Tackling the Pesky Procrastination Problem

Laura (not her real name) wrote:  I find conflict very difficult-like the conflict over the recent personnel issue. I think my leadership is affected negatively by this tendency to worry and second guess decisions, even postpone them too long. Are there trainings that might help me come to terms with inevitable conflict or do you think personal counseling is a better choice?

Linda:  I admire you for seeing an issue with yourself and wanting to work to make it better.  Yes, avoiding conflict when it makes it harder for everyone and especially yourself is indeed something to work on.

I tried to think of everything I think you need to get a handle on this.  I’ve come to the conclusion you want to do both courses of action and a few more because you need to get:

  • Some perspective.  Everyone procrastinates and you need perspective on what’s acceptable and what’s not so you’re not too hard on yourself but yet you come to recognize when you’ve crossed the line.  For that you need someone to talk to for daily and, weekly issues; you need to have someone to talk to over time.
  • You need to come to a good understanding of reasons why you procrastinate on conflict.  I imagine you have some answers in your head (for instance, what you saw at home is it for most of us) but you need to flesh those out.  You need feedback, clarity and, again, perspective, on the reasons you do it.
  • You want to set some [artificial, but useful] boundaries for your avoidance, some STOP signs.  “If I can’t sleep for two nights, I’m going to work out a plan for dealing with it, ”  or whatever symptoms of anxiety you get, or signs from others that they’re anxious.  Write these down as a visible promise to yourself that you do have stop signs and that you’ll obey them.
  • Now, to the plan or strategies to confront the issue.  You can learn more strategies from a workshop so, sure, look for one, can’t hurt.  But this is also for one-on-one because you want the strategies to fit you as well as to fit the situation. Very important. We all have our idiosyncrasies and I want you to be [fairly] comfortable with your confrontations.
  • More suggestions for strategies to help you confront.
    • Revisit Crucial Confrontations.  (Note: Book by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler.  A really good newsletter on the subject is at http://www.vitalsmarts.com)  Give it a half hour to one hour, flip through it, stick post-its on pages that strike home, copy those pages, whatever — the object is to get the strategies that will work for you out so they can be first and foremost in your mind.
    • Revisit your CenterMark results.  (Note:  the CenterMark is a Myers-Briggs-type instrument.  I use it in every Leadership Seminar.  It’s supportive and instructive.)  Just 20 minutes will do it.  Find the sections about dealing with change and conflict, the section about how you are under stress (for your STOP signs).  Again, copy those sections to get them on one page or post-it them –do something with the information that makes it handy.  You have your own ways of organizing.
    • The Handy Crib Sheet for Confrontation might be, well, handy.  (Note:  Find it under “Papers for You”.)
  • Getting confidence in dealing with problems as they arise is very important.  Use the Rule of 3 (first time bad behavior happens notice it, second time think of it as a pattern, third time talk to the person about the pattern) to tackle issues before they create anxiety for you.  Plan, practice, breathe, be firm but gracious.
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