Tips and stories to add value to you and your organisation
Have you ever sat with a board of directors, asked them why they spent a stupid amount of money on a computer system they didn’t need and then watched them all squirm and pass the buck?
No? I have. About 25 years ago.
My colleague almost fainted when I asked them and although it was a logical and relevant question, it was totally unfeeling and crassly asked.
But hey, I was young and confident and full of my own sense of right and wrong.
It would have been more helpful if I’d had any awareness of my own personal public relations though. I’m sure if I’d had a PR advisor in the room she would have been weeping at the glaring ineptitude of her client and wondering if now was the right time to quit her profession and do something less stressful, such as juggling knives.
Massively humiliating and irritating a whole board of directors takes a bit of doing and I was fearless in the doing of it. And, of course, spectacularly naive.
It goes without saying that, in due course, my role was made redundant and I left to spend more time with my family. Such is the price of PR ineptitude.
Personal PR is worth taking into account when we think of our performance at work. We can do this with a quick self audit, that runs thus:
Do we tend to smile or scowl at people?
Do we share our successes with our boss?
Do we thank our boss for giving us interesting work?
Do we ask useful questions, in order to move the problem to a good outcome? Or do we grandstand and make people look silly?
Do we take part in groups and committees?
Do we sulk when given extra work, or do we discuss priorities and capacity instead?
Is our reputation that of a grumbler, or someone who is supportive of continuous improvement?
When was the last time we spent time enquiring about colleagues and showing genuine interest in their issues? Or do we tend to be aloof and disinterested?
If we had to give ourselves up to 20 points, total, for all of the above, what would an honest score be, and what is one thing we can do more of, or be more self aware of?
Personal PR is not about sucking up tp the great powers in a vacuous, or manipulative way. It’s about being thoughtful, positive and friendly.
If we have doubts, or concerns, we can ask careful and polite questions.
If we need to discuss something important we can ask for a friendly conversation, instead of charging in with guns blazing.
If we want to be well thought of and get on in our roles we can all pause for a moment and think of just how good our personal PR is at work and how we can improve it.
Humiliating a board may be fun in the moment, but in the argo of business coaches, like myself, it’s a ‘career limiting move’ at best, and a ‘career terminating move’ at worst.
Be nice to people. Smile and the world smiles back. A cliche for sure and yet one worth holding on to.
We can all have a great week improving our personal PR! Have fun!
Next week: How To Make A Mistake Well
One of the first things I learned, when training to be a coach, was the difference between saying to a client:
How can I help you?
How can I support you?
When we offer help it does tend to assume that we can help the client, which may not be the case. This can sound great, but can mean us doing the work, instead of the client thinking for themselves.
When we offer support, there is less Parental content and the question is more general. Parents help their children, which is perfectly natural, but when the children grow up they often don’t want help. They can sort it for themselves. What they need is support.
Sometimes support can mean listening and allowing them space so they work out the issue. Maybe they ask for our help with a specific item, once they’ve thought about it, and that’s okay too.
If we are working in an organisation and always being helpful to others we tend to step into a Parental role and can accidentally infantilise people. We keep them down, without meaning too, but we still do it.
We solve their problems and in doing so remove the opportunity for the problem to be properly investigated and sorted. We do their work for them instead of doing our own, which creates a backlog at our desk.
When we are challenged on this we say…But I’m only being helpful!
This can be very hard to deal with because being helpful is socially acceptable, even though we are working against the best interests of the organisational process.
Criticising someone for being helpful seems harsh, so we don’t do it and instead grumble to ourselves.
Being helpful can be a trap for us. We are well motivated and yet cause a nuisance at the same time because we mask underlying issues and don’t get our own work done.
Therefore it’s good to spot when we are being too helpful. Instead of diving in, we can help by being not helpful.
We can say…I’m really busy right now and maybe I can help you later?
This is kindly and generally means the other person has space to solve the issue for themselves. They will learn how to resolve things.
If they can’t complete the task the organisation will have to do something about it, such as offer more training, change the process, or add in more capacity.
The organisation benefits for both today and tomorrow, we get our work done and everyone is happy.
This week we can do some thinking about being helpful. Are we masking the issue instead of fixing it? Are we being Parental instead of giving people the space to be an Adult and solve their own problems?
We don’t help them outside of work and they manage to sort their lives out when we’re not around!
We can avoid the trap of helping all the time and everyone wins.
Next week: Personal PR
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Brilliant ways to increase performance, stay employed and keep the money rolling in
Published 2011 Marshall Cavendish
Secrets and skills to sell yourself effectively in the Modern Age
Published 2010 Marshall Cavendish
An insider's guide to working for yourself
Published 2007 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish