It’s always calm before a storm.
In our personal and professional environments, there are two kinds of calm – productive calm, and that uncomfortable, strange kind of calm warning us that someone is about lose their composure.
Typically, when things at the office are quiet (almost silent), it’s a sign that people are hard at work, focused on getting things done. It’s a stimulating, productive mood set by managers who have the skills to motivate and inspire people to consistently give their best. This mood normally lasts for several hours before it is broken by a conversation off in the distance or a sudden burst of laughter.
And then there is the calm that seems cold and unfriendly lasting for several days, or in extreme cases, several weeks or more. Negative energy prevails. Conversations are short and tense, people whisper more than talk, and more conversations take place behind closed doors. Humor is nowhere to be found. Everyone can feel this heavy energy, and most know its source except for the one person who, as some employees say, “have no idea what’s going on around here.” That’s right, the manager. There may be a lot of truth to that assumption, but in most cases the manager is either ignoring the problem, or s/he is afraid to confront the problem.
Experience tells us that problems are not self-healing like paper cuts. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away – it actually allows them to escalate to combustible points where someone, or a group of people explodes in anger or frustration.
When people work for days, weeks, or even months in these tense environments, productivity can tank to near zero. Working relationships can be permanently damaged, project teams spend more time venting and complaining than working, and worst of all, customers can feel its energy.
Leadership training (such as L.E.T.) teaches managers the skills they need to effectively address problems, turning morale around quickly long before employees reach red zone. Active listening is a component of this training where managers learn how to effectively communicate with employees to solve problems so that everyone’s needs are met.
The number one rule in leadership training is to acknowledge that there is a problem, and to take steps to fix it much sooner than later. The alternative is a losing proposition.