Managing Morale

Altimeter

“Low morale comes with a high price tag”

Relationship altitude

Relationships face a number of growing pressures over time that tax the capabilities of the individuals within them and inhibit the ability of the partners to enjoy and benefit derived from being in the relationship to begin with. These can be as simple as long-days, the day-to-day stresses of a job, endless household chores and just loosing focus or more acutely being burdened by mounting pressures and expectations found throughout life in and outside of the relationship. They can often be found in latent and unresolved issues or conflicts, or the feelings associated with invalidation when we’re taken for granted and our contributions are ignored, forgotten or unappreciated. It is important to recognize that morale is a nebulous emotional energy state, and like all energies, it is in constant flux depending upon how that energy is utilized. It can drive a relationship forward or serve as the fuel that feeds relationship discontent depending upon how those states are managed. Good leaders and managers know that morale is their responsibility and is established from the top down and that morale has both an individual and group (relationship between parties) component to this human phenomenon. That is, the leader within any organization is responsible for managing an individual’s individual morale and then managing the morale for the relationship- people first, relationship second. Simply put, sick people don’t make for healthy relationships or organizations and great leaders manage this.

Leadership first

Short-term fixes create long-term problems, because they don’t address the issue. Energizing and motivating your team has its place, but should not serve as the foundation of morale. As the leader of the relationship it is your responsibility to set the tone, nature and culture for the morale of the relationships. It is determined by your overall presence, your masculinity as a man, through your thoughts, actions and the manner in which you carry yourself. It will be represented in the manner in which you respond and meet her hypergamous nature. How you demonstrate composure, reserve and calm, through steady control of emotions and maturity. It will be displayed in your confidence in knowing your capabilities, your belief in those skills and the actions you take proving those attributes. They will be on display when you face adversity, showing resilience in a tendency to recover quickly from a set-back, shock, or adversity and in maintaining purpose and focus when stressed. Good leaders know that emotions and emotional energy are contagious; that they are contagious between people. As such, they will utilize those attributes to their favor, by leading by example, showcasing and sharing positive traits and nipping negative traits in the bud, before they spread and grow. In this regard morale is viewed as a culture, not a band-aide, as your partner will need to have leadership they can believe in, before they can have faith in the relationship.

Individual morale

The world’s best militaries recognize that they must first respond to the needs of the individual soldier before that soldier can or will attend the needs of the higher organization. They do this by assuring that the individuals physical and emotional needs are met though good supply lines, hot food, sound cover, rest, relaxation and recovery, news from home, the quality and care of the equipment they will be utilizing and the training and support they receive. They further recognize that quality of life is serious business to their organizational mission and therefore have a uniformed approach to the care of the workforce and their families. That’s why on every major military installation you will find a myriad of services and infrastructure to support, sustain and strengthen the individual and their families. Likewise in relationships, we need to care for our partners first, before we consider caring for the relationship. We must have a firm understanding of our partner’s emotional and physical needs and address those needs. In turn we must then go beyond just the basics and attend to the quality of the life of our partner, as well as their basic needs, before we can expect them to focus on the relationship and relationship goals.

Relationship morale

In actively managing a relationship and the business of it, we must make certain that the relationship sticks to its core purpose. In simple terms this is benefits management. Are you actively managing the reasons why you and your partner are in a relationship with each other? Are those reasons being met? If this was a business model, are your employees getting paid on time? Are they compensated appropriately? Are they able to take sick leave and vacations, as needed and desired, or is that benefit package in name only, due to workload and staffing constraints? Is the working culture what was promised when they interviewed? Are their contributions and work efforts recognized and rewarded? Do they feel that they make a difference? As a corporation how competitive are you? Every high-tech company offers stock options, but how many offers high morale? Is it any wonder that those that do are coveted work places, draw superior talent due to it and tend to be more successful because of it? How does your relationship brand and culture compare? It should come as no surprise that measuring relationship satisfaction is correlated to relationship longevity… just how far have you prepared your relationship to go?

Managing Feedback, Coaching & Mentoring

Coaching-Mentoring

“A relationship is only as good as the partners in it”

 

Developmental stagnation and the cycle of failure

We have an expectation that people over time learn, develop, and grow. We formulate these thoughts and notions under the heights of our own explosive growth, as children and young adults and just assume that, that progression continues throughout life. By now, if we honestly reflect upon that notion, we know it not to be the case, that unless the individual is honestly applying themselves in the search of knowledge, seeking out new ways of thinking, acting or behaving they’re developmentally stunted, in the age in which they learned those particular skills or knowledge base. Quite often it’s decades old and from another period of their life. We also have a fond notion that people learn from their mistakes and while this ‘can’ be true, it too, normally isn’t. It’s just far too easy to accept failures, big and small, reframe, and cast blame, then to continue on having truly learned very little. It is why people who seek to succeed continue to train themselves, seek direct feedback, solicit coaching to find their blind spots and objectively guide their process, while forming mentorship to help put it all into perspective. If we’re interested in developing relationship skills, fostering management ability and establishing maintenance protocols, nowhere is this more readily available and pertinent than that of the relationship we’re in. In that regard, relationships are tremendously fertile grounds for testing one’s abilities, attributes and to learn, if we create and utilize a framework for doing so.

Nurturing a culture of development

It is important to recognize that your partner is you team and like any good team, developing trust and communication is a key element for group performance. It is incumbent upon us, as relationship leaders and managers, to establish open lines of communication within the relationship, foster and nurture the trust in the communication process, through proven experience and exercise in their utilization. Simply put, we must practice good communication and trust development prior to our having to need them in a time of crisis. Learning a new skill during a time of crisis is a horrible learning environment and piss poor planning and management. We can start this by recognizing and validating our partners in what they are already doing well and what we appreciate. We can also solicit from them the same. Not only does this foster incentive for the behavior, but also initiates a communication process regarding behavioral performance. Over time this process quickly becomes part of accepted relationship culture and develops a natural reservoir of good will, that then can progress to specific negative behavior performance remediation with less resistance. While we cannot directly control our partner’s orientation for overall receptivity and likelihood of acting on feedback, we can foster an environment of support for it, by establishing trust, respect, and interpersonal validation in early communication efforts with our partner, rewarding performances improvements and clearly communicating a strong link between value and outcome.

The (3) ranges of development management

In developing a frame-work for personal development it is important to recognize three major categories in which development takes place and need to be managed separately; much like goals they consist of a series of ranges from short, medium and long-range in nature. They are the following:

Feedback– short-range in nature, that provides explicit, factual information on performance with specific emphasis on technique and skill. These elements can be measured and appropriate goals set with associated follow-up. They are task specific.

Coaching– will require greater knowledge transfer with longer duration of involvement. It requires an establishment of a solid connection of trust and respect and communication rapport within the relationship and centers less on technique and more on process and direction of areas of developmental concern, which may not be entirely known or identified at that time.

Mentoring– is done throughout the lifespan of the relationship. It is primarily process focused, requiring strong levels of emotional ties, broad objective viewing, and developmental guidance and support for future role and relationship visioning.

Application

At any given time, in investing in our partner and our relationship, we may be called upon to utilize these management traits in concert, in series or alone. If our partner by example lacks a particular skill, it will be incumbent upon us to provide specific feedback regarding that, provide a frame-work of coaching in which that skill development can be exercised and visionary guidance in the form of mentoring.

We may become aware that our partner has a subconscious developmental issues from their past that are playing out within our current relationship and needs/desires assistance and support in discovering, analyzing and overcoming those issues.

We may also find that our partners look to us as examples, a source of strength and inspiration or simply a vision for how to live and be.

Now rather than later

It is important to develop a positive and proactive culture of giving and receiving feedback, mutual coaching and peer mentorship within a relationship, to not only continue personal growth, development, and health, but to preemptively stop conflict spirals, which have their root cause in poor feedback, an erosion of trust and respect and poor interpersonal behavioral performance. During a process of relationship conflict, which is bound to occur, it is not the time to come to terms with previous errors of judgment, revisit old sources of tension and renegotiate how to coordinate with your partner, which is often the case when we don’t. By then you’re well behind the power curve. It’s far better to start now.

 

Communication Management

Relationship conversation

“The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

When lines of communications are not open or are not clear it is common for misunderstanding to become exaggerated and overly hostile, developing distrust, fear and anxiety within the relationship. There’s a certain amount of inertia that then must be overcome to start communication which was already difficult to begin with and issues are then addressed at the damage stage, rather than an informative or awareness stage. We simply don’t start to communicate until damage is actually done and resentment has built to the point where avoidance is no longer an option.

So too when we start to evade issues and topics from our partner, when we speak in half-truths or hold back in being honest, open and sincere, we start to drift into a soft form of dishonesty and are shutting down a channel of communication that is critical for the health and welfare of any relationship.

We need to have more than just an ‘open door’ policy with our partners. We need to have already shown and exhibited a forum and willingness to talk about issues of the day, as well as the operations of our relationships, prior to when we actually have a real issue, problem or challenge to overcome.

Nature of Management

Management is about doing systemized methods of time-tested and proven behaviors repetitively over time to get desired results and maintain relationships. Often they tend to be boring and mundane, until the time that they’re not, which is when they are most needed and become so valuable. Communication management is about insuring that interpersonal coordination and interaction with your partner is taking place to resolve issues, stresses, tensions or challenges that the relationship is currently facing, to make sure that the relationship is working effectively and efficiently.

You need to Lead

As a man, it will be up to you to initiate, lead and to manage this line of communication (amongst several others). While we can recognize and appreciate the fact of gender equity between the sexes and should thus come to expect women to be equal partners in managing the lines of communication, a simple fact of biology remains in opposition to this; Hypergamy… and when social conventions and biology clash, biology surely is to win out (nature always wins). Specifically a woman’s sexual attraction trigger of social dimorphism the behavioral traits associated with masculine behaviors of leadership, assertiveness and assuredness, will prevail over her social conventions and desire to be co-equal partners in managing the relationship. She will expect you to lead and will be naturally attracted to men who do. Do not lose out on establishing and maintaining this critical point of attraction within a relationship.

SHE IS YOUR TEAM!

It is critical of any manager to know and understand their team and staff. Make no bones about it, your partner is your team! Let me say it again; SHE IS YOUR TEAM. If she isn’t, if she isn’t someone you would go into business with, someone you trust to represent you, to speak for the relationship and to conduct the business of your relationship in public, you’ve chosen poorly, very poorly and need to reinvestigate your actions leading up to that decision. If she is, you need to acknowledge and validate that by treating her as though she is an essential asset and part of your life, by making time to hear and understand what is going on with her and her world as it relates to her and that she means more to us than being a life accessory in our lives.

Weekly Staff Meetings

One of the most important things a manager will do during the course of the week is to meet directly with their staff and team conducting the planning, organizing, managing, monitoring and decision-making that is required to run the operations of a business, as well as the personal interactions that makes your team feel connected and informed. As a business manager it is incredibly important to go beyond this and make a direct connection and develop a personal rapport with your team members individually. We have to go beyond the basic awareness of someone’s life, to really having a personal understanding and investment with our staff, before we can expect them to truly have one with us. As such there is an amazing difference between asking a co-worker about their weekend and asking them how specifically how ‘Johnny or Jane’ did in their specific after school activities, or whatever it is that is really important to them. We have to know and relate to what is important to them before they will relate with us. We lead by example.

Weekly One-on-Ones

Relationships are no different, except we get the methodologies backwards… we typically know to spend quality time with our partners, talking, sharing, listening and validating them, but rarely do we take a businesslike approach to the business management portion of our lives and the relationship by planning, organizing, managing, monitoring and making decision that needs to take place within the relationship to run smoothly. It is important that we do so and conduct both, separately. Do not mix one with the other, as it is too easy to mistake one emphasis for the other. Quality time is quality time. Business time is for business. Part of management is knowing when to share, bring up or discuss what, at what times and places. It is for these reasons that I believe it is important to set aside regular time each week to solely have a business relationship one-on-one with your relationship partner.

Reservoir of Goodwill

By holding and conducting regular one-on-ones with your partner you’ll develop a reservoir of goodwill, understanding and sound connection prior to needing it. When it’s needed is no time to start figuring out the dynamics of interpersonal communication nor to foster the good will required to sustain it. If you don’t, you are establishing a relationship culture to managing through crisis and conflict management… that’s poor management on your part and likely to be highly unsuccessful methodology, as most failed relationships will attest.

Present, Tested, Vested

Lines of communication must already be present, tested and vested… Those early established communication efforts are a proven commodity, building trust, respect and confidence in future communication needs and requirements, such as time when we need to give feedback or as importantly when our partners need to express a measure of it. Who would you rather talk to a serious issue about with; a partner you’ve never had a serious discussion with, or one who has been open and receptive to a variety of relationship type discussions over time with you?

Pattern of Behavior

Doing so establishes patterns of behavior… regular one-on-ones develop that pattern, provide that opportunity for communication, and can be relied upon to exist in the near future (because our partners can’t always rely on our powers of perception). Small issues can be discussed early, before they swell up into larger issues, due to neglect, ignorance and the age-old issue that problems tend to multiply if left unaddressed. By holding regular one-on-one our partners know there is an open forum for them to bring a topic up in the very near future, relieving the potential for built up tension, frustrations and anger that will ultimately result in a critical confrontation, one which will likely go very poorly if she doesn’t have the skills to hold a minor confrontation, let alone a critical one.

First Step

Opening lines of communications is also an amazing important first step in de-escalating conflict. Just by establishing communications many misunderstandings can be cleared up, understood, corrected and avoided. Trust and respect can be preserved, which should be the cornerstones of any healthy relationship.

Silent Treatment-Word of Warning

Along those lines couples should never give the other the ‘silent treatment’. This will only hinder and deteriorate the relationship by blatantly showing disrespect and invalidating your partner. In a healthy relationship, partners should be able to come together in good times, and bad… We may be angry, upset, & hurt, but our partner should be our emotional safe place to go to. If not, the relationship is in serious trouble and ill-health.

It Works…

While it may seem obtuse, overly simplistic and incredibly boring to make regular time to sit down to lead and discuss the business management of our romantic lives, it does provide the incredibly important frame-work and forum needed to accomplish our relationship goals, to help it move more smoothly and effectively through the rigors of life. Is she not, is the relationship not, are we not worth having a five-minute discussion to clear the air and to manage the life we want?

Soliciting Feedback

Soliciting Feedback image

“Houston we have a problem…”

Receiving honest feedback or better yet, soliciting honest feedback is a terribly challenging thing to do initially. Often we are afraid of the answers. We just don’t want our eyes opened to them. We’re afraid of change and the emotional and physical toll on our psyche in accomplishing them. Lastly I feel that we’re also very much afraid of being accountable and taking responsibility for our actions and behaviors in how they affect others and how they affect our relationships. It’s just simply easier to stay comfortable in not knowing, not addressing and not being accountable.

Mind the Sting…

Don’t react to the initial sting of negative feedback, by becoming defensive or guarded. The sting is there to get your attention and to call upon your focus. Learn to recognize it as such. Critical events are confidence-testing junctures and almost always opportunities for learning even though they are moments in which you are managing conflict. With receiving feedback your competence and individual performance are being addressed by your partner as she is expressing her emotional needs. If unsolicited and the more raw, insightful and direct with regards to your long-standing personal traits or behaviors, these can very much trigger self-esteem and self-image issues of the ego in adverse ways. Recognize the value of this opportunity and the information being presented, as it will likely hold value you haven’t addressed or capitalized on and is coming from a trusted source with intimate knowledge of the subject at hand.

 “Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them”

The initial shock to your system will dissipate shortly, if you have the appropriate frame of mind and stay positive by living in the moment. You’re a man. This is the time to display those qualities associated with stoic calm, self-control and fortitude of mind. This is your chance to showcase leadership through example and action that you are able to overcome immediate destructive emotions that will limit communication, reduce trust, marginalize respect and deter potential for personal growth. The qualities of being open, receptive and supporting of personal accountability to your behavior and how you make others experience being around and with you, is central to high emotional quotient leadership and diplomacy, which is essential to being successful in our world today.

I’ll take that criticism with a side of understanding, performance optimization and positive incentives, please!

Criticism is not appropriate feedback for a healthy and respectful relationship. Criticism without a better cognitive understanding of the issue being addressed, alternative task performance behaviors options and positive incentives or associations with performance objectives, creates stress and anxieties which left unchecked will fester into a negative relationship spiral of hostility and resentment, leading to deeper future tensions and conflicts. The point of feedback is not just to alert one to an issue, but to provide constructive means of developing awareness of behavioral consequences, alternative strategies, techniques or procedures to mitigate such performances, and to develop a bond between the parties of trust and respect throughout the interaction, which is the hallmark of developing empathy within a relationship.

Nagging is not your life on auto-correct!

If your partner is unaware of the importance of respectful feedback to a relationship , unfamiliar with actually providing constructive and supportive feedback, it is up to you as the leader within the relationship to maintain that boundary issue of respect, consideration and clear communication, by addressing this deficit by teaching and coaching them through the process of it. Often to have effective communication, we have to clear the channels of communication of what is hindering information navigation. Nowhere is this more important than when dealing with personal animosities and incompatibilities while trying to be emotionally supportive within an intimate relationship. We must first establish the patterns and formats of constructive communication prior to actually attempting to communicate.

Be Gracious…

What we do speaks louder than our words… When your partner is providing you sincere feedback, be gracious and extend a strong measure of gratitude by actively listening to what they have to say without distraction, without proffering excuses. Practice all the skills of an effective listener, by having open and receptive body language and posture, kind and welcoming facial expressions and actively encouraging them to continue to discussion the situation, it’s context, the specific performance tasks being addressed, with possible alternative solutions, as well as the incentives to doing so. This respectful behavior shows your partner that you care and respect them. That their concerns matter to you. That they matter to you.

“Ouch!”

Be aware of becoming defensive and that the more critical the feedback is, the more likely you are to feel defensive. It is completely alright to take a moment and acknowledge that you’re feeling vulnerable and defensive with your partner prior to continuing. Feel free to share that information openly. They likely are to relate that they are feeling the same way in addressing you and bringing it up. It’s common ground. It’s common ground you can work with. It’s common ground you both share in valuing the other. Acknowledging that can reduce the tensions, anxieties and frustrations a great deal prior to continuing.

Check the message

As you actively listen to your partner, seek out opportunities in which you can check and verify your understanding of what they are attempting to communicate to develop a solid consensus of what the real issue is. If you are unclear or unsure of their intent ask and probe for specifics to provide more clarification, until you are sure and they are aware of it. Make sure you are able to communicate back to them the context, the specific performance task in question, what it means to them, how it makes them feel and how its affects their perception of the relationship.

Seek out solutions

Compassionate leaders value others and their input in collaborative problem solving. They will seek out their input in crafting responsive solutions and smart answers to problems. They don’t believe they have and hold all the answers, nor believe that an awareness to a problem is the solution to it. Compassionate leaders have a solid belief that they can find and discover appropriate solutions in conjunction with others, and strengthen the relationship and themselves in the process. Compassionate leaders embrace the power of creativity in navigating challenges. They are able to successfully harness imagination and incentive to drive the engine of change. The power of solution seeking is about your values, confidence and connectedness with the issue and people surrounding them.

 Provide Thanks…

Never conclude a feedback session with “OK.” Much like the Olympic gymnastics, you need to stick the dismount. You need to provide and sincere ‘thank you’ and show your appreciation at their care and consideration, respect and support in voicing their concerns with you. You need to do the same in recognition of that fact. It’s not just good manners, it’s good relationship management.

It may be them, not you…

Not all feedback may be legitimate. You may actually disagree and that’s fine, as long as you clearly understand what your partner has tried to address, how it has made them feel and you’ve been respectful and open to their position and have taken all of it into consideration upon your conclusion. Other times you may not be as sure. At those junctures it would be wise to seek the insights and feedback from others you trust and respect, to gather more information and determine the reliability of the initial insights.

Follow up

While it is highly important to seek solutions to improve, make sure that your partner is prepared to assist you in recognizing when you’re making an attempt at change and to call attention to it while you are doing so in the form of praise, but to benchmark progress to review your performance over time to verify performance modification and acceptance. Doing so will help remove uncertainty which distracts from actual task performance, improve your motivation and lead to more efficient and healthy relationship.

Simple mind reading

When surveyed people were asked how happy they were in their relationship, which was remarkably accurate in predicting the longevity of the relationship over the course of the survey period. Short of mind reading our partners the best alternative is to solicit their opinions directly. Having the self-confidence, courage and integrity to seek their guidance, input and feedback during the relationship can help you mitigate facing the same issues, in a brutal fashion, when she leaves a failed relationship. Either way you’re going to get the feedback, one way or another.