Empowering Key Managers

The new millennium has shaped a business world that thrives on the energy of change and innovation. The accelerated rate of change in both technology and lifestyle requires that companies continue to look beyond “business basics” to ways to support an increased rate of change and demand for innovation.

Successful corporations know that relying on a traditional business framework is more likely to keep them at the status quo than propel them towards innovation and forward movement. Success in today’s business world demands increased creativity, enthusiasm and expanded perspective, all of which lie at the foundation of innovation.

The question is how do you support these elements in your organization and workforce, particularly at key management levels? One answer is to support these individuals so that they bring the greatest level of enthusiasm, creativity and perspective to their work. When you support the individual, you tap the full potential of your company’s human capital to achieve the greatest success of the business.

When employees expand the framework of their own identity, potential, beliefs, relationships and opportunities, they are able to contribute with a far stronger sense of purpose and confidence. When managers and key individual contributors approach their work from this perspective, a synergistic relationship occurs, bringing new dimensions of energy and success.

Patterned Response Analysis

One approach to empowering employees to move ahead is to provide them with a process to help them look at their patterns of behavior. Using a pattern charting process provides individuals with a way to chart and consider their life experiences to better understand the patterns they use to set goals, take actions and consider options.

Individuals gain a vantage point from which they can see the personal patterns that influence their decisions, relationships, communication and perspectives. With a new vantage point comes expanded thinking, increased energy and a new perspective for possibilities that translate directly to business behavior that benefits their job performance.

One component of this type of process focuses on belief patterns as they relate to an individual’s motivation, confidence, needs, and communication patterns in the work environment. Once these patterns are understood, individuals can see where their energy and thinking get derailed and how they can shift their patterns to gain greater clarity and alignment with the success they are looking to achieve.

Patterned Thinking or Behaviors

Patterns, or consistent interpretations and responses, tend to revolve around beliefs, perceptions or feelings, and often involve limits, inabilities, success, money, rules and risk-taking. Patterns can create blind spots that get in the way of our ability to objectively assess situations. Though some patterns support us in creating the results we want, often opportunities and possibilities can go unnoticed or misinterpreted simply because we view a situation with a lens clouded by preconceived perspectives.

But aren’t most people at least somewhat aware of their patterns? The answer is some patterns and to some extent. But in my experience as a corporate coach, the patterns having the greatest impact on individuals are typically those most invisible to them.

The patterns that are most likely to prevent employees from staying connected to their work with enjoyment and enthusiasm reside below the surface of their conscious awareness. The power and awareness that comes from the ability to fully recognize these patterns, and the events and perceptions that instilled them from the start, allow employees to view their potential from a whole new perspective, thus bringing more energy and enthusiasm to their work.

The Benefits of Pattern Identification

A client, I’ll call Jean, offers a great example of the results that pattern recognition can offer. Jean was an HR manager for a medium size, fast growing company and had worked there for several years. As the company was growing rapidly, and Jean’s department was anticipated to grow substantially, I was retained to support Jean in strengthening her communication and management skills.

There had been recent reports from some of Jean’s staff that she was not easy to work for. Specifically, some staff members complained that Jean was too involved in their projects and that she didn’t give them the freedom and level of independence that was in alignment with their jobs. In turn, Jean complained that she couldn’t trust her staff enough to delegate to the level she needed, and that she had more on her plate than she could handle. Jean’s manager could see that morale was declining and a generalized resistance was creating a drag on energy and perspective.

To address these concerns, I worked with Jean using a life-experience model, to chart her belief and response patterns to see which, if any, might be getting in the way of her work success and satisfaction. One pattern revealed in the charting process was that Jean had grown up in a rigid and strict home environment with a lot of rules.

One of the beliefs that Jean had taken on from her childhood experiences was that you need to follow the rules closely if you want to be “good.” This particular belief pattern showed up in Jean’s management of her department. She viewed employees who were not strictly following her procedures closely as not being “good” employees.

Unlike Jean’s need to follow the rules strictly, her staff members were looking for a greater level of freedom and independence as a sign that they were doing a good job. They wanted to be trusted more and to define their work procedures for themselves. I could see that Jean’s “rules” pattern did not support the growth of her staff, the company or herself as a manager. After all, delegating can be difficult if not impossible if you require the procedural details to be specifically done according to your rules. Jean’s belief pattern was eroding the energy and enthusiasm of her staff as well as her own enjoyment and satisfaction with her work.

Becoming aware of her belief patterns and the resulting behavior such patterns created helped Jean to see the situation through a whole new lens. Within a few months, she learned to recognize these patterns, and was able to change her responses to create the results that she wanted for herself and her organization. Jean reported connecting more to her staff and got back to enjoying the work that she loved, which was to create a work environment that employees and management alike felt was rewarding and empowering.

Her performance improved. She was now delegating more effectively, feeling better about her work, getting more done and managing her staff from a more acknowledging and expanded perspective. Her staff was able to be more fully involved in their work and contribute to the company in a more involved and enthusiastic way.

Pattern identification work can be helpful during transitions. Tom, a manager at a company that had been recently acquired, was feeling impacted by the ongoing lay-offs and large-scale restructuring. It was rumored that the lay-off process had not been completed when I was brought in by Tom to help him decide if he should voluntarily leave his position to find work elsewhere.

Tom was caught. He loved his job, but had a high level of anxiety for the unknown changes that might come his way. He was, in fact, immobilized by his anxiety regarding this situation, experiencing tension both at work and at home, including difficulty sleeping. He simply was unable to confidently sort out what actions, if any, he needed to take.

Completing the pattern charting process with Tom revealed a pattern which he and I called “walking on eggshells.” Tom had grown up in an alcoholic environment that was very precarious and uncertain. The feelings of anxiety he experienced in his family were similar to what he was now feeling in his work. With this pattern clearly noted, he could see that this feeling pattern was an all-to-easy habit for him. Did his current work situation give him reason for anxiety? Probably, but not to the level he was experiencing.

Tom’s patterned response of anxiety and disconnect added to the uncertainty of the situation. Through the pattern charting process, he not only recognized this pattern of anxiety, but also other patterned responses, which included an attitude of anger and frustration. Noting the extent to which this was a recurring pattern, Tom said that he had experienced similar difficulties in past work situations. As is often the case, people recognize their patterns when they are charted and discussed because they have usually experienced the same or similar challenges in the past.

Armed with this new perspective, Tom was able to shift his perspective and take actions that felt more empowering. Thanks to this newfound clarity, he became objective in his interpretation of management’s actions and responses. Rather than operating from a feeling of disconnect, Tom now was able to reconnect to his genuine identity, values and purpose at work and bring his best energy and enthusiasm to his team.

At the conclusion of our work together, Tom reported a much lower level of stress in his life both at home and in work situations. It was not clear if and when the company was planning to lay off more employees, but Tom was confident about the future and his ability to respond to whatever changes lay ahead. He expressed feeling energized and enthusiastic about work and bringing his best support and leadership skills to his organization.

Summary

Companies gain much when they help key managers and employees find a new reference point and expanded outlook. These employees become more energized with a higher level of creativity to propel them, and their organizations, through fast-moving times.

Using the life-experience model, beliefs that have been held as facts and have framed decisions and behaviors are revealed for the choices they are. The result is that individuals can now bring themselves more fully to their work. The blind spots that may have narrowed their view of possibilities and choices are removed, and perspectives are widened and energized.

As patterns become more visible, employees can assess which patterns are constructive for them in achieving their goals, and which patterns are causing them to swim against the current. They become more effective managers and contributors, and their companies gain from a more vibrant and confident workforce.

Trish Pratt is president of Trish Pratt and Associates, LLC (formerly Momentum Coaching, LLC). She is a certified professional coach and consultant who writes from her own experience in this area.

© 2006 WorkIndex.com

Call 978-208-7333 for more information on this or other programs for empowering key managers and employees.

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