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Friday, February 9, 2018

Managing Your Emotions at Work

Control Your Feelings... Before They Control You

The way you react to frustrations is down to choice.

Everything can be taken from a man but the last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one's way." 
                               – Viktor Frankl, "Man's Search for Meaning.

We've all been in one of "those" situations before. You know... when your favorite project is cancelled after weeks of hard work; when a customer snaps at you unfairly; when your best friend (and co-worker) is laid off suddenly; or your boss assigns you more work when you're already overloaded.

In your personal life, your reaction to stressful situations like these might be to start shouting, or to go hide in a corner and feel sorry for yourself for a while. But at work, these types of behavior could seriously harm your professional reputation, as well as your productivity.

So, how can you become better at handling your emotions, and "choosing" your reactions to bad situations? In this post, we look at the most common negative emotions experienced in the workplace – and how you can manage them productively.

Why are we focusing only on negative emotions? Well, most people don't need strategies for managing their positive emotions. After all, feelings of joy, excitement, compassion, or optimism usually don't affect others in a negative way. As long as you share positive emotions constructively and professionally, they're great to have in the workplace!

Common Negative Emotions at Work

In 1997, Bond University professor of management Cynthia Fisher conducted a study called "Emotions at Work: What Do People Feel, and How Should We Measure It?"

According to Fisher's research, the most common negative emotions experienced in the workplace are as follows:

+ Frustration/irritation.
+ Worry/nervousness.
+ Anger/aggravation.
+ Dislike.
+ Disappointment/unhappiness.

From "Emotions at Work: What Do People Feel and How Should we Measure it?" by Cynthia D. Fisher. School of Business Discussion Paper; No. 63, February 1997. © Copyright Cynthia D. Fisher and the School of Business, Bond University.

Below are different strategies you can use to help you deal with each of these negative emotions.


Frustration usually occurs when you feel stuck or trapped, or unable to move forward in some way. It could be caused by a colleague blocking your favorite project, a boss who is too disorganized to get to your meeting on time, or simply being on hold on the phone for a long time.

Whatever the reason, it's important to deal with feelings of frustration quickly, because they can easily lead to more negative emotions, such as anger.

Here are some suggestions for dealing with frustration:

+ Stop and evaluate – One of the best things you can do is mentally stop yourself, and look at the situation. Ask yourself why you feel frustrated. Write it down, and be specific. Then think of one positive thing about your current situation. For instance, if your boss is late for your meeting, then you have more time to prepare. Or, you could use this time to relax a little.

+ Find something positive about the situation – Thinking about a positive aspect of your situation often makes you look at things in a different way. This small change in your thinking can improve your mood. When it's people who are causing your frustration, they're probably not doing it deliberately to annoy you. And if it's a thing that's bothering you – well, it's certainly not personal! Don't get mad, just move on.

+ Remember the last time you felt frustrated – The last time you were frustrated about something, the situation probably worked out just fine after a while, right? Your feelings of frustration or irritation probably didn't do much to solve the problem then, which means they're not doing anything for you right now.


With all the fear and anxiety that comes with rapid change and disruption in business-as-usual, it's no wonder that many people worry about their jobs. But this worry can easily get out of control, if you allow it, and this can impact not only your mental health, but also your productivity, and your willingness to take risks at work.

Try these tips to deal with worrying:

+ Don't surround yourself with worry and anxiety – For example, if co-workers gather in the break room to gossip and talk about job cuts, then don't go there and worry with everyone else. Worrying tends to lead to more worrying, and that isn't good for anyone.

+ Try deep-breathing exercises – This helps slow your breathing and your heart rate. Breathe in slowly for five seconds, then breathe out slowly for five seconds. Focus on your breathing, and nothing else. Do this at least five times. 

+ Focus on how to improve the situation – If you fear being laid off, and you sit there and worry, that probably won't help you keep your job. Instead, why not brainstorm ways to bring in more business, and show how valuable you are to the company?

+ Write down your worries in a worry log – If you find that worries are churning around inside your mind, write them down in a notebook or "worry log," and then schedule a time to deal with them. Before that time, you can forget about these worries, knowing that you'll deal with them. When it comes to the time you've scheduled, conduct a proper risk analysis around these things, and take whatever actions are necessary to mitigate any risks.


Out-of-control anger is perhaps the most destructive emotion that people experience in the workplace. It's also the emotion that most of us don't handle very well. If you have trouble managing your temper at work, then learning to control it is one of the best things you can do if you want to keep your job.

Try these suggestions to control your anger:

+ Watch for early signs of anger – Only you know the danger signs when anger is building, so learn to recognize them when they begin. Stopping your anger early is key. Remember, you can choose how you react in a situation. Just because your first instinct is to become angry doesn't mean it's the correct response.

+ If you start to get angry, stop what you're doing – Close your eyes, and practice the deep-breathing exercise we described earlier. This interrupts your angry thoughts, and it helps put you back on a more positive path.

+ Picture yourself when you're angry – If you imagine how you look and behave while you're angry, it gives you some perspective on the situation. For instance, if you're about to shout at your co-worker, imagine how you would look. Is your face red? Are you waving your arms around? Would you want to work with someone like this? Probably not.


We've probably all had to work with someone we don't like. But it's important to be professional, no matter what.

Here are some ideas for working with people you dislike:

+ Be respectful – If you have to work with someone you don't get along with, then it's time to set aside your pride and ego. Treat the person with courtesy and respect, as you would treat anyone else. Just because this person behaves in an unprofessional manner, that doesn't mean you should as well.

+ Be assertive – If the other person is rude and unprofessional, then firmly explain that you refuse to be treated that way, and calmly leave the situation. Remember, set the example.


Dealing with disappointment or unhappiness at work can be difficult. Of all the emotions you might feel at work, these are the most likely to impact your productivity. If you've just suffered a major disappointment, your energy will probably be low, you might be afraid to take another risk, and all of that may hold you back from achieving.

Here are some proactive steps you can take to cope with disappointment and unhappiness:

+ Look at your mindset – Take a moment to realize that things won't always go your way. If they did, life would be a straight road instead of one with hills and valleys, ups and downs, right? And it's the hills and valleys that often make life so interesting.

+ Adjust your goal – If you're disappointed that you didn't reach a goal, that doesn't mean the goal is no longer reachable. Keep the goal, but make a small change – for example, delay the deadline.

+ Record your thoughts – Write down exactly what is making you unhappy. Is it a co-worker? Is it your job? Do you have too much to do? Once you identify the problem, start brainstorming ways to solve it or work around it. Remember, you always have the power to change your situation.

+ Smile! – Strange as it may sound, forcing a smile – or even a grimace – onto your face can often make you feel happy (this is one of the strange ways in which we humans are "wired.") Try it – you may be surprised!

Key Points

We all have to deal with negative emotions at work sometimes, and learning how to cope with these feelings is now more important than ever. After all, negative emotions can spread, and no one wants to be around a person who adds negativity to a group.

Know what causes your negative emotions, and which types of feelings you face most often. When those emotions begin to appear, immediately start your strategy to interrupt the cycle. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to pull yourself away from negative thinking.

To your greater happiness and effectiveness,
Peter Mclees, Leadership Coach, Facilitator and Trainer
Mobile: 323-854-1713

Smart Development has an exceptional track record helping service providers, ports, sales teams, restaurants, stores, branches, distribution centers, food production facilities, nonprofits, government agencies and other businesses create a strong culture, leadership bench strength, coaching skills and the teamwork necessary for growth. Having worked with several companies throughout their growth cycle, we have valuable insights and strategies that would help any late stage startup, small or medium sized company achieve sustained growth and prosperity.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Root Cause of Many Lost Sales Opportunities

I was visiting an old friend not long ago and he reminded me of the great ping pong tournaments we used to have when we were in college. He also told me he had just purchased a ping pong table and it was “waiting” for us in his game room. My buddy quickly grabbed one paddle; I picked up the other. It's been decades since we last faced off against each other. We were never very good, but we were always competitive. 

After a brief warm-up period, I felt the old rivalry re-emerging. 

My friend had moved too far to the right side of the table. With a nice hit to the left corner, I could score an easy point. Maybe even a bragging point. 
Eagerly, I whacked the ball into just the right spot -- or so I thought. Instead, it sailed six feet beyond the table into a potted plant. (Too much adrenaline!) 

Moments later, another opportunity presented itself. My pal was playing too close to the table, making it difficult for him to hit a long ball placed directly in front of him. 

I swung hard and fast. It hit him in the chest. Another big miss for me. 

The Problem 

After a few more lost points, the root cause of the problem became glaringly obvious. My eagerness to score big was causing me to make rookie mistakes. 
To win, I needed to control my emotions -- which, as you might imagine, is easier said than done. 

We have to do that in sales too. Good sales opportunities get our adrenaline flowing. We can see how we can help. We know we can make a difference. We want to pounce on our prospect. 
It doesn't work. Instead, it creates serious, sales-ending obstacles. Prospects don't want to play with you anymore. They think you're only out for yourself. It's probably not true, although I have to admit that early in my career it was. 

The Solution 

If you really want to win at the game of sales, it's crucial to control your emotions. Sometimes the first step is hardest -- recognizing your own actions are causing the problems. 
Then you have to figure out new ways to respond and even learn new skills. It's hard work, but it's worth it. 

As for my ping pong game, I realized that mastering the skills I needed to beat my friend would take longer than my weekend visit. I decided to focus on having fun instead -- and keeping the ball in play. 

To your greater success,

Peter C. Mclees, Sales Coach and Trainer
Smart Development
Mobile: 323-854-1713

We help sales reps and sales organizations accelerate their sales.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Golden Rule of Business Success

Highly successful businesses as diverse as Trader Joe's, The Four Seasons Hotels, Zappos Shoes, Service Masters, PrairieStone Pharmacy, Harrah’s Entertainment, ING, Harley Davidson, Baptist Healthcare, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Medtronics, Semco Cement, Rackspace Storage and Patagonia have adopted some version of the Golden Rule, “Treat others as you want to be treated,” as the touchstone for their company's philosophy.

Like most truths, it is simple to understand, but difficult to manifest. A person could spend their entire lifetime figuring out how to apply the Golden Rule in the various parts of their life.

I was reminded of the power of the Golden Rule over the weekend while reading an article on Happiness. A 72 year longitudinal Harvard study exploring what makes for ‘a good life’ offered no more surprising or compelling conclusion that the most important thing in life is the quality of our relationships.  Nothing else – not money, not achievement, not status– came close to determining the quality of our lives.

This seems worth noting. The ‘good business’ seems to be no different than the ‘good life’. Its’ goodness is nothing more or less than the sum total of the quality of its relationships.

The history of business shows that companies that have built and sustained their success think more about relationships than transactions. Many companies focus too much on transactions.  About deals. About spreadsheets. About tasks and to do lists. Relationships are nurtured over time. Transactions happen in a moment.

Good business thinks first about relationships.The relationship between the business and its customers. The relationship between the employees and the community. The relationship between owners, management, and staff. The relationship with suppliers.  The relationship between its actions and its impact on the environment.  

Management guru Tom Peters once remarked, "Many businesses forget that all organizations are essentially human.”

One prime example of a company that was founded on and still operates in concert with the Golden Rule is JC Penney. In fact, founder James Cash Penney called his first dry goods and clothing store “The Golden Rule.” He called it the "Golden Rule" for one very important reason. He believed that the Golden Rule applied to all aspects of life, and he intended to build a business using the Golden Rule as his philosophical cornerstone. 

In 1913, “The Penney Idea” was drafted, outlining Penney’s business values and principles. Although JC Penny's has struggled financially in recent years, more than 100 years later, the company’s “Winning Together Principles” still guide employees at all levels, perpetuating a principle-centered business with values that extend far beyond the basic task of generating profits. 

These quotes from James Cash Penney reveal the original values and principles that guided the founder as he was building one of the most enduring retail brands in the history of U.S. retailing are still relevant today. I think the importance of these values are amplified in the era of social media with sites like Yelp and Glassdoor.
  • “When this business was founded, it sought to win public confidence through service, for it was my conviction then, as it is now, that nothing else than right service to the public results in mutual understanding and satisfaction between customer and merchant. It was for this reason that our business was founded upon the eternal principle of the Golden Rule.”
  • The friendly smile, the word of greeting, are certainly something fleeting and seemingly insubstantial. You can’t take them with you. But they work for good beyond your power to measure their influence. It is the service we are not obliged to give that people value most.”  
  • “In setting up a business under the name and meaning of the Golden Rule, I was publicly binding myself, in my business relations, to a principle which had been a real and intimate part of my family upbringing. Our idea was to make money and build business through serving the community with fair dealing and honest value.” 
  • The Golden Rule finds no limit of application in business.”
  • “Honor bespeaks worth. Confidence begets trust. Service brings satisfaction. Cooperation proves the quality of leadership.” 
  • “The public is not greatly interested in saving a little money on a purchase at the expense of service.” 
  • “Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.” 
  • “Profits must come through public confidence, and public confidence is given to any merchant in proportion to the service which he gives to the public.” 
  • “We told store managers that, unless they knew their communities and unless they were prepared to enter sympathetically into community life, they could not make a success of their stores.” 
  • “A merchant who approaches business with the idea of serving the public well has nothing to fear from the competition.” 
  • “Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I’ll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals and I’ll give you a stock clerk.” 
  • “Do not primarily train people to work. Train them to serve willingly and intelligently.” 
  • “In retailing, the formula happens to be a basic liking for human beings, plus integrity, plus industry, plus the ability to see the other fellow’s point of view.”
All the success,

Peter Mclees, Leadership Coach, Trainer and Performance Consultant
Mobile: 323-854-1713
Smart Development

P.S. Smart Development has an exceptional track record helping ports, sales teams, restaurants, stores, distribution centers, food production facilities, nonprofits, and other businesses create a strong culture, leadership bench strength, coaching skills and the teamwork necessary for growth. Having worked with several companies throughout their growth cycle, we have valuable insights and strategies that would help any late stage startup, small or medium sized company achieve sustained growth and prosperity.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Tom Brady's Coachability and Lessons for Leaders

The 2018 Superbowl is just two days away and like a broken record (Which they've been doing a lot) Brady and the Patriots are in it again. Whether you’re a fan of Tom Brady or not, you’ve got to agree he’s a winner. 

There are lots of articles written about both Tom and coach Belichick, and the Patriots, and I read one that, yet again, provides a big lesson for all of us in leadership.

The article talks about how, after a good practice, coach Belichick came down hard on Tom and admonished him to stop throwing so many times to his best receiver. Tom didn’t agree and pointed out that he was simply polishing his timing, but Belichick was adamant.

“Throw the ball to somebody else!” he said, in not so polite terms.

Just when Tom was about to object and let his ego take over, he stopped and took it in. “I’m the player and he is the coach,” was his attitude. And this is what makes Tom so great: He is willing to keep learning and keep growing.

The article said it best: “The Patriots’ best player likes to be coached the hardest.”

The reason this is such a good lesson is that I coach “players”--leaders-- all the time with a variety of professional backgrounds. And what I find is that the ones who grow and improve the most are the ones who are most open to being coached.

This contrasts sharply with those who insist on doing it their own way; those who remain stubborn and think they have it all figured out. While many of these sales reps are talented, smart, intuitive, and even motivated, what they lack is a willingness to take a step back and consider possibly better way.

Unfortunately, many professional football teams and elite athletes are resistant to coaching as well. In the article, coach Eric Mangini points this out by saying: “There is almost this stigma to being coached.” And:

“The head coach of another AFC club tried a similar tactic with his team this season, showing the entire team clips of mistakes by a handful of his best players. One recently paid veteran responded by standing up in front of the room and screaming at the coach.”

I used to be resistant to coaching as well. Years ago, I thought I knew it all and was resentful when my manager – who wasn’t on the phones and didn’t have to make the calls – tried to teach me a better way. It wasn’t until I became committed to performing better that I became willing to be coached.

But when I did,  my career took off.

The lesson I hope you all take from this is that you can and will benefit from advice, suggestions, and coaching from other people who have been there and done that. It’s when you think you know it all that you stop growing.

Just like when Tony Robbins was starting out, he read and listened to and absorbed everyone else’s ideas in his field. He said that if he got just one good idea from them (and he got a lot more), that would help make his motivational training and career better.

And it worked out for Tony.  And for countless other top professionals.

So my suggestion for you is: Who can you learn from today? What piece of advice or which technique, or which suggestion can you try to make yourself better? How open are you to being coached?

The moment you become willing, that is the moment you will begin improving.

To your greater success,

Peter Mclees, Leadership Coach, Trainer and Performance Consultant
Mobile: 323-854-1713
Smart Development

P. S. Smart Development has an exceptional track record helping ports, sales teams, restaurants, stores, distribution centers, food production facilities, nonprofits, and other businesses create a strong culture, leadership bench strength, coaching skills and the teamwork necessary for growth. Having worked with several companies throughout their growth cycle, we have valuable insights and strategies that would help any late stage startup, small or medium sized company achieve sustained growth and prosperity.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

★ An A-Z Guide for Engaging Employees to Engage Customers ★

Building an engaged workforce is perhaps the biggest challenge today’s employers face. The benefits are many—increased customer loyalty (Higher NPS Score), profitsproductivity and safety, to name a few—yet it can be tough to lead a workforce that maintains consistently high levels of passion and motivation.

This A to Z list about engagement from an employee’s perspective will help leaders determine where to focus their attention. Armed with these insights, you will be well on your way to developing the engaged workforce that create consistently great customer experiences.

Ask : Ask me questions, ask me for ideas, or ask me to participate. Ask me how we can improve the customer experience. You will grab my attention and begin the process of engaging my heart, mind and spirit.

Behave: How you behave towards me, my co-workers and those we interact with tells me a great deal. When you treat us like adults and contributors, we can move forward.

Treat me the way you'd want me to treat the customer!

Treat me as overhead, a resource, or human capital (whatever that is), and I will drift off to another place. Yelling, screaming or ignoring me—except when I mess up—won’t work either.  "Seagull" style managers don't earn my whole-hearted commitment.

Communicate and collaborate: If you want me to be engaged, help me understand what’s going on in the company. Tell me what led to or shaped our decisions. In other words, communicate with me. It’s from this foundation that you, me and others on our team can work together to clarify opportunities and determine how we will succeed. Let’s collaborate.

Deliver: When you make promises or say you’ll get back to me on something, please remember to deliver. You will build credibility and trust. If we can rely on you, rest assured you can rely on us.

Encourage and empower: This is actually a simple concept. When you tell me I did something well, I smile more. I learn, and carry that perspective forward. Let me know that you trust me to get the job done in the way that makes the most sense to me. Encouragement and empowerment are keys to keeping me engaged.

Feedback: Tell me how I’m doing. And not just once or twice a year—all the time. Tell me when you like what I’ve done; tell me what didn’t work and why. Providing both positive and constructive feedback regularly will help me improve. Share  formal and informal customer survey results. You’ll be surprised at what I will achieve.

Goals: Provide me with goals I can work toward. Better yet, let me in on developing goals that make sense to me, our team, the customer experience and the company.

Hello. How are you? Stop by now and then to say hello and ask how I’m doing. Ask about my family or just talk a little. Did you know I play golf? It couldn’t be simpler. It shows you care, and more important, helps build the bond we need to enjoy our time at work.

Integrity: Earn it, keep it, and reap the rewards. I’ll do the same and so will our teammates. Just imagine the possibilities.

Journey: Just like the company, I’m on a journey. Let’s find a way to connect the two. It will take some work, of course. You’ll need to get to know me a little. Find out what you can about my goals, ambitions, hopes, dreams, and where I hope my journey will lead me.

Find out who I am outside of work, too. I will return the favor by getting to know you. Remember to also share the company’s journey. Only then will engaging me become possible.

Knowledge: Share what you know with us employees, and allow us to share what we know with you. Make sure we share amongst ourselves as a team. Then, help us apply that knowledge in a way that leads to success.

Listen: Actively listen. Listen with your ears, eyes and mind. Let me know what you heard to make sure that is what I intended to say. When you do that, you will be surprised by what you learn.

Listen to me the way you'd want me to listen to the customer!

Meaning: My work has to have meaning, because I’m here for much more than a paycheck or social time. I want to contribute. Work with me to build that meaning and link it with our goals. Then you’ll really begin to capture my heart, mind and spirit.

Notice: Take notice of what I do and how I do it. Better yet, take notice of what our team does both individually and collectively, and give us credit for our efforts and achievements. Don’t forget that taking notice includes letting me know you did.

Opportunity: Use what you know about me to consider opportunities for me to get involved in other areas. From special assignments, leadership roles, and cross-organizational work to training and development, I appreciate the chance to deepen my capabilities and contributions.

Passion: Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

Questions: Ask, consider, answer, probe and challenge. Questions are the gateway to deeper levels of awareness, understanding, knowledge and potential. Ask, "How can I help?" and see me soar.

Recognition, rewards and relationships: Let’s redefine the three Rs. Recognize what I do and reward me appropriately. Build a relationship with me on a professional and personal level. Forget the three Rs at your own peril.

Smile: A smile really goes a long way. Try one on for size and you might be surprised by how far it goes.

Smile at me the way you'd want me to smile at the customer!

Trust: Showing that you trust me and giving me a reason to trust you is perhaps the most important of the ABCs. Without trust, the rest is meaningless. Remember that we earn trust over time. While it’s not hard to earn, it’s very hard to get back once we lose it.

Unify our team: Work with us as a team and let us work on our own as a team. There is a difference. Allow us to work together to build a shared vision and set our goals. Let us have ownership and participate in the way that makes the most sense to us. Let us share our hopes, dreams and fears with each other so we can work together.

Victory: It’s important to us that you celebrate our wins, whether they’re large, small or anywhere in between. It lets us know our efforts paid off, that you care, and that you notice.

We: As the saying goes, many hands lighten the load. Let us in on what’s happening and we can succeed together.

X-traordinary: The results we can achieve by working together will be extraordinary.

“Yes and,” not “yes but”: When you say, “Yes, but...” our conversations and my creativity shut down. Next time, try “Yes, and...” You’ll be surprised by where it may lead and how it will make me feel.

Zenith: If you follow the ABCs of employee engagement, my full potential and commitment will be yours and our customers will be wow'd.

To your greater success,

Peter Mclees, Leadership Coach, Trainer and Performance Consultant

Mobile: 323-854-1713
Smart Development

P.S. Smart Development has an exceptional track record helping ports, sales teams, restaurants, stores, distribution centers, food production facilities, nonprofits, and other businesses create a strong culture, leadership bench strength, coaching skills and the teamwork necessary for growth. Having worked with several companies throughout their growth cycle, we have valuable insights and strategies that would help any late stage startup, small or medium sized company achieve sustained growth and prosperity.

Handling Employee Drama

Dear Leader’s Digest~

I inherited an employee that is challenged when it comes to communication, attitude, and accountability. Recently, one of my employees threw what I would call "an adult temper tantrum" after receiving her assignment. She complained loudly and inappropriately in front of the other employees. She also walked out of a huddle before I was finished—in front of the rest of the team. I attempted to fix her assignment for her, as her objections were not unreasonable, but her behavior certainly was. She verbalized that she would keep the assignment as it was but had a poor attitude for several hours.

I feel disrespected and embarrassed by her behavior. Since she was so emotional I chose not to confront her at the time. But I’m thinking I need to speak up now. Since she can be quite dramatic, can you give me some advice? I’m worried she’s influencing her teammates against me.


Committed to Following Up

Dear Committed,

You've done a couple of things right already. First of all, you were wise to respond to the content of her concern in order to demonstrate that you cared about her problem. You were wise to not confront her in front of her peers, or to do so when her emotions were very strong. Had you done so, it would have been difficult for her to hear you, and your influence would have diminished significantly.

Second, offering to make appropriate adjustments to the assignment—so long as you weren't selling out by doing so—is a good way of mobilizing cooperation rather than resistance. It shows that you care about her interests and sets a foundation of mutual purpose and mutual respect.

But from there, I think you missed a big opportunity by not raising your concerns with her behavior at the same time you offered to respond to her complaints. The ideal moment to hold someone accountable is the moment they are least likely to misunderstand your intentions. And that moment was probably when you genuinely and sincerely attempted to listen to her issue.

With that said, all is not lost. But you must address this issue soon before you run the risk of seeming like you're dredging up old issues—or worse, before it happens again and you feel even more upset when you talk with her.

So do it soon. Do it privately. Do it at a time she agrees to and which is convenient for her. All of these situational factors will help reduce the likelihood of defensiveness. Begin by reminding her of the reasons she should know she should have confidence in you. Point out what you've done to address her frustrations, and reiterate that you will always be accommodating to personal needs when you can do so without being unfair to the rest of the team.

With that said, now it’s time to raise your concern. And this is the tricky part. You've got two things you've got to do to turn this into a healthy coaching or counseling conversation.

First, frame the issue positively. Ensure that she knows your intent is to address a problem and not to beat her up. For example, “I’d like to talk to you about something that happened when you were frustrated with the assignment I gave you. In doing so, I want you to know it will always be okay for you to tell me things don't work for you. What I’d like to address is how you did it. Because that was unacceptable. I'd like to describe my concern, ok?"

With her consent, you must now describe her behavior but not your judgments. When we’re upset with others, we often make veiled attempts to punish them by describing their behavior in inflammatory ways. For example, it will not work to say, “You were hostile and insulting when you got your assignment.” Carefully plan out how you’ll describe her behavior, and carefully replace all the “hot words” with descriptive rather than judgmental language. For example, you might say, “After you received your assignment you said in a loud voice, ‘No way.’ You then put an order form were holding down on the shelf abruptly enough that it made a noticeable noise. And finally, you referred to me as unfair and "too big for my britches" who you said would not tell you what to do.”

It’s vital in reducing defensiveness (and increasing cooperation) that these words be spoken in a matter-of-fact tone of voice. They will carry far more weight in the conversation if you don't hurl them. Let the words do their own work. If they are true, your employee will hear them better without your added force.

Next, you need to tell her why this doesn't work for you. For example, “I've got two problems with what happened. First, it was done publicly. This affects morale in our team and encourages insubordination. That doesn't work for me. Second, it was accusatory. It seemed like you were turning this into a personal attack on me. You didn't need to. I will listen to your concerns when you have them. But this kind of behavior makes it harder for me to respond in a supportive way.”

Now you need to ask for her point of view. See if she remembers it differently or disagrees with your judgment of what happened. Once you've worked through your points of view, you must end by asking for her commitment to behave differently in the future.

Finally, if you think there is a chance this behavior will be an ongoing problem, you should ask for a chance to follow up and check in with her on two fronts: a) does she feel she’s getting support from you? and b) are you satisfied that she is supporting you? Agree on a specific date and then follow up.

Good luck with this situation. This should be enough to get you started. I commend your willingness to actually work on the problem rather than letting it slide.

To your greater success,

Peter Mclees, Leadership Coach, Trainer and Performance Consultant
Mobile: 323-854-1713
Smart Development

P. S. Smart Development has an exceptional track record helping ports, sales teams, restaurants, stores, distribution centers, food production facilities, nonprofits, and other businesses create a strong culture, leadership bench strength, coaching skills and the teamwork necessary for growth. Having worked with several companies throughout their growth cycle, we have valuable insights and strategies that would help any late stage startup, small or medium sized company achieve sustained growth and prosperity.

How a Simple Triangle Greatly Reduces Workplace Conflict

The Drama Triangle

The Drama Triangle was developed by Dr. Stephen Karpman, a psychiatrist who spent a lot of time working with dysfunctional relationships. He was also an avid basketball fan. In fact, he was the first person to identify the triangle offense.

Drama is what happens when people misuse the energy of conflict, with or without awareness, to feel justified about their negative behavior. Since justification is the modus operandi in drama, avoiding self-awareness is key. Plus, there are some powerful beliefs about conflict that derail people from using that energy productively. The good news is that people can learn to recognize their drama roles and chose different behaviors, more healthy ways to deal with conflict.

“The purpose of conflict is to create.” -Michael Meade

In drama, people play one or more of three predictable roles will an associated core belief:

Victim's core belief: “My life is so hard; my life is so unfair. ‘Poor me.’” The dynamic: “It’s not my fault (it’s theirs).” The benefits of playing the role: You have no responsibility for fixing anything; you get to complain; you attract Rescuers. The price paid for playing the role: You have no sense of being able to change anything—any change is outside your control. You’re known to be ineffective. And no one likes a whiner. Stuck is: “I feel stuck because I have no power and no influence. I feel useless.”

Persecutor's core belief: “I’m surrounded by fools, idiots or just people less good than me.” The dynamic: “It’s not my fault (it’s yours).” The benefits of playing the role: You feel superior and have a sense of power and control. The price paid for playing the role: You end up being responsible for everything. You create Victims. You’re known as a micromanager. People do the minimum for you and no more. And no one likes a bully. Stuck is: “I feel stuck because I don’t trust anyone. I feel alone.”

Rescuer's core belief: “Don’t fight, don’t worry, let me jump in and take it on and fix it.” The dynamic: “It’s my fault/responsibility (not yours).” The benefits of playing the role: You feel morally superior; you believe you’re indispensable. The price paid for playing the role: People reject your help. You create Victims and perpetuate the Drama Triangle. And no one likes a meddler. Stuck is: “I feel stuck because my rescuing doesn’t work. I feel burdened.”


These three labels aren’t descriptions of who you are. They’re descriptions of how you’re behaving in a given situation. No one is inherently a Victim or a Persecutor or a Rescuer. They are roles we end up playing when we’ve been triggered and, in that state, find a less-than-effective version of ourselves playing out.

Dr. Karpman remarked, “We all play all of these roles all the time. Often, we’ll cycle through all of the roles in a single exchange with someone, lurching from Victim to Rescuer to Persecutor and back again.”

Think of the most annoying person on your team right now, the one who’s giving you difficulty even as we speak. Did you notice that in a flash, you jumped to Persecutor (They make me so mad!), Victim (It’s not fair, why can’t I get them onto someone else’s team?) and Rescuer (I’ll just keep trying to do their work for them until they get up to speed) all at once? We tend to have a favorite role we default to most of the time. When asked to identify which of these roles you play most often, most choose the Rescuer.

When we’re in Rescuer mode, we’re constantly leaping in to solve problems, jumping in to offer advice, taking over responsibilities that others should rightfully keep for themselves. We do it with good intentions; we’re just trying to help, to “add value” as managers. But you can already see the price that’s being paid by both sides.

You’re exhausted—and they’re irritated.

You’re limiting opportunities for growth and for expanding the potential of those you’re working with. Rescuers create Victims. We want to believe it’s the other way around (which is also true, but not only true).

For better or for worse, we all play a certain role at work. Our best qualities have led us to the best moments of our career, but our less redeeming ones tagged along too—and likely continue to contribute to less-than-perfect workday interactions.

At a glance, you can probably identify which role you typically take on. In truth, you’ve likely played each of them at some point in your career (some people even bounce between all three in a single day). But chances are that one role is your default. What’s more, you’ve probably realized that these roles aren’t great for workplace relationships. 

Here’s how to avoid them.

Learn to Spot the Drama Triangle
It doesn’t take recognition alone to change the cycles we’ve created, but it’s a good starting point. Although you will probably, in any interaction, initially fall into one of the three roles, once you understand them and their cycles, you’ll be able to determine what initiated the chain. You can’t change a pattern without knowing it’s there.

Ask the Lazy Question: How Can I Help?
A person in the role of rescuer is constantly trying to do just that—rescue the situation. If this is you, instead of jumping in with advice and a willingness to do it all, ask “How can I help?” You’ll force the person you’re asking to come up with a clear request of you, which means you’ll still be there to help, but they will come up with the solutions. Be clear in what you offer; don’t offer to do it all, as that will lead you back into the rescuer role.

Be Straightforward but Tactful
As with any question, the lazy question can be taken badly if not asked well. It’s okay to ask how you can help, but you need to be clear about what you’re willing to do. You don’t want to come across as mopey (victim), aggressive (persecutor), or overwhelming (rescuer). Some people might respond well to a blunt question, such as “What do you want from me?” However, others might appreciate a little more tact. Figure out what works best for you and your coworkers.
Ask One of the Best Coaching Questions: And What Else?
The AWE question helps tame our inner advice monster. Instead of rushing in with suggestions, ask another question: And what else? It keeps the conversation going in a positive direction by generating more options, more ideas, more of everything. It also helps break the cycle among victim, persecutor, and rescuer because the conversation keeps moving forward--instead of making someone feel undervalued (victim), frustrating someone else (persecutor), or prompting another to jump in and take over (rescuer).
Listen Carefully and Deeply
Most of the time when we come up with suggestions and advice, we’re just trying to help. But what helps more than offering advice is asking questions, and beyond that, listening to the answers. Not all cycles are bad. Get into a new pattern: ask good questions that elicit good answers—and really listen to those answers.
If you learn to spot the Drama Triangle and disrupt it by posing questions, you’ll be able to help people without acting like a rescuer, you’ll be able to ask for something without coming across as a persecutor, and you’ll still be able to ask for help without playing the victim.

“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” -Anais Nin

To your greater harmony and success,

Peter Mclees, Leadership Coach,Trainer and Performance Consultant
Mobile: 323-854-1713
Smart Development

P.S. Smart Development has an exceptional track record helping ports, sales teams, restaurants, stores, distribution centers, food production facilities, nonprofits, and other businesses create a strong culture, leadership bench strength, coaching skills and the teamwork necessary for growth. Having worked with several companies throughout their growth cycle, we have valuable insights and strategies that would help any late stage startup, small or medium sized company achieve sustained growth and prosperity.