicit and structured about it in the hybrid environment and it will pay off. It seems like more of a time investment up front, but I have yet to see a situation where this doesn’t pay out.
Ramona Shaw [00:23:49]:
The conflicts that you save, the misunderstandings, mismanagement, underperformance, disengagement, demotivation. Like all the things that happen if the upfront investment, if the bank account isn’t filled right, the battery isn’t full, I’ll get drained down the road. Yeah. 100%. Yeah. Another just sad fact of the environment that we’re in is everyone’s under more pressure, more stress, is juggling more demands, whether at work or at home. And a common situation I’ve been hearing about from my one on one clients, from our members of Lead From Within is what do I do when I have a direct report? Let’s just go with a direct report because this might be a little different if it’s a colleague, but what do I do if I’m working with someone who is underperforming and I know there’s personal issues going on, maybe they’ve had a death, maybe they’re in their family, maybe they’re feeling burned out. How do you juggle being empathetic for that, but also the fact that this person is still accountable, they still need to hit goals.
Melody Wilding [00:25:02]:
You still need them to show up in a certain way. How do you do that? Because that’s really sticky. First off, I think this is just interesting. Mally, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this, too, or anyone else here in the group, too. I feel this is becoming one of the biggest challenges leaders have to face or are facing and will be facing for the foreseeable future, is the giving, the grace for that mental well being, the physical well being of all the things that are coming up for employees and how that intersects with work. And then the Leader managing the result pressure from above, while also knowing that the way to lead is not control and command, but it is a more compassionate, people focused approach. And how to reconcile the two things without burning out themselves and getting emotionally drained can be really difficult. So just to say, I think this is going to be such an important thing to figure out and clarify for yourself on how you’re going to do this personally, because I think a big part of it is value.
Ramona Shaw [00:26:21]:
Driven, as well as checking in with your organization of what the expectations are from an HR team or from senior leadership across the different companies that I work with. There isn’t one way to manage it. I’ve seen companies who are very strict and say we kind of don’t care. Like if you can’t do it, you have to take unpaid leave. I’ve seen companies who go all out with any kind of mental health day as much as you want any kind of time to sort out your personal life and are very flexible with that. And it’s on a scale from left to right and figuring out, first, what’s the company stance, second, what’s your personal leadership style and how are you going to implement that when you have high expectations and hence high accountability? There are certain parts that need to be in place in how you lead in order to do this well. Because having high standards for that accountability, of being able to create a high accountability team won’t work. And then, sorry, I’m saying all this context because I think it’s a complicated answer to this.
Ramona Shaw [00:27:38]:
Not a quick fix and there’s also no magic pill to this. But when it comes to a situation like this, the best thing that you can do is having honest conversations of what the challenge is and where they’re falling on meeting expectations. Think a real sacrifice or a real missed opportunity or not that a missed opportunity. A real mistake is if I see this happen and it really saddens me to see this. When employees are receiving time off, they’re thinking that kind of managing the workload, that leader is shielding them from a lot of work and is starting to get resentful because they’re putting in the extra hours. The employee thinks on a one to ten scale with ten being like, I’ve fully meet my expectations, they think I’m holding in there, but I’m at like a seven and the leader thinks they’re at like a three. And so they’re running in parallel day in and day out. Employee thinks they’re holding up, they’re at a seven and leader gets more and more frustrated because they think they’re at a three, right? And that turns into chaos and issue standard probably sooner than later because of the resentment and the frustrations that start to pick up with employee not really seeing the impact.
Ramona Shaw [00:29:09]:
So ensuring that even if you can change it, ensuring that it’s very clear that leader says you’re at a three, employee needs to understand that they’re at a three so they can say, yes, I know I am at a three and this is all I can do right now. This is what I’m willing or able to provide to the company. And now let’s look at solutions, what is possible, what is not possible, and then work with the HR company of figuring out are there temporary resources, are there things that we can just let them float? Are there props we can delay to not put extra pressure on other people. But if this is not here, leader will get frustrated and likely other team members will too. That’s not managed well. So transparent conversation with the employee and then to degree that you can to also inform other team members who are impacted by the effect of this. So if other team members have to carry an extra load, yes, sometimes we say, I can’t talk about that because it’s a personal issue, but where I’m asking you to do more work seems really unfair. So then to be able to say, I’m asking to do additional work because of this personal situation, this is, on one hand, temporary, and I’m only asking you to do this 30 days and then reassess, and I want to hear from you and what you can or cannot do.
Ramona Shaw [00:30:32]:
I also promise you this will be reflected in your performance review. Right. I will want to look at your other priorities to see where else can we reshuffle some of the things that you are doing to make this acceptable for you? But then at least they feel like they’re being considered when they’re at the effect of an employee. So it’s like the whole network, the whole team needs to work together on that. That’s a long answer. No, but I think it deserves a long answer because like you were saying, I totally agree with you that I think this gray area of how do we handle the personal starting to I even hate to say infringe, but the two blending together. Right. And affecting your for the formal structures we have right now with HR and Leave policies, which of course in the US.
Melody Wilding [00:31:22]:
Are very much lacking, that’s a different conversation. It hasn’t caught up to the needs people have and the complexities of this. And I love the sort of scale you gave of having people objectively assess yourself and seeing, okay, where are we off on that? And this idea of how do we separate and put the problem across the table from us? And then we are on the same side of the table trying to tackle the problem. So it’s us against the problem, not me against you. You’re not measuring up. It’s, again, a nuanced, a subtle shift, but it makes all the difference. Like, you were saying that not only the employee who’s struggling feels like you’re on their side, but the people who are now having to pick up other pieces also feel like, I have your back. I’m on your side.
Melody Wilding [00:32:20]:
Let me just ask, does any of this change when it’s a colleague? When the dynamics are the power dynamics are a little different and you don’t have formal authority over that person? Would that change how you would approach any of this? Like, if that person wasn’t carrying their load? Yeah. If you had a colleague who was facing personal problems and now you’re the one that’s having to pick up the slack because. This person is basically your partner, your collaborator? Yeah. Does it change there because of the power dynamics at all? Yeah, at that point, I think there’s, oh gosh, we could go therapy here. I’m like, what is the inclination to even pick it up? Right? What is it? That and especially if it’s undercover, sort of the undercover. I feel obligated or I feel like it’s the right thing to do, to just pick up black and to take it on and undercover without escalating or making it visible to higher ups, your manager or the two direct leaders above to say, here is what’s happening and how responsibilities have shifted. So, yeah, understanding why are you saying yes? And is this really yes to picking up slack? And is this really a yes that you can stand by and want to and then is this yes really visible to others too? And it’s not done undercover? I mean, for a short time, you can do all these things, not a problem. But at the moment it starts to get turned into a longer term situation or an issue that starts to negatively impact other parts of your life or other parts of your work, then raise it up and renegotiate.
Ramona Shaw [00:34:20]:
I think we all have to get really clear on what we’re willing to do and able to do. And as much as that person has the right to take time for themselves, so do we have to stand for what we need in order to prevent from an issue happening down the road and really take care of our well being? Now everyone has their own wiggle room, like how much capacity or buffer they have to play with and figuring out where is that? And I’ve definitely been a situation where I’ve said yes to things because my ego played into it, then I bite the bullet and then I suffer. And I think after the fact, well, that was my DF, but I had to learn that. I had to learn the lesson with it. If it becomes a pattern and you notice you’re picking up slack for everyone else. Yeah, really good thing to cover of. Where is that coming from? Yeah, absolutely. And for us, again, as sensitive strivers when our responsibility goes on overdrive, yeah, that’s how we land in the sure, I can do it.
Melody Wilding [00:35:27]:
And then you find yourself like a month later, like, why did I agree to all of this? Melody before you say yes? Exactly. Okay, so then, going a little bit further into workplace dynamics, we’ve had a couple of members express that they’ve found themselves in situations where as a middle manager, you’re often stuck in the middle. Right. That’s the definition of it. So you’re trying to please the people above you and you’re trying to make the people keep the people below you happy as well. So what about a situation where you’re either getting different messages or there’s incompatibility between what the people above you want and the way they do things, which may be, again, over characterization of executives. They move fast. They want things done yesterday, quick decisions, concise just speed.
Melody Wilding [00:36:36]:
Versus a team that may want to move slower, more deliberately. They’re deeper thinkers. How do you reconcile being caught in the middle of executive leadership, has certain demands and wants things done a certain way, and the team has a different style? Sorry. No, not right now, honey. Okay. Thank you, but I close the door. This is life who’s live coming home from school close the door, honey. Thank you.
Melody Wilding [00:37:14]:
Who is that? Which? The youngest. Oh, you’re young. Yeah. So eight? Seven? Yes. Um yeah. So how do you navigate being in the sandwich? Yeah. Basically. Yeah.
Ramona Shaw [00:37:34]:
Such a good question and no magic bullet. I would also say in this scenario, and very much depends also on your ability to the degree of agency and authority that you have. I think sometimes people are in situations where they they have the responsibility, but not a lot of decision authority. And then other times, people actually have a lot of it, and then you can do more in order to manage your team well. And I think there’s also a bit of a longer term perspective on this. If your company culture overall, for example, going back to the company I used to work for at that time, was very fast paced and result focused. There was nothing about any of the more feminine traits or anyone really wanting to go slow. That was not a thing.
Ramona Shaw [00:38:34]:
And so if I hire people or have people on the team who don’t work within that construct, then the question begs is or begs the question, are they in the right company? Will they ever actually be able to be successful here, and will they ever feel appreciated here? Because if they’re constantly under fire and constantly pressured to do things they actually don’t want to do, that don’t play into their strengths, then maybe this is a dead end for them. And if I want to keep them, I’m actually holding them back from career growth. Big picture view. If there’s too much of a mismatch, that would be worthwhile assessing. Of what kind of people do you hire that fit within that culture overall? Now, with a closer lens here at this particular situation, I think one question to ponder is to which degree are you or what is your leadership approach here, and to which degree are you representing and willing to represent the body of leadership? It’s almost as if you’re a regular employee, you’re in this fishbowl. Then when you move into leadership, there’s a different fishbowl, and you’re, like, jumping over, and now you’re representing this fishbowl. You’re over here. And when you’re in a leadership role, you belong to the body of leadership of the organization representing the business, and to which degree can you align with that or not? And I think that’s just good for every leader to figure out and then to see when is it that I might personally not agree with the decisions or I might not agree with the approach, but because I’m representing leadership, I will now execute because it’s not my decision, it is my superior decision, and I’m now executing.
Ramona Shaw [00:40:41]:
And then there is the parts where we don’t want to maybe you don’t want to be really putting that pressure onto your team and instead leverage the team strength and look at ways to do this. And then you have to manage up, you have to push back and manage expectations from above, but also very proactively. I think a mistake I see often happen is when the leader tries to absorb it, but isn’t actively and assertively pushing back and shielding the team, not by doing it and absorbing them themselves, but by redefining what it gets done. When does it get done? By whom does it get done? Yeah. Should it be done in the first place? I would start there. And I think the answer is probably very different for everyone here listening to this, of where they find themselves in this. I’m curious, did that open up more questions or feel like a good anchor? But Ramona, what I hear in your comments is that as a middle manager, you have to figure out when to be an advocate for who, at what time, and you have to have a level of discernment to know what’s needed in this situation. Does the team need encouragement and motivation and direction? And therefore I have to impress upon them these are leadership expectations, this is the vision we’re trying to work for? Or do I need to go to bat for the team and say, this is not reasonable? What other timelines or what other approach can we work out? Because these are the constraints we’re working with.
Melody Wilding [00:42:40]:
So that’s what I take away from what you said. And I think it’s I really do believe discernment and knowing what strategies to use when is the ultimate sign of mature leadership, is that you’re right, it’s not a one size fits all. And you have to feel out the situation and the complexities to know what to apply when. On the topic of more assertive personalities, how do you deal with holding your seat at the table, maintaining your seat at the table? When you’re an other, when you’re a woman, you’re a person of color, you’re a sensitive striver, so you’re processing situations differently. How do you hold that seat at the table? Again, with people who may be more dominant, more aggressive, and you’re not the same as them. There’s a very similar, actually, to be like you mentioned, it just said that right now to also play the range and look at the right approach in any given situation. The same is true here as well. There are going to be moments where you might want to adapt your style and really lean into the assertiveness to meet them at that same energy level.
Ramona Shaw [00:44:07]:
And then there’s also moments when I think it’s really important to own your own leadership style and stand up for that. I think too often we aim to especially leaders who are looking for role models. They haven’t really clarified their values and their methodology and their leadership philosophy overall and the principles they stand by that guide their decision and their approach. Now, granted, it’s all about adapting and flexing, but adapting flexing starts from an anchor. And if you don’t know, your anchor gets really tricky in such situations because it constantly feels like you’re a chameleon and it can feel inauthentic and also likely will come across as somewhat inconsistent and unpredictable. And as a leader, that will hurt your reputation and the trust you’re able to build. So getting grounded with what is actually the way that you lead the best and own that. Really own that.
Ramona Shaw [00:45:12]:
I was teaching or facilitating a two day workshop on executive presence in Singapore a few weeks ago. And what was really interesting is when I asked, we talked a lot about the differences of working within Asian cultures versus working within European or US cultures because this was a global company and they often have exposure to senior leadership and executives in different demographics. And so one of the points that came really clear from that group was in the Asian cultures, leadership is seen as quiet versus what they noticed from more like European and North American leaders is that leadership is loud and leadership is assertive in Asian cultures. That Pacific Group. And I’m not Generalizing. I’m only talking about this particular experience. They all said for us, it’s the quiet, the thought provoking questions that define who is the leader in the room and who has authority. And I thought it was really interesting to hear them all and come to this consensus in the group because they aim for a different kind of leadership than we do.
Ramona Shaw [00:46:34]:
Over here. I’m saying over here. And at the same time, yes, the culture plays into it, company culture, actual culture of the location that you’re operating. But then also at the next level is who you actually are and who is the leader you want to be. So really clarifying that and then when you get to that place of fully owning it, then the seat at the table is like of course they need someone like me at the table because we don’t all want to be the lookalikes. We do want to create diversity and we need different voices and different approaches. And I can actually, instead of thinking I am not a fit, I can actually see myself as a counterpole, like in a dynamic in a room. Loud, loud, loud.
Ramona Shaw [00:47:22]:
I’m actually the one who’s calming it down and keeping it composed or rational or whatever that may be or calm and centered I’m grounding. I’m a grounding pole to all the loudness over here. So that is one. And then really, you all are probably super aware of all the mindset stuff, the beliefs, the thoughts in your head. If you don’t believe you deserve it, it’ll be really hard to convince someone else that you do. And then it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. So it starts with really cultivating this inner belief over and over again of I am here. I’m adding the diversity.
Ramona Shaw [00:48:02]:
I’m here because I’m an asset, and I’m making this stronger and better and more balanced. This room or this meeting, and I totally own all of that. The quietness, the introvertedness, the diversity that you bring, the different style that you display, all of it. Now in moments, there are always going to be moments where we think, okay, but I never get a word in zoom call. I can never get a word in with my approach. And then it’s to know, okay, I want to be effective. I want to bring this thing across at this point across or get this approved. I have to match them or I have to adapt their style for a moment, for a quick second here to make a case and then being willing to stretch and knowing that you can work your way across the entire spectrum of it if needed.
Melody Wilding [00:48:56]:
Yeah, I love that. I love the counterpole example. Okay, just two more questions for you since we’re coming to the end of our A. This is a big one, super common. How do you manage someone out? When we hear that term all the time, you really have to manage this person out, especially when they’re not new, when it’s not like, okay, we just hired this person.
Melody Wilding [00:49:32]:
We realize pretty quickly in their 1st 90 days, it’s not a fit. That’s kind of more straightforward. What do you do when someone’s been there a long time, they’re not necessarily making egregious mistakes where it’s obvious there’s a case for shepherding them to their next step. How do you approach that? Because I also think it’s something managers are told all the time, but they may not know exactly what it means or how to do it. So, first of all, I’m not a lawyer, so please consult your agent. Of course. The disclaimer, yes. Disclaimer.
Ramona Shaw [00:50:15]:
Yes. Because we do especially, I think, in the States, right. There’s a lot to be mindful about in situations like that. And just to protect yourself, protect the company, but also really protect yourself from future issues. In an ideal scenario, the person who is being managed out realizes that this is a dead end and this is not going to go anywhere. So through career conversations, you both get to the place where you can say, this is what you really want. These are your strengths and the strength and I think this kind of phrasing works well when we can say your strength profile is not matching the required strength profile of the job or the position over here. So it’s round square, none as better or worse.
Ramona Shaw [00:51:14]:
It’s a mismatch of what you have versus what this role needs. And so we’re depersonalizing it and we’re making it last about you’re not qualified or you’re not good enough, it’s just the wrong spots. And I’m curious on how can I help you find the spot where your strength profile fits the needs and requirements of the job. And I know that’s there and when you find it, you will feel better about your work product going to work and the company will see that and will promote you and reward you for that as well. So being in a situation where it’s not a right fit, I wouldn’t probably not say that, but between us, right, it will deplete someone’s energy, it will keep them stuck, it will make it hard for everyone involved. It’s never a good solution. I had a case once where it was exactly this situation and on top of this person, this person wasn’t there for a long time, but this person was a really nice person, everyone loved them. I had someone call me, someone senior leader, call me and say, you cannot let them go.
Ramona Shaw [00:52:27]:
I heard you want to let them go. You cannot let them go. They’re great. I don’t get it at all. Don’t do it. And so letting someone go where there isn’t a stark performance issue that everyone sees and is aware of for a big issue is tricky. But when they do find in this case too, that person found a different role and they’ve been thriving in their career since and they would have never had that kind of career progression were they still in that same company, the company that I was with, with them. And so trying to find through career conversations, really slowing it down and trying to uncover that would be the best approach.
Ramona Shaw [00:53:10]:
If that doesn’t happen, you have to be a little bit more explicit about it being a misfit and then how to give them enough as much time as you possibly can and really emphasize the point and not just genuinely mean it that you’re in there for their success. You want them to be successful elsewhere. And you’re there to help transition. Go through the transition. I think I like pointing out traps. So a trap to avoid will be to try to keep it on the covers and not be honest, to make up reasons or to shy away from the conversation and delay the process. It will not do well for your reputation and it will just make it harder for the person involved too. Yeah, so true.
Melody Wilding [00:54:00]:
Better to be upfront about it. I know. We just have a few minutes, so quick answer on this one if you want, you talk a lot about new managers and helping new managers get up to speed. What do you do if you’re on the receiving end of having a new manager, particularly someone that may have been like a seasoned individual contributor? And you and I know this happens all the time, where the seasoned individual contributor is all of a sudden thrust into the manager role and they don’t know how to train you. They don’t know how to set you up for success. They may even have a little bit of a different area of expertise from you. What do you do? What’s reasonable to expect from them and how do you manage them to get what you need from them? I mean, what’s reasonable to expect is that they are good at leading and that they will get some support or some training. I think that’s reasonable to expect, but that’s not always the case.
Ramona Shaw [00:55:02]:
And we can change that number, control it as often as you can be upfront, say what would really help me be better at my job or help me be more effective at the work that I do is if you could clarify, if you could tell me if we could do this. So be really what would help me do my job better, and avoiding feeling statements, so avoiding like, I feel like I need or I feel it will be better because then it becomes very subjective. So especially for a new manager who’s trying to figure out all the things, be as objective and as result focused as possible, because new managers tend to just focus on that first, like that’s getting their attention first is making sure that the machinery keeps running right? Yes, I also want you to like me and feel good, but I also want to make sure that we’re doing the work. So the more that you can keep this objective and result focus in the conversation, likely. And again, this does not apply to everyone involved, but overall, it’s a generalized statement that’d be one, give them grace, this is hard, be patient. And if you feel like, hey, I worry that they’re not an advocate for me, without stepping on their toes or circumventing them. But try to find other sponsors in the company, other stakeholders that you have good relationships with, so that your boss is not going to be the only one promoting or advocating on your behalf when promotion things or reviews come around. But you have other people who can vouch for your work or your work product or you as a person in the company.
Ramona Shaw [00:56:44]:
So making sure that you diversify the people that you work with and are somewhat intentional about that. Yeah, it’s funny because it’s good advice no matter no matter the relationship you have with your boss or what. Yeah, if you have a new manager or you don’t get along with your manager, that is triple as important. 100%. Ramona, thank you so much. I know a lot of people couldn’t be here live, but they’re definitely going to catch this replay. And this was so valuable. I mean, you just have such a practical, straightforward, yet such an intelligent way of approaching this topic.
Melody Wilding [00:57:24]:
So thank you so much for sharing all of your great wisdom with us. Where can people find you? Where can they get your book? How can they work with you, connect with you further? Yeah, I’d probably go to Ramonashaw.com for all the answers to that of how to work with me, how to get the book, or the podcast. The podcast is definitely an easy way to sort of learn more about my philosophies or methodology and just feel inspired on a weekly basis. Comes out every Tuesday to do episode. A lot of it right is just fueling and getting food for thought. Yeah, I love your podcast. I’m a listener, so I’ll also make sure all of those links we have that up with the recording too. And thank you so much again.
Melody Wilding [00:58:12]:
So great having you. Safe travels back to the US. And we’ll talk soon.
Ramona Shaw [00:58:19]:
If you enjoyed this episode, then check out two other awesome resources to help you become a leader people love to work with. This includes my best selling book, The Confident and Competent New Manager, which you can find on Amazon firstname.lastname@example.org Slash Book, and a free training on how to successfully lead as a new manager. You can check it email@example.com slash masterclass these resources in a couple more you’ll find in the show notes down below.
REFLECTION & DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. How do you approach giving feedback to sensitive strivers on your team? What are some ways that you can turn feedback into a discussion or conversation with them?
2. Have you ever made the mistake of trying to absorb all the pressure yourself instead of redefining how and when tasks are done? What are some steps you can implement that will help take the pressure off of you and put more accountability on your team?
3. What are 3 things you can implement in your conversations right away after listening to this episode?
- Connect with Melody on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melodywilding/
- Melody’s Website: https://melodywilding.com/
- Melody’s RESILIENT Program: https://melodywilding.com/resilient/
- Melody’s Book “Trust Yourself: Stop Overthinking and Channel Your Emotions for Success at Work”
- Learn how to turn your 1-on-1 meetings from time wasters, awkward moments, status updates, or non-existent into your most important and valuable meeting with your directs all week. Access the course and resources here: ramonashaw.com/11
- Have a question or topic you’d like Ramona to address on a future episode? Fill out this form to submit it for her review: https://ramonashaw.com/ama
OTHER EPISODES YOU MIGHT LIKE
- Episode 6: Navigating Difficult Conversations at Work
- Episode 102: Become Great at Hiring – With Tatiyana Cure
- Episode 124: Giving Feedback: 3 Common Mistakes
Grab your copy of Ramona’s best-selling book ‘The Confident & Competent New Manager: How to Rapidly Rise to Success in Your First Leadership Role’: amzn.to/3TuOdcP
If this episode inspired you in some way, take a screenshot of you listening on your device and post it to your Instagram Stories, and tag me @ramona.shaw.leadership or DM me on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/ramona-shaw
Are you in your first manager role and don’t want to mess it up? Watch our FREE Masterclass and discover the 4 shifts to become a leader people love to work for: ramonashaw.com/masterclass
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