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“Indifference” to “Let’s do it together!” zone: How smart managers use positive psychology

Smart mangers know it is not just tasks but relationships too that must be focused on while working with associates. Senior managers face a myriad of challenges from their associates and peers. From persuading a capable yet hesitant middle-manager in coaching and owning a team member, to insecurity and jealousy at workplace; they are served a wide array of dishes. Given the resources and other challenges that small and medium business face, managers in these firms find themselves staring at situations that arise due to inexperience, limited exposures, and capabilities. It is not unusual for managers in SME to witness poor-outcome situations wherein senior professionals are reluctant to share and coach a peer who has joined recently. As a result, the new hire may feel ignored or ineffective, and over a period, this could lead to resignations or showdowns, both of which are unproductive.

So, how do smart managers handle such situations? Effective managers are known to adopt positive psychology and other frameworks to build self-managing teams with high sense of ownership and directions. Transforming the relationship between two soured up colleagues is a multi-stage process.In our observations, Smart managers seem to have adopted ABCDE framework of Positive psychology into an empirical model that consists of several stages. These stages include hearing, understanding beliefs, analyzing cause& effect, designing disruption and finally, directing towards implementation.

Understand the adversity

As a senior manager stepping in to resolve the issue, firstly, collect data from other sources and not the aggrieved parties. Use this information to know what could have transpired and get different perspectives before stepping in to hear it from horse’s mouth. Next, arrange for a meeting with both the associates, actively listen to understand their point of view. It is important for the senior manager to remember that she or he has to ensure acceptance of outcomes from both sides willingly and without using formal bases of power. Identify any repetitive patterns by listening to them keenly, without obstructing their flow.

Uncover beliefs, subjective interpretation and causes

Smart managers realize adversities emerge due to lack of communication, faulty assumptions, and subjective interpretations by both sides. To suggest an appropriate intervention is the key for understanding the beliefs and biases which led to the unfavorable outcomes.This would give a fair idea whether the problem would be solved by changing the employees’ internal dynamics or their environment.Validate and record beliefs and uncover how they led to undesirable outcomes.

Reasoning to converge

Smart managers discuss and elicit rationalization process from both aggrieved parties. They present alternate perspectives-from using objective data and larger business goals, to what could have been done differently to avoid the current scenario. At this stage, their main objective is to thaw the resistance for alternate views, help them use logic and look at larger goals to break down beliefs. Some managers deftly employ humor, often self-depreciating their own experience and their learnings. Smart managers realize their role is to play the coach on sides rather than within the team. They are keen on the associates realizing their follies and to arrive at solutions they must own up to drive outcomes. Smart managers do not like to give recommendations, but gently nudge the associates towards plausible “win-win” solutions. They gently break their incorrect beliefs and perceptions by using facts and figures to expose performance issues.

Goal enumeration

Now that the ice has been broken and goals are set, it’s time to make them work as a team, co-owning goals and outcomes. Encourage associates to come up with interventions and goals. Ask for specific achievable short-term and long-term goals. Direct the activity but do it subtly. Nobody likes to be told what to do, so take up a non-biased and indirect approach to gently shape their goals and targets. This would ensure that they own their actions.

Outcome management

Drive-in a sense of urgency, thereby ensuring a kick-start to their day-to-day collaborative tasks. This is the stage by which the associates are committed towards carrying out the shared goals. Their insecurity is replaced with a sense of unity. Here, the senior manager has to convey his availability in case of any discrepancy. Propose Self-review mechanisms so that they are equipped to analyze their own performance. Help to create broad governance mechanisms to support interventions. Act as a guide on the sides, never actually taking sides or managing any activity directly. Make them self-sustainable. Smart managers realize their role is to provide direction, advise based on norms and experience, but at the same time, not get too embroiled in activities at their junior levels. Smart managers realize each adversity can be a great opportunity to bring teams closers, train associates’ nuances of leadership and so on.

Suma Chebiyyam, Junior Consultant