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How Do I Work with Detail Absorbed Perfectionists?

Who do you know who is dependent, neat, perfectionist, careful and compliant? They need a peaceful environment in which to work and live. They are likely to go out of their way to avoid confrontation and will choose compliance over confrontation the majority of the time.

People with this behavioural and communication style want to be appreciated for the quality of their work and will comply out of a strong desire to do whatever is asked of them in an accurate and error free manner.

Because of their need to do things correctly and avoid mistakes they are usually cautious and conservative which can lead to others seeing them as acting too slowly. While attention to detail is a real strength of this style over dependence on detail, policies and procedures can become a weakness.

When under pressure they are likely to be too critical of themselves and others, and pass the buck or act defensively when criticised or proved wrong.

Want they want:

  • Standard policies and procedures for all to follow
  • Protection or removal from aggression or confrontation
  • Re-assurance that they are doing a good job
  • To feel a part of things
  • One-on-one attention
  • Not to be given too much responsibility outside their expert role
  • To have the quality of their work appreciated
  • Information, data and details; factual proof

What helps?

  • Prepare your “case” in advance.
  • Stick to business.
  • Be accurate and realistic.

What doesn’t help?

  • Being giddy, casual, informal or loud.
  • Pushing too hard or being unrealistic with deadlines.
  • Being disorganised or messy.

So if you work with someone that fits this description, appreciate the quality of the work they are contributing and their drive to get it right and consider what you can do to work more effectively with them from now on.

How Often Are You The Lone Voice?

Although it can be tempting, particularly in times of change and turbulence, to keep our heads well below the parapet, outstanding leaders do the opposite.

They demonstrate they can be counted on when times are tough. They aren’t afraid to step up and be counted, to face into conflict, and to nail their colours to the mast of controversial or unpopular decisions. That’s because they know that leadership is about constantly looking for better ways. Continuous improvement can only happen when leaders challenge the process, question whether the way things are being done, and still make sense.

This is one of the reasons why it’s often “lonely at the top” and, for that matter, lonely anywhere else that outstanding leadership is being practiced. In order to take a stand, leaders need a strong sense of self and lots of confidence in order paradoxically to feel comfortable taking risks, being wrong and making mistakes. In fact, research shows that successful leaders and managers have made more mistakes during their careers than the people they were promoted over. They were promoted for showing the courage and the strength of character to take a stand not because they were always right.

So don’t let the chance of being wrong get in the way of taking a stand when you feel it is the right thing to do.

My questions to you are:

  • When have you taken an unpopular stand for something you believed in?
  • When has your courage failed you and you have kept quiet?
  • What made the difference?

Effective Coaching…

If coaching is so effective why don’t managers do more of it?

When I run coaching programmes for managers they often arrive “bought in” to the idea of coaching. These days they don’t need convincing of the benefits, they are increasingly likely to have experienced being coached themselves, having read about it, or having received some training.

However, when it comes to the part in the programme where we consider what is going to get in the way of fully transferring and implementing their coaching skills these are some of the barriers that frequently arise:

  • Lack of time
  • Fear of seeming contrived e.g. “Oh I can tell you’ve just been on a course”
  • Lack of confidence in skills
  • Lack of organisational support  i.e. organisation rewards results over time spent developing staff
  • Feeling expertise/status under threat. Due to asking questions rather than giving answers
  • Fear that team members won’t accept coaching
  • Lack of opportunity to coach, especially in geographically dispersed teams

If you are aware of similar issues slowing you down or standing in the way of coaching your staff more often this may help.

Many of the barriers, e.g. lack of time, lack of opportunity, lack of confidence, stem from a belief that coaching is only really coaching when it is formal, structured, diarised and lasts an hour. That just isn’t the case. Every interaction is a coaching opportunity and a chance to develop your skills and confidence.

This approach also deals with the fears about people rejecting the coaching approach or feeling it is “being done to them” as a result of your attendance on a course.  You can choose to take a quiet, incremental approach to implementing coaching. For example, setting yourself a target to practice active listening in situations you know you find difficult for one week. You might follow this by focusing on asking effective questions where you would normally issue instructions, for a week. These small action steps taken consciously and consistently would effectively develop and sustain your skills and be unlikely to lead to objections from your team members. Who would object to being listened to well and asked for their thoughts, ideas and suggestions?

So, while other blocks to implementation may be more complex, if you consciously choose to look at each conversation as an opportunity for coaching, keep it front of mind, and recognise that 3 minutes of quality listening can be far more effective than a longer period of on/off listening you will overcome these barriers, and develop and sustain the coaching approach that you already know is such an effective part of your management toolkit.

I would love to hear more about what might be getting in the way of coaching your staff and what strategies you have found that work well for you.

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