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Assertiveness

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics. This is part of an extended course in management skills.


There is only one thing that you need to know about assertiveness, to fully understand it:

Assertiveness is all about respect

Assertiveness is about the respect you have for the people you deal with and for yourself.  Let’s see a summary diagram.

Assertiveness

Aggressive behaviour has little respect for the other person and instead, focuses on winning-out over them.  It can be controlling – even abusive  – and has no place in modern management.

Passive behaviour shows little respect for yourself.  It focuses on not getting hurt and so leads people to submit their own legitimate needs and desires to avoid the possibility of confrontation.  Often that possibility is more perceived than real.  Passivity shows itself in a fear to disagree, guilt at saying no, and a reluctance to offer feedback.  It too has no value to you as a manager.

Assertive behaviour is what to aim for.  Respect yourself and the other person and focus on over-coming events and getting the best result you can.  Do what is right: not what is easy and celebrate success.  Be collaborative, offer sincere praise and objective feedback, say what you think and feel, taking responsibility for your emotions and for your decisions.  Be confident to ask for help and support when you need it.

An Exercise

Think back to examples you have observed in colleagues of assertive, aggressive and passive behaviours.  Make a note of:

  1. some words you associate with each of these
  2. voice and speech patterns you associate with each of these
  3. facial expressions and patterns of eye-contact you associate with each of these
  4. postures, gestures and body language you associate with each of these

Exercise Part 2: Reflection

Now look over your notes.  Which of these seems most like you a lot of the time?  Which one do you tend towards during stress?

Assertively making a request

Be direct but courteous.  Be specific about what you want and offer details as appropriate.  You don’t need to apologise, unless you know you are putting someone out, but do say ‘please’.  The best asking words are ‘would you…’  Alternatives can seem weak (could you), doubting my ability (can you) or too direct (will you).  Finally, respect my right to say ‘no’.  If no is not an option, then be honest, and tell me.

Assertively disagreeing and putting your views

Listen intently.  Identify where we agree and disagree and acknowledge both.  Use ‘I’ to take responsibility for your point of view and be constructive in building on mine.  Offer reasons, facts and supporting evidence.

Assertively giving bad news

Be proactive in addressing the situation.  Make good eye contact, and prepare me with: ‘I have some bad news.’ Be brief and to the point, though never abrupt.  Be specific about the news, but the more complex and damaging it is, the less information I will be able to take in – at least at first.  Answer my questions and allow me to express my emotions.  You do not need to be defensive.  Be factual and caring and be prepared to help me work through the implications.

Assertively saying ‘no’

Be short, to the point, and respectful.  Offer reasons when you can and alternatives where appropriate.

Further Reading

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Personal Impact

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics with a return visit to our correspondence course in management.


As a manager you need to make an appropriate personal impact at all times in the workplace and when representing your organisation or business.

Here is a checklist of things to consider.  You may want to make a note in your notebook about how you propose to respond.  The best way to get things right is to look to the successful managers you meet in your organisation.  How do they carry off each of these things? What can you learn from each of them?

You will not, of course, want to copy their style, but rather, you should apply your own style, but recognise the appropriate levels of dress and appearance.

Personal Impact 1: Mental and Physical State

Start with your mental and physical state – this will profoundly affect how you come across.  If you have not done the exercises in the previous part of this course, they will be helpful to you.

Personal Impact 2: Dress and Style

Choose clothes of a quality and style that matches that of managers at your level.  If you are ambitious, look at how managers one level up from you dress and emulate them.  But be careful over-dressing to match top directors – that can be seen as presumptuous, over-ambitious or just quirky.  A personal style is fine, but make sure it is authentic to who you are and is appropriate to your environment.

Make sure that your clothes and shoes are well-cared for and use accessories to boost your impact.  A good quality, standard, off-the-peg suit need not cost much.  Add a few accessories and you will come across as far more classy.  These include your work bag, pens, tie or scarf, belt or brooch, bracelet or cuff-links.

Dress for Impact

Joke ties, cute phone covers and loud brooches are all perfect for the weekend, but if your accessories draw more attention to themselves than you can command on your own; ditch them.

It may be worth investing in a style advisor who can help you select clothes and colours that work for you.  Alternatively, if you have a trusted friend who dresses really well, ask them to help you with shopping.

Personal Impact 3: Personal Care

Don’t waste money on great clothes if you are not going to take care of basic personal grooming: hair, teeth, facial hair and fingernails are particularly important.

Further Reading

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Self Confidence

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics. This is the first of a series of posts on management skills.


Self confidence is the starting place for any manager.  Your promotion to managerial role has probably been triggered more by your expertise in doing your previous job, your reliability, and your character, than by any specific evidence of your managerial capability.  And that’s fine, because it is the way most of your colleagues were promoted too.

But it can leave you feeling a little nervous about your suitability to manage and, when your boss tells you to ‘get on with it – I have every trust in you’ you can feel a little isolated.  Your boss leaves you to it, your new management peers don’t yet trust you, and your team are wary of how you will treat them, now you have become a manager.

Here are three exercises to help boost your self-confidence.

Exercise 1: A Reassuring Word

Write down your answers to the following sentences:

  • ‘I earned my managerial role because…
  • ‘My three most valuable managerial assets are…
  • ‘The managers I learned most from are…
  • ‘I will know I am doing a good job as manager when…
  • ‘Things will go wrong; that’s life.  If they do, the people I can go to are…

Exercise 2: Seeing Success

Imagine it is Monday morning and you are in work, ready to start the day.  In a minute, close your eyes and picture yourself there.  Picture your first few conversations and meetings going well.  Notice yourself handling the situations effectively, feeling well-prepared.  As you go through your morning, picture everything you do going as planned. At each stage, notice how good that makes you feel.  At the end of your morning, imagine how positive and confident you will feel.

Now, close your eyes and play that movie in your head for several minutes.

When you have done this, make a note in your notebook about how you felt at the end of each part of your morning.  Write down what you did to achieve your successes.

This is an exercise to repeat several times over the coming days.  Each time you do it, choose another day and either the morning or afternoon.  Every time you do it, you will increase your base level of confidence.

Exercise 3: Power Poses

One of the reasons some people feel more confident than others is simply levels of hormones in their bodies.  For example, increased testosterone levels increase confidence, whilst increased cortisol levels decrease confidence.  Perhaps it is surprising, but your gross posture affects levels of both of these hormones and, whether you are a man or a woman, you can increase testosterone levels and decrease cortisol, by adopting power poses.

You can do these poses for two or three minutes before going into a stressful situation and you can maintain confidence-boosting hormone levels by maintaining upright, open postures during your day.

Power Poses

Stand upright, legs apart – slightly wider than shoulder width – and put your hands on your hips.  If there is a table, counter or a solid back of a stable chair available, place your hands firmly on it, about 70-80cm apart (wider than your shoulders) and lean forward.  Adopt these poses for two minutes or so.

If you have a chair to sit on, try sitting upright, legs apart, with feeet firmly on the floor.  Plant your hands firmly on your upper thighs, with elbows outwards.  Lean your body back a little, with head a little forward.  Or try putting your feet up on a table, leaning back in your chair, with your hands clasped behing your head, elbows splayed out.  Adopt one of these for two minutes.

If these poses remind you of a typical ‘old-school alpha-male boss’, they should.  The difference is that you will adopt these poses privately for a few minutes at most, to boost your confidence for the next meeting; rather than maintain it in the meeting to intimidate your colleagues.

Upright Postures

For all-of-the-time posture, keep to standing with feet at hip or maybe shoulder width, head upright, as if pulled by a puppet string, and arms by your sides.  This open body, coupled with upright posture, will not only make you feel more assertive, but will enhance your breathing, your vocal tone and projection and present your image as confident and authoritative.

Further Reading

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Customer Journey: Mapping your Relationship

Customer Journey

Customer JourneyYou can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. That’s the principle behind mapping out your customer journey. It’s a way to get an insight into how it feels for your customers to deal with you at each step along the path.

And since understanding your customer is vital to making them feel good about buying and using your product, customer journey mapping is a valuable tool to support this Big Idea.

Continue reading Customer Journey: Mapping your Relationship

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Sunk Cost and the Sunk Cost Fallacy

Sunk Cost

‘You’ve bought it now. The money’s gone.’ That snarky comment made by thousands of parents (mine included) to their reckless child encapsulates the meaning of sunk cost. Once you met the cost, it’s gone: sunk. You’ve sunk it into the investment for good or for ill.

This, then, could be the shortest Big Ideas article yet. Sunk Cost is a familiar and easy concept.

Continue reading Sunk Cost and the Sunk Cost Fallacy

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Power: Making Things So

Power: Making Things So

PowerCould there be a Big Idea more important than power? It’s a concept central to both physical and social sciences.

But we shan’t go anywhere near the physics of power, beyond noting that its precise definition is broadly consistent with how we interpret it in the human domain.

Here, we are concerned with management and workplaces. So what does power mean in this context, and how can you acquire it?

Continue reading Power: Making Things So

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Colour Psychology: Creating a Feeling

Colour Psychology

Colour PsychologyWe associate colours with brands and brands with colours. Some colours and combinations immediately evoke a brand. And others instantly trigger a feeling. This is the role of colour psychology in marketing.

Much of what people think they know about colour psychology is little more than pseudo-science. Chromatic astrology, if you will. But there is also a growing body of research evidence to fall back on.

And what that underlines is that, for whatever reason, there is some firm basis for colour psychology.

Continue reading Colour Psychology: Creating a Feeling

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The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: Linguistic Relativity

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

The Sapir-Whorf HypothesisHow do we know how to think about something? Our primary mode of thinking is through language. So, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis suggests that the language you use conditions the way you think.

And if this is true, then the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has a profound implication for managers. Because many of us speak fluent ‘Management Speak’!

So, what is this Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis – also known as Linguistic Relativism or Linguistic Relativity? And is there any truth to it?

Continue reading The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: Linguistic Relativity

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Body Language: Let me Hear Your Body Talk

Body Language

Body LanguageThe minute someone walks in the room, you can usually get a sense of how they are feeling. Not from what they say, but from what their posture, gesture, and expression tell you. That’s body language.

Human beings are wired to read one another’s body language. It’s only the exceptional few (towards one end of the autistic spectrum) who lack the capacity. The upshot of this is simple; if a little surprising:

We cannot not communicate.

Everything we do – or don’t do – says something to people around us. Body language is universal, powerful, and rarely lies.

Continue reading Body Language: Let me Hear Your Body Talk

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360 Degree Feedback: What Everyone Thinks of You

360 Degree Feedback

360 Degree FeedbackOrganisational life revolves around performance monitoring and measuring. Often it’s a single person who will assess your performance. But what if they had access to the observations of all sorts of people who work with you in different ways? That’s the big idea that 360 Degree Feedback represents.

The idea and practice of 360 degree feedback has been through rises and falls since it first appeared in the 1950s. And it really took off in the 1990s. But it is as important today as it’s ever been. So, let’s examine 360 degree feedback from a number of angles.

Continue reading 360 Degree Feedback: What Everyone Thinks of You

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