Don’t Say “Change Is Hard” When You’re Asking People to Change

When a change initiative hits a roadblock, leaders often remind people that “change is hard.” But that old saw can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Momentary setbacks or delays can be viewed as the dead canary in the coal mine, and suddenly, employees disengage en masse. Instead, try flipping the script.

In a University of Chicago study, researchers were able to change participants’ mindsets by reminding them that most people improve with a little bit of effort. The results? Study participants were quicker to identify the upsides of change than the downsides. Instead of accepting that initiatives rarely succeed, remind yourself and your team that you’ve all been learning new skills and adapting to new environments for your entire lives.

And every time you feel the impulse to say “Change is hard,” make a different claim, one that is every bit as accurate: Adaptation is the rule of human existence, not the exception.

Friendships with Older and Younger Colleagues…

It can be challenging to connect with coworkers who are older or younger than you and seem to be in very different life stages. But having relationships across age gaps can make work more fulfilling and lead to professional opportunities down the line. 

Shift Mindset – The first step is to shift your mindset. Consider your coworkers as peers, regardless of their age. This simple reframing will take away some of the discomforts, making it easier to be authentic and initiate more organic discussions. 

Find a common ground – Ask simple questions to find common ground. For example: How did they end up in their current role? What hobbies interest them? The idea here is to remember the topics, interests, and values that are important to them — just like you would with a friend. 

Water the plant – If you do happen to hit it off, make an effort to water the plant — that is, to further invest in the relationship. Set up regular one-on-ones, perhaps biweekly, monthly, or quarterly, so you can get to know each other on a personal level. After forming a foundation of trust, you can also use these opportunities to exchange ideas, and even inspire one another. 

Of course, not everyone will become a friend and you don’t want to force a relationship but taking these steps will help you find those people who you have a genuine connection with, even if you’re not at the same exact life stage.

As a Manager, Be Thoughtful About the Weight of Your Words Carry

Think of your comments, suggestions, and questions as pebbles you’re throwing into a stream: Each one can have an impact far larger than you may intend. So always recognize the weight your words carry, and speak with intention. 

During meetings with your team, try not to “think out loud,” and avoid lobbing ideas at everyone. Be sure you’re giving the team a clear, unified picture of projects and strategies; if you aren’t ready to do that in a particular situation, hold off on saying anything until you are. And don’t ask for updates unless you really need them. That kind of message appears urgent, even when it’s not. Always specify what information you need, why, and when, so you don’t create an unnecessary fire drill.

How to Keep Your Hybrid Employees Engaged

How can you give your hybrid team both the autonomy and the flexibility they want while also encouraging togetherness? More emails and long video meetings aren’t the answer. Take steps to foster emotional connection, team bonding, and fun to compensate for the loss of proximity in the office.

First, have your team put together a working agreement that covers each member’s needs — for example, when they work and how often they need to meet — so they can better support each other.

Second, check in on your team members regularly, over email, chat, or in real-time on the phone or video.

Third, plan regular in-person offsites for collaboration-heavy work.

Fourth, to make up for the lack of smiles, nods, and other nonverbal cues that indicate appreciation, celebrate the small wins and praise your team members frequently.

Finally, get creative about sharing experiences together. You could arrange to watch a virtual musical performance together or share the same kind of meal on the same day.

Being a Leader is tough…

As a leader today, you’re expected to attend to your employees’ mental health, demonstrate sensitivity and compassion, and provide opportunities for flexibility and remote work—all while delivering results. This kind of emotional labor is taxing and often overlooked by organizations. 

Here’s how to handle the emotional labor of being a leader:

Recognize emotional labor as work. Don’t ignore the burden of being an emotional pillar in your organization. Instead, be honest with yourself about the challenges.

Request training. There are tangible skills you can build to help you be more mindful and less drained by emotional labor. Ask your leaders to invest in this kind of training.

Create peer support groups. It doesn’t have to feel lonely at the top. Sharing your stress with like-minded colleagues can help alleviate it.

Embrace self-compassion. You can’t be emotionally available all the time, and that’s okay. Be kind to yourself when you’re struggling to perform emotional labor. Frustration can quickly turn into negative energy, which will trickle down to your team. When you practice self-compassion, on the other hand, you’re leading by example.

Take Care of Your Team During Crunch Times

Crunch times — those long hours of work leading up to a product launch or deadline — are stressful and often unavoidable. As a manager, how should you handle yourself during these high-pressure stretches so you and your team don’t burn out? Here are three strategies:

Set aggressive but achievable goals. Think about something exciting but reachable based on the team’s level of performance and maturity. Evaluate the risks before assigning a goal. Learn from your team’s failures, and provide feedback to address their development gaps.

Keep open lines of communication. Crunch often affects a leader’s availability. Ensure that team members have a way to share key information with you, such as when they are being pushed too hard or things are not working as they should.

Recognize the costs of your decisions. Sometimes leaders don’t know exactly what they’re asking of their teams during these crunch times. Pay attention and, to the extent possible, share the burden and partake in the team’s sacrifice.

How Emotional Bookending Can Help You Make Better Decisions…

Making difficult decisions can be an emotionally charged experience. Whether you’re hiring someone, firing someone, or reshuffling your team, the complexity of the decision can cause a range of emotions to surface, such as fear, anxiety, overwhelm, or excitement. However, these emotions can be harnessed to help you make better choices by using a technique called “emotional bookending.”

Emotional bookending involves identifying the decision you need to make and naming the exact emotion you’re feeling in response to it. By acknowledging and naming your emotions, you create a little space between your emotions and your actions. This space allows you to become more self-aware and better able to understand why you’re feeling the way you are.

Once you’ve named your emotions, the next step is to visualize how you might feel on the other side of the decision. Will you feel a sense of accomplishment or relief, or will there still be some anxiety there? This exercise allows you to project the emotions you’ll feel in the wake of your decision, which can help you untangle the discomfort you’re feeling in the face of it.

For example, let’s say you’re considering firing an employee who’s been with your company for years. You might feel a sense of guilt or sadness about letting them go. By emotional bookending, you can acknowledge these feelings and then visualize how you might feel on the other side of the decision. Perhaps you’ll feel a sense of relief that you’ve made the right choice for your company, or maybe you’ll feel a sense of sadness but also a sense of opportunity to find someone who’s a better fit for the role.

Emotional bookending is a powerful tool that can help you make better decisions. By identifying and naming your emotions, you create space between your emotions and your actions, allowing you to move forward with greater clarity and confidence.