Archive for June, 2017

Diffusing Defensiveness – Preventing Power Struggles for Oneness!

SERIES: Part Three of a Four-Part Article

It’s all about egos, competitiveness, saving face, and not being seen as the one having to make a concession that leads to a need to win at any cost!

Many times it is this cost of power struggles that, in the final accounting, leads to significant loss of true gains and wins for the greater whole because individuals get caught up in the minutia of petty struggles. And from there, a pattern develops whereby struggles become the norm. Many studies indicate that men experience these struggles due to a need to be above others in a position of power and influence. For women, these struggles are often caused by the need to be the center of influence and acceptance.

Individuals must rise above the need for power struggles and finesse energies and individuals together for a sense of “oneness” that will allow true greatness to be attained and experienced by all!

For leadership success in the home and workplace, here are ten ways to create “oneness” in the face of a “power struggle”:

  1. Enlarge the final solution to incorporate aspects from all players’ desires, versus an either/or option (you versus me’ism).
  2. Invite plurality of suggestions, versus a this-or-that mentality. From these multiple ideas before implementation, one can gain better perspectives and better final resolutions.
  3. Avoid the first person language (I, you, think, but, however) that tends to inflame interactions and induce additional defensive postures among individuals.
  4. Increase the use of inclusion language (we, us, team, feel, other ideas) that brings people together and makes it more difficult for an individual to create a divisive climate.
  5. Share credit and glory liberally. While in the presence of others and success, make sure the credit and rewards are publicly experienced by all appropriate individuals.
  6. Document heavily when you know you are in the presence of those that tend toward power struggles. For example, in the initial stages of a project launch, send an e-mail, letter, voicemail message, etc.) to all participants about the agreed- upon action plan.  Note who specifically owns each piece of that project and send corresponding copies to supervisors and any other influencers that can encourage “oneness” actions.
  7. Disengage and walk away gracefully if you determine your participation, input, or opinion will not have a “significant” influence on the outcome. Many power struggles grow out of individual’s desire for their action plan to be “the” action plan.
  8. Involve a valued and respected elder as the leader of an issue that may lean toward defensive behavior. Let him or her either lead or council you as to exact action plans – and listen!
  9. Break down decision-making responsibility among multiple individuals to avoid any one individual becoming too important or developing an over-inflated view of their net worth to the overall “oneness” of the team.
  10. Limit volatile individuals’ exposure to issues and other individuals that ignite defensive behaviors.

The ability to tactically engage others in the face of impending power implosions and redirect potential negative and destructive energies toward a greater positive outcome is the mark of a true leader in today’s workplace.

These intrusions can create scars that may heal quickly with some individuals, but can also create long festering wounds that reveal themselves in future defensive behavior eruptions. These scars reside in that subconscious brain!

As a leader, you will want to tactically engage – in a non-threatening manner when possible – an individual exhibiting defensive behaviors. Consider:

  1. Start with an empathy action or statement, revealing you acknowledge their position.
  2. Do not take an immediate position of agreement or disagreement with the other person – that is what they will be expecting.
  3. Invite them to share plural solutions to the problem that has brought about their defensiveness. Plurality is a powerful tool, as it allows you to engage all parties in civil dialogue. If you solicit for a singular idea, you may merely elevate the level of challenge, and increased defensiveness may (perhaps on your behalf) as a result.
  4. Establish either privately or jointly a follow-up plan to demonstrate you are committed to resolving what raised the defensive behavior in the first place. Continue to ensure the emotional wound heals and the person in question does not digress or attempt to tie in future unrelated issues to this issue.
  5. Make sure you continually avail yourself to them and keep a conscious ear to what is happening in the workplace. This will ensure others don’t antagonize the wound you are attempting to heal.

Healing emotional wounds and ensuring defensive behaviors do not erode an otherwise effective organization is crucial in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive workplace, where people’s emotions are at wit’s end. Your ability to subtly engage individuals when they are defensive to others, allow them to save face and move onward to greater productivity and profitability outcomes is a trait of tactical leadership.

Dr Jeff Magee
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Diffusing Defensiveness – Converting Caustic Communication Exchanges into Casual Conversation!

SERIES: Part Two of a Four-Part Article

The ability to transition caustic communication exchanges into fluid, non-threatening conversations may seem like an art form to many, but actually it is more of a science. And with science, there are truths, steps and processes that can be learned, followed and replicated for lasting success as a leader today.

Many times what one perceives as caustic are not really the words, but rather how those words are shaped and sent. Whether in your visual exchanges, verbal communications or kinesthetic, hands-on interactions, you can diffuse potentially or blatantly caustic exchanges into healthy, casual conversation by doing the following:

  1. Challenge Words – You will want to eliminate or significantly reduce the volume of challenge words you use. These are any words that imply you are pointing at the other party and thereby challenging them…this only causes the other party to become defensive. Some examples: however; but; and; you; think; opinion.
  1. Ownership Words – You can diffuse caustic behaviors and even avoid the appearance of being combative by using words that imply you are pointing at yourself. It is more difficult to get into trouble if you are pointing at or hitting yourself as opposed to pointing at, singling out or hitting another person with your communication exchanges. Some examples: we; us; team; feel.
  1. Decode the Communication Signal – Studies indicate that communication exchanges with another person consist of three distinct pieces. It is within these pieces that one can determine where the caustic force is.  Once isolated, one can direct the conversation toward success and away from stress. Your brain will interpret the most information from the non-verbal components (the “WHY Factor”) and the least from the actual words or message (the “WHAT Factor”). The middle percentage of information you will receive will come from the para-language (the “HOW Factors”).

The para-language aspect (one’s tone, pitch, pace, volume, accent, etc.) shapes how a message is perceived. In most communication exchanges, caustic interpretations come more from “HOW” a message is crafted and sent than what is actually said.

  1. Reframe – When a message irritates you and evolves toward caustic communication, evaluate the “WHAT,” “WHY” and “HOW” components of the communication you have just read or heard. Don’t overreact merely to the para-language aspect of the communication exchange.
  1. Never Respond Immediately – When you find yourself engaged in caustic communication exchanges, refrain from responding immediately. Instead, determine the best way to craft your response to the other person. This pregnant pause may cause the other party to realize how out of control they are, and this may stimulate either an apology or a calming effect from the other party.
  1. Eliminate Caustic E-mail Language – In addition to avoiding “Challenge Words” in an e-mail, eliminate caustic communication blunders as well. These include bold face type, all capitals, italicized type, underlining, highlighting in red ink, etc. These variables are para-language in a written format and can be perceived as caustic communication.
  1. Visualize A Mental Teeter-Totter – While engaging a person in a situation containing caustic communication, visualize their forehead with a teeter-totter on it. As you look at them, observe a plank atop the teeter-totter. On one side is a plus sign, which represents everything you know about them that would direct their attention in a favorable manner; on the other side of the beam, visualize a negative sign. Obviously, if they are communicating in a caustic manner, you can visualize which way their beam is leaning and avoid doing anything that would further weigh them, and thus the conversation, in a negative manner.

You will want to diffuse them by working first to neutralize that beam and continuing your communication intervention in a constructive, non-caustic direction. This will, in many instances, serve to recondition the other party, and they will begin to model your communication behavior.

This tactical approach can serve you well, change how others perceive you and change how others interact with one another. As a tactical leader, these are the varying engagement styles you will want to emulate for greater personal and professional effectiveness on a daily basis.

Dr Jeff Magee
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Diffusing Defensiveness – Building Better Behaviors!

SERIES: Part One of a Four-Part Article

As a tactical leader, the ability to diffuse escalating tension, anger, conflicts and defensive behaviors that result in lost performance is critical. Whether through a peer or leadership position, diffusing defensive behavior can serve to create a significantly healthier workplace.

While most individuals have evolved into a norm of defending their ideas, positions and needs, it also has become an acceptable practice to challenge these when one disagrees. To diffuse possible escalation in emotions and counter-productive behaviors, consider low impact, high yield tactics:

  1. Restating – Take the sentence that has been challenged – or personalized by the other party as a challenge – and restate it, while remaining entirely “issue/subject” centered. Example: “What I am hearing is that (insert subject) is a concern for us. Should we discuss that?”
  1. Reframe With Ownership Language – Use words that appear less challenging and don’t appear to be singling out or pointing at the other person. Use words that invite the other party into a participatory dialogue: we, us, team. 
  1. Avoid Challenge Language – The unfortunate tendency in decaying behaviors is the use of challenge words and phrases. These would be the words used in visual, auditory and kinesthetic interactions that infer one person is better than another. They frequently come across as a direct attack. Words like “however,” “you,” “but” and “seem to” turn up the pressure to defensive behaviors (a great source on these ideas is Taking the War Out of Our Words: The Art of Powerful Non-Defensive Communication by Sharon Ellison, ISBN #0-9720021-0-3 / US $15.95, Bay Tree Publishing, 721 Creston Road, Berkeley, CA, 94708).
  1. Remain Behavior-Focused – In responding to the other person, ensure that all your words, gestures and phrasings remain focused on the “behavior” that is at hand and not the actual person. Example: “I’m not challenging you nor making a statement about you in terms of good or bad. Rather, I think we should address the choice that was made…” Another example could be, “I’m not saying you are right nor wrong, good nor bad; we are hear to address the comments that are being made, which are counter productive to our purpose …”
  1. Model – Make sure you look in that imaginary mirror of life and continually ask yourself, “What does my behavior project to my team, colleagues and customers?” People do tend to model the behaviors of not just others, but the behaviors they see the most and those that are most frequently rewarded!
  1. Gambit – As a strategic maneuver to position yourself for a greater gain, you may need to either sacrifice a little to get a lot for the greater benefit of the team or buy time for a calming affect, allowing emotions and defensive behaviors to settle down. You may deploy a move such as, “Excuse me for a minute while I go to the bathroom.” Of course, you may not need to actually go to the bathroom, but this break will allow you – and perhaps the other party – an unplanned opportunity to calm down, become less personality-focused and become more issue-focused!

Other sources of gambits could be time, other subjects, other people and places.

  1. Association – Encircle a potentially problem player with only proactive, constructive, optimistic individuals. This overwhelming force will serve either as a soothing behavior adjuster or a motivation for them to leave you, which may be something you actually desire!
  1. Get Out of the Presenter’s Box – I have presented this explosive behavior- diffusing technique before. The space you occupy when presenting an idea is the imaginary “presenter’s box.” The moment someone challenges you, the tendency is to defend your turf, which only escalates defensive, non-productive behaviors. The next time someone challenges your idea, use this technique: calmly step to the side (out of the box), and when the challenger is finished, politely respond by saying, “If this idea is not an ideal way to proceed, let’s explore some other options. What do you feel is an effective way to address this?”
  1. Plurality of Ideas – When finding yourself at odds with another person, transition the dialogue away from both of your present defensive items and inquire about other ideas. Example: “Aside from the subjects in which we disagree, what are some other ways we could address this issue?”
  1. Empathize – Offer an empathy-based preface to your logic-based response. An empathy statement conveys to the other party that you respectfully hear them. You are not agreeing nor disagreeing with them, but merely acknowledging their stance. Research finds that sometimes a person’s behavior and the escalation in their behavior is a learned response or tactic to gain leverage or recognition with others. By you immediately acknowledging the other person, this may many times serve as a diffusing approach.
  1. Defer to Another Authority – Sometimes, no matter what your approach, you and the other person are not going to interact effectively. To reduce and occasionally eliminate defensive behaviors, consider if the need for the interaction (subject matter) is greater than the need for you being the engager. If the answer is yes, change the players. Become the leader that is resident within you and have someone else be the facilitator for the sake of performance success.

As a tactical leader, the ability to diffuse escalating tension, anger, conflicts and defensive behaviors will result in increased performance and profitability in your business unit. Residual benefits of diffusing defensive behaviors in your organization will also be seen in the quality of life and a greater sense of balance that everyone experiences.

Dr Jeff Magee
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Personnel Assessment for Cultivating Performance Greatness – Converting Your Terrorist Into a Transformer!

SERIES: Part Four of a Four-Part Article

So you thought it was unique to you. You never thought anyone else faced this. You stayed up late at night wondering how you ended up with this person.

Well the reality is you are not alone!

Some people have evolved into a behavior and mindset that they are the only person in the universe and they can do whatever they want. Unfortunately, this mindset has evolved due to years of an overconfident economy and protective self-serving entities that have rewarded their behavior by overcompensation and avoidance. But most importantly, it has evolved because no one has ever truly held them accountable for their actions!

That behavior that gets recorded gets measured.

What gets measured gets addressed.

What gets addressed gets fixed!

Like a cancer within an organization, these people erode the mettle that makes an organization great. They serve to bitter those that would have otherwise been great contributors to your team.

So what are possible solutions? Consider:

  1. Employee Assessment Instrument Facilitation – Consider the active use of your performance review instrument with this person and all employees. If the net purpose of a performance instrument is to coach individuals to peak performance, the case is self-made for regular monthly completion.
  1. Employee Assessment Instrument Measurement Categories – Consider the behaviors necessary for an optimal performing business unit and the players within it. Each category of behaviors should be listed on your instrument. The score grid should be fair and allow for positive and brutally honest constructive feedback as well. If someone “fails/stinks” in an area, it should be brutally listed accordingly. Conversely, if someone excels in an area, they should be listed accordingly.
  1. Employee Assessment Instrument Measurement “Problem Behavior” Categories – Recognize that with many problem employees, their implosion-causing behaviors are typically just outside the scope of your standard instrument. Every time a new corrosive behavior appears, let that be your clue to add a new individual entry or entire section for future assessment. Although the instrument will grow over time, it is actually a good thing. Remember: the purpose of the instrument is to improve professional performance, and one individual’s act of poor performance serves as a benchmark for ensuring others not evolve into poor habits and behaviors.
  1. Duality of Signatures – Whichever instrument you use to identify poor behavior performance, it should require a signature by all parties involved in the review process. This should also specifically stipulate when the follow-up session will occur to determine if the identified behaviors and action plans are being addressed.
  1. Resignation of Employment Clause – Consider crating a statement into your assessment instrument, stipulating that if the problematic behavior continues, the next assessment will serve as a 30-day notice.  The notice should confirm that if the said behavior continues, the signed document would serve as a voluntary “Resignation Statement” that can be implemented by that organization’s leadership without further notice. This allows for two entire months for a person to change their behavior and two entire months for the leadership team to be held accountable to work with them from a solution-oriented perspective (for a sample instrument, get a copy of YIELD MANAGEMENT, a leading graduate management text with Appendix Instrument templates, at

The unfortunate situation that has grown out of this terrorist behavior is that it has become so corrosive to the team that the levels of greatness, which everyone could be experiencing, are lost. Also, there is always the concern of litigation after you free up someone’s future. Overwhelming documentation of a poor performer who has not aggressively worked to change that station is hard to legally defend. Conversely, your lack of data upon letting someone go will make for a heavy payday for the ambulance- chancing legal team!

While there is a significant amount of institutional knowledge, training and financial investment that an organization has made into every player in an organization, just “firing someone” should never be a first thought – or a thought at all! Robert Half & Associates, a leading employment search firm, estimates that the cost of transitioning one player out and going through the processes of getting a functioning new player online can cost upwards of two and a half times a person’s annual salary. As a tactical leader, it is necessary to realize the heavy investment you have made and determine every possible mean of salvaging that investment.

The “Personnel Assessment” you use for cultivating performance greatness and converting your terrorists into transformers will serve as a powerful objective instrument and allow for you to hold yourself to fair assessment.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Personnel Assessment For Cultivating Performance Greatness – Rebuilding & Using Performance Applications!

SERIES: Part Three of a Four-Part Article

Is there a way to build a better mousetrap? Of course there is. If done, would anyone want to buy a better mousetrap or are people so complacent that they don’t really want to improve their performance?

Businesses have evolved into using very similar methods for immersing new players to a team and ensuring that all of the government mandates are met. This has detracted from real performance, however, causing it to become the third or fourth most important factor on the list of priorities.

One simple way to improve the performance of every player in an organization is to rebuild the application that one traditionally fills out when applying for a position. Convert this application that one would fill-out away from the traditional “Position Application” and to a “Performance Application” and share this new insight with everyone vested in these results – everyone should know the performance abilities of every player on a team. Once this knowledge is shared, everyone can be held accountable for drawing upon one another – in an appropriate strategic and tactical manner – for peak performance!

Cultivating performance greatness from the beginning can be drawn from the valuable information that one would give you if asked the right questions. Consider: 

  1. Basic Contact Data – Obvious data collection points on an application, such as name, needed contact data, address, phone, DOB, etc…
  1. Formal Education – Solicit all levels and highest level of formal education attained.
  1. Work – All applicable previous work positions and additional questions as to how any of this data would be an added value to you and the present team. Allow them sell themselves and illustrate how they can impact the team, if allowed to join, by aiding it in increasing revenue, saving revenue and/or increasing productivity.

As a tactical leader, to cultivate peak performance and coach greater performance on a daily basis, you actually will not be drawing upon this information for someone to perform, but rather:

  1. Practical Education – Solicit from individuals the last twenty or forty seminars, symposiums, home study courses completed or workshops they have attended. Ask them to recap how at least five to ten of these can be immediately drawn from for utilization in your environment. Solicit how these ongoing educational exposures can actually have more immediate and lasting positive performance impact upon you and the team than any traditional formal degree!
  1. Certifications – Solicit the totality of any life certifications they have attained and ways others on your team could glean value from them. Inquire how those could be drawn upon and in what ways they could serve as the team’s subject matter expert in those domains, thus leading others’ performances to greatness!
  1. Must Have – Also solicit on this performance application by category prompts all the necessary skill abilities a person must have to even rise to the state of peak performance in any specific functioning area. You know what people must have to be true performers and what the functionality traits are that one must possess to be successful; don’t keep those a secret.  Rather, enter them into this application template.

In essence, consider expanding the traditional second data collection field of education into both the “Formal” and now the “Practical” educational requirements or ideal sought capabilities. Most organizations DO NOT COLLECT this data presently!

Once this data is collected, don’t keep it a secret. Broadcast these performance insights both horizontally within your business area and vertically to leaders to have as strategic access opportunities.

Performance success does not just happen. Success leaves clues, and the purpose of this “Performance Application” is solicit exactly that – performance showcase snapshots from the past that can be extrapolated for the future.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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