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Motivating Millennials

Keeping the alliteration going.

Following on from our Managing Millennials article several weeks ago, we’ve been asked “how do you motivate them?”

There’s plenty of research to suggest that Millennials do indeed share some core characteristics to previous generations in terms of their work place needs, which is good news – you don’t need to completely re-write your competency framework to accommodate them.

But there are some important distinctions you should be aware of when managing this ever-growing part of your workforce.

A 2015 Gallup Poll found that Millennials are the least engaged cohort in the workplace, with only 28.9% saying that they are engaged at work.

This a real shame because a further study has found Millennials want to learn and develop their skills more so than any previous generation. They are eager to lead and are ambitious.  But how do we harness this ambition?  Let’s explore four of the possibilities…

Your company’s vision must be socially compelling.

According to research by the Center for Generational Kinetics and Barnum Financial Group, 60% of Millennials said a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work at their current employer.

This means that your employer branding is more important than ever.  You may not be able to influence your organisation’s mission statement or the colour of the website.  But you can tweak your job descriptions, career pages and assessment centres to highlight the potential connection between a job role and its meaningful impact elsewhere.

 

My career will be one of choice, not one chosen out of desperation. It will align who I am with what I do.

- Male graduate employee, USA


Communicate.  Openly and frequently.

Millennials enter the workplace accustomed and eager to both give and receive feedback on everything, regularly.  In fact, one study reported that 42% of Millennials want feedback every week—more than twice the percentage of every other generation.

This will place a great deal of strain on your existing managers, do they have the skills and the confidence to have these honest and responsible conversations regularly?  The number one reason for millennial turnover is that their managers don’t.

Embrace technology.  They have.

Millennials are likely to be the most technologically advanced age group in your workforce.  And they will have acquired this training at no cost to your organisation (which comes with its own pros and cons).  But they are skilled multi-taskers and move from smart phone to laptop to tablet to television an average of 27 times an hour.

They were first to experience a wireless, connected world, and according to a PwC report, they “expect the technologies that empower their personal lives to also drive communication and innovation in the workplace.”

Encourage a culture of trust, autonomy and creativity.

Millennials are looking for employers and direct line managers who have created environments of creative freedom and give them the flexibility to make decisions and find their own path to success.

It is true that millennials move from job to job, not because they are aimless or disloyal – but because they are impatient with systems that stifle their ability to innovate, be empowered and ultimately stay happy.

 

[Millennials] expect to work in communities of mutual interest and passion – not structured hierarchies.

- Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies Ltd

We’ll look further at why millennials want what they want, and how you might be able to deliver it to them in the following weeks, so stay tuned!  In the meantime, we highly recommend these additional sources – particularly the PWC research as it should form the basis for any stakeholder conversations in your business about managing and motivating millennials.

           

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Energy Injection

How to inject energy into your events…

Recently we were asked what tools we could use when facilitating a behavioural and cultural change event, in order to inject energy and help creativity.

It’s funny how when you get asked these questions the mind often goes blank: the tools that are second-nature to us have become so ingrained in our work that we don’t really think about them anymore.

Yet when we started sharing these tools with the client and discussing as colleagues the different tools we used, we all benefited and all picked up new ideas too!

So here is that insight shared with you too: ideas for injecting energy into a group, breaking people out of ‘stuck’ thinking and getting more creative….

Visualisation – this is about painting the picture of what it would feel and look like to have something change. We ask the question, “if some miracle happened overnight and you came to work tomorrow and this had already changed, what would be the first sign to you that things were different? What would you see / hear / feel? What else?”

What will it not be? With our naturally critical brains, we often find it easier to say what we do not want than to talk about what we do want.

Even in a personal example of preparing for a difficult conversation or presentation, we might think to ourselves, “I don’t want to come across like a nasty person,” or “I don’t want them to think I’m not an expert.” Getting people to say out loud what they do not want can be a great starting point for then switching things around and asking, “if that’s what you want to avoid, what would you want instead?” or “what would help you avoid that outcome you do not want?”

Improvisation – to break people out of logical and analytical problem-solving mode and move them into a more creative space, improvisation is a great tool. Using the “yes, and” game means taking something simple like, “what could we do for our next team social?” and asking people to apply “yes, and…” to every idea.

Someone might start with, “we could have it at the pub,” and the next person could say, “yes, and we could invite Beyonce to sing there,” on to, “yes, and we could have a space for people who don’t like loud music to sit and relax,” followed by, “yes, and we could put the pub on a space rocket and fly to the moon…”

Once we’ve played with that, we can then apply the same concept to ideas raised for the specific issue at hand, encouraging more building on ideas than critiquing.

List 50 ideas – when we are asked to come up with 5 ideas, we often get stuck at 3.

When we are asked to come up with 50 ideas, we might get stuck at 20 or 30, so this is a simple tool to get people thinking fast and throwing out as many ideas as possible. In an attempt to get more ideas out, people come up with more and more crazy ideas, which may not be practical at all, but they might spark inspiration for something that is practical.

Getting a high volume of ideas out without judgement can lead to us spotting the potential in a whacky idea and seeing how that might work.

Switch seats – just getting people up and moving often provides a different perspective, so give yourself permission to make people that little bit uncomfortable and move them around. You could also add in a specific perspective for this by say having an empty chair in the room that is the “customer’s chair” – or key stakeholder, shareholder etc.

Ask someone to sit in that chair and share their perspective, as this can drastically change the direction of the conversation.

Get outside – if it’s feasible in your venue and given the weather, ask people to discuss the idea / issue in pairs on a walk outside. The fresh air, exercise and different perspective will often raise very different ideas that can be brought back into the room and shared for consideration.

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AI in Recruitment

The robots are coming!

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in recruitment has been attracting lots of attention lately.  But the question remains, is this a useful technology?

Although there have been exciting advancements to this category of technology, it’s still far from perfect. Amazon recently discovered that their AI algorithms were discriminating against women. And if Amazon can’t get it right…

All evidence suggests that was because Amazon’s computer models were built using resumes submitted to the company over a 10-year period – mostly resumes from men, a reflection of male dominance across the tech industry. In effect, Amazon’s system taught itself that male candidates were preferable.

Thankfully, Amazon have shut this programme down, redistributed the design team and have assured us that this algorithm was never used in a live recruiting environment. But it has raised some interesting questions about the use of AI, and its impact in the HR industry in general.

For companies facing stiff competition in the job market, particularly for jobs that attract too many irrelevant applicants, the possibility of using algorithms to do the grunt work is extremely attractive.

Erica Titchener, Global Head of Technology at talent management consultancy, Alexander Mann Solutions suggests. She states that algorithms, “can aid the identification of the right talent, remove a level of human error and reduce the risk of recruiters missing qualified candidates.”

Whilst we’re inclined to agree with her in concept, Amazon’s experience suggests that an AI programme is only as good as its makers – and the data it is built from. Can we remove human error from the source code? Can we accurately describe to the programme what “the right talent” is?

In our experience, when a firm is seeking to recruit to a role, it’s seeking a balance between a candidate’s personality fit within the organisation versus what the candidate has achieved and the skills they possess.

Currently, AI can identify candidates with the right work histories and screen for certain qualifications, educational history, work experience and other limited factors that may be useful in the role. But it’s basically playing snap with job descriptions and resumés.

This in itself is hugely useful in reducing the work load of sifting through potentially thousands of CVs. With each CV being given a fair assessment based on its content, without bias to the ethnicity of the name on the CV, the individual’s age or the school they attended. Reviewed by a programme that doesn’t get tired, have “bad days” or spill tea all over a pile of CVs.

At the heart of recruitment lays this insightful quote from Chris Nicholson, co-founder and CEO of AI firm Skymind, “the question everyone’s trying to answer through all the interviews, screenings, tech and coding challenges, is, ‘How can I predict someone’s performance?’”

Does AI have the ability to establish what an employee’s performance will be? We don’t think so just yet. But that doesn’t mean we should dismiss the technology.

The main benefit of AI in recruitment is that it will save your organisation’s HR department time – certainly in the initial hiring phase. This saved time can then be spent working to improve the later stages of your recruitment process.

 

There’s a great article in the Harvard Business review by Satya Ramaswamy that dives deeper into the concept of AI in the recruitment space, it’s well worth a read!

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Small Change?

If a butterfly flaps its wings…

On a recent workshop focused on personally coping with and adapting to change and uncertainty, the point was raised that we often don’t recognise small change in our lives as significant. 

When we get made redundant or join a new company or buy a new house, these ‘big ticket’ items stand out in our memories as significant. 

We might give ourselves time to consider the effects of that change and wonder how to accept the new normal.  But what about those smaller changes in life that can have equally big impact? 

Getting a new boss or colleague or losing a close colleague as they choose to leave the business or are made redundant?  Realising an aspect of our work has changed or that our expectations of something have changed.  These things can cause emotional turmoil and upset our routines, but do we recognise them?

You may have come across the concept of ‘The Change Curve’ before?

It provides an overview of the emotions that people go through when faced with change. It considers the impact of change over time in terms of self-esteem and morale and identifies four broad, common responses to change:

Denial, Frustration, Experimentation and Integration

This is a fluid curve and people will go through each area at different rates.

Dealing with resistance to change is often a case of understanding where someone is in the process of responding to change – and then helping them move towards a more positive response.

Recognising where people are, is an important first step to having the impact you desire – what might it be like to be in each of these four areas? What would you hear people saying? What would indicate someone was in this area of response to change? Thinking this through will help you recognise the signs through behaviour – then how can we help people move forward towards Commitment?

Denial—clues How to move on
Shock, anger

Fighting the outcome, saying why this should not happen

Claiming the change will not go ahead

Confront with evidence of the reality: what will change and what will stay the same

Create awareness of what will happen when

Describe the problem / reason for the change & discuss the implications for the future

Take time to listen and understand concerns

Resistance— clues How to move on
Pulling back from work, doing the minimum

Stating how they will not engage with the change

Showing frustration or going quiet

 

Take time to listen and understand concerns

Look for quick wins—help them see how the change could benefit them in the short-term

Remove barriers to change

Challenge assumptions: what do we know vs what is opinion or a guess

Listen to understand

Be supportive

Exploration—clues How to move on
Suggesting ideas on how the future might work / feel

Trying out working with aspects of the “new normal”

Asking questions about how things will work and how to make the best of the situation

Explore solutions: how could you help this work better?

Focus people on priorities

Set short-term goals and give feedback on progress

Get people involved

Commitment—clues How to help people stay here
Talks less about the way things used to be and more about making the new normal work

Shares ideas on getting the best out of the new way of working

Talks openly about both successes and challenges, focused on finding ways to make things better

Focus people on results

Look towards the future

Set clear goals, adding in some longer-term aspirations and giving regular feedback on progress

Acknowledge and recognise / reward progress and achievements

The focus with these tips is to help people accept change and recognise their new normal, so that they can adapt and make the most of it. So what is going on in your life that may not be a big ticket change item, but still requires you to go through this journey?

How might it help you to consider where you are experiencing frustration or even denial and work towards acceptance and adapting to this new life?

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A Self-Aware Career

The Importance of Self-awareness for your Next Career Move

We were recently asked to contribute to a blog for the fabulous people over at Tucker Stone.  For a (not so little) snap shot of what we said, read on!

It’s a worrying fact is that most of us think we are more self-aware than we are.

We can all think of people who completely lack self-awareness: that person who thinks they’re the life and soul of the party, but everyone else finds annoying or that person who thinks they’re a great manager but nobody in the team can stand working for them.

But what if we are just as clueless about how other people perceive us?

In her useful and practical book, “Insight,” psychologist Tasha Eurich highlights that there are in fact two separate skills of self-awareness, often unrelated: being good at one does not mean you are good at the other. The two aspects are internal and external self-awareness. In this post we explore what these mean, how they can help in career choices and career success and how we can develop each skill.

Internal self-awareness

Internal self-awareness is knowing who you really are, how you work, what helps you be at your best and what drives you mad. This means that there needs to be a general awareness of values, passions, interests and frustrations as well as a moment-by-moment awareness of how you are feeling, what is causing any emotional reactions and how you are behaving in response.

What difference might this kind of awareness make to your career choices?

There is no doubt that knowing what is important to you in life, your values, the kind of work you love and the kind of environments that you work well in, will help you choose roles and organisations that best suit your nature. You will enjoy the job more, stay longer, have a better impact on your team and no doubt produce better results.

So have you considered these things? It is wise as you consider your next career move – and indeed as you reflect on life in general – to consider what is important to you in life and how you are aligning your decisions and actions to those values now. Here are some questions that could help you identify your values, passions and life goals:

• What values did you grow up with? The things that guided your sense of what is important in life? Would you say you have the same values now?
• Who are the people you respect most in life / work? What is it about them that earns them your respect?
• What types of projects or activities do you seem to thrive on – gaining energy from the work and seeing improvement in your ability?
• If you retired tomorrow, what would you miss most about your work?
• What legacy would you like to leave behind?
• Imagine that you are an impartial person reading your answers to the questions above. Just looking at those responses, what do you think might be a career this person would enjoy and thrive in?

One of the myths about self-awareness is that spending a lot of time on introspection or rumination makes us self-aware. If we reflect over events, worry about what people think about us and re-live embarrassing and awkward moments, we are not growing in self-awareness, we are just cycling through emotions and thoughts that do not go anywhere.

What we need instead is structured thinking about what has happened, what we have learnt and what we can do next, to ensure we gain insights and take useful action.

In making career choices, this reflection is about what you want out of life. For career success, focus that reflection on your experiences, what worked well, what patterns there are and what you can do to be even more effective. Which is where an external perspective can be invaluable.

External self-awareness

External self-awareness is knowing how you are perceived by others. When you give feedback to your colleagues, are you seen as helpful or not? When you give a presentation, are you seen as professional and clear or confused and too stuck in the detail?

If internal self-awareness is lacking because we think in unhelpful ways or have not considered specific questions about what we want out of life and how we get it, then sadly external awareness has double the challenge.

95% of people think they are self-aware, the real figure is closer to 10-15%

- Tasha Eurich

Not only do most of us struggle to ask for feedback, accept and use it; there is also the fact that most of us do not like giving honest, constructive feedback.

This means that even if you are brave and open enough to ask your colleagues how they find your management or presentation style, the chances are that they will not be honest with you. Well, not to your face anyway.

To other colleagues, probably. To you through an anonymous 360 degree survey, possibly. But a direct conversation is extremely difficult for most people. So what can you do?

The first trick to getting people to open up is to show you are open to challenge. Some people ask “what could I do better?” but are then not open to what comes back.

The fear of  hurting a person’s feelings or ending up in a conflict, can stop the other person from being honest. If you are feeling brave and up for receiving honest feedback, then go to someone you trust with something specific. Take a piece of feedback you have received before or something you are concerned about and sense-check it.

An example could be, “I’ve had feedback before that I can come across in meetings as fixed in my ideas and not open to others’ views. I really want to understand how this is coming across and what I can do to change it. Can you help me with that please? What have you seen me do that suggests I’m fixed in my ideas?”

Because you have already said the difficult bit about being fixed and not open to others, the other person is more likely to feel safe answering your question. Then prepare yourself to stay open, listen and thank the person for whatever they say next!

Leaders who avoid asking for feedback or receive feedback and ignore it are in serious danger of delusion. The best leaders are humble, accepting that they are not perfect and looking for ways to develop. As you consider your next steps, how are you gathering feedback to understand others’ perceptions and ensure you are growing?

You can buy a copy of the book by clicking the image below:

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Radical Candor

How to have Honest Conversations

The release of the book Radical Candor has raised up the idea of brutal honesty, after years of this concept being seen as too harsh.  Can I really be honest with my team?  What does it mean to be “radically candid?”

As author Kim Scott points out, many of us have been raised with the teaching “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” and yet suddenly as people managers and leaders, it is our job to say things that are not on the face of it, “nice.”  And so we avoid being honest with people because it is not the kind thing to do.

What if we have that wrong and the kind thing to do is to help people improve?

There is universal understanding of the benefit of feedback and helping people grow, avoiding poor performance etc, yet the pain involved in having honest conversations seems to stop most of us from even trying.  In another great book called “Insight,” Tasha Eurich shares research on self-awareness and how difficult it can be for us to develop this skill.

Of course feedback and honest conversations are critical to self-awareness.  I am not going to know my label is sticking out the back of my jacket unless someone tells me.  I need feedback on my presentation style to know how to improve.

Yet worryingly, the research shows what we probably already know is true: not only will most people avoid telling someone an uncomfortable truth, most of us will actually lie and tell someone everything is fine to avoid confrontation, hurting feelings or feeling like a nasty person.

For anyone who has been trained in coaching or leading people, the concept of a support and challenge graph or finding the balance between encouraging and being direct, will not be new.  In fact as with all the best ideas, this common sense is sadly not so often used in practice.

Scott’s Care Personally and Challenge Directly is just as straightforward and gives a visual for us to be considering in conversations.

To be both caring and direct allows us to give specific and useful feedback to colleagues.

This avoids us being obnoxious (giving feedback without really caring about the person), or perhaps more common, falling into ruinous empathy, where we only say nice things because we do not want to hurt the other person’s feelings.


Consider a recent conversation you had with someone and where on this graph you may have been operating from.  What would it have looked like for you to move more towards high care and high challenge?  Likewise, think about a time when you have been radically candid.  What helped you do that?  How could you recreate that success?
 
You might well know most of this already, so what is it that will really help you make a change to your behaviour?  What will actually drive you to be more honest in conversations?  We find the two practical steps make the biggest difference:
 
Script it.
 
The scariest thing is to find yourself in one of these conversations with the intention of being honest, only to find you can’t put what you need to say into words.  And yes, as we frequently get asked, this even applies to body odour.
 
Script what you want to say so that you are prepared for the conversation and make sure the words feel natural to you.  “I’m sorry to bring this up and you will probably feel as uncomfortable about this as I do.  I’ve noticed you have a strong body odour and some days it is so strong I have to open the window.  Is it something you’re aware of?”
 
That approach is really quite different to, “look there’s no easy way to say this, you smell bad.  I wanted to tell you because I always hope that people will tell me if there is anything about me that needs changing or improving.”  And yet depending on the way you usually speak, one probably feels more ‘you’ than the other.
 
Prepare what you will say in words that feel appropriate to you and make sure you keep it short.  A long speech will switch people off, so say what you need to say and then ask a question or wait for a response.
 
Share your thoughts on being honest with other people. 
 
Scott suggests getting your team to read the Radical Candor book so that you can discuss the ideas together.  Some managers have even tried having the visual with them in conversations and explaining their intention.
 
Here is an example we heard on a workshop from a manager who tried it out: “I’m going to try out radical candor here because I believe you could be a good people manager and I want to help you get better.  The way you speak to team members when you are under pressure is not ok.  I have heard you in the office saying things like you don’t care about other people’s priorities, your work is most important.  What impact do you think that has on the team?”
 
Because the team understand the positive intention, there is of course some of the usual defensiveness, but this can be more quickly turned towards constructive solution-building as they recognise the manager is just trying to help.
 
The book is a good read and gives practical tips to help you use the ideas, if you click on the image below you’ll be whisked away to a place you can buy the book.  And if we’re being radically candid about it, should you buy the book from there – we’ll make 10p
 

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The Inconvenient Truth About Change

Are all change projects doomed to fail?

In almost every aspect of our lives, most of us crave a sense of routine. We have usually spent many years establishing habits and ways of doing things, so anything that disrupts those habits is often resisted.

What’s fascinating is that as individuals we are far more willing to embrace change than in an organisation or as a collective of individuals.

For example, as individuals in the 21st Century we have embraced technology widely and completely. So completely in fact that we cannot imagine our lives without technology. But at an organisational level, most people can name more than one business that failed to adapt to this change and was left behind.

During any of our discussions about organisational change, we universally hear the phrase that change is difficult. Whilst this statement is true, it also taps into a belief: if something is difficult, we are likely to fail at it.

In our experience this belief is the beginning of the end of any change initiative.

Our bias towards failure and our need for certainty are hardwired into our brains. A recent study from the University of Chicago found that we assume that failure is a more likely outcome of change than success. This biased belief creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. We immediately begin to look for evidence that supports the imminent failure of the change we are working towards.

This is as true for an individual who is struggling with a diet as it is for an organisation trying to change its culture.

70% of change initiatives fail..

- Harvard Business Review

Anecdotal evidence suggests that about 70% of change initiatives fail and most of these failures are attributed to negative employee attitudes and importantly, unhelpful management behaviour.

Managers are the behavioural leaders within an organisation and it is the standards they set that people follow. If those managers are not engaged with the change that you are trying to achieve, they won’t be setting the behavioural standards and the tone required to implement the change.

So first and foremost in your change planning is to answer a simple question: are your managers positive advocates for the change you’re trying to achieve?

If not, how can you get them on board? Look for the ‘bright spots’, as the Heath brothers describe in their book, “Switch.” Where are people engaging with the idea and what has helped them do so? What are engaged managers thinking and doing differently about change? Work with them and encourage them to share what they are doing with their peers.

Then how do we challenge the idea that change is likely to fail and stop people from making that belief into a self-fulfilling prophecy?

In the University of Chicago study looking at the negative reactions to change and the tendency for failure, researchers reminded participants how with a little dedication and a little effort, people generally improve at things over time. By priming the participants for success, the researchers completely eliminated the negative bias towards change.

We believe this is also true for organisational change.

So whenever we hear the phrase that change is difficult, we would do well to remind ourselves and our teams of this simple truth: we have successfully changed, learnt new skills and adapted to new ways of doing things our entire lives.

And we can do it again.

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Setting Boundaries

We were friends, now I’m your boss!

Most of us spend at least a third of our lives in some form of working environment, interacting with colleagues and peers for many years if not decades.   It is only natural that close friendships are developed as you share each other’s lives, both professionally and to a large degree – personally.

And in the main, this is actually a great thing!  Who wouldn’t want to work with their friends?

However, if you suddenly find yourself in a position of authority over your friends, how can you handle this?  How can you still keep your friendships whilst also being responsible for ensuring a friend’s performance and productivity?  Is it even possible?

We believe so, but it takes a great deal of discipline.  People who are newly promoted and find themselves in charge of close friends tend to react in one of two ways: they completely alienate themselves from their previous relationships, avoid all personal connection and thus appear aloof, or they make light of the change in personal dynamic and continue the friendship as if nothing has happened.

Neither approach is sustainable over the long-term and at the very least it can be damaging to your sense of well-being, not to mention the productivity of your team.  To walk this line with your friends you’ll need discretion, humility and a concrete approach to boundary setting.

We would argue that all good friendships have these characteristics – so if your friendship isn’t able to accommodate this new change – how good was the friendship in the first place?

Discretion

Don’t “flaunt” your friendship amongst your fellow colleagues. A shared joke amongst friends is the quickest way to alienate others in your team – the moment people feel there is an “in” crowd and they are not part of it, trust amongst the team will break down.

Humility

Research suggests that when a manager is perceived as a friend, teams won’t be motivated by lofty speeches and posturing, but will require messages that feature clearly defined goals.

A leader seen as distant or outside of the social circle, a CEO for example – and therefore more powerful – is expected to be confident and unashamed, but one who is close and accessible is expected to be humble.  You’ll need to consider which approach is right for your context.

Boundary Setting

Last but certainly not least, to maintain the respect of your employees while being friends with them, you must be careful to distinctly define the boundaries between yourself and your staff.  If you notice a change in your workplace friendships, you’ll face the challenge of being this person’s employer first and friend second.  The welfare of the wider team or business must take precedence over your friendship.

The best first step is the honest conversation.  You might imagine this could feel a little awkward and often it can do – but no more awkward than you and your friends are probably already feeling… “so then… I’m now your boss.  That probably feels a bit weird for both of us… Shall we have a chat about how we make this work?”

The conversation that follows can explore how you are each finding the shift so far, how you want to ensure the rest of the team do not feel alienated by your friendship, how you manage positive and constructive feedback both ways (you could benefit from the openness of your friend in telling you how you can be a better manager) and how you might address difficult conversations.

Having this conversation early on in this change of dynamic can make a huge difference to your success and your well being, avoiding you worrying about how the other person is thinking about the whole thing.

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Understanding Conflict

totem-donutIf you stole some of my doughnut, we’d have a problem…

From time to time we all experience a little disharmony and discord with others.

Managing at these times can be taxing, but with some techniques and practical tools for handling conflict, it is possible to be equipped to confidently deal with these difficult situations and find a positive outcome.

Now we’re not suggesting that we can cover everything about conflict in a single article, but we can certainly cover the basics in terms of where conflict comes from.

Research suggests that managers spend around 25% of their time managing and handling conflict in their teams. Conflict isn’t always necessarily a negative thing – it can often mean that people are passionate about their work and it can encourage creative thinking. Conflict, can however mean that teams become ‘stuck’ when an impasse is reached so finding ways to resolve conflict is important.

Totem Gummi Bears

When conflict occurs in the workplace, it can reduce morale, lower productivity, increase absenteeism and cause confrontations. Reynolds and Kalish (2002) found that managers spent at least 25% of their time resolving conflicts.  This obviously has an effect on the productivity of both managers and employees.

But conflict in work is not always so destructive. It can lead to new ideas and an increased interest in dealing with problems as it facilitates bringing to the fore issues, providing opportunities for people to develop their communication and interpersonal skills.

Stulberg (1997) identified a pattern common to all controversies. He termed them the Five Ps of Conflict Management:

Perceptions: Our negative perceptions of conflict impact our approach in resolving conflict as we strive to eliminate the source of these negative feelings.

Problems: Anyone can be involved in a conflict, and the amount of time, money, and equipment needed for resolution will vary according to its complexity.

Processes: There are different ways to go about resolving disputes: Suppress the conflict, give in, fight, litigate, mediate, etc.

Principles: We determine the priorities of all resolution processes on the basis of an analysis of our fundamental values regarding efficiency, participation, fairness, compliance, etc.

Practices: Power, self-interest, and unique situations are all factors relating to why people resolve disputes the way they do.

A good understanding of these causes is a great first step towards recognising conflict and actually turing it to your advantage.  Conflict is healthy and advantageous when it’s aim is to improve the outcomes for the team.  It’s certainly healthy when it’s respectful and not personal – which is easier said than done!

Healthy conflict requires openness and an ability to entertain others’ ideas. Team members need to set aside ego and avoid becoming defensive in order for conflict to be healthy.

Jelly Bean Diversity

The benefits of creating a team atmosphere that embraces healthy conflict are numerous and profound. These five benefits are just the tip of the ice berg:

  • Healthy conflict leads to better decisions.
  • Healthy conflict is a sign of trust and security.
  • Healthy conflict invites diverse points of view.
  • Healthy conflict surfaces potential issues.
  • Healthy conflict builds commitment.

One book we highly recommend to learn more about conflict is Conflict Communication (ConCom): A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication by Rory Miller.

He explains that our reactions to conflict are subconscious, scripted, and for the good of the group.  And that we have three brains:

  • Lizard brain (survival)
  • Monkey brain (emotion / social status)
  • Human brain (reason)

With each “brain” having a different priority and having evolved to deal with different kinds of conflict. They work using different scripts and have a very clear seniority system.

Although the course that generated this book was originally developed for police and corrections officers, it has now also been taught in hospitals and factories and in a total of eight countries.

What’s great is that these conflict-resolution principles should be applicable to most situations and relationships, including with spouses and coworkers as well as strangers. As Miller concludes in the afterword,

“almost everything in this book is stuff you live with every day. … But now you see it.”

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