Decision time had come. And it wasn’t easy.
The manager was in a difficult position considering a very positive professional relationship with her direct report. The repeated offense was in the way the worker treated customers. A third complaint had now landed on the manager’s desk.
We’ve grown to have a great working relationship. I like him. He’s practically my friend. The manager cycled through many thoughts as she contemplated the appropriate action to take.
“The appropriate action”. Thinking about what we might do in this situation may call activities to mind—putting this person on a corrective plan, probationary period, maybe fire.
With such an important decision at hand, it’s important to consider the difference between “Activity” and “Action”.
Take a simple task like setting the table for dinner. Growing up with three older brothers we each took turns placing the plate, napkin, glasses and utensils in their proper positions. Seems simple enough, but the Atmosphere surrounding the activity had something to say about how each of us went about the assignment.
If I was hanging around in the house doing pretty much nothing, table-setting was done with little affect—simply a checklist chore that needed to be done. But if I was summoned from a backyard battle of baseball where the score was close, the task became an interruption. The Atmosphere of Interruption caused me to rebel.
Okay, maybe it was my attitude that caused me to throw the silverware on the table, causing a ringing ruckus in the kitchen where my Mom was once again busy preparing a balanced, hot meal to meet our nightly 5:30 reservation for 6 which she brilliantly completed for as long as I can remember (see, I can be grateful, and especially on her birthday today—Hi Mom!).
But look at the Activity—To Set the [damn] Table. And now look at my Action—To Attack! My Mom?! Whoa, that Action added a way different energy to the situation.
Our manager faces implementing an activity much more serious than table setting of course. But in whatever she decides to do, there are many Actions she can decide on playing with her report which may include:
To Alert (Presenting the third occurrence of the customer service infraction; so this is serious)
To Confront (Did you actually do this thing to a customer?)
To Support (What? In a performance-impacting situation? Yeah, support is a viable option even if it’s time to part.)
There’s the thing you have to do, the Activity. It’s how you do it, the Action–what you do to people, how you treat them–that is at the core of every communication interaction.
Here’s your Activity/Action Quiz: Listening. Activity or Action?
I’ve coached many Actors (authentic communicators who often have to stretch to play their roles–that’d be you) who know that good listening is critical to their effectiveness. But what are good listeners doing to their Audience? What is the Action they’re playing when they listen?
After a conversation this week with a coaching client I’m once again convinced that listening is an Activity. And the Actions being played by the listener may include: To Honor, To Value.
Why is it critical to understand this? Because choosing and playing the appropriate/best action, even with a subtle shift, makes a big difference in your effectiveness as Actor.
Remember, especially in tough situations, you can decide on the Actions you will play. It all depends on the Audience, the Atmosphere and your comfort level as Actor. Expanding your repertoire of Actions will equip you to adapt to many situations and ultimately play out what’s best for your Audience, and for you.
Your stage. Your performance. You’re on!
Learn more in my book, “How to Act in Business” and in the popular post,