Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Conflict Hot Buttons?

What "triggers" you into conflict?
What's your hottest HOT BUTTON?

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dissent and Other Keys to Success

Even in the worst of times, Bad Management causes dissension. In "Developing Managers for Team-Driven Success" (Baseline Magazine, November 2009) William Moskal identified several examples of bad management behavior:
  • Micromanagement: "Decisions are imposed, not delegated."
  • Communication gaps: "Goals, strategies, expectations and timelines are not shared. Feedback is withheld."
  • Inconsistency: "Abrupt reversals, deadline changes and frequent new priorities." (Although in fairness to everyone, that's really become fairly typical in many (most?) organizations, hasn't it?!)
  • Intimidation: "A disproportionate focus on discipline, not coaching, including public criticism and rudeness."
  • Self-promotion: "Opportunities are not shared, and credit is hoarded."
  • Lack of mentoring: "Managers are not groomed for advancement. Cross-training is not encouraged and access to upper management is restricted."

"The reassuring news," says Moskal, "is that managers who unwittingly build barriers can also remove them." (Yes, when it comes to professional development, sometimes you actually can teach old dogs new tricks!) His solution: "Senior executives should take a wide-angle look to identify opportunities to empower and motivate front-line managers, while avoiding corrective approaches that stigmatize and single out individuals."

Okay. Anyway, he also had an excellent approach to helping managers improve their engagement, strategic analysis skills, and conflict management capabilities:

Have each executive establish - and rotate - an "official dissent" role among his/her direct reports.

Per Moskal, "Sanctioned opposition can be a powerful tool for collaborative decision-making, analytic skill-building and improved outcomes." I agree. It 'permissions' the quiet ones to speak up. It encourages those who always play 'devil's advocate' to stretch beyond just that.

(Hmm, dissenting with the official dissenter is tantamount to agreeing with the original idea, is it not?! And agreeing with the dissenter is, well, agreeing! Watch out you devil's advocates out there, this official dissent thing could rock your world! )

Having an official dissent role in your organization might unlock some truly superb ideas. And in these worst of times, superb ideas are exactly what's needed, are they not?!

Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

RockStarLeader Guest Post #1: Why Dogs Don't Enjoy Music

Creative marketeer, Tom Schulte, recently started http://rockstarleader.wordpress.com/ - "the intersection of music and influence" - and asked if I'd do some guest blogging for the site.

My first post was published today. It's called, Why Dogs Don't Enjoy Music. Bascially, it's a riff on how leaders might not be as strong at communicating with their staff as they may think ... and what can be done about it.
"Subtlety is often considered a more “refined” form of communication. The problem with subtle communications, though, is that they ask the listener — they require the listener — to be much more discerning when listening. And depending on circumstances, that could be asking a LOT from someone.

"Too much, perhaps.

"Indeed, expecting someone to give you their full and Undivided Attention could be far more than they’re ready for — or capable of — in this busy, distracted, juggling priorities, go-go, world of ours."
To read the entire piece, link on over to Why Dogs Don't Enjoy Music.

And while there, see what else is going on at http://rockstarleader.wordpress.com/.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Don't Squat with Yer Spurs On!

Selected words of wisdom from "A Cowboy's Guide to Life," volumes I and II, by Texas Bix Bender:
  1. Never take to sawin' on the branch that's supportn' you, unless you're bein' hung from it.

  2. A lot of good luck is undeserved, but then so is a lot of bad luck.

  3. Go after life as if it's something that's got to be roped in a hurry before it gets away.

  4. Don't let so much reality into your life that there's no room left for dreamin'.

  5. Ain't never seen a wild critter feelin' sorry for itself.

  6. Honesty is not something you should flirt with -- ou should be married to it.

  7. Avoid flasharity, foofaraw, and fumadiddle in dress, speech, and conduct. leave the peacocking for the peacocks.

  8. You can't weigh the facts if yo'uve got the scales loaded down with your opinions.

  9. When you forgive and forget, forget that you forgave while you're at it.

  10. The best way to knock a chip off a shoulder is with a friendly pat on the back.

  11. Work lessat worrying and more at working.

  12. Advice is like a pot of chili: You should try a little of it yourself before you give anybody else a taste.

  13. If you ain't pullin' your weight, you're pushin' your luck.

  14. Nothin' keeps you honest more than witnesses.

  15. The purest metal comes out of the greatest heat.

  16. You're not being diplomatic just because you put "please' in front of "shut the hell up."

  17. Smetimes it takes a lot more thinkin' to deal with changes than to make 'em.

  18. You'll feel better when it quits hurtin'.

  19. The bigger the mouth, the better it looks shut.

  20. You can't tell how far a frog can jump by its croak.

  21. Always walk tall and keep your head up -- unless you're walkin' in a cow pasture.

  22. The best way to break a bad habit is to drop it.

Thanks to A.W.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Conflict Trigger Mitigation and Avoidance

Here's the scenario:
  1. Person A wants to talk with Person B about something, and does so.
  2. But the way that Person A raises, or discusses, the issue unintentionally triggers* Person B.
  3. Person B, having just been triggered, reacts in a way that unintentionally triggers Person A.
  4. Person A, having just been triggered, reacts in a way that unintentionally re-triggers Person B.
  5. Person B, having just been triggered - and re-triggered - in a matter of moments, reacts in a way that unintentionally re-triggers Person A.
  6. Tensions and exasperations peak, for *both* Persons A and B - individually, and collectively.
  7. Any ability for Person A or Person B to engage in a meaningful or constructive way, at this point, has been lost.

Or maybe, it goes like this:

  1. Person B wants to talk with Person A about something, and does so.
  2. But the way that Person B raises, or discusses, the issue unintentionally triggers* Person A.
  3. Person A, having just been triggered, reacts in a way that unintentionally triggers Person B.
  4. Person B, having just been triggered, reacts in a way that unintentionally re-triggers Person A.
  5. Person A, having just been triggered - and re-triggered - in a matter of moments, reacts in a way that unintentionally re-triggers Person B.
  6. Tensions and exasperations peak, for *both* Persons B and A - individually, and collectively.
  7. Any ability for Person B or Person A to engage in a meaningful or constructive way, at this point, has been lost.

Likely both scenarios turn into one, big, round-and-round, ongoing, mess-of-a conflict.

Now keep in mind, no one actually has to be at fault here - Person A (or B) can be triggered just because Person B (or A) did, said, or even just *wore* something that reminded Person A (or B) of a trigger-worthy something/someone in his/her past. It's all very Pavlovian, for you Classical Conditioning fans out there. The point is, though, that triggers can be triggered for reasons totally unrelated to the "triggeree".

But, if Persons A and B can get more "consciously aware" of this whole triggers-triggering-triggers thing, they will likely WANT to work, in true partnership - yes, in TRUE partnership -, on:

  1. Trigger Mitigation - that is, helping each other to UN-trigger more quickly and effectively, should they inadvertently trigger, or be triggered by, each other;
  2. Trigger Avoidance - that is, helping each other to NOT trigger, or be triggered by, each other, nearly as often in the future.

Not to sound sales-y about it, but coaching (along with a Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP) Assessment) is an excellent way help someone better understand his/her own triggers, how they may be unknowingly triggering others, and how to better manage these conflict dynamics.

So if you and someone - or someone and someone else you know - are in seemingly constant conflict with each other, there very well might be something we can all do about it to make things better.


*Triggers --> Whatever causes one's fight/flight instinct to suddenly, and dramatically, engage.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Personality Conflict Détente

Diane Crampton posed an interesting question on the LinkedIn "Leadership Think Tank" discussion board last week:
"From your experience, what have you found that resolves conflict the fastest for long term sustainable results?"
Here's how I responded:

Hi All ~ I assume we're talking about *personality* conflicts here as they typically have a much longer *shelf life* than any particular issue-based conflict, yes?

That said, it seems to me that most personality conflicts *sustain* because there are no real, lasting, consequences to Person A for NOT resolving their conflict with Person B, and vice versa. If they’re *allowed* to disengage from each other, of *course* they’ll become more insular.

But, assigning both Persons A and B to a joint, *public*, assignment – one where they both *must* work together in a meaningful, and respectful, way – sets the stage for the Cold War to thaw and reconciliation to begin.
  • Example 1: Doug was charge of the IT repair desk and Ethan ran the Moves, Adds, and Changes department. They didn't get along. But, when they were *both* given the joint responsibility for hosting a Customer Forum, they each quickly realized that it was in their own best interests to put their differences behind them and work collaboratively.
  • Example 2: Robert ran operations and considered Heather, who handled the budget, an annoyance. Heather didn't care much for Robert either. But, when they *both* learned they’d be representing the department at an upcoming Finance Committee meeting, they each realized that it was in their own best interests to put their differences behind them and work collaboratively, as well.

Afterwards, each reported that they were surprised and impressed with what their nemesis had to offer.

Being made mutually accountable to an *external* audience, who couldn't care less about any internal squabbles going on, allowed (read: necessitated) Robert and Heather, and Doug and Ethan, to each re-engage, without losing face, and achieve a sustainable détente.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

16 Supervisor Competencies of Note

16 Supervisor Competencies* of note that apply, equally, to assistant managers, managers, directors, senior directors, vice presidents, senior vice presidents, executives and all leaders, for that matter, as well:

  1. Influence – Persuading others to accept a desired point of view; gaining support and commitment from others; and effectively change in behavior of others
  2. Facilitation – Leading meetings or group efforts without directing the outcome; creating an environment of openness and trust; and leading groups to decisions where all participants feel a sense of ownership
  3. Planning and Organizing – Developing comprehensive project plans; monitoring progress against goals; assigning clear responsibilities; and breaking work down into manageable portions
  4. Analysis – Gathering relevant information; considering broad range of issues and factors; perceiving relationships among diverse information; and using logic effectively
  5. Decision Making – Making timely and effective decisions
  6. Delegating – Assigning tasks effectively to others while maintaining responsibility for results; considering skill-level of employees and challenge-level of assignments given
  7. Follow-up and Commitment – Following plans through to closure; persisting despite obstacles; keeping their word
  8. Communication – Insuring that the messages that they intend to have received by others are the same as the ones that actually are received
  9. Listening – Demonstrating attention to, and conveying understanding of, others
  10. Managing Conflict – Identifying sources of conflict; using conflict as a constructive process to exchange ideas; keeping energy focused on desired outcomes, rather than on what they feel is happening “to” them
  11. Fostering Teamwork – Clarifying roles and responsibilities with an eye beyond whatever crisis is driving current behaviors
  12. Technical/Functional Expertise - Possesses current knowledge of profession and industry and is regarded as an expert
  13. Time Management – Setting efficient work priorities; working on several tasks simultaneously; effectively balancing important and urgent – and short-term and longer-term – tasks
  14. Motivating Others – Encouraging others to achieve desired results; creating enthusiasm and commitment in others
  15. Coaching and Developing Others – Giving timely, specific, constructive feedback; and providing challenging, developmental assignments
  16. Providing Direction – Providing clear direction and sets clear priorities; fosters a common vision
from "New Supervisor Training" by John E. Jones, and Chris W. Chen

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Conflict Dynamic Profile for Individuals

GottaGettaCoach! has just started working with a new assessment called the CDP-I, or Conflict Dynamics Profile® for Individuals.

The CDP-I is now available through GottaGettaCoach!, Inc.

"The Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP) was developed by the Leadership Development Institute at Eckerd College to prevent harmful conflict in the workplace. It provides managers and employees with a greater awareness of how they respond when faced with conflict so that they can improve on those behaviors causing the most problems.

"The CDP's focus on conflict behaviors, rather than styles, emphasizes an action-oriented approach which lessens the problems associated with harmful or unproductive forms of conflict and results in more effective conflict management skills.

"As a psychometrically sound instrument, the CDP shows solid evidence of reliability and validity and has been normed against a variety of organizations. Easily completed in 20-25 minutes, the CDP comes with a thorough Development Guide offering practical tips and strategies for strengthening conflict management skills."

More specifically, the CDP-I assessment:

  1. Identifies your Constructive Responses, that is, how well you demonstrate the following desirable behaviors during a conflict
  2. Identifies your Destructive Responses, that is, how well you control the following undesirable behaviors during a conflict
  3. Identifies your Hot Buttons, that is, what tends to frustrate or irritate you about how others behave.

So why is this even important? Because once you are more fully aware of your automatic "reactions" to a conflict, the better you will be able to more effectively self-manage your "responses" to that conflict and properly de-escalate it.

If you're interested in the CDP-I, please drop me a line and we'll assess your conflict behavior together.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Team Excellence, Revisited

Back in August 24, 2006, I uploaded a post titled, "What Makes an Excellent Team?" in which delineated his six benchmarks that enable team excellence, according to Jesse Stoner, Ed.D. in his work called Benchmarks of Team Excellence:

  1. Alignment - whereby team members share a common vision or purpose for the team's existence.
  2. Processes - whereby the policies and procedures enable team members to coordinate their efforts smoothly and effectively (Stoner calls this Team Effectiveness, but I like using the term 'Processes' better as it's more about the infrastructure that required than the outcome resulting from it).
  3. Empowerment - whereby team members feel authorized to do what's necessary to get the job done, and supported in their efforts in doing so.
  4. Passion - whereby each member brings a high level of enthusiasm, energy, excitement, excellence, and confidence to the group.
  5. Commitment - whereby each member feels a deep commitment to purpose of the team ... and to each other.
  6. Standards - whereby the group purposefully raises the level of performance above and beyond what is necessary. (Stoner calls this Results.)

The day prior, I also referenced Stoner's work with respect to his five levels of team performance:

  1. Excellence - Teams at this level produce consistently outstanding results. Meetings tend to be more about the future than on today's crises. Conflict is handled openly and directly.
  2. Effective - Teams at this level produce consistently good results. Team member passion and energy is noticeably lower, though, and they sometimes fail to communicate with each other as proactively as they might.
  3. Typical - Teams at this level produce good, sometimes even outstanding, results, but tend to do so inconsistently. Team members often do not understand the team's mission, how their goals align with that mission, or how their goals relate to other team member goals. As such, they're typically more focused on performing their own roles and responsibilities than they are on team performance.
  4. Unfocused - Teams at this level tend not to function well at all. While the work often gets done, it is not through any coordinated effort, unless the group leader directly manages that coordination. Individual team members have very little commitment to the team.
  5. Unconnected - Teams at this level are not really teams at all; they are just collections of individuals doing their work with little interest in, concern for, each other.

In the intervening two years, I've come to realize that it's not so much about where a team is, developmentally-speaking, at any point in time, as much as it's about where the team is currently headed.

Some times it takes time. But once everyone (most everyone) starts pulling in the same direction rapid improvements are possible in both the benchmarks realized and the level of team performance achieved.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Measuring Executive Presence

How you measure your Executive Presence - by achievement, or by attendance?!

Sure, go ahead and laugh, but a lot of executives believe, to their (and their staff's) detriment, that "face" time is the answer. Playing the "visibility game" like that may give the illusion of working - and may sometimes even seem to work -, but:

True Executive Presence is not measured in minutes, but by one's impact.
That's not to say that visibility is irrelevant - being "seen" is a form of impact. But it's what you do when you're seen that matters more. Indeed, there are many ways that executives can have a significant impact:

  • some excel at thinking strategically
  • some excel at understanding the needs and wants of key stakeholders (customers, business partners, staff, bosses, competition, etc.)
  • some excel at conflict resolution and/or having difficult conversations
  • some excel at articulating the likely unintended consequences of a proposed action
  • some excel at creating contingency plans and fall-back processes
  • some excel with start-up opportunities
  • some excel at turnaround situations
  • some excel at being a great sounding-board to other executives
While this is surely not a comprehensive list, notice that "working hard" is nowhere to be found on it. That's not to say that working hard is not important. It's just to say, though, that as with being "seen", working hard is typically not enough. While they both may enable Executive Presence, Executive Presence is more about what results from your work, not just how much effort you put into it - or who happens to see you when.

Something else to consider the next time you're just showing up to be seen:
Idle minutes of visibility tend to decrease one's visibility and diminish one's credibility.
Why might I say that, I wonder?

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