Category Archives: Conflict management

3 Questions You MUST Ask to Keep Your Job or Clients and Make More Money

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of responding to all of the urgent requests you get.  If that’s all you do, you could be putting your livelihood at risk.

Early in my career, I worked at the worldwide headquarters for Kraft Foods as the Corporate Recruiter.  The VP of HR gave everyone in the department a token for our desks to remind us how to stay focused.

It displayed 3 simple questions…

1. What’s my job?
You must be clear about what’s expected of you.  How are you supposed to spend your time and energy?  What are you supposed to do?

People (bosses, employees, clients and vendors) make assumptions about what’s supposed to be done.  They often assume that the other person has the same understanding that they do.  This is not always the case.  It’s critical that you confirm your understanding of your job with your boss or clients.

Be clear. Write down your understanding. Have the review your document and then discuss it.

2. What counts?
Once you have the clarity, the next step is setting priorities. I remember hearing a story about a new senior manager at Apple asking her Director boss if her job was to get things done or make people happy.  She knew technically what she was supposed to do – oversee the implementation of all software development projects.  She just needed clarity about HOW to go about making that happen.

If trade-offs have to happen, make sure you’re clear about what criteria will be used to make those trade-offs.

3. How am I doing?
This is a great question to ask yourself AND the people you’re delivering your service to.  You know if your slacking or not.

You may not know though how well your boss or client think you’re doing.

Better to check in periodically than risk being blinded-sided by the sudden disclosure you’re not measuring up.  People are sometimes reluctant to offer negative feedback. So they may just put up with being unhappy until they can’t stand it anymore.  Then they fire you when you don’t measure up to their (uncommunicated) standards.

Don’t be caught by surprise.  Assess your performance constantly and get feedback from people important to your success to make sure you stay on track.

When to Train, Coach, Manage or Fire an Employee

I spent over two decades of my corporate career in various roles in Human  Resources and as a result, had TONS of conversations with managers about how to deal with their employees or teams when their performance wasn’t ‘up to snuff’.  Quite often, their initial ‘remedy’ was to suggest training, but training isn’t always the answer for performance issues.


ASUDowntownTraining (when done well) imparts specific skills and/or knowledge. It’s most useful when targeted and narrowly focused on a particular topic and is attended by people who are willing to learn but not able to do the specific task.

Training’s effectiveness is enhanced greatly when employees can immediately implement the new skills or knowledge back on the job. So it’s best when a group of people need to improve on the same areas. Training an entire department when only one or two people need it is a waste of company resources.

One reason training often ‘fails’ is because managers think one or two days of concentrated training will turn their errant person into a super star and unfortunately, that rarely happens. The value or ROI (return on investment) of training therefore, is improved when it is supplemented by some sort of follow up activities that reinforce the new abilities and behaviors over time.

[I have experienced  some powerful 2- to 3-day personal development programs that generate dramatic mental beliefs and emotional perspective shifts in people that result in new behaviors but those are unfortunately not the types of programs generally offered in the workplace.]


LLH_on_PhoneCroppedOne of the major values that coaching brings is its ability to produce sustained growth and change over time. People are creatures of habit and habits don’t alter significantly after 1 day of training. The effectiveness of coaching requires that a person be willing and able to move forward productively.

Sometimes people are thrust into coaching because they are good as most aspects of their job but demonstrate some counterproductive behavior that is impeding their performance.  If those people aren’t willing – deep in their hearts – to change, coaching won’t produce lasting change.  (A good coach will recognize when someone is going through the motions and either challenge the person to ‘step up’ or will terminate the coaching relationship if they don’t.]

In a collaborative, productive coaching relationship, the coachee develops critical thinking skills by being guided to tap into his/her own internal resources to reach decisions.  Rather than becoming reliant on the coach, the coach becomes a springboard for the ‘clients’ own self-development.

Coaching can really accelerate the career momentum of an already effective person and make them even better.  With coaching, people can improve their leadership presence, strategic thinking and credibility in the workplace.


SMARTGoalSettingGraphicClose management is useful when a person is able but perhaps not so willing to perform.    Management involves keeping someone on a ‘short leash’ by instituting short-term goals, objectives and consequences or outcomes.  ‘Hit this quota’ or ‘produce this result by this date’ are examples of management tactics.

Tight management may include frequent ‘check ins’ to make sure the right behaviors that should produce the result are being enacted on a consistent basis.

Managing a person who is not able to perform a particular task won’t be enough to get the job done. In fact, piling on the additional pressure of short term goals will likely raise their anxiety and reduce performance.   This person needs training, coaching or some other sort of ability development process.


DonaldTrumpYou'reFiredWhen a person is not willing or not able (after the above development efforts have been tried), it might be time to ‘fire’ them.

As an HR executive, I would occasionally have managers drop in my office saying “I need to fire “So-And-So”.  I would always ask ‘why’ and inevitably they would say, “They aren’t getting the job done.”

When I would then ask, “What did they say when you spoke to them about this?” and often heard, “I haven’t talked to them. They should just know better!”

Well, employees can’t read your mind. You must tell them clearly what your expectations are.  You should then give them time to correct the situation.

Even in an employment-at-will state, it’s dangerous to fire someone ‘just because’ because juries generally tend to side with employees and the company (and maybe even the manager) could be left with an expensive lawsuit or complaint filed against them.

If you do get to the point when termination is the answer, always do it with dignity.  The employee may have just been in the wrong job for his or her skill set.Perhaps YOU made the wrong hiring decision.Perhaps business has caused a change in the job requirements.

I remember working with one astute manager who said she never had to ‘fire’ a person but had several under-performing employees who had been ‘counseled out’.

She was so caring and sincere and skilled in counseling conversations, the employees always left of their own volition, happily looking for a job where they could shine and be happy.  They rarely knew she was ‘trying to get rid of them’ and always felt empowered by the separation.

So, next time you’re confronted with an under-performing person or team, use the above distinctions to pinpoint the most effective remedy and you’ll get a higher return on your investment.

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!

How Inbred Is Your ‘Tribe’?

McCainYou’ve probably heard the phrase, “People do business with people they know, like and trust”.  It makes sense.  When we’re comfortable with people, we’re more willing to hang around them and more willing to fork over money to them believing they ‘get’ us and can help us.

The challenge arises when we get and stay too comfortable, surrounding ourselves with people who are just like us.  It makes life easier perhaps, but also limits our learning.  We get caught up in “Group Think” and we believe the entire world feels what we feel and believes what we believe.

From a professional standpoint, it’s important to hang out with your industry kindred.  You’ll learn more about your craft, be able to tap into the wisdom and experiences of people who’ve walked the trail ahead of you.

But again, if your professional kindred are ALL you hang out with, your perspective will likely narrow.  Your problem-solving abilities could become limited by what’s already been tried before.

What might you learn if you spent time with people from different industries, professions or persuasions?  What new skills might you add to enhance your career?  What new marketing tactics might you uncover for your business? What new and valuable clients or connections might you make?

It’s important that we step outside of our comfort circles and meet and learn from people in new arenas who bring fresh perspectives to our world views.

I don’t know the political affiliations of  many of my friends and very few of my clients.  I tend to avoid having political conversations in social or professional settings.

While I don’t mean to draw lines in the sand, I do want to use the experiences of the week to make a point.  I’ve been a registered Green Party member for about 20 years now.  I do tend to vote along Democratic lines although not blindly.

I have to recognize though that I live in a predominantly Republican state.  My Governor is Republican; my U.S. Senator is Republican.  I need to hear from them.  They need to hear from me.

Today, I represented the Phoenix Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) as the Chapter’s President, at a Meet & Greet for Senators John McCain and Scott Brown, recently elected to fill Senator Kennedy’s vacated seat for Massachusetts.   After Senators McCain and Brown spoke, I (along with most everyone else in the room), gathered around them to shake hands, express sentiments and take pictures.  I had a message I wanted to deliver to Senator McCain on behalf of NAWBO, so moved with the crowd until I got close to him.

There were a few people still between us, yet he reached past them and grabbed my hand to thank me for being there.  OK, I did stand out in the crowd, but I was still impressed that he so intentionally acted to connect with me.

I made my pitch for affordable health care and gave him my hand-written note which mentioned a few other things of import to our association and me personally, snagged the photo above, thanked him and headed for pizza.

Do you insulate yourself from people who have opinions that differ from yours or do you reach out to them and try to connect and influence?  Do you allow yourself to be touched by people who are different from you?  Do learn from your encounters or do you stay with your ‘tribe’ and lay blame on the state of the word?

Reach out.  Take action. Step across the ‘aisle’ and discover new shores.

Great Stress Relievers: Gratitude & Generosity

Gratitude and generosity can go a long way to reducing stress in your life.  Expressing and demonstrating them won’t take a lot of time either.  They may take a little mental energy. Yet when you make the effort to give to another, amazingly, you feel better yourself.

I’ve heard that your holistic mind (not your logical brain) cannot distinguish giver from receiver. So when an act of giving has occurred, the entire circle is uplifted.

Here are a few suggestions for ways you can ignite the circle of giving.  Some of these may rattle you boat.  Try them anyway.

1. Say something kind about a person you don’t like (and mean it).

Everyone has some redeeming qualities.  You might have to look for them, but if you make the effort, you’ll discover that the entire person isn’t evil.  I’m not saying you have to become best friends.  You just need to see past your judgments about them.  When you grow enough to see past your judgments about a person you don’t like, you’ll more easily see the good in tons of other people as well.  As your world populates with more ‘positive’ people, you’ll feel happier living and working in it.

2. Thank your staff (genuinely & specifically) when they do something good.

When we’re pressed for time, we often forget the simple niceties of life.  And be specific in your positive feedback.  Tell the person exactly what they did that you liked and exactly how it helped you. The more specific you are, the more genuine your comment will feel to the person receiving it.

3. Go out of your way to do something especially nice for your spouse or parent.

We are often less polite with the people we live with than we are with total strangers.  Why is that?!? You’ve heard familiarity breeds contempt, eh?  Well, that’s why conflict is so prevalent in families.  We have expectations of wonderful, loving, maybe even fairy-tale relationships, so when they don’t go as we hope, our feelings are more dashed than ever.

It’s important to communicate our wants, needs and desires so that resentment doesn’t build up. But even when it does, doing something nice makes you feel better.  (Be careful however, not to let your martyr yoke get too heavy though.)

4. Send an email to someone’s boss when that someone has done something to help you out at work.

How quickly do you fire off emails when something goes wrong, cc’ing the world and maybe even doing the dreaded and seditious bcc?  Well, I challenge you to take the electronic high road and send off emails complimenting as many people as you can today, tomorrow and for the rest of the month (dare I say, the rest of your life?).  Call the person who helped you but write to the person’s boss.  The boss will likely contact the person you wrote about.  How great will that be for them?  How did you feel the last time your boss complimented you on something you did for someone else?

5. Let go of a grudge and be willing to forgive someone who ‘wronged’ you.

Forgiveness is hard for many people.  They mistakenly think they are condoning the bad behavior.  Forgiveness is really all about you letting go of your issues.  The ‘guilty’ one may never even know you’re forgiving them.  It doesn’t really matter if they know (although telling them will help mend your relationship and allow them to move on if you’ve been punishing them in some way).  When you forgive, you’ll feel better.  You can move on.  You can use your energy for something more productive than getting back at them.

Forgiveness takes time, so don’t expect to feel different the moment you say “I forgive (fill in the blank).”  Your healing starts when you can sincerely say “I’m willing to forgive”.  Being willing to forgive releases negative energy and lightens your heart, perhaps immediately, perhaps just a little.  It does bring light to the situation and that’s our goal here.  The creation of light around us.

The more positive energy we create, the better off we’ll all be.  Walking around stressed and resentful weighs us all down.  Make a commitment to bring joy into the world, regardless of how that world looks to you at any moment.

Post comments about your favorite stress relievers and success stories from your experience.