Posts Tagged ‘conflict management’
Last week I had the privilege of delivering a 3.5 day leadership training to a group of emerging leaders. One of the things I cherish about new leaders is their hunger for learning, and it is infectious. Great conversations start with a question – that is my mantra. Our time together was structured around questions and each learner had a learning log in the form of a poster that they put on the wall. It turned out to be an amazing way to watch the journey of 20 different leaders as the answered questions like:
- What is your definition of leadership?
- What makes your job critical to this organization?
- What are my strengths?
- What skills/knowledge do I already possess?
- What capacity do I need to build as a leader?
Our time ended with action plans and I heard many of the same things – I need to go DO . . . . .
My one piece of advice is always make your first DO = self observation, not DO = practice the behavior. Here is why. In my new book I talk about the OBN leader(Ought But Not) and the trap of thinking you are doing things in a way that are most effective for your people. Just taking time to watch yourself in the situations where you think you are being an effective leader will help you test your belief.
For example, one leader mentioned that she realized through observing herself in an active listening exercise we did in class that spending 3 minutes (even 30 seconds) listening to someone was impossible because her mind started to swirl with how to fix their problem. For her practice, I advised her spend a week watching herself in listening situations and practicing active listening to see what she did well and where she struggled the most. At the end of each day email herself what she experienced and how her capacity to be present with others showed up for her.
Then – set a goal (that is SMART) and enlist the support you need to be successful. This includes asking one person to serve as an accountability/feedback person for you.
It is that simple, but never that easy. I get that. It is powerful to watch people ignited by learning, and when individuals start owning their learning it is cause for celebration.
The moment I knew the learning was working was when 3 leaders formed a group to read Crucial Conversations together, with the goal of increasing their capacity to manage conflict. It was priceless!
What are your answers to the questions I posed above?
At its core, talent management is about great conversations. Go have one.
I remember the moment I became passionate about one-on-ones. I was in day 2 supporting a nationally known author/consultant in the area of conflict management/robust conversations. Our challenge: We were 16 months into a curriculum rollout/organizational change and the success was present, but only in pockets. As we went from group to group getting feedback on successes and failures, a question came to my mind, so I asked it. ”Bill, in your assumptions of organizations and relationships between leaders and their teams, do you assume that leaders are meeting one-on-one with their teams regularly?” His answer “Yes.” It hit me, we can equip leaders all day long to have these wonderful fierce, crucial, or honest conversations, and yet if they are not creating controlled space that is safe and focused (like a one-on-one conversation) it will be difficult to practice and change habits. More importantly Failure rate > Success rate – and failure in the area of building relationships (ie. leadership) is expensive at many levels.
That is also the time I realized I would start a crusade around habits that mean the most to people (ie. engagement!) and that busy leaders, if they are willing to practice them will get the biggest ROT (return on time).
Here are some videos I have put together for leaders to think differently about this time using the Johari Window as a lens for not only how they listen, but how they create safety for their people by sharing first.
What is to come? A script for how this could be a 15 minute time of learning in one of your team meetings and a key note/workshop around one on ones where this could be used. Subscribe to my trU Tips and you will get the templates.
I believe our learning model for most organizations has changed, instead of going off to class, practicing, and then coming back to receive practice/support to help us get better – we now are in positions where we have to learn as we do and it is important in that model to get support and feedback real-time. Since 99.9% of companies have <500 people, this model works great as long as leaders are present on a somewhat routine basis and the time is productive for both leader and individual.
My goal is to equip leaders and key supporters (HR leaders) to help their people create the habits that feed a frenzy of honest conversations, that lead to thoughtful actions, and result in trUPerformance.
Is there someone in your work life that is causing you pain?
There are some great books out on having difficult conversations. My two favorites: Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott and Crucial Conversations by the Vital Smarts team. When I script leadership development activities, this is the #2 learning must for any new/current leader. It is that important and it gets easier, but it is never that easy.
If I were a leader every time I looked around the room and realized more than half my team is new in the last 12 months, I would make a group learning assignment to read/reread one of these books as a team. It could also be a gift for a new team member, and if you do that remember my gift giving advice!
Let me add another voice to this topic, a TED talk by Ash Beckham. It is not specific enough to outline the skills of having honest conversations with people, but it certainly speaks to the heart of the topic. I found myself laughing as she shared her own transformation to having more honest conversations. Her voice is not academic – instead it is very real and that makes her advice/story relevant and helpful.
She started by controlling her own narrative first. It would be a great follow-up to a book study group because many of the themes of the above books are captured in her talk.
A big part of having tough conversations is showing up often enough – in a focused manner – with your people to have all the other conversations that constitute a relationship. Habits around One-on-Ones and team meetings are critical to making this skill even more relevant and EASIER.
What makes tough conversations tougher is when, as leaders, those are the only time we show up to connect with our people.
My words started the conversation “Did somebody feed the dog yet?”
The response started with the words “Well, she did not do what I asked her and . . . . . “.
It was the language of an excuse.
The thing that stuck in my mind was I will accept reasons, but please don’t give me excuses. As I watch leaders and teams work through things, I have seen how excuses create lines for battle. He said . . . . She said . . . . They said . . . . It gets messy really fast. When emotions are raised by assigning blame first, it is hard for most people to step back and talk through it. Excuses generally point outward at the environment or actions of others, and lead to blame and away from solutions.
When we focus on getting some reasons out on the table, it requires us to ask a few more questions to establish what assumptions or knowledge are being brought into the conversation. Establishing this allows ownership to emerge. The focus can then be on a decision they made that got in the way of something getting done or getting fixed, and what the action plan looks like.
Two great practices this week are to listen:
- When something happens or your outcomes are questioned, do you give an excuse or ask a few questions and focus on reasons something happened or did not happen? How does it effect the conversation?
- As you interact with your team, what do you hear more of – excuses or reasons? What is the impact of sharing excuses vs reasons?
I am holding out hope that some day my simple question gets answered with something like:
I am watching my favorite episode ever of Dog with a Blog and thought I would finish it before I fed our hungry dog. That was probably not a good decision, because the next episode was my second favorite ever, so let me shut off the TV and take care of it.
I could be waiting a while, but I know the expectations I need to share and the questions I need to ask in the future.
Seth Godin had a recent post titled Two questions behind every diagreement. In it he shares two questions that will help move through/solve every disagreement:
- Are we on the same team?
- What’s the right path forward?
By definition, you cannot have a team without common goals and group decision making power, and getting there requires conflict. These are two great questions, but let me add a few more to help you apply this in your own team and move things forward:
1. Are we on the same team? –> What is the issue? What is the outcome we want?
2. What’s the right path forward? –> What are three steps that will move us ahead? What 1 step will I own? What 1 step will you own? What 1 step will we BOTH own? (remember 1 + 1 + 1 = 3)
If you cannot answer/agree on #1 don’t skip/move ahead to #2. The key to #1 is addressing the issue and not the person – ie. If the issue is someone or what someone else needs to do to make my life easier, then the whole discussion is about winning and not solving a problem. That means you are the problem –> so step back, take a deep breath, apologize, and step back into the discussion with a different mindset.
If you get to #2, the best way to build teamwork is to own work together. If a solution takes 20 steps and 3 months, focus on the next 3 and 48-72 hours. Progress/success builds relationships between people and teams are created along the way. I can hear the complaints now – - But this is a very complex problem and 3 steps is too small. My next question: Is the issue that the problem is too complex or We are not agreeing on/owning a solution as a team? In either case – either start moving forward or punt the problem to another team.
fyi – If anyone on the team has a goal to sit back and let someone else fail so they can either: a) Ride in and save the day or b) Play the I told you so card – - – they should be given one chance to hit the reset button, and then removed from the team.
Thanks for planting the seed Seth.
When we think of anything with the word PLAN in it, do these words quickly follow in your mind?
If you think of it as a story, it would have a main character – You – in all your strengths, experiences, successes, weaknesses, and moments of non-performance.
It would have . . .
. . . history that helps you frame your character with terms like talents, passions, rewards, and realities. (what I call your trUYou)
. . . a current story about where you are today and what might be changing for you. It would also have some preferred future that gives us a sense of where the story might be going.
. . . ownership. It is our story and although we need to ask others for help, in the end it is ours to write and to tell.
. . . portability. Sometimes our story needs to go somewhere else to move ahead - another role, another project, and maybe another organization.
. . . help. If we know you and understand where you desire to go, then we could choose to enter your story and join you on the journey as a mentor, a friend, a partner in accountability, or maybe even a fellow learner that desires the same journey.
If we know our journey will be challenging journey, then maybe we hire a coach. They would help us step back and see things differently, or rewrite the journey so that the story takes us to some different places and outcomes that we might not see by ourselves.
I am thinking of renaming my template as I prepare to share it with the human resource professionals at the Illinois SHRM Conference next week. Too many people do not have them based on the Talent Scorecards I have given leaders and too many I have seen lack the pieces that tell a great story.
I would like my story to say that I worked, with others, to change that.
It feels like a great conversation. I love great conversations.
I am in the process of reading/reviewing Jodi Glickman’s book Great On The Job – What To Say, How To Say It – The Secrets of Getting Ahead. As I go through it I will share some thoughts that make me go Hmmmm . . . This posting is based on one of those moments.
What is the secret to speaking what you feel about someones performance and having it end up in a place where the relationship is still intact (or stronger) and your thoughts are heard?
The first and only tip – Focus on how you request and receive feedback from others.
I read Jodi Glickman’s book Great on the Job, and one quote is stuck in my head. It is under the chapter of Ask for Feedback and the heading of Say Thank You. The quote is (p. 129):
The goal, however, is continuous improvement and learning, not just feeling good. If you have a tough feedback session, remind yourself that the goal of the session is not to make you feel good. The goal is to make you better at your job.
Talent management is about great conversations, and the definition of a conversation is a form of interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people who are following rules of etiquette. (wikipedia) We all need to hear what is going well, but we have to be able to hear what we can do better. At the heart of this conversation is a lot of smaller conversations around - How am I doing? What is going well and where do I need to improve?
How can we use this as individuals?
First, recognize that giving feedback is a lost art for many leaders who are, themselves, caught in a spot where nobody is telling them what they are doing well (when is the last time you told your leader about something they did well?) and the list of to do’s is only getting longer. So, our job as individuals is to ask for it well, stay calm in the moment of receiving it, and respond by saying thank you without our faces getting red or our jaws tightening. Then do something with it that creates momentum for you and the organization.
Second, put extra focus into defining your role/objectives and own the one on one time with your leader. This makes talking about performance easier. Here is a template if you want an example of what that looks like.
Getting and giving good feedback is not easy, but it is pretty simple. I wonder what would happen if both leaders and followers read this one chapter together and tried it for a couple of months. My guess is some great conversations would happen.
What tips do you have for giving/getting good feedback?
In his interview about happiness in HBR, Daniel Gilbert makes the following statement: “…the frequency of your positive experiences is a much better predictor of your happiness than is the intensity of your positive experiences.” It is not the big initiatives, but the cumulative effect of the little things we do at work and at home to generate smiles that makes the biggest difference. While we are thankful for some research – Did we really need some PhD to tell us that?
So what can we do with this?
Every culture treats humor differently. For example, I am not sure a That Was Easy button or a zany sound effects box would work in a bank. What about comments about what people are wearing, or smiles received or handing a sucker to a customer with a smile? Anything where we purposely create one of those moments that Gilbert talks about will make a difference.
Maybe a good Friday goal would be to generate 6 smiles in other people.
Here is my first try: A great video about how making people smile caused a shift in their behavior. It made me smile, and is just good clean fun. Take a look.
A coach and mentor taught me the lesson of substituting the word AND for BUT in my statements.
BUT . . .
- sends the message that the important part of the message is coming.
- begins the process of rebuilding a thought or action plan.
- says start listening.
- is an accountability word.
AND . . .
- recognizes progress and paints a picture of a preferred future.
- begins the process of building upon a thought or action plan.
- says keep listening.
- is an accountability and problem solving word.
Assignment: Listen to how you and those around you use BUT / AND today. What do you notice?
I would welcome a few posts of BUT or AND sentences that you hear.
I recently reviewed a book on these pages by David C. Baker, and in my interview with him he talked about parenting being a place where leaders can learn. He related it to his own experience where the things unsaid often consumed more energy than the things that were said. Reminding us, as leaders, parents, wives, husbands, and friends – we need to find ways to share the truths as we see them.
I was reminded how being a parent or leader is so similar, and the things we learn to be effective at both roles are the same. It hit home for me when I want to a parenting seminar from celebratecalm.com and Kirk Martin talk about dealing with teen children. First he described the boiling over of emotions that often happens in tense situations, and for me and several friends it was a familiar reaction. Then he talked about a more effective way to acknowledge what was happening, step back (find another place), and then address it. He even talked about using the simple action of sitting to help put ourselves in a physical position to effectively deal with conflict. It was obvious how these skills, used consistently, would alter the conversation and help create a more positive outcome on many levels.
It is important to recognize the roles we play in life (parent, leader, teammate, spouse, friend), our priorities for those roles, and the actions that need to accompany our commitments in these roles. Too often we think we have to shift gears to play those roles, when in reality many of the skills that make us a good leader will make us a good parent, a good neighbor, or a good friend.
And if we are an overbearing/directive leader – well maybe that is why teenagers were created.