Tag Archives: Conflict management

Terminating Turf Wars in 9 Simple Steps

Conflict is inevitable.

85% of employees say they experience conflict on the job. Even though there is no line item for it on your income statement, conflict is expensive. Managers say they spend 40 – 60% of their time dealing with conflict of some sort!

Fortunately, the negative impact of conflict can be minimized with preventative training and post-incident interventions.

This article will focus on the 9-step Terminating Turf Wars™ process which must happen in order to resolve a major conflict that has erupted.

1. Set your desired outcome
The desired outcome will vary depending on the situation and the players.  It may be a specific decision that all partied agree to support.

It may be the ‘fact’ that the groups agree to any decision (e.g. a now unknown, negotiated decision) and move forward. It may be new behaviors that must be adopted by the people involved. Without such clarity as a starting point, subsequent conversations could go off in counter-productive directions.

2. Communicate the importance of reaching a resolution
This is where the executive in charge must take a stand and tell the warring parties that they must end the war and come up with a solution. Sometimes executives stay out of the fracas and ‘allow’ the parties to duke it out themselves. This is a dangerous practice however as it could likely take much longer to resolve, further wasting precious resources (energy and time) that could be put to more productive use.

3. Identify key players
In any war, there are a handful of people who are at the core of the issue. They are likely the ones who are keeping the conflict in place and are also the ones who will likely be directly involved in the resolution of the issue. Their input, therefore, is critical. Private conversations with each of them will shed light on the history, impact, import and obstacles to solving the problem.

4. Survey and interview
Other parties may have a less involved role but their input is critical none the less. They may be able to provide some much-needed objectivity that the key waring parties can’t see.  Their perspective of the far-ranging impact of the key issues and how they are hampering day-to-day operations, may bring some additional motivation to get the issue resolved. When the key stakeholders to the conflict see how their behavior is impacting others, they may soften their positions. Anonymous surveys are great ways to get issues on the table in a more objective manner.

5. Assess data
Once the interviews and surveys are complete, they need to be compiled and analyzed by a third party, preferably one who is far outside the reach of the issues. Objectivity in this assessment process is critical, lest the parties will dismiss the data as tainted.

6. Articulate the issues
Data will point out major beliefs, trends and impacts of the issues. Sharing the results of the interviews and surveys with the group provides a great starting point for conversations about the key issues, how people feel about them and why it’s critical for the issues to get solved NOW!

7. Design an intervention
Once the data is available, a skilled facilitator will be able to design the appropriate kinds of conversations that will help the people or groups talk with each other in a constructive manner. Depending on the source of the conflict, the focus of the intervention may be on understanding personality styles, establishing communication or decision-making procedures or revamping broken processes.

8. Facilitate conversations
Designing the topics of conversations is one thing. Actually facilitating them is quite another. When tempers have flared and accusations been made, it’s often difficult for the people embroiled in the conflict to talk with each other civilly.

In one difficult situation I helped resolve, the content of the first meeting was all about creating safety for people to air their concerns. Conversations in that meeting were frequently ‘paused’ to analyze the tone and tenor of the dialog and note how that tone facilitated or impeded forward progress.

At some point, if managed well, the group will come up with a solution they can live with. It may take time. It may take removing some players, shifting roles, revising strategies, creating new procedures, learning and practicing new behaviors or adopting new rules for future decision-making. It is at this point that the executive direction really kicks in. People are often loathe to make changes in their processes or communication styles. When the top boss however says, ‘this shall be’, they will be more likely to comply.

9. Monitor and fortify the truce
Truces are delicate things. They may represent the best thinking of the entire group. They may have opened new possibilities for the company. However, people are creatures of habit and could default to their old behaviors. Periodic meetings to assess progress and work through challenges will help turn the truce into a new world order.

These 9 steps are simple. Implementing them can be tricky but will expert guidance, sufficient motivation, personal commitment and collaboration, sweeping changes can be made.

Enhanced by Zemanta

How to Sharpen Your Instinct for Empathy

It’s helpful to trace and understand the origin of the two words.   For a more elaborate explanation, read this article, empathy vs sympathy.

I’ll summarize here.

Empathy was brought into the English language from the German word Both are acts of feeling.  With sympathy, you feel FOR the person.  You may or may not fully understand their predicament, situation, problem or feelings.

With sympathy, you feel sorry for the person.  With empathy, you truly understand the sorrow, from their perspective and the world they endure as a result.

Empathy takes more work. It requires more imagination in that in order to empathize with a person, you must attempt to understand their thoughts: walk in their moccasins, so to speak. Empathy helps you identify with and feel closer to the other person.

While sympathy is also a tender feeling, it keeps you at a distance and sometimes even a bit above the person. Your perspective reflects that the person is somehow not only less fortunate than you but also ‘less than’ you, at least at the moment. The ‘less than’ may an assessment of their (perhaps temporary) competence or power level.

The most frequent expression of sympathy is felt when you hear that a person you know has lost someone close to them to death.  Feeling sympathy is almost an immediate reaction on our part.  Empathy would step in if you were very close to the survivor and understood, to a strong degree what the impact of that loss actually meant to them.  it might also kick in if you’ve lost someone
yourself and can actually experience that feeling of grief.

So, how does one bring empathy into existence when there is no tragedy to demand its emergence?

Here are three ways to sharpen your instinct for empathy.

1. Practice recognizing the signs that you’re about to distance yourself and dismiss the other person.
Empathy is an exercise in self-awareness and flexibility.  When you sense an arising experience of some negative emotion (disgust, sadness, anger, resentment), know that the first signal is your OWN emotion.  Once you know it’s YOUR reaction you’re trying to tame (rather than the other person’s), you’ll have more success in flexing and responding.

2. Imagine the other person’s life and try to feel what they are currently feeling.
Take into consideration not only their current life, but years past that have formed their perspective and outlook on life.  Be curious about how they have come to adopt their opinions. Ask open-ended questions that will help shine a light on their internal thoughts and help you understand them.

3. Legitimize their feelings
Even if you struggle to understand the feelings or opinions yourself, acknowledge that the perspective is a legitimate one for the person holding it. When you tell them you could see how they came to believe what they believe, it will be easier to have a meaningful dialog.  The natural tendency is to disagree with them; to dismiss them as a nut-case.  It’s hard to solve problems when you each think your ‘adversary’ is a lunatic.  Someone has to have some collaborative energy.  It might as well be you.

As Michael Jackson said, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways.” If you’re always looking for someone else to change their ways, they won’t. If you keep denying their opinion, they’ll hold on to it that much stronger.  Meet them where they are.  That’s how you find common ground.

From Overwhelmed to Overjoyed in 5 Simple Steps

A lot of people these days are trying to do more with less which leaves them feeling a bit anxious and stressed. It’s critical that we invest time in making sure we’re living our best life and that often requires that we take a more proactive approach in directing it.

When we don’t do that, we work on other people’s priorities and end up feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Women in particular feel the stresses of juggling family, career and self. Work life balance is completely missing and it seems there is no way out.

One of my fundamental beliefs however, is that “We all have more options than we generally see and more control than we tend to take.”

One way to take that control is in implementing the RENEW My Life System: From Overwhelmed to Overjoyed in 5 Simple Steps.  Here are those 5 simple steps.

1. R=Reveal & release the obstacles on your path
This step is critical in figuring out what is really bothering you and weighing you down. You are probably clearly aware of the more obvious ones, there I’ll bet there are many more that have become mild irritations that you don’t even notice anymore. Do an assessment and Clean Sweep of the domains of your life (relationships, work/career, physical environment, etc.) and get really clear about exactly what needs to be dealt with.

2. E=Elect and claim the future you desire and deserve and make it happen
When you are caught up in the daily grind and treadmill of life, your dreams end up languishing on some mental bookshelf collecting dust and growing weak or dying altogether.  You must reclaim those dreams and believe that they are truly yours.

Your limiting  beliefs get in the way, so it’s important that you do what it takes to stay positive, focused and committed to reaching your goals and knowing that you do deserve the life you envision.

3. N=Nurture your mind and soul with empowering beliefs and behaviors
You have heard on airplanes how important it is to put on your oxygen mask first when traveling with children. The same is true for you in life on the ground.  Put on your mask first.  Do the things that bring you joy and courage. Stop wishing and complaining. Take action!

4. E=Eject the things that no longer serve you
As you become more focused on your own life goals and what’s really important to you, you will become less tolerant of the situations and people around you that are inconsistent with your renewed vision for your life.  Find the courage and make choices that will bring your desired life closer to reality.  Make requests of others.

Eliminate distractions and tolerations.

5. W=Win at the game of life
Set yourself up for success. Focus on what’s really important. Start delegating. Keep growing. Invest in activities and programs that will help you develop more power, confidence and mental muscle.

When you use these 5 RENEW steps, you’ll find more work-life balance and joy.  The overwhelm will diminish and you’ll be happier with your life, family and circumstances.

How to Create More Energy, Happiness & Prosperity

One of the big mistakes some people make is waiting for energy, happiness and prosperity to descend upon them.  Someday, things will be better, they muse.

Well, I’m here to let you know that you control how soon ‘someday’ arrives.

dredgeI was out on my morning walk the other day and spotted this dredging machine cleaning out a water canal of one of the local utilities. Over time, dust, leaves and trash accumulate in the canals and slow the flow of water. These ‘routers’ remove the debris so the water flows more easily.

This cleaning process made me wonder how often we rid ourselves of our debris in life.

If you want to create more ‘flow’ in your life, here are seven simple things you can do.

1. Set and communicate boundaries
We get resentful when people’s behavior doesn’t meet our expectations. Yet, we’re often guilty of not communicating those expectations. (They should just know, we righteously tell ourselves.) You have to let people know what makes you happy or not and what you need from them.

2. Un-volunteer from activities that have become a burden
If you’re involved in activities or responsibilities that leave you feeling unhappy or anxious, graciously remove yourself.  Don’t just run away.  Turn things over in a responsible manner.  Identify ‘next steps’, find someone to replace you, train them and step away.

3. Renegotiate relationships
Years ago, I realized that one of my best friends couldn’t keep her mouth shut.  I would share things with her as good friends do, but then learn that she had shared them with someone else.  I started specifying that this item is confidential, but even those disclosures got repeated.  I finally decided to only tell her things I wanted everyone to know. I never felt violated or disappointed in her again!

4.  Donate or sell your stuff
Our neighborhood organized a community garage sale this past weekend.  We didn’t participate but it did remind me to deliver that bag of items I had set aside for Goodwill or Salvation Army.  If you have things lying around ‘just in case’, get rid of them.  eBay is another good option that allows you to make a little money from your purge.

Stuff accumulates in our homes.  It becomes invisible to us but still drains the flow of ‘chi’, that life force energy that surrounds us and that blockage eventually drains our spirit.

5. List (and finish) your incomplete projects or items
Our soul gets burdened by the accumulation of ‘someday I’ll finish xyz‘ thoughts. Whether you’re afraid to tackle it or it’s just not high on your to-do list, it’s existence is weighing you down.

Empty your head of all of your ideas.  Write them down on paper.  Attach completion dates to them, even if the date is “Never”. Then get to work.  If you start with the scariest, you’ll feel amazing once it’s done.  If you start with something easy, you’ll feel successful too.  Just start somewhere and keep going.

6. Delegate
I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  If your to-do list is too long, give some of the items away.  Even though you might do it best, it may not be best for you to do.  Give it to someone who can get it done well enough. It will get done faster and you’ll be relieved of one more burden.

7.  Deliver undelivered communications
One of the biggest thieves of our souls is stuffing important communications and tolerating unpleasant situations.  They consume our mind and energy.  They rob us of important progress we could make in our lives. Find a gentle way to broach the touchy subject,  get it off your chest and come to some sort of resolution with the other person.

Do these seven simple steps and you’ll discover energy, confidence and opportunities you didn’t know you had!

Top 10 Tips for Surviving Anything

I’ve learned a lot of lessons having survived 10 years in business plus 30 years in Corporate America. I’m sure you have too. Here are some of the top tips that come to mind as I reflect back on my happy and not-so-happy days.

10. Admit your mistakes

This can be hard to do, especially if you’re the boss. However, people will respect you more when you show the courage to own up to your humanity. You will endear yourself to them in ways you can’t if you present yourself as infallible.

9. Make people feel important

I know there are a lot of egos out there and it’s tempting to not ‘fan the (already- inflated ego) flame’. However, it really doesn’t cost you much to be appreciative. People will love you all the more when you place them on what feels like a pedestal to them. I’m not saying to undervalue yourself nor ignore your own needs. Just put a little love in your heart and share it.

8. Take control of your own career

Time was, when you took a job, your future seemed to be controlled by the bosses. The employment ‘deal’ changed a few years ago. Career ladders aren’t what they used to be. Nothing is a given. Set your sights on where you want to be, experience and learn what you need to in order to best prepare yourself. Stretch yourself. Try new things.

Don’t blame ‘the system’ for your lack of progress. Take aim and steadily move forward (whether sideways or out). My husband, Karl has sometimes said ‘That person doesn’t have 20 years of experience. (S)he’s had 1 year of experience 20 times.’ Don’t be one of those people.

7. Ask for help

People are often afraid to admit they need help because they think it will make them appear weak. If you whine all of the time, that definitely won’t reflect on you well. But when working on something critical, in an emergency or when you just don’t know what to do, asking for advice or help could save your company or business a lot of money. The key is to ask the right person/people and to ask in a way that they see the benefit to them for honoring your request. Don’t make it about you. Make it about them and the business.

6. Have fun

If you’re not having fun, you’re in the wrong job or business. I realized decades ago that I spent too much time working not to enjoy it. So I’ve left a couple of ‘good’ jobs that I hated and let my personality out at work in the jobs I stayed in. (Encourage your team/staff to do the same.)

5. Stand up for what you believe in

Your perspective is important. What makes teams produce incredible results is harvesting the wisdom of everyone in the group. If you tend to be quiet, speak up more. Your voice needs to be heard. If you’re one of the ‘loud mouths’ your perspective is still important. Just don’t cry ‘wolf’ too much or you’ll lose your credibility.

4. Ask your clients / bosses / employees what they need, then give it to them

I fundamentally believe that most people are doing the best they can with what they have. If you want to be successful, the people around you have to be succeeding too. It’s hard to be a rock star with no fans or roadies. When you invest in others, you’ll gain dividends and rewards you were never expecting.

3. Keep your eyes on the prize

This presumes that you have a ‘prize’ – the reason you’re working or in business in the first place. When you’re clear about your purpose in being there, you’ll make better choices, set stronger boundaries about what you’ll tolerate or not and be less affected by the little things that don’t go the way you’d like them to.

2. Remember, this too shall pass

Whether it’s a bad economy, an intolerable boss or a project from Hades, it won’t last forever. Someone once said to me “Never take or leave a job because of the boss. They won’t be there forever”. (That may be less comforting in the public domain where I hear people can stay in jobs a really long time.) In any event, take heed of the earlier tips, do your best and remember you’re in charge of your life.

And the #1 tip for surviving anything…

1. To thine own self be true

I harp on this a lot. You have a purpose. You’re on the planet for a particular reason. You may not be entirely clear about your purpose just yet. If that’s the case, stay true to your values. They will point you in the right direction. (I presume you know what’s important to you. If not, take some time to figure that out.) Don’t engage in behaviors that compromise your integrity.

If something feels inherently wrong, don’t stand by and suffer in silence. Express yourself or extract yourself.

Your life is too important to waste your talents, time or passion.