Articles tagged "Dealing with Conflict"
A beautiful thing happened during a client work session this past week:
The management team experienced the value of clear, honest communication.
For some time this client has been under the incorrect assumption that its management team communicated well with each other. Yet invariably when I'd have a one-on-one meeting with any member of the management team, I'd hear comments along the lines of, "Well, I believe what he really wants to do is..." or "I don't think she's really clear on how to proceed with..." and other similar comments about their colleagues. They were more comfortable making assumptions about what others really wanted or believed, instead of simply asking pointed questions or confronting their peers to debate points of view. To them, good communication meant never challenging one another or pushing one another for more information. Needless to say, this wasn't benefiting customers, the team, or the company.
This "non-communication" needed to stop and this was the week it was going to happen. I'd given them ample warning the one-on-one meetings were becoming counterproductive and were going to stop. It was time for honest, straight-forward communication from everyone -- all the time. The team nervously anticipated our work session, because they knew I'd be challenging each of them in ways they didn't do themselves. They believed I would work some magic to get them to open up and honestly communicate with each. I'm not a magician and I can't do any tricks. I just don't like poor communication.
So we established a basic ground rule:
All conversations had to focus on what was right for the customer, employees, or the company.
The conversations couldn't get personal -- they had to stay professional. Then, I simply had each person answer the questions asked of them directly. When they talked but didn't answer a question, I'd ask the question again in a slightly different format or have the person who asked the question rephrase it. When someone veered off topic, I'd redirect him or her back to it. About 30 minutes into the session, I noticed a few of the managers start to follow my lead. They were starting to see that I wasn't being mean; I was simply asking for information. If I got it, we'd move on. If I didn't, I'd probe deeper and ask more questions to help spur thought or uncover information. The team started enjoying themselves as they learned to communicate as professional peers. The team heard information about projects that many of them had no idea were in the works or which were facing serious problems. They learned disagreeing could be productive. They offered ideas to help stalled projects move forward. The work session was productive and the managers seemed to have developed a greater respect for one another. They'd enjoyed having some difficult conversions. They'd enjoyed communicating honestly. It was beautiful!
If your managers talk but don't communicate, show them how to communicate. Let them experience honest communication. It's a beautiful thing.
Copyright MMVII - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about me on LinkedIn!
It's happening again. I'm witnessing a new "leader" become ineffective and the senior team's confidence in him is starting to lag. The leader is losing his effectiveness even though he's already implemented several much needed programs for the organization. He's losing his effectiveness because he's afraid to do one of the toughest things required of a leader: he's afraid to hold a key staff member accountable to do her job efficiently, accurately, and professionally.
It's sad to say, but he's not the first leader in this organization to lose his effectiveness because of this problem. The previous four leaders have not held her accountable either. Why?
They've all been afraid. They're afraid of the conversations they envision they'll have with her. They envision conflicts, arguments, debates, and even the dreaded possibility of tears. Oh No! So instead of dealing with all of that; they don't. Now her poor performance has become what she views as normal and acceptable.
Who's to blame?
It's pretty obvious. It's the fault of every one of the former leaders and now the current leader. It's their fault for being afraid of conversations that haven't even happened yet. It's their fault for anticipating "ugly" conversations instead of anticipating objective, focused, and professional conversations on needed performance changes. It's their fault for not being willing to start the much needed conversations with her. It's their fault for not helping her to clearly see the discrepancies in what is and is not acceptable and why some on the team are frustrated with her. It's their fault for being afraid. It's their fault for not doing what is right for the organization.
In his book, Who Moved My Cheese?, Dr. Spencer Johnson shares a terrific question one of the book's characters asked himself when faced with a frightening challenge. His question was: "What would I do if I weren't afraid?" If you're like me, the answer to that question is usually, "I'd do the tough thing facing me."
If you're a leader with potentially difficult conversations and situations facing you and you are somewhat afraid of dealing with them, what would you do -- for the good of the organization -- if you weren't afraid?
It's been happening more and more. Clients are complaining about their managers' inappropriate behaviors, lack of management skills, and inability to take on greater responsibilities. Yet, when I ask if they have discussed the problem areas with their managers, they say, "It won't do any good. I talked to them about this years ago and they never changed."
Why do so many of us fear having difficult conversations with our managers and other members of our staffs? Why do we choose to not address poor or inappropriate performance? Are we afraid of the potential conflict? Are we afraid we might hurt someone's feelings? Are we afraid someone might cry?
Whatever your reasoning for not addressing poor performance, let me remind you that as the leader you are accountable to know what your manager’s job is (a manager’s responsibility is to ensure the work gets done) and that it's done correctly. I hate to sound cold now, but if a certain piece of equipment started to malfunction and churn out parts that were not up to standard, would you simply stand by and let it continue to spew defective parts? No. You would shut down the unit, determine the cause of the malfunction, and then fix it. It is conceivable that you would stand by the machine to monitor it as it restarts production to ensure the parts are being produced correctly again. You may even continue to interact with and tweak the machine until it operates the way you know it can and should. So why don't you do the same thing with your people?
Fear of potential conflict, hurt feelings, tears, or some other possible reaction holds you back. By not having those difficult conversations you are allowing poor performance to continue, less-than-acceptable products or services to be produced, as well as almost certainly decreasing the opportunity for overall morale to exist and grow. And that's simply not right.
HOW TO HAVE DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS:
Be crystal clear about the subject of your conversation with your employees.
You will be addressing a fact: poor performance.
Don't let yourself become consumed with the potential reactions you may or may not be confronted with.
Your employees may appreciate that you are now asking them to work with you in developing a mutually agreeable plan of action to correct the issue.
To deal with anger, hurt feelings, or tears...
Remember your intent in having this conversation (to address performance) and remind your employees. “I did not mean to hurt your feelings. I meant to have a conversation on performance.”
That simple clarification, shared with an upset employee, is often enough to help refocus the conversation back to the true topic. Try it. You have nothing to fear…and it may just work. It has potential.
One of the quickest ways to alienate new employees, restrict their skill development, and keep an organization stuck in a proverbial rut, is to tolerate employee cliques and allow them to control production.
What are they? Employee cliques are destructive employee groupings (gangs) that don't welcome new employees (outsiders). They view new employees and their ideas as threats to the status quo. To them, new employees are a waste of their time—particularly if they have to train the new person who (in their minds) will (in all probability) quit in a few months anyway. So why bother? La-dee-da.
Take a step back and ask yourself, "If I were a new employee, would I want to continue to work for an organization where the current employees don't want me around and won't train me?" Doubt it. I know I wouldn't. I would leave and find someplace else to work—a place where I felt wanted and appreciated. And if I leave, the veteran employees will (in their minds) be vindicated, "See, we told you she'd leave."
Here is what you as the leader can do:
- Recognize if and where destructive cliques exist in your organization
- Gather your veteran employees together and discuss why they feel the way they do towards new hires
- Develop a program, with a select group of veteran employees and your management team, to develop a new hire orientation program to quickly train and orient new employees into your organization, without unduly burdening current staff
- Continue to work with veteran and rookie staff members to identify ways to better integrate the ‘old’ knowledge and skills with the ‘new’
Trust me: If you don't take action to correct the power of the cliques, they (not you) will control your employee population, its skill level, your employee turnover rates, and ultimately, your organization’s ability to move forward.
Copyright MMII - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching.
In meeting with a prospective client this week, an all too common issue presented itself: The client wants to tweak the organization's culture. The leaders want to enhance their managers' and front-line team members' ability to work together, communicate with one another, and generally create a more comfortable workplace. Wonderful. However, to achieve this, they believe leadership training for their supervisors and managers is the answer. Not in this case. Well, at least not yet.