Tag Archives: conflict resolution

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.

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The Power of Presence: 5 Critical Skills for Maximum Personal Effectiveness


The workplace is a web of communications between individuals and teams.

When things don’t go well, we tend to blame the other person or group.

If you’re ever tried to change anyone, you probably realize how pointless that is.

Our highest salvation and sense of peace is to work on ourselves, rise above the commotion and lead the way from a place of groundedness and authenticity.

Maintaining presence of mind in the midst of chaos is the way to accomplish that.

So, how does one maintain that presence when the world seems to be caving in on you? It is possible but takes concerted effort.

Here are the 5 skills that are critical for maximizing your effectiveness:

1. The ability to discover the things you do that other people notice but that you don’t know you do
We all have habits, patterns of behavior that seem to run themselves. We also all have blind spots. Things we do but are unaware of. Rarely do we seek them out and even less frequently, do we do anything about them

If you’re striving for maximum effectiveness in the workplace, you MUST know the impact you’re having on people. It takes courage to uncover them, but shining a light on the areas of your blindness will help you become more likeable, respected and influential.

2. The ability to calm yourself when your reptilian brain has just thrust you into Fight or Flight
When tensions mount, our instinct is to protect ourselves or annihilate the threat. Before you commit that career limiting move, take a moment to get ‘present’. That means calming yourself briefly before you lash out or duck and cover. Put your attention on your your physical body. Take a few deep breaths. Notice the pressure of your butt on the chair or your feet on the floor. Taking these few precious seconds will give you a chance to collect your more grounded thoughts and respond from a more centered place.

3. The ability to notice and objectively address the process you or a group are enmeshed in
Communication is a process which includes not just the words that are said but the underlying subtext of the conversation as well as what’s NOT being said. In a group or family, people fall into ‘roles’ they play in that community. When those roles can be brought to light in a way that is nonjudgmental the grip of the role is loosened.

For example, when a group is led by a powerful and directive boss, they may be reluctant to speak up if they have a different opinion than the one that is not being proferred. This is what triggers water-cooler conversations).

As the boss, it’s critical that you get the feedback you need in order to accomplish your goals. Notice that your staff is hesitant to be forthright with you. tell them you need their input AND THEN LISTEN AND TAKE IT INTO ACCOUNT.

As the staff member, it’s critical that you voice your perspective, not in a combative way but as another point of information that is valuable and key to moving forward on the right path.

4. The ability to quiet our inner critic
To be human is to have a voice that tries to protect us from harm. Unfortunately, it usually stops us from taking ‘risks’ that would actually be helpful to our personal growth. Notice what your inner critic or judge usually says to you. Then when it pipes up (in your head) in various situations, notice it and say ‘Thank you for pointing that out’.

Then imagine that there is a miracle awaiting you on the other side of whatever fear it raised and take some action toward bringing that miracle into fruition.

5. The ability to cultivate the Sage within you
There is another voice within us that knows what’s possible on a grander scale than what our human persona normally perceives. It is the voice of intution, Spirit, knowingness, God (or whicheve deity enlightens your world).

It whispers to us to take action. It’s suggestions sometimes scare us and that’s almost always a signal that growth or transformation is right around the corner if we go there.

Cultivating the Sage means creating quiet time and space for it to speak to us during periods of restfulness,

meditation or prayer. It means listening to the voice and honoring it by taking action on its suggestions. It’s a discipline and practice, being quite and taking acion. Ant it is a practice, that if done consistenly, will pay off in really big ways.

So, be aware then be courageous. Release the judge that condemns yourself and others. Invite the Sage to take a larger role in your life and the power of this new presence will dramatically improve your personal effectiveness.

Let me know how it works out for you!

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Conflict Resolution Tips: How to Fix What You’re Fighting About

People try to avoid conflict but conflict is inevitable. The key is learning how to effectively DEAL with conflict that occurs in life.

Generally when conflict exists, people become polarized in their positions. The more the conflict grows, the more attached they become to ‘winning’.  They fight and fight over which way the situation will go.

Tempers flare. Feelings get hurt. Resentments build. It becomes a power struggle with little hope for peaceful resolution.

It’s ‘my way or the highway!’

The way around the stalemate is to focus on interests rather than solutions.

Here are three easy tips to get underneath the situation and increase the chances of making true progress while keeping the relationships between the parties in decent condition.

1. Ask your adversary why they prefer the solution they proposed

2. Find out what is important to them about that solution they offered

3. Ask him or her what they are afraid might happen if their proposed solution isn’t implemented

As Stephen Covey so eloquently stated in The 7 Habits of Highly

Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Stephen Covey at the FMI Show, Palestrante on ...
Image via Wikipedia

Asking these questions will demonstrate to the other person that you are interested in understanding them and their situation.

Hearing the answers might actually influence your ‘position’. Let it. That puts you a step closer to finding a solution that works for both of you.

Once you’ve unearthed the rationale behind their position, share the answers to the questions you posed. Do so in a collaborative manner: not to make them change their mind, but to help them gain some insight into your situation and thinking.

Once you’ve gotten the underlying issues on the table, set aside both sets of solutions.

Brainstorm for other, more creative options that address the underlying needs you both expressed.

When you ‘attack’ problems from addressing underlying needs and interests, the solutions you devise will be more satisfying and effective.

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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.

What’s This Conflict REALLY About?

If you’ve ever wondered why your brilliant solutions to address a problem weren’t  met with happiness and acceptance, it’s probably because you didn’t understand the real issue and were trying to fix the wrong thing.

Conflict situations are complex.  They aren’t always about what they seem to be about. People are trying to satisfy different needs and unless you understand what their needs are, your solutions will be mis-matched and ineffective.  William Wilmot and Joyce Hocker describe this dynamic well in their CRIP model.

1. Content – What do we want?
The most apparent need or goal in a conflict is the thing that is most apparent.  It is the subject of the conflict, the ‘what’ we’re fighting about.  People either want different things (what to watch on TV) or are competing for the same thing (two managers needing the 1 ‘headcount’ or position that has been budgeted for).

2. Relational – Who are we to each other?
Relational needs in a conflict situation define what the parties need from each other, either how you want to be treated (e.g. respect, appreciation, cooperation etc.) or how interdependent we should/will be (‘Are you staying or leaving?” or ‘This is none of your business’.)

3.  Identity – Who Am I in this interaction?
Identity goals arise when a person is striving to maintain or protect his or her self-identity.  Sometimes as conflicts escalate, peoples’ need to save face or be right and win ‘just because’ become more important. When self-esteem is at stake, it’s hard to be flexible.

4. Process – What communication process will be used to solve this problem?
Will the majority rule or consensus?  Will the boss/father/wife decide?  Will we take a secret vote?  People have varying levels of comfort with different levels of sharing of the decision-making process.  Men and women may be more or less inclined to use participatory decision-making.  Some cultures are more comfortable with authority-driven decisions than others.

In any conflict, some or all of these needs exist and it’s important to recognize their existence and relative priority in the situation.  You could be ostensibly arguing over the content of an issue, but the history of the relationship is clouding your ability to reach a real resolution.

What does this model illuminate for you?