When we accept the reality of conflict, it is absolutely possible to learn techniques and ways of thinking that help us manage and even resolve conflict with co-workers, bosses, or employees. It can take practice, support, repetition and willingness to integrate and use these approaches well, but my clients, and I vouch for their effectiveness.
Here are a few effective strategies and mindsets to get you started:
1. Accept that conflict happens.
Conflicts will arise.You don’t need to blame yourself or another for a disagreement. This helps you keep an open mind to focus on solutions.
2. Manage your own emotions and responses.
Are they saying or doing something that sends you through the roof? Chances are the intensity of your reaction has to do with past experiences, not just the current problem. Becoming aware of what is getting triggered, and then separating the past from the present situation, will help you stay calm and present.
3. Make the first move.
Be willing to make the first move toward resolution, even if you think it is their fault and they should be the first to act. Do it anyway, and you will get the benefit.
4. Be willing to listen.
Each of us has our own way of framing and describing our experience. When we recognize that they have a different story about what happened, and become willing to listen to and understand their perspective, we can see more clearly how we got embroiled and how we might resolve the conflict.
5. Take responsibility for your part.
Did you make a mistake that affected someone else, lose your temper, or hurt someone’s feelings? This is human and inevitable, as well. If you can acknowledge your part, instead of reacting defensively, it can defuse conflict. This does not mean taking all the responsibility, but sincerely recognizing what you did wrong.
The rewards of mastering conflict skills
It takes a lot of practice and willingness to become aware of your assumptions about the other person, and to change your behaviors and ways of thinking about conflict. But making these changes will reap rich rewards—including peace of mind, more energy for your work and your life, and better interactions with those around you.
Get good enough at it, and you may be seen as the “go-to” person for helping others with their disagreements, which is an excellent leadership ability. Individual communication/conflict management coaching or classes can offer support, rehearsal, and guidance for strengthening these crucial skills.
Lorraine Segal (M.A. TESOL) was a tenured community college professor for many years before she found her true passion for helping people communicate better, resolve conflicts, let go of resentments, and forgive themselves and others.
Now, she is a communication and forgiveness specialist, a certified conflict management coach, a mediator, and a teacher. She has her own Sonoma County-based business, Conflict Remedy, offering individual and group coaching. She also teaches communication and forgiveness skills at Sonoma State University and St. Joseph’s Health Life Learning Center. For more information about Lorraine and her work, visit her website: www.ConflictRemedy.com.
Women do have an advantage in leadership style in today’s workplace, not simply because we are women, but more so because “heart” behavior, such as showing another person empathy or exercising better listening skill is becoming more socially acceptable as exemplary leadership behavior. Yet, do not men have a “heart” as well? Judy B. Rosener in the Harvard Business Review article “Ways Women Lead” postulates that characteristics generally considered to be “feminine” accounts for why women are succeeding in the 21st century workplace. “Macho male” leadership styles tend to lead to disengagement in today's world.
Let me be explicit here for a moment. While I know that our language implicates “feminine” as being only of the female or woman, I find it striking that the functional qualities of our right-brain parallel qualities that our language defines as feminine or female. Yet, human beings – men included – have a right-brain hemisphere. Perhaps we need to rethink the etymology of “feminine” and realize that with the clearer understanding of the roles of the brain hemispheres, our tendency to define behavior along gender lines may be antiquated. Our brain capabilities give us the ability to act as we need to in order to evolve and adapt to our environment. Could it be that we have artificially segmented and categorized behaviors unwittingly according to gender, when really it is culture that has determined what is “feminine” versus “masculine” behavior? That true biology as related to the physiology of our brain has much greater flexibility than this?
For the sake of males who are leaders in today’s world where empathy is valued, I would think that looking at behavior based upon our brain’s ability to respond should supersede outdated definitions that connect behaviors along gender lines. Empathy is a human quality that can be cultivated, not a limited-to-gender quality. Perhaps we can start to recognize that our left-brain and right-brain contain functional qualities that can help us on an individual basis as needed, instead of pegging behavior into gender role-playing. Enough said; something to think about.
The opportunity for leadership development is to allow each individual human being social access to their whole brain as needed, and as uniquely expressed by their unique personality. I believe it is fear and the need to conform that is at the root of so many people’s behaviors, with the pressure to conform to gender stereotypes being one of the most pervasive in our workplaces. One’s behavior may not even feel like authentic expression to him or her. I know; I’ve been there, and I am still growing in self-knowledge. Learning never ends. When I was a “command-control” leader, I felt like a fake, though I would not have admitted it. I was hiding my fear behind aggression, which is a common phenomenon. In light of this, I am drawn to the words of Shawn Anchor, a Harvard researcher, taken from his book, The Happiness Advantage:
Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it is the realization that we can.
Men who reject empathy and other “right-brain” related traits and continue to push women into gender conformity boxes are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Think of the word right-brain and the word “heart” as interchangeable. Men have access to “right-brained” styles, but they tend to under-develop them. Recall the concept of neuroplasticity. We need to reframe the connotation of the word “heart” because the right-brain is critical to innovation and creativity. Currently we stereotypically attribute the word “heart” only to females in its connotation. Again, do men also have a right-brain? The brain can adapt and, quite frankly, some men’s authentic personality is more prone toward these “heart-centered” traits, if the truth were told.
More often than not, the brain is performing as programmed. This prompts us as leaders to change the conversation from one that constantly compares women with men as if their biological sex is responsible. Continuing this old conversation only helps to sustain the “battle of the sexes,” which does not serve organizations or society and is now, in fact, limiting our progress as a whole. This kind of conversation also avoids a critical reality: when made self-aware, both women and men can change. This is good news to those who are willing to embrace change and evolve. This is not about “fixing” our self; it is about learning and growing to reach more of our true potential.
In fact, our inclination to cling to stereotypical role-playing models based on gender is at the heart of many of our leadership woes. For example, men limit their leadership ability by clinging to the belief that they must be stoic and repress their sense of empathy and connection to others. This type of behavior limits heart engagement and the ability to inspire others. There is new research demonstrating that men indeed show signs in early childhood development and into adulthood that they have equal ability to access empathy. Women who believe the “woman’s place” is to remain in the background are not very likely to assert themselves when needed, or to voice their authentic opinion without fear of rejection. Needless to say, the ability to navigate change in organizational culture is limited by this type of behavior on the part of the leader. Both of these socially perpetuated behaviors tend to be unconsciously conditioned in us as children and in social contexts, and there is now new, compelling research to support this claim. If we are all going to start performing at our best and living more passionate and fulfilling lives, we will need to move leadership beyond gender. What are your thoughts or experiences?
VALENCIA RAY, M.D. coaches and consults for organizations that want to help their leaders and teams perform at their very best. She also helps to restore vision by shining a light on the core issues that keep people from reaching their true potential. She is the author of, Leadership BEYOND Gender: Transcend Limiting Mindsets to Become a More Engaging Leader. To contact Valencia, visit her website at www.ValenciaRay.com.
In this 40-minute presentation, Mellon will discuss the difference between employee engagement and the “employee experience,” and will offer valuable insight into strengthening the employee-employer relationship.
Indeed, finding out what matters most to employees means going beyond the standard understanding of employee engagement. Here are six authors below who are also challenging what it means for employees to be engaged, and their thoughts on the issue:
Going beyond satisfaction.
“Engaged doesn’t mean satisfied… You can be satisfied at work, but that might mean you are satisfied only enough to do the bare minimum to get by. You might be satisfied but still taking calls from recruiters offering a 5% bump in pay. Satisfied isn’t enough.”
“I realized that the concept of respect perfectly explained how in the span of two months I had gone from an enthusiastic new hire to handing in my resignation… It was clear to me that respect was the lynchpin of employee engagement.”
“The organization may lavish you with perks, but those perks don’t hold the key to engagement. Feeding the pleasure center of the brain through extrinsic rewards doesn’t engage a person and build real, lasting fulfillment.”
“Employee engagement is characterized as a feeling of commitment, passion, and energy that translates into high levels of persistence with even the most difficult tasks, exceeding expectations and taking the initiative.”
“There was a time when every employee from the top to the bottom of an organization needed to be able to deliver the company’s “elevator blurb”… Today, your employees should also be able to enthusiastically describe your company’s values and culture during that same elevator ride.”
Software Advice recently published their research on four successful personalities in the workplace, “Psychological Profiles of the Dream Team.”
The profile of The Champ (and the Chip) provides an analysis of a Champ’s characteristics, motivations, strengths, and challenges.
The Champ is the ideal, high-performing salesperson. Champs are full of energy, positivity, and confidence. These attributes, along with a gift for conversation and a healthy ego, help make them good at what they do. Their confidence makes them good salespeople and, sometimes, good leaders.
What some refer to as a “chip on the shoulder” is a defining characteristic of the Champ. Whether the Chip comes from a lack of education, scarce economic resources or the Champ’s physical appearance, it often serves as a motivating factor, driving them towards success.
Strengths of the Champ
Some of the distinguishing traits that make Champs great include:
Optimism. Champs have an innate belief that they will succeed. This helps them push on positively with their sales calls, even in the face of rejection.
People skills. Champs have a natural ability to read people. They are great conversationalists and love human interaction.
Confidence. Champs are confident (but not cocky). They believe in themselves and their team.
Some of the unique challenges for Champs include:
Arrogance. That confidence that serves the Champ so well in sales and leadership can manifest as arrogance in an immature Champ who has let his ego grow unchecked.
Conflict. If that little Chip on the Champ’s shoulder becomes really big, it can turn to cockiness, resulting in conflicts with authority and management.
Turnover. Champs have a higher turnover rate than some other personality types, because they absolutely must be on a winning team. They will look elsewhere if their current team isn’t successful enough.
The Champ is a valuable team member who makes an excellent candidate for a career in sales, c-level executive roles or politics.
To learn about famous Champs and how to identify, hire and manage a Champ, read the in-depth profile on The New Talent Times.
Have you heard about Lean? Derived mainly from Toyota's Production System, Lean is a customer-focused production process and organizational philosophy that centers on the idea of "preserving value with less work." Eventhough Lean originated in the manufacturing industry, it has been applied to a multitude of industries as a powerful, process-improvement model.
To learn much more about how lean can improve your business, sign up for our free webinar on Thursday, October 3, Lean in Action: Streamline your processes and achieve results!. This complimentary session is presented by Pierre Brickey, Director of IT Quality at UCSF Medical Center, who has over twenty years of experience in the technology industry spanning the defense, telecom, and healthcare sectors.
The verdict around employee engagement is in, and there is widespread agreement that an engaged workforce leads to higher retention, higher productivity, better customer satisfaction and yes, better overall sales and profitability. Consequently, there are many ideas about how to best create, optimize, and leverage engagement. These hypotheses range from the simplicity of Paul Marciano’s “RESPECT model” to Sirota’s “3-Factor Theory,” the work of Cathleen Benko in “The Corporate Lattice,” which focuses on the customization of how we build careers, do the actual work, and communicate—and let’s not forget Gallup’s “12 Elements of Great Managing,” among many others. So the critical question is, when it comes to developing powerful employee engagement, which model is the real McCoy?
Unfortunately, there is no be-all and end-all model for optimizing engagement, and part of the reason for this is that individual employees, managers, executives, and organizations are not all alike. The strategies or levers that work with one person or place may simply not work with others. That said, if you look at a cross section of the research and working models, you might notice that some factors appear across all models—though the words used to describe them are all quite different.
I’ve made sense of the top engagement strategies across various models, and have provided them in the list below. The bottom line, however, is that true employee engagement interventions cannot be bought off the shelf and instead require time to assess and understand the specific and unique requirements for success within a specific sector, business, or individual. We need to move away from thinking of engagement strategies as simplistic tools that once implemented can be forgotten, and instead work to intervene in a more holistic fashion. Here are the 12 key values that will get your organization on the right track to creating a powerful, engaged culture:
Engaged leaders and managers. You cannot have engaged employees if your leaders are not engaged.
Trust in leadership. Do what you say you are going to do. Make critical decisions based on what’s best for all stakeholders (internal and external).
Timely, honest, and consistent two-way communications.
Personable relationships with immediate supervisors. Research shows that knowing your immediate supervisor on a more personal level improves engagement.
Respectful and collegial relationships with colleagues who are committed to doing great work.
Fairness (compensation, workload, during conflicts, etc.)
Pride in an organization’s mission, products, or accomplishments.
Opportunities for professional/career development (within and across functions) that are appropriately developmentally challenging.
Reward/recognition for progress or a job well done—however small. If you do not water the plants they won’t grow.
Ability to influence or have some level of self-determination.
Flexibility (when, where, and/or how the work gets done).
Some level of accommodation to address personal needs as they arise.
To say it more directly, employee engagement is about culture. Culture is about values, leadership capabilities, policies, practices, and behaviors. How does one create a strategic culture? That is a very complicated question that is far beyond the scope of this blog post. However, we can begin by working to assess and understand whether the values and behaviors of our current culture are in fact delivering the performance levels we seek. If not, engaging other stakeholders to explore how the factors listed above can be optimized in the context of your strategy and culture will help.
Remember, Rome was not built in a day and that you need to employ all of the tools in your war chest. Values, leadership capabilities, policies, procedures, communication tools, learning and development, and performance management (including incentives) are all but a few of the many levers that, together, can help you create a coherent and powerful intervention that will move your organization from being mediocre or good to being best in class.
Eugene Dilan, Psy.D., is the founder and president of Dilan Consulting, Inc., and has over 25 years of experience providing direct clinical care and organizational consulting from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan to healthcare facilities, the aerospace industry, IT, and many more. More information at www.dilanconsulting.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're also giving away several copies of David's new book! Simply participate in our short Leadership Survey for a chance to win.
The world is becoming an increasingly visual place—and your organization, business, or team needs a leader with the right visual IQ and know-how to communicate the "big picture." You don't have to be an artist, but becoming adept at utilizing visual practice techniques will be a huge boon to getting your team on board, sharing ideas, propelling projects forward, and so much more.
Read on for our interview with David Sibbet, who shares his expertise about the practice of visualization, why it's important to be a visual leader today, and how you can become one.
People-OnTheGo: For those who aren't familiar with visualization or visual practice, can you please describe the basic ideas of the field and its uses in a business or professional environment? What are some common applications?
David Sibbet: Visual practice is using the tools of design thinking and graphic design interactively—much like one uses spoken words. Where once these ways of working were focused on design itself, the methods are now used by leaders and facilitators to support meetings, teams, and organization change processes. Visual practice includes graphic recording of meetings, visual facilitation of meetings and teams, and use of many kinds of media on the part of leaders to collaboratively develop visions, processes, and plans.
Why do think it's important in this day and age for leaders and managers to be "visual leaders"?
Almost all media in today's world integrates text and graphics, and in increasing numbers of cases, video. Not only are younger people quite fluid with these new ways of communicating, but anyone who is trying to develop and align people on new plans needs visuals to make sense out of the complexity. People understand how different parts of an organization connect and work together with mental models, diagrams, maps, and other kinds of displays. A leader who is visually adept has a tremendous advantage in his or her personal communications. If a leader understands how to work with and guide visual professionals it is an even greater advantage.
How can visualization techniques improve meetings, project management, and overall team function?
Active visualization improves meetings in four proven ways. 1. Visual spark imagination. 2. Active recording and co-creation greatly increases engagement. 3. Visual are the key to big picturethinking and systems thinking in groups. 4. Visuals create a group memory that supports implementation and action. This latter aspect is critical to project management, which is largely about getting actions to align and integrate over time. While project management software is highly visual, it is designed for individuals. Graphic templates, decision rooms, roadmaps and other large format visuals are what work with groups. Teams that understand how to run visual meetings and work visually in virtual settings have a much greater chance of getting results than those that don't—especially if they helped co-create the key documents they steer by.
What are three ways that leaders, managers, and others can increase their visual IQ? For non-artists/drawers, what are some tips and tricks to overcoming a fear or hesitancy of using these visual strategies?
Visualization is effective with very simple shapes and figures that anyone can learn to draw. The first way a leader or manager can become more literate is to use visuals in his or her personal notetaking and diagramming to thinking through ideas. A second important way is to begin paying attention to organizing mental models and metaphors that are embedded in verbal communication, and allow people to see how things work together. Visual note taking helps with this, but working with a visual practitioner who graphically records what is happening in key meetings raises everyone's consciousness on a group basis about the metaphors being used. To the extent that much of strategic thinking is analogous thinking (i.e. comparing one thing with something else), visualizing these comparisons allows everyone to expand on, challenge, and ultimately understand how everyone thinks things should work. A third way is to encourage teams and groups to share their ideas with each other using graphic templates rather than slide decks. Slides help the individual develop ideas, but do not invite enough engagement and interaction in most cases to allow others to come to new insight. Large murals and sketches, sticky notes and timelines allow groups to develop ideas all together at a rate that everyone can absorb. Drawing and diagramming is a way of thinking in and of itself. Consciously picking different formats to work with is like going to a brain gym and working out all the different mental muscles available to human beings.
Please describe some of your favorite visualization techniques and technologies.
A. Telling a group story visually is a winner in any kind of situation where you need to onboard new people, reflect on the past for insights, reinforce and think about values and culture. B. I love using graphic templates in small groups to create rapid prototypes of different things—like the general environment, possible visions, new business models, potential action plans—and then comparing for common themes and insights. Groups are full of wisdom and ideas if allowed the means to express them. C. Another favorite is taking strategy, visions, new business models, and other outputs from key meetings and turning them into story map posters that any leader can use to share the conclusions more widely. Treated like software, these large murals can go through versions and people provide input and feedback. The process of vetting the images aligns everyone who is involved, and makes the visuals very meaningful when they are eventually used in less interactive media. The technologies that allow these things to happen easily consist of readily available big paper from plotter printers, all variety of sticky notes in many color, many choices of water color markers, digital cameras and simple photo processing software. The professional tools for print production, infographic design, and video are easier and easier to use. There really is no technical barrier these days to being highly visual, as young people are discovering in explosions of interest.
What do you see is the future of visualization? And why is it important to get on board with this practice now?
In general, rich media is on the rise in all channels of communication. In business, because visualization is essential to systems thinking and design, and both these qualities are in high demand, visualization is also in increasing demand. This is probably why "design thinking" is so trendy right now. The fact that new touch technologies are transforming our ways of relating to the computer is bringing hand-creation back into vogue, so visualization goes beyond thinking to co-creating. In the future it's possible we'll see keyboards as a very outdated way to interface with information. Since a premium in any organization is having people engaged, understanding what they are doing, and remembering plans as everyone works on different aspects of a project—and these benefits come regularly when groups work together in visual ways. I believe you will see visualization become as standard as writing and calculating.
Collaborating with others is crucial for getting meaningful goals accomplished, especially in today’s work environment where we are increasingly interdependent on each other. Trying to be collaborate all the time however, responding to incoming requests as they come in, being constantly available and responsive on e-mail and Instant Messaging and ad-hoc interactions, would leave us drained and would be at the detriment of our individual focused effort, not to mention that it would also reduce the effectiveness of our collaborative effort. So how can we solve this puzzle and fully leverage our collaborative effort while staying energized and maintaining our ability to focus, imagine, and create?
Have you ever considered creating a Collaboration Zone™? This means dedicating time for collaborative effort. During this time you are fully collaborative and open for interactions with others. These collaboration sessions can be structured or ad-hoc, and probably a combination of the two.
Make your Collaboration Zone™ shine
Here are three ways to make your Collaboration Zone™ shine and get the most out of team work:
First: Make it known to your team that you are in the Collaborative Zone™. Whether this means scheduling “office hours” or informally indicating your availability via your instant messaging status, your open door, or your bowl of M&M’s at your desk (or fruits and nuts, fresh or dried, for a healthier environment). Occasionally, you might even take a walk around the office and see who is available for some brainstorming or informal learning.
Second: Move from e-mail to more modern and effective collaboration technologies, so that collaboration and valuable knowledge don’t get buried in e-mail, and so that collaboration doesn’t stop when you are out of the Collaboration Zone™. Consider blogs, wikis, Microsoft SharePoint, Google Apps, and social tools such as Chatter from Salesforce.com and Jive from Jive Software, among others. The Collaboration Zone™ is a great time for live interactions, however, ideas and breakthroughs are likely to happen unexpectedly well after these interactions. Collaboration technologies enable everyone to continue to collaborate anytime and from anywhere.
Third: Rethink meetings and transform them into highly effective working sessions with clear purpose. Meetings can be a great platform for collaborating. There are four elements that need to be explored however to make meetings so. First is facilitation and participation skill development. Second is the use of both in-person and virtual meetings in conjunction of the collaboration technologies mentioned above to create the ultimate interactions irrelevant of time and space. Third is being strategic and focusing meetings on the issues that will create results. And fourth, going after the root causes of ineffective meetings and stopping our obsession with the symptoms.