Frustrated with work relationships?
Lead from within

Peter Urs Bender

Your boss is walking toward your office door. You can see by the smoke coming out of his ears that he's a little ticked off. He comes in, slam dunks you with his problem and leaves.
What do you do?
  1. Walk into his office and tell him where to go, then leave the building immediately (never to return).
  2. Go to your staff and blow off your steam at them.
  3. Bite your lip, curse silently and stuff the anger.
  4. Get back at your boss indirectly, by spreading your story to the office gossip pool.
Do these work?
These are four of the most common ways of dealing with interpersonal difficulties: blow up, pass it on, stuff it or get even. The situation with your boss is just an example. Maybe it's finding out that a major client has bounced a cheque. an employee whose I-don't-care-attitude is turning off customers. Or maybe it's the back biting and office politics.
     Whatever the source, the frustration it triggers is like an "office cancer." It eats away at your office spirit. Decays your work relationships. Saps motivation. Reduces work satisfaction. And wreaks havoc in your body, through stress, ulcers and more ugly stuff.
     Each of the four choices above is a temporary coping mechanism; but none is an effective, long-term solution. So let's look at another option for coping with these situations. I call it "leadership from within."

Five steps to being a better leader
  1. Know yourself. this is where your personal power, creativity and ability to make a difference begins. Each action you take starts a ripple through your organization. If you "slam dunk" someone, they'll probably treat others the same way. If you treat people with respect and value, they'll value themselves more and others too. It's simply the old golden rule.
         According to management consultants Tony Alessandra and Michael O'Conner, there's also something called the platinum rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. For example, if you telephone someone (a co-worker, supplier, client) who works or speaks at a slow pace, don't come at them like you're running the 100 metre final in the Olympics. Slow down. Or, vice-versa; speed up for someone who's going faster than you are. Neither one is right or wrong. It's simply a way to improve communication, show respect and build rapport.
  2. Have a vision. How do you want your office to be? More productive, energetic and alive? People taking initiative and working enthusiastically with others? So enjoyable that you look forward to coming back tomorrow? If that seems pie in the sky, it's because we've accepted office mediocrity or frustration as a way of life. But it's not; it's a slow way of death.
         Frustrated with work relationships? Do something about it. Ask yourself how you'd like it to be. Choose a different vision. Then share it with people. they'll think you're crazy - not because they don't want it, but because it seems impossible at first. But stick to it. Act on it. And others will be wanting it too.
  3. Have a passion. People love to work around someone who expresses a positive vision with passion. It's contagious. Passion - or loving what you do - refuels people. It revitalizes. You can work late, yet come out with more energy than you had at the start of the day. the reason? Passion comes from an energy inside of you. A deeper source of power. it comes, not from trying to be right or better than someone else, but from finding what moves you. What matters. What you care about and want to do for yourself and for others.
  4. Take risks. Ohhhh... that can be tough sometimes. It can be threatening to move out of our normal way of working and relating, and try something new. To be bold. Vulnerable. Or to chance being called crazy. But that's why it's a number four on this list. If you follow these steps in order, the motivation to take risks is already inside of you. Take a deep breath, relax and go for it - or let it move you!
  5. Communicate. This also flows naturally from the previous steps. You know what you feel. You have a vision and some passion for how you'd like the office to be. Now communicate it. Risk speaking from the heard instead of saying what's safe. When talk turns to office politics, say "You know, I feel frustrated. I'd like to talk about how to get this office working better." Then share your feelings of how things could work.
         If I were to sum up "leadership from within" in once sentence, this would be it: Be the person you want to be, and live the change you want to see.
         So if your boss is just about to dump his anger all over you, sit back for a minute. Breathe. Accept yourself. Listen. See that he's having a rough time. Think about how you'd like this to turn out. Then risk caring... and say to him:
         "Boss, you must feel awful. It sounds like you've been through hell. How can I help?"


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