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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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Create Partners, Not Employees or Followers

People want to succeed. The vast majority want to feel good about themselves and their work. Nevertheless, sometimes, it is tremendously difficult to balance day-to-day duties with the emotional needs of your employees.

There are no quick fixes or simple formulas for generating a culture that unleashes the competency of people. It occasionally requires intervention into a number of dimensions of organizational life: challenging management philosophy and practices, communicating and aligning everyone to the business strategy, cultivating processes and systems, providing training in social and business skills, etc.

Whom would you rather have at your side in a tough spot? A partner who shares full responsibility for decisions and their outcomes? Alternatively, a subordinate who does just what you say and shuts up about ideas he has that may be better.

Rationally, you want the former; emotionally, you may choose the latter. Leaders bow to a multitude of short-term pressures: severe demands for quarterly earnings, risk aversion, distress with uncertainty, resistance to change, linear extrapolation from past experience, and reluctance to cannibalize established businesses.

'It's Okay to Be the Boss' by Bruce Tulgan (ISBN 0061121363) Reflect on your career. Have you ever kept quiet when superiors were creating problems? What caused you to withhold your counsel?

I guarantee you they were being “the boss.” Everything about their tone, body language, verbal language, and behavior was indicating you that they were the boss and you were the subordinate. Chances are you learned from them what a boss looks and sounds like. Whether you admired their style or not, some of it rubbed off on you.

When you act as a superior, you will have subordinates. Act as a partner, and you will have partners. Yes, you may be the senior partner, but they are still partners, not underlings, or subordinates.

One key dissimilarity between the behavior of a “boss” and a “partner” is the way you talk. You talk differently to partners. It is not just what you say, but how you say it. To a subordinate, you might say, “This client wants his order fulfilled now. Make it happen.”

What is the message? It is not just “Get the order done now,” but it is also “I’m the boss; this is what I want—and there could be outcomes if I don’t get it.” It does not require a dramatic act to make the point that the receiver is your subordinate. Are you aware of how often and in how many ways you send similar messages?

This is not how you would talk to a partner. You might be just as clear about what you want and when; however, your delivery would create partnership, not subservience. You might ask, “How can we do that?” Alternatively, “Can you make it happen?” You would seek the individual’s knowledge, responsibility, and mutual obligation. When employees are seen as partners, they will understand that their leaders do not simply see them as the means to achieve their own personal targets.

You talk differently to folks below you than to folks across from or above you. So what? The higher you go, the less direct experience you have of customers, stakeholders, and problems. It is harder to get a real feel for what is happening. You become more reliant on on good information and insight from those who are in touch. So, they need to feel invited to tell you the reality they see, especially when it differs from the one you believe is out there.

You likely think that you already extend this encouragement, but you may discourage people from giving you inconvenient information. Unless you make an effort to discover in what ways you do this, you will continue to do so.

Create Partners with Your Subordinates

Create Partners with Your Subordinates

To create partners and have your employees’ best interests in mind, try this exercise:

  • Start every meeting with a question: “Is there anything I’m not getting about this issue that you think I should?”
  • Whatever the answer, respond with interest and ask, “Can you tell me more about that or give an example to help me understand it better?”
  • Ask questions until you have clarity on the points. Do not argue. Do not cross-examine—just clarify.
  • Thank the individual or group making these points.
  • Incorporate what makes sense into the decisions.
  • If no one spoke up, after the meeting ask the individual who is likely to be forthright, “What am I doing that keeps everyone from talking?”
  • If this individual gives you insight into how you dissuade feedback, convey your gratefulness. Find a way to reward the honesty.
  • Invite this truth-teller to sit in on more meetings and after each one gives you feedback on anything you did that made others act as subordinates.

Simple Ways to Build Trust With Your Employees

Build Trust with Your Employees

Trust is established when even the newest rookie, a part-timer, or the lowest paid employee feels important and part of the team. This begins with management not being reserved, as well as getting out and meeting the troops.

'The 27 Challenges Managers Face' by Bruce Tulgan (ISBN 111872559X) By doing this you will have the self-awareness to create partners. You will also have earned their trust. They will give you their best advice and devotedly support decisions that are based on reality.

By creating this environment where your employees are treated as partners working toward a shared purpose, you will foster in your employees a sense of ownership not simply to their job, but to the whole process. This will inspire not only partnership between the company’s divisions/teams, but it will also help nurture innovation as employees are stimulated to look beyond what they usually work on or how they approach their job.

Good partners invest time and energy in making cognizant judgments about who their leaders are and what they espouse. Then they take the appropriate action.

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Use Facilitative Leadership to Transform Your Organization

Facilitative Leadership Style

'The Facilitative Leadership That Makes the Difference' by Priscilla H. Wilson (ISBN 097297640X) Facilitative leadership is not about leading by committee or getting everyone together and asking, “What do you and you think?” Committee can decide not everything. The front lines are not the place to take a straw poll. Even so, there are times when a leader can, and should, get people together to talk about how to improve operations and ask for input. That is facilitative leadership.

For this process to work, leaders must create a culture where people not only feel comfortable contributing ideas and suggestions, but where leaders act on those inputs.

Facilitative Leadership Theory

Acting on input does not mean doing everything the group tells you to do. It means making it clear to the group that their input is valued by defining how that input will be used. Many times a leader gives the impression that if the team members give honest input, they will be punished. This is why the leader must clarify how the input will be used before asking for input.

For instance, let the group know if you are:

  • Just asking for ideas and you, the leader, will make the final decision,
  • Asking for ideas and you, the leader, will discuss options with the group before making the final decision,
  • Requesting input so the final decision will be made together as a team,
  • Requiring input, and the team will make the final decision after reviewing it with you, and,
  • Giving input to the team and the team will tell you what the final decision is.

Facilitative Leadership Style

Facilitative Leadership Style

These are examples of how to explain your intentions when involving direct reports in decision-making. Clarity builds respect, trust, and rapport.

'The Practice of Facilitative Leadership' by Ken Todd Williams (ISBN 1523693908) The role of the leader is changing. Once, the leader stood in the middle of everything and directed the team with one-way communication. The leader would say, “Jump,” and followers would only ask, “How high?” As leaders progress, they allow for two- way communication, but they are still in the middle directing the activities. Then, as leaders continue to progress, they step out of the middle and become a part of the team. The leaders are still responsible, but they do not push their people—they tend to pull, to get people to follow them—not to push and micro-manage them.

As leaders progress even more, they can step away from the day-to-day management. This affords even more communication among the members of the team. Again, you cannot do this until you help the team members interact with each other on a level playing field. You can then be free to work on the strategic elements of your job.

These skills are becoming more critical because the leader’s span at control is expanding!

Now, when you step away, you do not disengage! You cannot expect what you do not inspect. So you must be accessible, continue to coach, and have the courage to hold people accountable and not fold under pressure. Suppose, for example, that you have been coaching a direct report on an important project. The project does not reach its target. Your boss calls you in and asks, “What happened?” You might explain how you have been coaching a member of your team who let you down; but you need the courage to also say, “I am responsible, and I will make sure that it doesn’t happen again.” You are ultimately responsible for your group’s performance!

Now, you will want to talk with that direct report about what happened. Clearly, you need to revisit the miscues. It is the employee’s responsibility to achieve the goals, but you need to ensure your people are on-track.

Characteristics of Facilitative Leaders

Characteristics of Facilitative Leaders

Facilitative leaders listen to multiple points of view, including those they do not agree with. This enables them to make better decisions. Facilitative leaders capture the key kernels of information, build bridges between people, and create an atmosphere where people share information.

When you master these skills, you become a facilitative leader. The need for greater collaboration comes at a time when the diversity of perspectives, talents, and cultures present in the workplace is increasing. Achieving better results by tapping into this mix is a goal that can be accomplished through effective application of facilitative leadership fundamentals.

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The Wonderful Benefits Intergenerational Coaching

The Wonderful Benefits Intergenerational Coaching

All generations have similar values. Many deliberate that there are such differences between generations but in reality, all feel that family is the value chosen most commonly by people of all generations. Others embrace truthfulness, love, aptitude, happiness, self-respect, knowledge, etc. So why do people at work think the ethics between generations are so different?

'Unlocking Generational Codes' by Anna Liotta (ISBN 1935586424) The public declaration of these hymns reveals how applause, pain, and politics interface within a historical setting of Roman oppression. Because even though the values are the same, the behaviors that go along with those values may be different. In addition to the standing of not snubbing the supposed stereotypes of employees, we should also not overlook undercurrents that occur in work groups. The diverse knowledge base that junior employees can present is a benefit that can be taken advantage of.

  • Give More Feedback: Animators at Disney generously pronounce how painful it can be to have directors plussing their ideas until the tiniest details, say a sliver of hair, seems just precise. We are probably unaware that people would like to know how to improve, and they merit to know it. It is their right. Besides the rewards of intergenerational learning for individuals, benefits of this learning process can also be found for corporations. Intergenerational learning leads to a higher level of social capital. This increased level of social capital has in turn the potential to enhance knowledge flows between workers in an organizational context. The negative feedback is often buried and not very specific.
  • Boost Flexibility: Literature provides a choice of concepts that are directly related to those of familiarity demand and supply. Employees working in the service sector, salaried employees, employees in executive positions, and employees with higher wages have better access to conventional flextime than other groups. The Cleveland Clinic hiring as many as two millennial doctors to replenish each retiree, as young MOs demand more work life balance. Business is concerned with productivity and profits. People are an progressively valuable resource, which management is becoming more affected to manage effectively. Attaining operative knowledge management integration is an eminent challenge facing both general management and project managers.
  • Lavish Praise for Intergenerational Workplace Lavish Praise: After considering the observations in light of extant research, we present a multi-stage process model that describes the central dynamics at work in the business experience. Over the following decade, the centers presented new communication and educational tools and maintained a wide variety of cultural events including exhibitions, forums, exchanges, and publications. The support provided to individuals and organizations proved instrumental and contributed to an added visibility of the region. The results of the analysis are deduced in the business context in order to show how communication research may impact to the analysis of intergenerational learning in a specific business. The company’s polished performances balance cheery explorations of humanity with serious concerns ranging from death, aging, and solitude to immigration, beauty, and fairy tales.
  • Adorn the Office: Apple plans to spend $1 billion to revamp a chief corporate campus with a focus on new technology and shared spaces. Foster abilities that cannot be automated away: timeless talents like critical thinking, playing nice and effective writing. Moreover, do not be afraid to skip around to understand relevant skills. This assertion also resonates with the experience of the Watsons of I.B.M. fame. In his 1990 autobiography, Tom Watson Jr. recollects how his early years were overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy vis-à-vis his father’s expectations that he take over IBM. Obfuscating the mix further were what amounted to ‘staged’ career achievements, such as when young Tom was assigned a coveted sales territory in downtown Manhattan that allowed him to meet his sales quota in just one day.

'When Generations Collide' by Lynne Lancaster, David Stillman (ISBN 0066621070) While generational issues do need to be discussed and resolved, I am troubled about making too big an issue out of them. We do not want to draw a line between two generations of managers and involuntarily disaffect them from each other. Instead, we need to learn to work together as we seek to help librarianship advance with the times to serve the needs of the public. Each manager, new or experienced, old or young, brings respected experiences, perceptions, skills, and ideas to the profession. We need to find a way to concede those assets and put them to trustworthy use.

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Four Layers of Bureaucracy at IBM

'Sam Walton: Made In America' by Sam Walton (ISBN 0553562835) Here’s a quote from David Glass, former CEO of Walmart, about bureaucracy:

If you don’t zero in on your bureaucracy every so often, you will naturally build in layers. You never set out to add bureaucracy. You just get it. Period. Without even knowing it. So you always have to be looking to eliminate it. You know when Tom Watson, Sr., was running IBM, he decided they would never have more than four layers from the chairman of the board to the lowest level in the company. That may have been one of the greatest single reasons why IBM was successful.

Source: Sam Walton’s autobiography, Made In America

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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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If You Want to Inspire People, Build and Earn Their Trust

Interdependent relationships in which leadership and power are shared broadly

Most leaders agree that rigid hierarchy is dying because it runs on position power, instead of relationship power or people power.

Leaders are becoming increasingly divorced from formal authority because organizations are becoming decentralized webs instead of hierarchical entities and from power because the few people can coerce or control much of anything.

One reason for this major shift is a change in the way people are willing to be managed and led. Today’s employees want to have a voice and make a difference—they no longer want to follow blindly what the boss asks them to do.

We also see a new generation of leaders who operate on the relationship power and who believe that every individual counts and needs to be valued and treated as an unique person. We see more personal and professional relationships that are forged irrespective of positions. The public accomplishes now comes from the ability to develop trust and honesty, to build collaborative teams, and to empower every team member to participate fully.

For example, a generation ago, a father might have asked, “you’re lucky even to have a job, so stick with it and play by the rules.” Since no organization today provides guaranteed lifetime employment, doing what one is stored don’t pay off in complete security as it once did. Now with more options, people want to live by values and principles that they believe in, not just once but are imposed upon them.

The message we hear from leaders is this: if you want to inspire people, build and earn their trust, so they want to be with you and support you. But then people today, there is a desire to amount for something, to be one’s own person, to feel empowered, and to make a difference. Effectiveness and leadership can no longer be centered in positions within a rigid hierarchical structure, but must be centered in interdependent relationships in which leadership and power are shared broadly.

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How to Use Power Positively

How to Use Power Positively

Power is often a dirty word, as in “power corrupts.” Yet, without the power to make things happen, managers can’t build organizations.

Managers need to understand the dynamics of power in four arenas and harness and direct energies in ways that are not just effective and efficient, but also deeply satisfying and empowering of self and the others who lend their energy toward goals.

Power has two primary components: a vision—a goal to achieve—and energy—the impetus or force needed to bring the vision into reality. This offers an equation: Vision multiplied by energy produces the power to accomplish goals! However, opposing energies can vitiate even a great vision supported by enormous energy.

Here, then, is a more realistic equation for power:


Power = Vision
  • Energy/Resistance

    Applying this simple equation is not so simple. Once being powerful was a perquisite of managers. People did what their managers wanted them to do. Wages were provided in return for obedient labor.

    Today, managers need new ways to generate power and influence if they are to harness and focus the energy of their people into power sufficient for excellence and continued success.

    Finite and Infinite Perspectives

    I see two basic views of power:

    • The finite perspective says that power is scarce, limited, and finite—that there is not enough to go around, that someone will win, and someone must lose. This limited view of power limits the power we might accrue. A win/lose perspective of power actually creates resistance, as those who believe they will lose if you win, will fight aggressively and passively to turn the tables.
    • The infinite view sees power as abundant, unlimited, and infinite. In this view, power is accrued through partnering with and learning from others-including those who might resist. The quantity and quality of available power from this perspective is potentially infinite, facilitating great energy.

    Harnessing infinite power depends on mastering six principles:

    1. Focus your energy—focusing, releasing, and managing the energy of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to achieve your goals.
    2. Think systemically—seeing that every thing and every action exists within some system of other things and actions, and that every thing and action within a system impacts and is impacted by every other thing and action with that system.
    3. Learn from differences—using differences to accrue knowledge and skill, not to foster contention or conformity.
    4. Seek sound and current data—operating from accurate, up-to-date information rather than from opinion, interpretation, assumption, or speculation.
    5. Empower others—supporting self and others to identify and resolve their issues and discover their excellence.
    6. Use support systems—developing and using a diverse group of supporters who contribute to achieving. Support systems achieve their goals as they reach critical mass.
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    Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology

    Adapting to Change and Managing the Transition Successfully

    Life is about adapting to change and ever-increasing demands. William Bridges was right: “It’s not the changes that do you in. Ifs the transitions.”

    Organizations must continually change. The question is “how?” The leader’s task is to make change work by helping others through transition.

    A successful transition …

    • Explains what is and what isn’t over. Some things never change: You will continue to serve customers and produce products. What changes is not what you do but how you do it. Help people identify what is and is not over.
    • Respects the past. The practices that frustrate you today were someone’s innovative solutions of the past. Do not criticize widely accepted practices. Accept them as right for that time while recognizing that times change.
    • Ensures the “important stuff” continues. What is the important stuff to you? Service? Ethics? Whatever it is, it must continue. Involve others in defining the “important stuff” and ensure that the change does not disregard them. This increases support for the change.
    • Sets the stage for the future. Today’s change will open your eyes to new opportunities. As you evolve, set goals for what you want to achieve. Measure and evaluate progress. And, show others how the change will move them toward a positive future.
    • Recognizes its day will end. Don’t assume that today’s solution will work forever. And don’t think that this will be the last change.

    Long-term success depends on anticipating and responding to change and making the transition.

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    Build the Reputation Capital of your CEO

    By CEO capital, I mean the asset created by CEO’s reputation. It is the collective esteem that significant others, inside and outside company, hold for the company’s CEO and, for the company. It is the composite of perceptions about a CEO that a company’s stakeholders hold, whether these constituents are employees, analysts, investors, customers, media, regulators, or community leaders.

    This asset can be harnessed to advance a company’s success. But, like any other wealth-creating asset, CEO capital needs to be invested in, managed, and leveraged over time to reap enduring benefits. Companies can utilize the equity that accrues from CEO capital to attract more investors, partners, customers, applicants, and trust in corporate decisions. CEO reputations, when harnessed on behalf of corporate goals, impact a company’s success and viability.

    Every company must develop CEO capital, understand its underpinnings, and manage the important asset of its CEO’s reputation. When accumulated, CEO capital: Has a positive impact on a company’s reputation and success; produces clear, discernible, and valuable payoffs; is known to matter to influential constituencies; and affords more time to develop long-term solutions.

    What Builds CEO Capital?

    Five factors build CEO capital:

    1. Building credibility. This is critical to establishing a favorable CEO reputation. CEOs earn credibility by being consistently truthful and delivering on their promises and by matching behavior with their values.
    2. Abiding by a code of ethics. Setting and abiding by higher standards make a marked impression. CEOs must act in good faith according to ethical guidelines.
    3. Communicating internally. Unless CEOs communicate change and direction, most employees won’t know why and how they are being asked to lend their hands, hearts, and minds. To build CEO capital, CEOs must be tireless internal communicators.
    4. Attracting and retaining a quality management team. Having a highly regarded management team signals to stakeholders that the CEO has a strategy worth following. A top-notch team also signals that the CEO not only has the right people to execute his or her vision but also has prepared well for succession.
    5. Motivating and inspiring employees. CEOs must be pied pipers, serving as masters of ceremony at town hall meetings, leading anchors on global webcasts and teleconferences, and hosts at breakfast meetings. When CEOs inspire their employees, they build a better culture, leading to increased shareholder value. Everyone is a winner. Stakeholders look to see how CEOs manage people and put operating and social systems into place to build bench strength and keep employees loyal and productive.

    These top drivers of CEO capital must all be in place for a CEO to earn top honors. When one is missing, a CEO courts disaster.

    The goal is to leverage the wealth embedded in a CEO’s capital to enhance a company’s reputation and well-being, increasing its economic evaluation, and differentiating it from competitors. As a CEO builds capital, the CEO builds a company.

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