When You Get Blasted, Do You Blast Back?
Imagine you are a nonprofit CEO and just finished a meeting with your volunteer board of directors. The Board Chair asks you to stay for a few minutes after everyone else has gone—and lets you have it!
“How dare you interrupt me when I’m making a presentation? You need to remember that I am the Board Chair, and you are only the CEO. P.S. You report to me. Is that clear?”
On the way back to your office, you are burning with irritation. No, with rage. You work your backside off for these folks—and for far less money than you could get in the for-profit sector—and you get this? How dare he!
Predictably, the next person that tests your patience gets a full-power blast from you.
Is this not like you…or really like you? This example is a self-awareness opportunity par excellence; be careful not to miss it!
Obviously, the above example about a CEO getting blasted by a board chair is not exactly fiction. I’ve been there, done that—and done most of it poorly. However, I believe now, decades later, I would be less reactive, more self-aware, sensitive and well, courteous.
Why do I think this? Because I took a personality assessment based on the work environment that increased both my self-awareness and self-management. Called the Workplace Big 5 Profile (WB5P), this well-researched tool opened my eyes to understanding my reactions to being blasted.
The WB5P assesses five personality traits, “The Big 5,” as psychologists refer to them. These include how we respond to a variety of stimuli such as stress, sensory input, change, challenge, and distractions. Each participant scores on a continuum for both the Trait and the Subtraits associated with it.
Our scores tell us about what happens when we are challenged or criticized. The primary feature involved in being the blaster or the blastee is Accommodation (how we respond to being challenged.) The creators of the WB5P define Accommodation as “the degree to which we defer to others.” It includes four subtraits:
- Others’ Needs
When it comes to reacting to getting blasted, the subtrait Other’s Needs is most relevant. Others’ Needs has three categories on a continuum from never deferring on the one extreme and always deferring on to the other: The terms used to describe these categories are Challenger, Negotiator, and Adapter. Here’s a sample of Accommodation scores from a WB5P report:
This example describes the tendencies of someone who scores in the Negotiator category. Notice the “win-win” aspect and a “clear sense of personal identity.”
On the other hand, the Adapter is more inclined to let others win. He or she leans more toward being agreeable and accepting, often deferring to others. In the extreme, the Adapter may be perceived as dependent and averse to any conflict.
And then, there’s the Challenger. Folks who score in the lower range of Accommodation tend to relate to others by being expressive, tough, guarded, persistent, competitive, or aggressive.” Also, Challengers could be perceived as “hostile, rude, self-centered, hard-headed, or not a team player.”
Having scores in the Challenger zone does NOT mean that he or she IS rude and self-centered. It does suggest, however, that individuals with these scores need self-awareness of when those tendencies are most likely to manifest. If the person wants to be effective as a leader, then it is imperative to know what triggers the biochemistry that can produce an unhelpful response.
I score in the lower range of Challenger, but it always depends on the situation. When I played tennis, for example, I could never remember the score because I didn’t care who won. Even as a little girl playing Scrabble with my mother, she always kept score and I didn’t. (Of course, in both examples, that could be because I always lost and didn’t want to know the score!) However, as a CEO of a charity for troubled children, I felt fiercely competitive regarding raising money, finding great volunteers and staff and meeting strategic goals.
In my early years when confronted with criticism, I became defensive, angry and aggressive. Blasting back, i.e., usually followed this response “You hurt me, so I’m going to hurt you back!”
Getting a better understanding of my natural tendencies from my Big 5 scores helped me take a step back and do some introspection about what triggered the defensiveness and anger. There were some definite patterns.
The most visible pattern occurred when anyone criticized my driving. I used to have a friend that was critical of my driving. His carping was constant and unkind. While driving, I was always tense just waiting for the next blast. I felt the urge to blast back, but the result was so unpleasant I learned to hold my tongue.
However, there’s an uncomfortable truth that I’ve come to terms with: My ex-friend was right. I am not a good driver, or rather, I’m a poor driver unless I work at it every second while behind the wheel. I’m easily distracted (another personality trait), so I find defensive driving exhausting. As a result, my mind wanders—a potentially disastrous tendency when behind the wheel! The hard to admit conclusion I drew from this? Sometimes we want to blast back because we’ve been caught “being wrong. “ It was a tough but invaluable lesson.
The good news for me—and those riding with me—is that I’ve managed to translate comments into helpful suggestions and rarely feel that flash of defensiveness, anger, and “blast-back” desire.
Think about the last time you “blasted” (shouted at, dismissed, cut off, rolled your eyes, huffed and puffed at) anyone. Now, think about what happened to you in the 48 hours prior. Did someone blast, put you down, or insult you? Be careful…especially if you automatically answered “No!”
What do you think? Is accommodation the reason we want to blast back or something else? I would love to hear your take in the comments below.
Judy Nelson is a seasoned Executive Coach who helps leaders transform their senior management teams. With more than 35 years as a CEO, Nelson uses her experience and exceptional credentials as a lawyer, social worker and certified professional coach to help strengthen leadership styles and team performance. In addition, she is a certified consultant for the Workplace Big 5 Profile™, a tool that gives you insight into how your personality affects your leadership style. She lives with her husband in Southern California.
You can learn more about Judy at CoachJudyNelson.com or by emailing her at JudyNelson@CoachJudyNelson.com
There’s a big difference between finding the perfect job and getting complacent in an easy job, though they’re easily mistaken. Of course, it’s important to feel good about the job you’re in and to avoid environments where you feel unwelcome and unengaged, but you also don’t want to rest on your laurels and stop growing once you feel you’ve reached a comfy spot.
If you’re wondering if you’re too comfortable in your job and need to seek out fresh experiences, ask yourself some of the following questions:
- When was the last time you learned something new?
- When was the last time your routine changed?
- Who was the last new contact or friend you’ve tapped for a talk?
- Where was the last new place you’ve eaten?
You may not be realizing that you haven’t stretched yourself in a while or taken a risk. If you’re not taking risks and getting outside your comfort zone, you’re passing up prime opportunities for learning and growth.
If you’re comfortable being comfortable, the inevitable innovation train may leave the station without you. As technology has accelerated industry change, your lack of change and reliance on the same old same old may cost you your job. Companies keep agile employees who are eager to grow and adapt to changing markets and landscapes.
In leadership, the age-old debate goes something like this: Should you dedicate time to developing your best or your worst skills? Should you focus or broaden your repertoire of tools and assets?
I explore this conundrum in considerable detail in my book Intentional Leadership, but the short answer is to specialize, specialize, specialize.
As a younger woman, I spent long days at my job then returned home to (attempt to) prepare dinner. I was never a good cook, and to this day I can barely boil an egg. I never developed the skills essential to cook well and any phase of cooking is antithetical to my natural inclinations and comfort zones . I find the tiny details and mundanities of cooking bore me, both of which are necessary to successful meal preparation. However, I am comfortable with both my strength and limitation here; I was a successful c-suite executive and a terrible cook.
When it came time to decide on my “encore career,” the whole world lay before me. Some careers require long spans of attention to minute details. However, tasks that need those skills drain my energy rather than fuel me. I wanted to feel energized by my encore career, not enervated. So, I chose a career in executive coaching, a job with constant stimulation, new challenges, and big-picture goals. Distinguishing what invigorates you versus what exhausts you—as well as deciding what to do once you realize you cannot do every job well—distinguishes Intentional from Unintentional leaders.
Intentional Leaders welcome feedback and act on it in some capacity. Unintentional leaders react poorly to hearing feedback, either becoming defensive or ignoring the issues at hand. In my book, I share the four keys to Intentional leadership. The first key is “know thyself.” The process of achieving this level of self-awareness often includes a personality assessment. I use the Workplace Big 5 Profile 4.0™ to highlight what’s important to you as a person, your stress tolerance, your amiability, your creativity, and the sources of your energy. Getting to know yourself also requires some introspection and analysis of past events, both great ones and not-so-great ones. Revisiting prominent life events allows leaders to analyze what worked, what was important to them, and how the events could have gone differently.
Self-awareness will enhance your natural leadership skills. Once you increase your level of self awareness, you can allocate your energy appropriately. Discover your strengths and make them stronger. Determine what drains your energy and find ways to work around them, so they don’t drag you down. Or if you can’t avoid them, use them as an opportunity to stretch, grow and learn something. By choosing to maximize your strengths and deal with your limitations, you will find your natural leadership will attract the followers you need to achieve your highest potential for success.
Why You Get Irritated Easily was an article I published last March that hit a collective nerve. It has 37,158 views; 2,205 likes; 537 shares and 148 comments—only 10,000 less than Richard Branson’s post that day! As the author, the experience was thrilling, shocking, and a little nerve-wracking.
Moreover, I was tempted never to post again.
Why? Most of my previous posts had fewer than 100 views, and a few likes or shares. I did not want to come down from the mountaintop of recognition back to the valley of obscurity. However, eventually, my editor convinced me after a few months to publish again. I am glad she did because it led to some great things for my business.
My first LinkedIn post was on October 30, 2014.
It received 70 views, six likes, four comments.
With that first post, I held my breath as I clicked “publish.” Then, I waited and watched. Well, to be totally honest, I checked on the post about every 15 minutes for two days! I was not exactly thrilled at the response, but my faithful editor kept encouraging me and helping me edit (my least favorite thing). I worked up to two to three posts a week and worked down to only checking the number of views every other day.
This post was my 100th post on LinkedIn. That does not make me an expert on anything but prolificacy, but I am having great fun and learning a lot. I have some thoughts to share with you about it:
Lesson #1: Write something and post it!
Thinking about writing is not enough and that took me awhile. The more LinkedIn posts I published, the more, I realized what incredible freedom this forum provides. The publishing I have done before was mostly professional articles that required extensive research and accurate, detailed references. With LinkedIn, I could pick any topic that came to my head and share my thoughts and opinions without substantial research or even footnotes. In my case, the more I wrote, the more ideas I had for future posts. Why wait like I did? Decide what you want to say, and say it.
Lesson #2: Learn from other LinkedIn writers.
Read posts of influencers and other LinkedIn bloggers. Study their titles and graphics. They give you a splendid idea of how to communicate on the site.
Thinking about writing is not enough…
Lesson #3: Find an editor.
The key to good writing? A good editor. That may be you if you have the skills. If not, the editor might be your spouse (although caution advised here), colleague or savvy neighbor. Whomever you choose to be your editor, decide on your focus, your style, and your strategy. Draft your ideas and then let your editor do their job. However, be sure you pick someone who has the courage to tell you when your idea is good and when it is best to let that idea develop more—or scrap it.
Lesson 4: Try new things and learn new skills.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Every post taught me something different about writing for LinkedIn. I found out about all the resources to find the right graphic to draw the reader’s attention. When I used one of my cartoons, the views, comments, likes and shares went up. From choosing graphics to writing titles, to using new tools, I found that by learning something new I opened new areas of creativity.
Lesson 5: Respond to every comment.
An unexpected bonus was the fun of receiving and responding to comments. I loved engaging with total strangers around the world, and many of the conversations led to inquiries about my coaching and workplace assessment services. Respond to every comment. Connecting on the site is an important way to engage with your readers. Many times, I use comments as ideas for future posts.
There was another unexpected bonus. I also reviewed all the leadership-related writing I have done over the years for ideas (well over 100,000 words) and decided that there might be a book in there somewhere. The outcome? My new book, Intentional Leadership, published by Motivational Press.
Let me be clear: Posting takes effort and time. Pieces of it were even a chore. Moreover, I learned that regular posting was a must, so missing a week because I did not have any new ideas made me feel a little guilty.
Posting takes effort and time. Pieces of it were even a chore.
I work at home, have a thriving international coaching and assessment practice and a new book. Also, I just became a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, an invitation-only, national group of about 400 coaches. Why was I invited? My 30 years’ experience as a CEO and my ten years as a professional coach did not hurt, but the clincher was “My exceptional LinkedIn profile”!
After almost two and a half years posting on LinkedIn and thousands of words later, was it worth all the effort? No question.
What can blogging on LinkedIn do for you?
Like many people, I was surprised in the early hours of November 9th following the election. It was a good lesson about a lot of things, not the least of which was that surprises happen all the time. The important thing is to be prepared.
Have you considered your plan B when the unexpected happens?
My clients were surprised on election day, too. Here are just two of the emails I received the next day from my executive coaching clients in the U.S.:
“Sorry. I have to attend an emergency meeting regarding election results at our regular time. Can we reschedule?”
“I’ll only be able to talk for half an hour on our call today because there’s an emergency meeting about the possible consequences of the election.”
Those clients who made their appointments could talk about nothing else except their fear of what might happen as a result of the election. It was apparent we were not prepared for this outcome.
My question to my clients all day was, “What else might happen that you haven’t considered possible?” I followed up with “Would you be prepared for it if it did?
For organizations whose mission involves human services, the answer to the question, “What’s the worst that could happen?” is always about the safety of the clients served. It could also be about the health and security of the employees. Then the conversation can shift to issues related to budget, lawsuits or even bad press.
I asked one new CEO of a smaller agency that cares for children about what she thought would be the worst that could happen in her organization. Predictably, she said that a child in their care could suffer a serious injury or die. Then I asked her what she would do if she received a 2 a.m. call that the worst had happened. She related a series of mandatory calls she would make, critical questions she would ask, and appropriate actions she would take.
“Are those written down anywhere?” I asked. There was a pause.
“What if you were away,” I said, “how would your staff know what to do?” She didn’t answer.
I continued. “What if your senior manager were hospitalized tomorrow? What would you do?” There was another long pause.
“Well, that’s highly unlikely, but I guess I’d give the necessary jobs to another manager.”
“Had you ever considered this before?” I asked. She hadn’t, but she was now. And writing it down.
While leaders can’t spend all of their time worrying about what could happen, some attention must be paid to what to do if they do—and especially to those things that seem unlikely or impossible. Not only is it good to have a plan, but also the exciting spillover from having that mental conversation is that an astute leader will also look at ways to make impossible things that are desirable happen, too.
Unlikely and even impossible things happen all the time. It’s not if but when. And when it comes to being prepared, you either will be or you won’t.
The question is if it happened at your organization, would you be prepared?
Have you ever noticed all those articles, books, and courses about how to focus are written by people who are born focused? These are the left-brained, analytical types for whom organizing, planning, and strong focus are as second nature as breathing.
Well, here’s a switch! This article is about how to focus but is written by the unfocused for the unfocused.
We—the naturally disorganized, unfocused, planning-skill slackers, and nonperfectionists—march to a different drummer. I’ve walked in your moccasins, assuming you wear moccasins and could
find two that matched this morning.
Here are six strategies that have worked for me (mostly) for how the unfocused can focus:
- Clear the decks. Which decks? First, your actual deck, in this case, a desk. Make a spot that is totally free from any DISTRACTIONS, our Enemy Numero Uno.
- Put it away. Remove anything that will catch your eye, trigger an impulse to move away from your project, stimulate guilt, or issue an invitation to play. This strategy includes the home distractions that surround the “work-at-home” types. Sure, it’s nice to have the laundry going but turn the buzzer off. It can wait.
- Turn ‘em off. Along the lines of clearing distractions, you need to eliminate anything that has an alert. iPhones, iPods, iPads, iMacs, or anything that has an alarm, flashes or vibrates.
- Go offline. Your addictions to checking email, social media, and the web are a given. If you leave any of them on, YOU CAN’T FOCUS. Close down your Internet, social media, and email applications when you need to focus.
- Set a time limit for “focusing.” The maximum any brain can be productive in a burst? 90 minutes, according to science. Frankly, I don’t have much of that time left, so let’s wrap this up, shall we?
- Take breaks. I know. You are probably saying, “If I’m supposed to be focusing, why should I stop?” Again, it’s science and vital for your productivity. When you incorporate short break, you will suffer fewer impulses to find something else to do.
We all know the names “they” (a.k.a. those super-focused types) use for us: flighty, head-in-the-clouds, frivolous, empty-headed, bird-brained, scattered, feather-brained, careless, disorganized, and yes, blonde. We have names for them too, like obsessive-compulsive, rigid, inflexible, stubborn, unbending, set-in-their-ways, obstinate and yes, even tight-_____.
The names we unfocused-types have for ourselves paint a much more accurate picture, of course. We’re “resilient,” “flexible,” “spontaneous,” and “reasonable,” for example. We are also keenly aware of the truth: that impaired focus causes us lots of frustrations, futile efforts, time wasted and goals not met. Good thing we are resilient, huh?
What to do? Please don’t anyone tell me the answer is to focus.
But…what if that is the answer? What if we need to focus on what we are all communicating with each other, what is driving our changing behaviors, and what we can do to enhance performance and relationships in spite of or even in light of our differences?
Hey! Would you look at that? The neighbors have a new bird feeder, and there’s a bird there I’ve never seen before! Now where is that bird book? Oh, yes, over here by the plant…you know, I should water that plant…
How do you focus?
@CoachJudyNelson was a CEO for 30 years and has golfed with presidents, been heckled by famous comedians, and researched insurance policies for riding elephants on behalf of Zsa Zsa Gábor. And those were the ordinary days. A Certified Professional Coach since 2006, she uses the Workplace Big 5 Profile 4.0 to assist leaders and career seekers to develop and reach stretch goals. She is an avid traveler, a wannabe artist, a sort of cartoonist, and a lover of absurdity and new ideas. Her new book, Intentional Leadership (Motivational Press, 2017) debuts in January. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.