If a procrastinator on your staff is driving you crazy, the first step, oddly, comes in definition. Not all procrastinators are the same. They may seem similar – slow to attack tasks – but trainer Nathan Regier actually delineates six different kinds, each which must be handled differently if you want to get them on track:
Pleasers: They fear conflict, disapproval or rejection, so protect themselves by delay. After all, if they run out of time, maybe you will feel sorry for them and give them a break, allowing them to avoid the negative repercussions they truly fear. To help pleasers, reassure them that you care about them regardless of the decisions they make or the outcome of their efforts. "When conflict-avoidant pleasers know they are unconditionally supported and okay, they are more confident to move forward, even with difficult decisions and actions," he writes on the Lead Change blog.
Perfection seekers: They procrastinate until there is more data or evidence, suffering from analysis paralysis because they fear the loss of control that follows deciding and acting. Help them with their problem-solving skills to get over this hurdle, showing them how to anticipate consequences, and develop a Plan B to handle bad moments. They need support and encouragement to get past their fears.
Responsibility avoiders: They try to avoid taking ownership or having to live up to expectations. "Above all, avoid judging or preaching about responsibility," he says. "Let them know you'll accept them unconditionally regardless of the outcome and affirm their creativity in finding their own way from point A to B."
Thrill seekers: They wait until the stakes are high enough to make acting exciting. To help them, make it thrilling. Issue a dare or a prize for making the deadline. Wait until the last moment before giving them assignments to excite them.
Hostage takers: They procrastinate about giving approval or being satisfied, holding others hostage with their chronic discontent. "Recognize that beneath it all is a noble desire for excellence and high quality. Hostage takers are natural protectors and want to help others be more perfect. Replace this negative energy by affirming their convictions and dedication to quality," he advises.
Passive avoiders: They don't feel potent enough to make an independent decision so they waver and hold off. Use clear, concise commands to find out what they have on their plate and then help them define clear action steps.
Procrastination comes in different shades. Your response must be equally variegated.
2. What strategists miss about digital disruption
Beware digital disruption. But also, beware the warnings about digital disruption.
Freek Vermeulen, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the London Business School, suggests in Harvard Business Review that "some of the most common beliefs about how this will happen, repeated by conference speakers, self-proclaimed gurus, and consultants, have been oversimplified, misunderstood, or misapplied. In most 'normal businesses,' the impact of digital will be different than for digital behemoths like Amazon, Google, and Facebook."
Here are four factors to be alert to:
Network effects: The winner does not necessarily take all, as you have been warned. Yes, sometime people gravitate to social media sites and other ventures where everybody else flocks, since there is benefit in numbers. But sometimes people hedge their bets or seek variety. You have many apps on your phone, not just one. Many markets will sustain a number of players, not just one.
Complements are not substitutes: A second misconception is that new technology will inevitably substitute for old technology, rendering it obsolete, as e-mail elbowed out the fax machine and Wikipedia made Encyclopedia Britannica a memory. "However, industries with perfect substitutes are the exception to the rule; more often than not, digital will offer a new complement, rather than be a substitute. And this leads to a very different dynamic in the market," he writes, pointing to how online courses and online universities have not eliminated the traditional fare.
Geography still matters: Geographic distance has lost relevance in many fields, but not all, including the field of management consulting, which propagates the digital disruption theories. Knowing your client and meeting him or her face to face still beats a digital solution.
You need to change … yesterday: Actually, not so fast, he suggests. That may just lead you to embrace a fad. Sometimes it is smarter to let things play out, particularly – this is ironic – in industries in which new technologies come and go quickly.
Yes, disruption is happening. But not everywhere, always. His ideas offer a deeper perspective.
3. Getting the most out of coaching
If your boss offers you some executive coaching, you might become defensive, feeling you are being singled out as ineffective. But Art Petty – who is a coach – says likely the interest is in your potential and developmental needs, not just on the rough spots.
Being defensive will only hurt you. Instead, embrace these positive behaviours he shares of people who get the most out of coaching:
– They are very excited about and thankful for the opportunity to gain objective external help. You should be, too.
– They are curious from the beginning about the process and what they need to do to make it a valuable experience.
– From the start, they trust the coach, rather than beginning the relationship with a diffident, "I'm not sure you can help me" attitude.
– They share their perceptions of their developmental needs. "Their view of their needs versus others may differ. However, the best coaching clients come to the relationship with ideas on where they are weakest," he writes.
– While they may be nervous about receiving extensive feedback from bosses, peers and team members, they are curious to learn how others see them.
– Nothing – "neither rain, sleet, snow, international travel or the daily crisis" – keeps them from their coaching appointments, he says. Sure, they may have to reschedule occasionally, but they are committed to the process and strongly defend the meeting times.
– They write daily in a journal to understand their behaviours better.
– They don't keep the coaching a secret. To the contrary, they tell other team members what they are doing and seek regular feedback.
– They practise the new behaviours.
– They end the coaching process by developing and committing to a plan, and then put it into action.
"Showing up to your coaching engagement with the right attitude is priceless!" he stresses.
4. Quick hits
– Do you begin e-mails with a greeting like "Dear Joan" or "Hi Fred"? Give it up, says Atlantic editor James Hamblin: "Greetings and closings are relics of the handwritten missive that persist only as matters of, ostensibly, formality. Foregoing them can seem curt or impolite. But it's the opposite. Long, formal e-mails are impolite."
– The best time to post on LinkedIn is between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Tuesdays, according to digital marketer Nicholas Finet. For Twitter, try between noon and 3 p.m. any day. On Facebook, it's 1 p.m., although you will get more clicks at 3 p.m.
– Don't make your hiring too complicated, listing too many competencies to assess. Psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor at the University College London, says whatever the post, you should focus on curiosity, a decently high IQ, high emotional intelligence, and ambition.
– Fake news doesn't just happen in the political sphere, notes advertising agency president Steve McKee. It happens at work, when bosses deny reality and spin yarns to staff that gloss over the truth or totally ignores it.
– The best drink to order at a business dinner, according to journalist Julie Ritzer Ross, is a gin martini – a classic, devoid of colour, which helps to eliminate judgment. Also smart choices: vodka martini, Scotch neat, bourbon or whiskey on the rocks with or without a splash of soda, and a Moscow mule (made of vodka, ginger beer, and lime).
Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter