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Is the "People Stuff" Getting You Down?

[fa icon="calendar"] 3/19/19 7:25 AM / by Deb Cullerton

Have your team fitting together like a puzzle

I was coaching a client last week and asked about his progress since he went to our WorkingSm@rt class.   He said, "Well, I'm more organized and more focused but I haven't solved the one issue that takes up more time than almost anything else -- the people stuff!”.

I knew he was saying it tongue in cheek, but he winced a little as he said it and I knew there was more truth there than he was comfortable with.  I wish I could say it was the first time I've heard this complaint, but it's not.  It's impossible to focus on people's productivity without consistently running into the challenging people issues that can take up significant chunks of our day.

 So, without ado, I thought I’d outline three people areas that waste significant time in our workplaces with a few solutions that can make a significant impact:

  1.  Don’t Skip the Warm Up

We've all heard how important it is to warm up before we jump into strenuous sport, activity or exercise.  And I'm willing to bet that more than half of us (guilty as charged, btw) ignore this advice, thinking that we are the exception to the rule, only to find ourselves injured before we ever really get going. 

The same thing happens when we jump into meetings, collaborations, projects and the work of teams without taking the time to get to know and understand who we are working with in these endeavors.  People have different needs, styles, values, and approaches so each of these areas become the quicksand we sink into when we don't warm up.  Something as simple as the different levels of structure a person needs to be comfortable with their assignment can quickly stonewall a project launch.  What you don’t know can definitely hurt you!

 Solution:  Ask people to engage in the Know Your Colleagues activity at the beginning of any project, change initiative or when onboarding new team members to an intact team.  Click the button below for a free set of templates with instructions for how to use them.  I don't know a team that couldn't benefit from this activity immediately.

 Download Guide


  1. MisinterpretationsEverything DiSC Need Tags

If only we had a foolproof interpreter on hand at all times.  We live in an age where we can use an app to communicate with someone speaking a completely different language on the other side of the world.  Meanwhile, misinterpreting or not understanding our coworker’s perspective can leave us stumbling around in blind alleys hoping that we're doing the right work.

 Solution:  Ask people to take a behavioral style profile, like Everything DiSC Workplace and take a little time to share the results (with color commentary) in order to help your colleagues and understand their values, motivators, fears, behaviors and priorities.  (Just send us an email if you want info on how to get these for your team.)

Download a Sample Report 


  1. Incidental Damage

When tensions are high and relationships have not been fostered, even a raised eyebrow in a virtual meeting with a colleague can leave us feeling disrespected, confused and defensive.  This can waste a significant amount of time in meetings or (even worse) the "meeting after the meeting" trying to unravel the conflicts that develop due to incidental damage.  In the law, it is defined as “unintended” damage and in the workplace, it is more often the result of a lack of trust or depth of relationship.

 Solution:  Take the time to develop what Patrick Lencioni calls "vulnerability-based trust".  When a team feels safe from judgement or competition, they can work on their ability to openly trust and even say things like:

  • I don't know.
  • I'm feeling kind of lost here.
  • I think I might have been hurtful when we spoke last.
  • I need your help or guidance.
  • I think I screwed up.
  • I made a mistake.

 This is such important work and is almost always driven by a leader who is willing to go first.  It is a sign of respect to the others on the team and sets up a path to move forward much more quickly when we don't waste time holding up appearances or pretending that we understand something that we don't.

 For more ideas on this topic, read our blog on vulnerability in leadership .

 If the "people stuff" is holding you or your team back, it might be time to invest in a few fixes that can pay you dividends all year long. Click the button below to get started with the Know Your Colleagues guide!   

Download Guide

Topics: Productivity for All, All About Teams, Leadership Matters

Deb Cullerton

Written by Deb Cullerton

Managing Partner at PMA and passionate about developing leaders