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Stress, Saying No and Self-Assurance: A Conversation with Amanda King

Amanda King

Amanda King is a motivational speaker and leadership coach who has delivered her message at many conferences and events, including NECA 2019 Las Vegas. 

King says, “Leadership is about influence. How are you showing up in life? What level of influence do you have in and on the world in which you live, both personally and professionally?” She explores these questions in her classes, hoping to “provide tools for success in the areas of communication, time management, self-care and building a motivated workforce” and inspire attendees to develop their own set of blueprints to build a toolbox customized to their needs. 

Below, we talk with Amanda King about how to develop effective leadership skills and how the techniques and tools are applicable to contractors and their businesses.

Are there small things an EC can do on a worksite to keep their employees engaged? 

One of the main things an EC can do to keep their team engaged is to involve them in the project from the very beginning. Get their input, perspective and ideas on what it would take for the group to be successful. Bringing them into the planning stage earlier creates buy-in and ownership of their tasks. To keep employees engaged, be sure to clearly define what the goal is, explain their connection/contribution to the goal and provide them with the necessary tools to do their job. Something you can do that may seem insignificant is simply ask your employees open-ended questions about how they’re doing with a particular task or how you can help. 

What are larger, overarching changes in company culture ECs might consider to improve engagement? 

An immediate consideration to enhance engagement would be to develop improved communication across the organization, both internal and external. Many ECs experience a breakdown in communication within the office as well as between the office and the field. It’s important to highlight that the field leaders are liaisons and must be included in communication streams regarding company goals and changes that impact them. Deliberate and purposeful communication goes a long way. Oftentimes our employees are driving informal communication throughout the company because they have not received formal communication. Quality and frequency of communication will minimize the chatter and confusion.

What is the most important tool to have in your communication playbook?

When we think of the components that make up effective communication, we can look at verbal, nonverbal, visual, body language, tone and so much more. If I had to identify the single most important tool that is necessary to have in your communication playbook, it would have to be great listening skills. 

Having exceptional listening skills not only allows us to better serve, but it’s an integral part in developing and maintaining productive relationships. When we are truly listening, we are listening to everything that’s being said to us, even the story behind the story. Doing great business involves being present for our team, our customer and our community. If you’re going to really be present, you’ve got to really listen.

How can people reduce feelings of intimidation so communication can be more productive?

To reduce feelings of intimidation, slow down and engage your core. It’s absolutely necessary that you know your worth. Even when you’re dealing with people who might have more education than you, occupy a higher position or appear to have some sort of leverage over you, it’s important that you recognize your value. You’ve earned a seat at the table, so be confident. It is your knowledge, unique experience, background and gut that make up your solid foundation.

What are your tips for handling stress while trying to have crucial conversations in the business world?

What makes a conversation crucial, anyway? It’s when we have opposing viewpoints, the stakes are high and when our emotions want to take over. These stressful encounters cause a physiological reaction within us, known as “fight or flight.” To handle stressful situations and to shift from a reaction to a response, here are some tips:

  • The first tip is to be prepared for the conversation before it starts. Do your homework and have a secure knowledge base going into the discussion. 
  • Secondly, practice, practice, practice. Write down the important points you need to cover. When we are stressed and emotional, we often lose our train of thought, so have notes to keep you on track. 
  • The third tip is, remain calm. Don’t let your emotions take over the conversation. There’s no way you’ll regain control if you’re out of control. 
  • Tip number four is be humble. If you made an error in judgment, dropped the ball or failed to deliver on a promise, own it. Take responsibility. 
  • The final tip is build a bridge. When the discussion gets heated or takes a negative turn, remind them that this is a partnership. You’ll need to work together in order to reach your goals. It’s very important that you re-introduce those words like “us,” “we” and “our” to secure the connection. For example, you may say something like, “We both want to see this project wrap up successfully. How can we come together to create the best possible outcome for all?”
Feeling guilty about saying no is something many people struggle with. What is the key to setting these effective boundaries without feeling guilty?

Oftentimes we take on more than we can handle and are stretched far beyond our capacity to be successful in a given area. We must understand that saying no, can put us in the position to be more successful. By establishing those boundaries, we avoid burnout and minimize the fear of letting people down because we were unable to deliver. Knowing when to say no, and actually saying no, can prevent stressful situations from occurring.

How can these boundaries help employees be more engaged and productive?

Boundaries are guidelines, rules and limits designed to protect and honor areas in our lives that are important to us. Here are four key areas that healthy boundaries help us protect: our time, our emotions, our energy and our values. We want to encourage employees to establish boundaries for themselves and teach them to respect the boundaries of others. No one wants to feel as though they don’t have a say in maintaining order or prioritizing their tasks. When there are no boundaries, expectations become unrealistic and requests become demands. 

How can employers encourage employees to find a good work-life balance? Are there things they can do at work? 

This is such a great question regarding work-life balance. I’d almost question whether or not there is such a thing. Each and every one of us experience moments or seasons where we feel as though we’re not giving enough or getting enough in different areas in our lives. It would be so much easier if there was an actual formula for true “work-life balance,” but there isn’t. 

I’d like to propose the notion of creating more work-life integration. Employers adapting and promoting this concept can set the tone for happier employees with greater job satisfaction. The key is getting to know your team and discovering what’s important to them.

One way to do that is by conducting a survey, to find out what are some things they do outside of work that they would like to integrate in the workplace. From those results, create opportunities for more work-life integration. For example, if the survey results indicate that a number of your employees are interested in physical fitness, maybe consider creating a space for a gym. Employees could exercise before work, after work or during their lunch hour. You could also consider hiring a trainer or yoga instructor to come in once a week. These types of voluntary initiatives are great for teambuilding and send a message to the employees that they matter.

King can be reached on her website or at amanda@wiredleadership.net.

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