08/20/2014 12:07 pm ET Updated Oct 20, 2014

Keep CALM and Manage On

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Recently after a difficult customer interaction a co-worker asked me, "How do you remain so calm?" I was hard pressed to answer that question. But when I thought about it, my response was twofold. Philosophically, I believe in not getting worked up over things out of my control. The second reason -- and why I'm writing about this -- is improv. Improv is the practice of going with the flow. It's a practice I participate in regularly, which also bleeds into my daily life. However, since being asked, I have not been able to stop thinking about what calm means. I came up with an acronym that describes the practices I utilize to create a calm working environment.

C - Communication
A - Appreciation
L - Laughter
M - Measurement

Communication -- the key to managing a successful team and yourself.

  • Be clear with what you want, be specific and ask for clarification. Don't make people guess.
  • Seek to understand and then to be understood.
  • Ask your employees to confirm their understanding.
  • Give and receive feedback (and mean it.)
  • Do not say one thing and mean another that only leads to disappointment.
  • Be open to new ideas, do not say 'no' right away, listen and hear the person out.
  • Seek toward finding solutions together.

Appreciation -- employees like recognition for doing a good job.

  • It doesn't cost anything to say thank you.
  • Write a hand-written note on their anniversary.
  • Send an email to your boss when an employee receives a positive comment from a client.
  • Talk up your employees to other people.
  • Develop your employees to move on to greater responsibility.
  • Shine a spotlight on a job well done
  • Recognize individual differences - do they like public or private recognition, what are their favorite stores, where do they like to spend time outside of work - knowing this can make your appreciate more personalized.

Laughter -- it's important to diffuse stress with a dose of laughter and focus on the positive.

  • Share a laugh with your employees.
  • Do not force a laugh or try and be standup comic (leave that to the professionals).
  • Be careful to make any only jokes/comments/videos that are "safe for work."
  • Do not make jokes/comments at another employee's expense.
  • Help employees see the positive in a stressful situation.
  • Laughter is a known stress reliever and whether you are laughing at work or outside of work - try and get a good dose each week.
  • Send a silly graphic from the Internet to cheer up a stressed out employee.
Measurement -- you get what you measure.
  • Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound) for yourself and your team.
  • Have a trusted employee working directly in the job provide feedback on the goals for their role.
  • Track progress as you go and reward progress as you go.
  • Employees cannot be held accountable to goals they were not aware of, be clear with what you are expecting in order to avoid surprises.
  • Course correct as you go. No one wants to wait until the end of the measurement period to find out they didn't measure up.
  • Have your employees set development goals for themselves.
  • Be flexible, if things in your business change, be open to modifying the goals accordingly.

The CALM technique can be implemented immediately and can help you and your team conquer the stressful world we live in, and at no cost. I wish you much success and drop me a note to let me know how this worked for you!