Imperfections abound everywhere. They perhaps shape the foundation of your performance issues and career hurdles. If you are fortunate, you may have an administrator who directly points out your shortcomings and suggests remedial action. But without somebody calling attention to your flaws, you may find yourself continually under the shadow of misperceptions and misimpressions.
Joe Azelby and Bob Azelby, writers and brothers alike, recognize this occurrence—as well as the reality that many people—including publir relation people— do not have the luxury of having a manager to direct their professional affairs. In their book, Kiss Your BUT Good-bye, the siblings discovered that supervising and making people’s performance better is effortless to just talk about, but difficult to implement. The tome deals with a very simple word, “but,” and the authors use the plain but powerful word as a noun. They define but as a personal flaw that hurts a person in the workplace. PR managers who are interested in advancing their careers, and who are interested in making their people better should really listen closely for this word when they’re hearing people discuss the talent and development needs of others. At the start of a brand new year, here are some thoughts you can consider:
Buts come in many forms.
Whether you’re a know-it-all or a micromanager; somebody who takes credit for another person’s work; or you’re seen as phony, selfish, unsystematic, gossipy, uncooperative or slow, other people’s view of you fundamentally becomes your reality, and you should grasp what your reality is. “The only way to do that is to seek out a truth teller in your life and find out what your but is, because it doesn’t take long for that issue to become the first thing that people think about when they think about you. It becomes your brand,” the writers explain. Everybody in the organization knows what everyone else’s but is. If you take a quick look at what your strengths and weaknesses are, your buts are expected to come out, too. And in many instances, the buts are bigger than what you know.
Your but can be found in one of three places—your aptitude, personality or behavior.
The Azelbys assert that these are not mutually exclusive, and one can often lead to another. In terms of aptitude, you may be lacking either in experience or a skill set you need to do your job more effectively. If you’re missing that, people will start talking about it. Or people may dwell on your personality—your easy-to-anger persona, your moodiness or self-centeredness. You could have a certain manner or eccentricity that just affects people badly and causes them to react negatively. Or your behavior is unruly, unproductive, and serves as stumbling block to more effective team performance. Here are 12 examples of people’s strengths juxtaposed with their respective buts, and what solutions can right the wrong.
Keeping your mouth shut can be an opportunity keeper.
You may mean well, but you may love to gossip. In the navy, there is an expression that says, “Loose lips sink ships.” In the world of business, “Loose lips torpedo careers.” Avoid the water-cooler or elevator chatter. Keep confidential what has been classified as confidential.
Managing your emotions, or at least your contact with others is a great advice.
You may be capable but you’re so moody. If you can’t control your mood swing, make sure to get a handle on your emotions. Take a step back, and have some self-awareness. Realize how your biorhythm roller coaster is negatively impacting the people around you. Try stress-relief exercises like counting, taking deep breaths, or squeezing a stress ball to get rid of those bad vibes in a positive way.
Thinking clearly and acting decisively allow for better issues handling.
You’re hardworking, but you freeze up in a crisis. When faced with a multidimensional problem, be cool, but don’t get choked up. Break down tasks into smaller steps and pieces and focus on the highest-priority items that you can complete, influence and control. Don’t let the larger, uncontrollable issues prevent you from acting decisively and moving forward on the achievable tasks. Just as you never want them to see you sweat, you never want them to see you shiver.
Trying to be so damn smart is counter-productive.
You’re bright, but you’re a know-it-all. You don’t—and can’t possibly—know everything. Let the people around you take a turn at being smart. Listen closely to them. Allow them to finish. And most important, value their contributions. You’ll be surprised by how much they know and by how much you can learn by shutting up and taking notes.
If you understand what needs to be done, do it.
You know what needs to be done, but you can’t pull the trigger. You should have a conversation with your boss and tell him or her you understand your failure to act is hurting the organization. Make it clear you will improve on whatever work issue is thrown at you, or you will leave the firm. This will force you to put it all on the line, and you will have no other choice but to act when required. This is a much better plan—and one with infinitely more potential for success—than putting your tail between your legs and waiting for them to come to you.
There is no substitute for speeding up.
You’re very thoughtful, but you’re too damn slow. Act with urgency. Business is a race, and you should run hard and fast. Short meetings with a purpose, well-informed, quick decisions, visiting key clients, understanding what they want and cutting red tape save time. If your manager or colleagues think you are too slow, pick up the pace. There is no more precious resource than time. Use it wisely and quickly.
While speed is important, so is accuracy.
You’re decisive and aggressive, but you act before thinking things through. Preparation is critical in things both big and small. Devise your plan. Be thorough. Make sure you have contingencies if things go off-course. Be patient. Don’t jump the gun. As legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, how will you find time to do it over?”
You’ll feel better if you own up.
You’re diligent and efficient, but you never admit to making a mistake. Welcome to humanity’s race with all its imperfections. Come and make mistakes with the rest of mankind, and perhaps learn from each other along the way. If an elaborate apology for making a mistake is beyond your reach, try this little expression to shout out to the world that you’re like everybody else: “My bad.” Two simple words that are unbelievably effective anytime, anywhere. My bad is an efficient proclamation of your humanity and imperfection. “Tao lang po, nagkakamali.” Use it often. You won’t be celebrated for your mistake, but you’ll be applauded for your maturity.
Good things will follow if you nail the job.
You keep asking for a promotion, but you haven’t mastered the job you have. You should be doing your current job better than anyone who has ever done it before. You must master every aspect of that job. The job you want to leave behind should be bigger, broader and more complex than the job you were first given. Until you have done all that, do not ask your boss about your want or need for career advancement or a big pay raise.
Responding quickly gives you the edge.
You have the information, but you won’t respond to calls or e-mails. Unless you have died or been admitted into a witness-protection program, you must give feedback to your colleagues. If an answer or acknowledgement is needed, do it as soon as you read the e-mail or listen to the voice mail. If the response requires some thought, just write, “Got it, I’ll get back to you asap.” Studies have revealed that the more senior the person is in a company, the quicker the response time. Maybe that’s why they got to their lofty position.
Saying “sorry, my plate is full,” is easy enough to learn.
You work hard, but you stretch yourself too thin. Have the courage to say no. You may have trouble staying focused on the highest priorities when people show up asking for help. Don’t be swayed by a needy colleague seeking your help with something else. Stay focused on the highest priority task at hand and say “no,” or least “later,” to all requests before you’ve done a great job with what’s already in your inbox.
Listening to your “truth tellers” and believing them will help you avoid trouble.
You are repeatedly told about your but, however you just don’t get it. If you are truly a “but head,” then you are too oblivious, too stubborn, or too proud to accept your troublesome imperfections. That’s unfortunate for you, because these issues will follow wherever you go.
There should be no more excuses.
You’ve got to end the whining, the irritability, or the finger pointing. You have to acknowledge that you have a but and find out exactly what people are saying about you. Receiving your but feedback can be uncomfortable. You will see yourself pushing back and arguing. Just sit there and listen. Be patient. Seek to understand. That’s going to be the critical element for you to start your journey to identify exactly what your but is so you can start working on it. In business and in life there should be no ifs and buts. As motivational speaker Les Brown says, “The only limits to the possibilities in your life are the buts you use today.”
PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingsom-based International Public Relations Association, the world’s premier organization for PR professionals around the world. Bong R. Osorio is a communications consultant of ABS-CBN Corp., SkyCable, Dentsu-Aegis Network, government projects among others, after retiring as vice president and head of the Corporate Communications Division of ABS-CBN.
We are devoting a special column each month to answer our readers’ questions about public relations. Please send your questions or to [email protected]
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