Don’t annoy to help or improve

by | Jan 14, 2013 | Blog | 0 comments

Please don’t be annoying—even if the advice comes from generally trusted sources.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article “How to Be a Better Boss in 2013,” management experts and Wall Street Journal reporters advised that  “being a bit annoying is fine.”

Annoying your employees into improving their performance is bad manners.

Don’t we have enough irritation at work already?

Who wants a boss provoking them with repeated acts? That sounds like torture. Might as well be a one-way ticket to Guantanamo Bay.

My idea of another type of hell is having a boss—or anyone—intentionally break my concentration for the sport of it. Bothering someone when they’re trying to focus on a critical task is rude and counter-productive.

We need more respect in the workplace, not more aggravation.

That doesn’t necessarily translate into a contented place where everyone sings “Don’t worry, be happy”  along with Bobby McFerrin.

Everyone doing their own thing can lead to complacency, especially when you’re urgently implementing strategic initiatives.

In this case, you have legitimate reasons to encourage employees to focus on issues that aren’t necessarily important to them, but are meaningful to you and your customers. 

You need anti-complacency, not annoyance, measures for you and your team.

Three anti-complacency processes that work well are:

1.  Pause to question the assumptions you’re operating under. They might be outdated. Or you may discover that everyone has defined the situation and the needs differently. If so, it’s time to confirm your updated assumptions, what’s important and your immediate priorities.

2. Foster a culture of continuous improvement. If you adopt the mindset that we always should be on the lookout for ways to do things better, you won’t upset people when you push them to improve.

3. Adopt the rule of “3 asks and then act.” In other words, spring into motion and act as soon as you or anyone on your team hears at least three customers commenting or asking about the same thing. (You certainly can act sooner, especially to research the issue.)

This last rule of thumb has been invaluable to me over my career. Consistent feedback is a sure sign that something’s not working, connecting or communicating.

For your customers, a less than desirable situation easily could be turning into an annoyance.

But that shouldn’t give you permission to be annoying to your team.

Besides putting these anti-complacency measures into place, also consider adopting FLIP habits: focus, listen, involve and personalize your messages.  (For more about FLIP habits, see FLIP to thrive in our VUCA world.)

Is this advice to practice anti-complacency over arrogance inspiring, irritating or something in between? Tell me what you think.


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