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Turn Conflict to Collaboration

Turn Conflict to Collaboration

I’m often asked to perform a quick fix on two or more people who are not getting along. Usually, I’m summoned to help them work out their differences. As a conflict mediator, I happy to help resolve disputes; however, I find that happy endings are rare. Often the conflicts that arise are symptomatic of bigger problems, system errors, things like poor leadership, dysfunctional work groups, inadequate performance management, and a lack of soft skills training and resources.

It is a mistake to limit the scope of conflict mediation to the immediate players in the dispute. You also need to look at the system. Without such an assessment, managers can easily get into the habit of treating the symptom while ignoring the problem.

Four Checkpoints

To assess the system factors that add to conflicts, I use four checkpoints:

  • Checkpoint 1: Is leadership being demonstrated? First check the leader to assess whether the conflict is a symptom of a bigger problem. Look for efforts made by the leader to address the conflict. Is the leader modeling effective conflict resolution skills? What has the leader done to create a supportive environment? Does the leader address conflicts? Is the leader held accountable for resolving conflicts? Are effective conflict resolution skills being practiced? If leaders are ineffective in handling conflict, are they are receiving any coaching or guidance?
  • Checkpoint 2: Do co-workers or team members foster a supportive environment for conflict resolution? Coworkers and team members (including those involved in the conflict) share responsibility for the interpersonal dynamics within their group. Look for group norms around conflict, who is impacted by the conflict, what isn’t happening that needs to happen to resolve conflict, how the group sees the role of the leader, what guidance and support does the group need from the leader.

Accountability that supports teamwork and communication skills

  • Checkpoint 3: Is there an accountability that supports teamwork and communication skills? Define appropriate behaviors. What gets reinforced is the behavior that gets exhibited. Are conflict resolution skills part of the criteria in performance reviews? Are core values reflected in the review process? Are team norms identified around conflict resolution and followed consistently? Is peer input part of the performance review process? Is the disciplinary process ever used for employees who exhibit poor communication or cooperation skills? The performance review process must reflect the desired skill sets required for effective conflict resolution. These include teaming skills, communication and problem-solving, collaborative and listening skills. Create accountability around these skills to foster effective communication and conflict resolution.
  • Checkpoint 4: Is the organization providing skill training and resources to maintain effective working relationships? It takes a proactive philosophy when it comes to effective communication and conflict resolution skills. Proficiency in the soft skills area requires time, effort and practice. By helping their people to grow in these areas, managers can’t empower them to resolve their own conflicts.

If any one of these four “checkpoints” are suspect, the conflicts that arise will likely be of a system error. If two or more of the are lacking, the system is faulty.

So, the next time there is a conflict, investigate whether or not the conflict is an isolated event or a system error. You might be surprised by what you find.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

How to Reduce Conflict at Work

Fierce battles over decisions, finances, resources, power, and authority are fought daily, and combatants often inflict lasting damage, when the personal interests of ambitious managers take precedence over organizational goals.

Competition can cause managers to backstab one another, hoard information, focus on personal needs, and ignore facts that don’t support their views.

Functions that operate as silos create turf wars. And the costs are high. Creativity is lost, reputations damaged. Frustrated, some executives leave for more collegial settings. Here are ways to reduce conflict:

  • Hold retreats to build camaraderie. Put people through a process to build conflict resolution and interpersonal skills co-operationely to achieve goals.
  • Reward cooperative behavior. If you talk about collaboration yet reward individual achievement, you get the behavior you positively reinforce.
  • Encourage innovation. Process routine may minimize errors and cut costs, but it can close people’s eyes and ears to better ways to do things. Innovation can increase efficiencies.
  • Create a culture of collaboration. Open communications in person, on paper, and online can lead to shared information, trust across disciplines, and reduced turf battles.
  • Clarify responsibilities. Help your people know their roles and the roles of others. Everyone’s key task is to delight customers and gain market share.
  • Seek cross-functional initiatives. Encourage teams from different areas to work together in cross functional initiatives. Invite managers from other areas to visit your team meetings when working together.
  • Enter white spaces cautiously. Certain open areas represent opportunities for revenue generation, but rather than enter them without notifying others, meet with them to gain their buy-in or agree to leverage the space together.
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Posted in Management and Leadership

Selling Your Ideas in Persuasive Presentations

Selling Your Ideas in Persuasive Presentations

If you are a professional, entrepreneur, manager, or leader, you are in the business of selling your ideas. Whether you are answering the query, “How’s the project going?” or making a formal presentation, you have a chance to establish an executive presence. Here are six tips for improving the substance and style of your presentations.

Don’t “let down” for sit-down presentations.

You may make many presentations to only a few people seated around a table or desk. But there may be no correlation between audience size and importance of the outcome. So, consider the group’s expectations.

Don’t assume that because the audience is small, its members do not expect a quality presentation with visuals and the works. Since you are seated around a desk or table—at eye level—you must convey your enthusiasm, assertiveness, and authority through your facial expressions, posture, and voice. Sit comfortably erect, leaning slightly forward to show attentiveness and enthusiasm for your subject. Sit back to convey openness to questions.

Position yourself to maintain eye contact with everyone in the room. Do not get stuck between two listeners. If possible, remove any physical obstacles that block vision or create “distance” between you and your audience.

Ask relevant questions with a clear purpose.

When you open with a relevant question, make it clear where you are trying to lead the discussion. Explain the benefits or the point of knowing the answer. Only focused questions seem worthy of an answer. To be persuasive, ask a question that showcases a benefit: “How much time do you spend preparing these charts?” Follow up: “With our software, you can generate such a chart in one minute.”

Raise a question: “Do your managers enjoy performance appraisals?” Give a response: “Using this survey, we can identify performance problems objectively before they become serious.” Invite others to “try on your idea.” Since people can’t try new ideas on over old ones, you have to persuade people to put aside the old policy, equipment, or training, and give the new idea a fair trial. Ask: “Are you open to discussing something new?” Help others to play with an idea first discuss what-ifs, who-withs, where-necessarys, whys, and how-tos. Asking a question to test others’ openness will allow them to “toy” with an idea before committing to “buy” it.

When asking your question, always give a context, structure, or purpose. If people know why you are asking, they may supply helpful information that you haven’t even thought to ask. Focus may determine whether you build rapport or destroy a relationship or opportunity—whether people are put off or persuaded by your presentation. When you know your listeners are biased against what you have to say, ask for a suspension of judgment. Diplomatically, acknowledge the situation. Your listeners will give you a fair hearing.

Select quotations from both the famous and the unknown

Quotations create impact by adding the words of a recognizable authority. They are usually succinctly and colorfully worded, crystallizing the key idea better than most presenters could. Check out Web sites that put quotations at your finger-tips. Don’t overlook comments by lesser-known individuals. For example, if you are speaking on current problems in the industry, you might interview and share “person on the street” comments gathered from remarks overheard at your trade-show booth. These may be anonymous or attributed remarks, depending on which is more important to your point—what they said or who said it.

If you are talking about industry trends, you might extract comments from “Letters to the Editor” in a professional journal. If you are talking about feedback on your benefits, you might pull comments from recent telephone interviews with employees. If you’re talking about customer service training, you might add comments from your help desk logs and from complaint emails to make your point. The status of the author of the remark may not be as important as the comment itself.

Never let facts speak for themselves.

Facts need interpretation. According to Mark Twain, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” People can make numbers mean almost anything. Interpret your facts so that your listeners draw the conclusions you intend. Use both rounded and exact numbers. Exact numbers sound more credible; so, if you want the numbers to be both credible and memorable, use the exact number first, and then round it off. Use graphs, charts, and demos to make the numbers come alive.

Determine whether to use a positive or a negative appeal. Consider “You’ll live longer and feel better if you exercise” versus “If you don’t exercise, your chances of getting heart disease increase by 42 percent.” Both appeals work—but not always with the same audience.

Identify which appeal works best. Use meaningful proof. Don’t waste time gathering proof of your points only to discover that your audience does not agree that the studies, surveys, focus-group findings, or work samples prove anything. Make the proof meaningful to those whose opinions count.

Persuasive Devices that Aid Retention in Presentations

Use persuasive devices that aid retention

Use slogans, metaphors, similes, analogies, allegories, parables, fables, stories, and antitheses to encapsulate, clarify, and aid retention. Slogans capture a key point in a memorable way. As you repeat your slogan during the presentation, you add emphasis to the key message. So, if you want to create a theme for your initiatives, select a slogan to make it memorable. A metaphor is a word or phrase substituted for another to suggest similarity. For example: “Time is money.” A simile compares two things with the words like or as. The more complex the idea, the more important it is to simplify and illustrate by comparison. Visual or emotional analogies help audiences follow you step by step. To reverse thinking, try using antitheses. Opposite ideas juxtaposed in the same sentence create thought-provoking grabbers.

Weed out generalities, cliches, and platitudes. More is not better. Make your points specific, and support them with facts. Substitute fresh wording for cliches. Do not put your audience to sleep with platitudes. If you tell a story, know your reason for doing so: to illustrate a point, to entertain, or to build common ground. By knowing the purpose, you also will understand the time and effort you should devote to telling it. Never use a $100 story in a three minute time slot to make a nickel point.

Remember that timing indicates emphasis.

Spend 10 to 15 percent of your time on the opening, 70 to 85 percent on the body, and 5 to 10 percent on the closing. This allows time up front in the introduction to grab attention, “win over” a hostile or uninterested group, and establish credibility. If your presentation includes an involved action plan, that section most likely should be part of the body of your presentation, and your close should focus on the final persuasive push toward the decision to act.

You may need to cut. In doing so, always keep the audience’s preferences in mind. As John Brockmann put it, “Most houseplants are killed by overwatering.” Never ramble on past the point of high impact. Anything you say after your point of close dilutes your impact. Do not ramble on with anticlimactic drivel. Say it and stop.

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Posted in Education and Career

Seek Benefits for Both Sides in Negotiating Deals

Seek Benefits for Both Sides in Negotiating Deals

What is a reasonable goal in negotiation? Can both parties walk away from the table with even more value than they expected? Many professional negotiators prefer to aim towards what is known as a Win-Win solution. This involves looking for resolutions that allow both sides to gain.

Think about this as a possible goal: to create joint value and divide it give11 concerns for fairness in fhe relationship.

You may say to us, “Get real! My clients don’t do business that way!” or “Buyers are not interested in creating value, much less in being fair!” Or as the top salesperson for one of our Japanese clients once said: “You don’t understand; the Japanese buyer dictates what we do—and all he cares about is price! We don’t have any say.” So, if that’s what you’re thinking, we are not surprised.

However, we have convinced many top selling and purchasing organizations to adopt the reasonable goal in their negotiations. We’ve done this for one good reason: it works. Both sides benefit when you create joint value and divide it given concerns for fairness in the ongoing relationship. For example, if you’re trying to sell your product to a customer whose main concern is price, the customer can look at this negotiation in one of two ways. He can say, “My goal is to get the product for less,” and simply demand a lower price. If you, as the salesperson, accede to his demands, he’ll be happy because he’ll get what he wants, but you’ll be less happy because you won’t be making as much money as you had hoped or expected to make.

What if, however, the customer considers his goal to be “to create joint value and divide it given concerns for fairness in the ongoing relationship?” If he’s thinking along those lines, he may still suggest that you give him a deeper discount than you’re offering, but in return he might agree to a longer commitment or higher volume or provide you with access to other divisions of his company—options that would cost him nothing. In this situation, you are more likely to offer a better discount because you are getting more of his business. In fact, you would both come out of the negotiation with more than you anticipated going into it. The best win-win agreements often spring from presenting multiple offers rather than a single, lone offer or proposal. And, you would establish a positive relationship that is likely to bring you even more business in the future.

“It sounds all right in theory,” you say, “but does it really work in practice?” Yes, it does. Aiming to create joint value and divide it given concerns for fairness in the ongoing relationship changes the nature of the negotiation in positive ways. It helps you create and negotiate larger deals because it leads to tactics that are more likely to yield larger deals. As a result, even if it doesn’t work every time, in the end you make more money because the individual deals are larger. To guide these win-win perceptions, give your negotiation counterpart a voice in the decision process. Even when you are in a position of power, be sure to acknowledge your counterpart’s perspective and invite him to express his views, to suggest alternatives, and to react to initial proposals. Another benefit is the positive effect on the climate and tone of the negotiation as a result of sharing the goal with your customers. Of course, they tend to be very skeptical at first. But once you prove that you mean what you’re offering over the course of several negotiations, your sincerity not only makes individual negotiations easier and more productive but has a positive impact on the ongoing relationship.

Whatever the circumstances, in order for the situation to be a true win-win, both sides should feel comfortable with the final outcome.

Recommended Books on Negotiation

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Posted in Life Hacks and Productivity

To Make an Exciting Speech, First Make an Emotional Connection

Make Your Speeches Memorable

Make Your Speeches Memorable

Your speeches will hit the mark when you observe five tips:

  1. To grab audience attention, start with a bang, not a limp. The first (and last) 30 seconds have the most impact. Save any greetings and gratitude (“Thanks, it’s nice to be here”) until you grab the audience with a powerful opening. And don’t end with a whimper. Rather than close with questions, instead say, “Before I close, are there any questions?” Answer them. Then close.
  2. Get the inside scoop. You can personalize and add excitement and color to your speeches by getting invaluable inside stories. Ask others for input that can provide color and energy. Ask clients, colleagues, and family members what insights and stories with characters, dialogue, and dramatic lessons you can share.
  3. Try inside-out speaking. Don’t write speeches to be read. Instead, from inside yourself pull out your ideas, stories, experiences, and examples. You’ll end up with a loose script that can then be edited and tightened. Organize, wordsmith, and deliver your comments by conversing with the audience. If your speech sounds conversational, it is far more appealing and much easier to deliver without reading it. Emotional contact is impossible without eye contact.
  4. Provide five magic moments. Great speeches, like classic movies, have five magic moments for each viewer, though not always the same five. So, be sure your presentation has five great moments—dramatic, humorous, profound, or poignant—that the audience can relive.
  5. Avoid borrowed stories. I urge you to create vivid, personal stories. Once I sat in an audience of 18,000 people, listening to Barbara Bush tell a great story she had read in “Chicken Soup for the Soul”—my own story! I was disappointed that she did not share a few her own incredible life experiences. That’s how your audience feels when you repeat things you’ve read.

To Make an Exciting Speech, First Make an Emotional Connection

How Will They Remember Your Speech?

Your message, no matter how important, will not be remembered if you don’t add structure and emotional connection. Your structure. Can you write the premise or purpose of your talk in one sentence? If not, your thinking isn’t organized enough. Use statements that make your audience ask: “How?” or “Why?” For example, in a talk on “Selling Yourself,” I say, “You need to sell yourself and your ideas to your boss.” My audience is asking, “Why?” and “How?” Your answers become your “Points of Wisdom.” illustrate each Point with stories, examples, suggestions, practical advice, and recommendations. Allow about 10 minutes for each Point. Frame your premise and Points with an attention getting opening and a memorable closing. Send people out energized, inspired, and fulfilled, or challenged and ready to act.

Your Emotional Connection

How you deliver your material has a lot to do with the enjoyment of your audience. If they have a good time, they are more likely to like you and your ideas. If your audience doesn’t like you or is unsure of you, how can you win them?

  • Make eye contact. For a small group, look at individuals for five seconds. For large groups, divide your attention between those up front and those in back.
  • Tell memorable stories. Few can resist a good story—well told. People remember stories and images your words create.
  • Increase your I-You ratio. An “I” sentence would be: “When I was growing up, my father gave me this advice.” An “I-You” sentence would be: “I don’t know what advice your father gave you growing up, but mine always said … “

To make your message memorable, connect with your audience.

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Posted in Education and Career

How Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Marissa Mayer Process Emails

How Marissa Mayer Handled Email while at Google

How Marissa Mayer Handled Email while at Google In an interview with tech journalist David Kirkpatrick for Fortune Magazine’s “Secrets of greatness: How I work” series, Marissa Mayer revealed how she processes emails. Marissa was then the Vice President of Search Products and User Experience, and is presently the CEO of Yahoo!

I don’t feel overwhelmed with information. I really like it. I use Gmail for my personal e-mail—15 to 20 e-mails a day—but on my work e-mail I get as many as 700 to 800 a day, so I need something really fast.

I use an e-mail application called Pine, a Linux-based utility I started using in college. It’s a very simple text-based mailer in a crunchy little terminal window with Courier fonts. I do marathon e-mail catch-up sessions, sometimes on a Saturday or Sunday. I’ll just sit down and do e-mail for ten to 14 hours straight. I almost always have the radio or my TV on. I guess I’m a typical 25- to 35-year-old who’s now really embracing the two-screen experience.

How Larry Page / Sergey Brin Handle Email at Google

Ever wonder how CEOs of large companies manage and process the hundreds or thousands of emails they receive daily?

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google In a thread on managing loads of email, Quora user David Shin, who previously worked at Google, remembers Page and Brin being asked this question during a Q&A session at Google. When someone asked how they manage their email, one of them (he can’t remember which) responded like this:

When I open up my email, I start at the top and work my way down, and go as far as I feel like. Anything I don’t get to will never be read. Some people end up amazed that they get an email response from a founder of Google in just 5 minutes. Others simply get what they expected (no reply).

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Posted in Software and Programming

Make connections with People by Applying President Reagan’s Three Simple Principles

President Ronald Reagan - Great Communicator

Ronald Reagan’s Chief Strategist Dick Wirthlin walked into the Oval Office and found President Reagan at his desk holding a photograph.

“Mr. President, what’s that?”

“Well, Dick, I just got off the phone with this young man.”

As the President turned the photograph around, Dick winced at the haunting image staring him in the face. It was the picture of a 12-year-old boy who had been severely burned while attempting to rescue his two younger brothers when their family’s trailer caught fire. While frantically searching through the flaming trailer, the young man sustained severe burns before carrying his siblings to safety. As a result, the boy’s face and body had been seriously scarred and disfigured.

“I called this little fella to see how he was doing and to tell him how proud I was of his heroism,” Reagan said.

He then looked back down at the little boy’s visage. “Dick, at the end of our conversation the youngster said, ‘President Reagan, I sure wish I would have had my tape recorder on so I could remember our call together.’

So I said, ‘Do you have it there?’ He said he did. So I told him, ‘Well, son, turn it on and let’s chat some more.”

Did you catch that? “Let’s chat some more.” This is the language of leadership. These aren’t the words of a great communicator. These are the words of one of the greatest communicators.

Three Core Lessons

Ronald Reagan taught us three core lessons that all leaders must embrace.

Lesson 1: Issues Change, Values Endure

'Ronald Reagan: Life Changing Lessons!' by William Wyatt (ISBN B00HRLDLHO) Ronald Reagan believed values are the lynchpins of effective persuasion. The reason: while issues change, values endure.

New challenges emerge—sometimes daily. This constant state of flux can create uncertainty about how the leader will respond. If, however, he or she is guided by a core set of beliefs that have been articulated consistently, you can know the direction your leader’s decision making “compass” is likely to point. By knowing a leader’s values, you know where they will lead, regardless of shifting circumstances.

This assumes, of course, that the leader has identified his or her guiding values and embedded them in their communications. While this requires thought, the rewards can be immense.

When it was time to devise his 1980 acceptance address for the Republican National Convention, Reagan designed his speech around three value-laden institutions and two core values: family, work, neighborhood, peace, and freedom.

Once Reagan was finished, the nation had a firm grasp of who Reagan was and where he wanted to lead.

Ronald Reagan Spokesman for General Electric

Lesson 2: Persuade through Reason, Motivate through Emotion

'An American Life: The Autobiography' by Ronald Reagan (ISBN 145162073X) You can persuade through reason, but you motivate through emotion. How? By doing what Ronald Reagan did best: using stories to showcase values and frame his vision.

Even during his days as a radio sports announcer and spokesperson for General Electric, Ronald Reagan always loaded his speeches with stories that illustrated his values. He was never the focal point of the stories. Instead, he told stories that exemplified his values while elevating the importance of others and their contributions. This leadership trait was summarized in the placard on his desk: “There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

Reagan believed that sincere emotion was the spark that ignites the fuse of action. Many leaders feel uncomfortable infusing emotion into their communications, but ignoring this element is a mistake. People don’t just want to make intellectual connections; they want to experience emotional ones as well. To be sure, leaders can go overboard in their use of emotion by banging the drum of values too forcefully. But the greater danger is to appeal only to the mind and to ignore the heart. Ronald Reagan knew how to balance the two.

Ronald Reagan Debate with Walter Mondale

Lesson 3: Humor Makes a Human Connection

'Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader' by Dinesh D'Souza (ISBN 0684848236) Ronald Reagan loved to laugh and tell jokes. It revealed his core love of people, and he used it to build bridges between people, even those with whom he disagreed. Still, his use of humor was often strategic.

Take, for example, Reagan’s second debate with Walter Mondale. After their first debate, some questioned whether Reagan was too old to serve a second term. When the question about his age came up, Reagan delivered one of the most famous lines in presidential debate history: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

The line was a masterstroke, and it was all his own. Reagan had displayed self-deprecation and supreme confidence while defusing a divisive issue.

The Greatest Communicator has now exited the stage. Yet in his passing he has left behind a legacy of leadership. Americans rate Ronald Reagan as the greatest president in American history. But while politics was one of Reagan’s passions, it was not his greatest passion. This he reserved for people.

Reagan took time out of his day to invest in people and make them feel special. You can do the same.

Recommended Reading: Ronald Reagan

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Posted in Leaders and Innovators Management and Leadership

12 Alibi for Letting Poor Performance Slide & Dreading to Give Criticism

Letting Poor Performance Slide

Have you ever procrastinated over giving negative feedback to an employee? Have you ever hesitated on criticizing a supervisee?

Giving negative feedback to someone can be frightening, risky, and not much fun for most managers. Could your hesitation be rooted in one of the following twelve alibi?

  1. Your need to be likeable or hate confrontation
  2. Your need to shield the employee’s self esteem
  3. You are indecisive about the need to issue negative feedback
  4. You want to uphold employee morale in your organization, especially after a downsizing or cut in benefits
  5. You somehow can justify the employee’s circumstances
  6. You fear of claim of discrimination if the employee belongs to a protected class (almost everybody belongs to one or the other)
  7. You want to allow for cross-cultural misunderstanding
  8. You want to delay giving the negative feedback until the time is ripe
  9. Your desire to maintain headcount in your organization
  10. Your uncertainty over how to broach the topic
  11. You fear losing a key contributor in your organization
  12. You have doubts that the extent of offense and significance might not warrant negative feedback

One of the most difficult parts of any manager’s day-to-day job is giving a subordinate some negative feedback. Examine your reasons for hesitating or procrastinating over delivering that negative feedback.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

How to Write a Research Paper or Research Report

How to Write a Research Paper or Research Report

Introduction Section: “What you did” and “Why you did”

The purpose of the “Introduction” section is to present the reader with the motivation behind the work, with the intent of defending it. The introduction section identifies your work in a theoretical context, and allows the reader to identify with your objectives.

  • Summarize state of area prior to study.
  • Sketch study in broad outline.
  • State the experimental hypothesis (or hypotheses) and associated predictions

Method Section: “How you did it”

The “Method” section is the most important feature of a research report because it provides the information by which the readers will judge the validity of your research or study. You must provide an accurate and precise description of how you did your study or experiment, and the justification for the particular experimental procedures you chose.

  • Outline precise details of study.

Results Section: “What you found”

The purpose of the “Results” section is to present and illustrate your findings. Keep this section objective and save all interpretation of the results for the “discussion” section.

  • Present relevant data, together with outcomes of appropriate inferential statistical analyses.

Discussion Section: “What you think it shows”

The aim of the “discussion” section is to provide an analysis and interpretation of your results and support for all of your conclusions. The significance of findings, the inclusive and exclusive contexts in which the results could be meaningful. Interpret the information you have collected in your study or research in appropriate depth. Do not present just a cursory interpretation that essentially re-states the results. Bring to mind why results came out as they did and focus on the mechanisms behind the observations.

  • Summarize and interpret findings.
  • Assess implications for area
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Posted in Education and Career

Lead Effectively by Applying these Seven Principles of Resiliency

Seven Principles of Resiliency

The demands of leadership create a gap between the way you now work and the way you must work to move ahead. The gap is filled with self-doubt, indecisiveness, and ego. In such a situation, you may feel compelled to do things the old way—the way you would have done things in the old comfort zone—but this often leads to a defeat. To move forward and grow, you must confront the unfamiliar and unknown, step into your fears, and work your way through to the solution.

Use the following seven principles to sharpen your leadership skills:

  1. Get clear on your direction. Direction—where you want to end up— provides purpose, energy, hope, and a criterion for making decisions. Stress causes many people to lose sight of direction. Imagine how you would like your work and life to be in five years. What are you doing? Who is around you? Where are you? What are you proud of? Being well-defined on direction helps you get through the uncertainties of your work. Likewise, your business needs clear direction. It is easier for people to move forward if they are clear on their mission, vision, goals, and priorities. By sharing the objective, you can create the alignment needed to get commitment. Clear direction provides the energy needed to overcome obstacles.
  2. Step into your incompetence. In leadership, your success hinges on doing things you are not yet good at. Leaders may not have the answers, but they are adept at finding the answers and then moving forward with courage. One way to push yourself is to sign up for projects that force you to widen, extend, and absorb new skills. Ask others on the team to hold you accountable for your results. Use the experience to grow. In business, look for avenues for expansion. What risks do you need to take? Can your managers be encouraged to become more farsighted, and yet can your leaders manage well. Can you enhance a current service or product? Have you been avoiding growth? Stretch your capabilities to better meet the needs of consumers.
  3. Revisit your values. If you were to lose your title, office, home and car, who would you be? What would you still have? Some people feel empty when the external trappings are gone. They so engross themselves in their work that they forget what they stand for and what are important to them. Values—including integrity, financial stability, family, meaningful work, and personal development—play a key role in defining who you are. You need to get clear on your values so you can stay true to yourself when you face problematic decisions. You must also inspect how your behaviors support your values. If you value honesty, for example, you need to behave honestly even when you would benefit from dishonesty. A company needs values as well. Businesses that are confused about their values won’t survive. Identify the values your company stands for and then examine how you display those values to your customers and other stakeholders. When you align values and actions, your company will grow.
  4. Develop a learning mindset. Do you see obstacles as burdens, inconveniences, or opportunities? Your mindset plays a big role in your success. The “oh no” leaders view everything as a personal attack, and so they spend their time protecting themselves and blaming others. The “oh well” leaders take challenges in stride and keep working, but they overlook the long-term benefits of the experience. The “oh wow” leaders respond to the event with interest and learning. They ask “why” and “how” questions, using the expertise to learn and improve themselves. Strive to be an “oh wow” leader and apply what you learn from challenges to your business. Encourage everyone on your team to develop the same mindset. You don’t need to become a different person to become a more successful leader—you got to just learn and evolve. There are times when we do really need to contemplate on the bad things that happen to us, to cognize their significance, to come to terms with our feelings, and to learn and grow from our experiences.
  5. Maintain and develop relationships. In times of stress, many leaders tend to ignore key relationships in their lives. Plan time for friends and family. A greeting card, a walk in the park, or a considerate gift can do wonders. Creating moments with friends, family, and colleagues can nourish and sustain you through a challenge or difficult decision. The best leaders recognize which ones they need to focus on and which ones they can delegate. Encourage your team to follow your lead in cultivating relationships frequently by maintaining contact with co-workers, customers, suppliers, and partners. Make yourself accessible to your team. Losing good employees and customers comes at high cost.
  6. Increase your knowledge and skills. Learning new skills and increasing your knowledge can lift you out of tough situations. Develop communication, problem-solving, and resiliency skills. Learn how to lead change, how to allocate, delegate, and make your team accountability, how to build constructive communications, and how to set the direction. Learning is not just about books and classrooms. Leaders need their people to add ideas, provide different perspectives, and confront them. Some of the best learning occurs on the job. Your business must incessantly learn as well—everyone will need to know how to develop new skills. Give team members the time to work together or bring in an individual coach. Consider a retreat to address leadership issues.
  7. Take action. Leadership is not just vision—it is a vision that can be executed. Proactively making decisions and moving forward in spite of uncertainty requires courage. Many leaders spend so much time fighting their own situation and avoiding their key responsibilities that they never lead. Recognize the issues you are avoiding, confront them, and then take action to overcome them. If you make a mistake, learn from it and start over again.
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