Utilizing the SURF Method to stop and consider choices in stressful situations is the perfect antidote to shift us away from habitual reactions to stress and instead learn to choose a more peaceful path. A very wise sage, Jamie Sussel Turner has curated these stories to exemplify the common themes she has witnessed in her vast experience both professionally and personally. When asked to rate their stress around managing people, on a scale of with 10 being maxed out stress , many business owners and executives rate themselves at a 9 or With engaging anecdotes and clear strategies readers learn to lead with more clarity and calm than they ever imagined was possible.
I highly recommend this to any business owner or manager who wants to have less stress in their business and make their staff and team work like a well-oiled machine! I like the way the reader is walked through examples of difficult work situations, and then coached with an explanation of how best to work through them and come out the other end in an even better work environment. And although her context is the workplace, these skills and lessons translate to many different kinds of relationships. Who knew that stress could be so manageable?! I would recommend this book for every business person who wants to improve their bottom line and at the same time reduce the stress in their life.
I know it will be the best gift they ever receive! Julie Botel, Former Deputy Superintendent. It has many succinct, no nonsense, to the point strategies for effective leadership.
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I recently used the chapter on termination to guide me through a very difficult firing of a long time employee, whose position was very integral to our small company. I was in control, would not allow myself to be baited into an argument, and kept the conversation short and on topic, all thanks to the guidance provided by this book.
I highly recommend this book for leaders and want to be leaders. You will get your money back many, many times over. Not sure where to start? You, like the author, will go from crazed to calm! We offer here a number of techniques—relatively straightforward in concept but difficult to execute—for minimizing these external threats. The ability to maintain perspective in the midst of action is critical to lowering resistance.
Leadership is an improvisational art.
The Dangers Within
You may be guided by an overarching vision, clear values, and a strategic plan, but what you actually do from moment to moment cannot be scripted. You must respond as events unfold. To use our metaphor, you have to move back and forth from the balcony to the dance floor, over and over again throughout the days, weeks, months, and years. Even if you are able to break away, the practice of stepping back and seeing the big picture is complicated by several factors.
For example, when you get some distance, you still must accurately interpret what you see and hear. This is easier said than done. In an attempt to avoid difficult change, people will naturally, even unconsciously, defend their habits and ways of thinking. Fortunately, you can learn to be both an observer and a participant at the same time. When you are sitting in a meeting, practice by watching what is happening while it is happening—even as you are part of what is happening. When you make a point, resist the instinct to stay perched on the edge of your seat, ready to defend what you said.
A technique as simple as pushing your chair a few inches away from the table after you speak may provide the literal as well as metaphorical distance you need to become an observer. You need to recruit partners, people who can help protect you from attacks and who can point out potentially fatal flaws in your strategy or initiative. Moreover, you are far less vulnerable when you are out on the point with a bunch of folks rather than alone. You also need to keep the opposition close. Knowing what your opponents are thinking can help you challenge them more effectively and thwart their attempts to upset your agenda—or allow you to borrow ideas that will improve your initiative.
Have coffee once a week with the person most dedicated to seeing you fail. But while relationships with allies and opponents are essential, the people who will determine your success are often those in the middle, the uncommitted who nonetheless are wary of your plans. They have no substantive stake in your initiative, but they do have a stake in the comfort, stability, and security of the status quo. But people must also see that you understand the loss you are asking them to accept.
The first is practicing what you preach. In , Gene Patterson took over as editor of the St. Petersburg Times. His mandate was to take the respected regional newspaper to a higher level, enhancing its reputation for fine writing while becoming a fearless and hard-hitting news source. This would require major changes not only in the way the community viewed the newspaper but also in the way Times reporters thought about themselves and their roles.
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Because prominent organizations and individuals would no longer be spared warranted criticism, reporters would sometimes be angrily rebuked by the subjects of articles. Driving home, he pulled up to a red light and scraped the car next to him. The police officer called to the scene charged Patterson with driving under the influence. Patterson phoned Bob Haiman, a veteran Times newsman who had just been appointed executive editor, and insisted that a story on his arrest be run. Patterson was adamant, however, and insisted that the story appear on page one.
Patterson, still viewed as somewhat of an outsider at the paper, knew that if he wanted his employees to follow the highest journalistic standards, he would have to display those standards, even when it hurt. Few leaders are called upon to disgrace themselves on the front page of a newspaper. But adopting the behavior you expect from others—whether it be taking a pay cut in tough times or spending a day working next to employees on a reconfigured production line—can be crucial in getting buy-in from people who might try to undermine your initiative.
The second thing you can do to neutralize potential opposition is to acknowledge your own responsibility for whatever problems the organization currently faces. Even if you are new, you need to identify areas of your own behavior that could stifle the change you hope to make. To neutralize potential opposition, you should acknowledge your own responsibility for whatever problems the organization currently faces. In our teaching, training, and consulting, we often ask people to write or talk about a leadership challenge they currently face.
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Over the years, w e have read and heard literally thousands of such challenges. Typically, in the first version of the story, the author is nowhere to be found. Remember, you are asking people to move to a place where they are frightened to go. In the early s, Leslie Wexner, founder and CEO of the Limited, realized the need for major changes at the company, including a significant reduction in the workforce.
But his consultant told him that something else had to change: long-standing habits that were at the heart of his self-image.
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In particular, he had to stop treating the company as if it were his family. The indulgent father had to become the chief personnel officer, putting the right people in the right jobs and holding them accountable for their work. Make the transformation to football. Managing conflict is one of the greatest challenges a leader of organizational change faces. The conflict may involve resistance to change, or it may involve clashing viewpoints about how the change should be carried out.
Often, it will be latent rather than palpable. But conflict is a necessary part of the change process and, if handled properly, can serve as the engine of progress. Two techniques can help you achieve this. First, create a secure place where the conflicts can freely bubble up. The vessel in which a conflict is simmered—in which clashing points of view mix, lose some of their sharpness, and ideally blend into consensus—will look and feel quite different in different contexts.
It may be a protected physical space, perhaps an off-site location where an outside facilitator helps a group work through its differences.
It may be a clear set of rules and processes that give minority voices confidence that they will be heard without having to disrupt the proceedings to gain attention. It may be the shared language and history of an organization that binds people together through trying times. Whatever its form, it is a place or a means to contain the roiling forces unleashed by the threat of major change. But a vessel can withstand only so much strain before it blows.
You first need to raise the heat enough that people sit up, pay attention, and deal with the real threats and challenges facing them. But you have to lower the temperature when necessary to reduce what can be counterproductive turmoil. You can provide structure to the problem-solving process, creating work groups with specific assignments, setting time parameters, establishing rules for decision making, and outlining reporting relationships.
You can use humor or find an excuse for a break or a party to temporarily ease tensions. By showing people how the future might look, you come to embody hope rather than fear, and you reduce the likelihood of becoming a lightning rod for the conflict. When he took office in , the chaos, tension, and anxiety brought on by the Depression ran extremely high.
Demagogues stoked class, ethnic, and racial conflict that threatened to tear the nation apart. Individuals feared an uncertain future. So Roosevelt first did what he could to reduce the sense of disorder to a tolerable level. He took decisive and authoritative action—he pushed an extraordinary number of bills through Congress during his fabled first days—and thereby gave Americans a sense of direction and safety, reassuring them that they were in capable hands. He needed to mobilize citizens and get them to dream up, try out, fight over, and ultimately own the sometimes painful solutions that would transform the country and move it forward.
To do that, he needed to maintain a certain level of fermentation and distress. So, for example, he orchestrated conflicts over public priorities and programs among the large cast of creative people he brought into the government. By giving the same assignment to two different administrators and refusing to clearly define their roles, he got them to generate new and competing ideas. Roosevelt displayed both the acuity to recognize when the tension in the nation had risen too high and the emotional strength to take the heat and permit considerable anxiety to persist.
Because major change requires people across an entire organization to adapt, you as a leader need to resist the reflex reaction of providing people with the answers. Instead, force yourself to transfer, as Roosevelt did, much of the work and problem solving to others. This ability can be a virtue, until you find yourself faced with a situation in which you cannot deliver solutions. When this happens, all of your habits, pride, and sense of competence get thrown out of kilter because you must mobilize the work of others rather than find the way yourself.
By trying to solve an adaptive challenge for people, at best you will reconfigure it as a technical problem and create some short-term relief. But the issue will not have gone away. Chicago was out to prove that it was more than just a one-man team, that it could win without Michael Jordan, who had retired at the end of the previous season.
In the third game, the score was tied at with less than two seconds left. Chicago had the ball and a time-out to plan a final shot. As play was about to resume, Jackson noticed Pippen sitting at the far end of the bench. Jackson asked him whether he was in or out. With only four players on the floor, Jackson quickly called another time-out and substituted an excellent passer, the reserve Pete Myers, for Pippen. Myers tossed a perfect pass to Kukoc, who spun around and sank a miraculous shot to win the game.
Jackson recalls that as he entered a silent room, he was uncertain about what to do. Should he punish Pippen? Make him apologize? Pretend the whole thing never happened? All eyes were on him. Now you have to work this out. But he understood that a deeper issue was at the heart of the incident: Who were the Chicago Bulls without Michael Jordan?
The issue rested with the players, not him, and only they could resolve it. It did not matter what they decided at that moment; what mattered was that they, not Jackson, did the deciding. What followed was a discussion led by an emotional Bill Cartwright, a team veteran. According to Jackson, the conversation brought the team closer together. The Bulls took the series to a seventh game before succumbing to the Knicks. Jackson gave the work of addressing both the Pippen and the Jordan issues back to the team for another reason: If he had taken ownership of the problem, he would have become the issue, at least for the moment.
But in other situations, taking responsibility for resolving a conflict within the organization poses risks. You are likely to find yourself resented by the faction that you decide against and held responsible by nearly everyone for the turmoil your decision generates.
In the eyes of many, the only way to neutralize the threat is to get rid of you. People expect you to get right in there and fix things, to take a stand and resolve the problem. After all, that is what top managers are paid to do. We have described a handful of leadership tactics you can use to interact with the people around you, particularly those who might undermine your initiatives. Those tactics can help advance your initiatives and, just as important, ensure that you remain in a position where you can bring them to fruition.
But from our own observations and painful personal experiences, we know that one of the surest ways for an organization to bring you down is simply to let you precipitate your own demise. In the heat of leadership, with the adrenaline pumping, it is easy to convince yourself that you are not subject to the normal human frailties that can defeat ordinary mortals. You begin to act as if you are indestructible. But the intellectual, physical, and emotional challenges of leadership are fierce. So, in addition to getting on the balcony, you need to regularly step into the inner chamber of your being and assess the tolls those challenges are taking.
This, by the way, is an ideal outcome for your foes—and even friends who oppose your initiative—because no one has to feel responsible for your downfall. We all have hungers, expressions of our normal human needs. But sometimes those hungers disrupt our capacity to act wisely or purposefully.
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