Managing Conflict

Posts

,

Linking and building to successfully influence others

In today’s business world of cross-functional initiatives, matrix structures and virtual teams the ability to influence others is becoming even more essential if you want to succeed. And no matter what your influencing style is, to effectively influence somebody you need to connect with them. If you’re trying to influence somebody it means that you have differing opinions and ideas. One of the simplest ways to influence somebody is by “linking and building”: Find and focus on the agreement … and then build on this. Most people are open to sharing and discussing their opinions and ideas – and most of us are aware that our ideas are not the only ones valid. What we want is to be taken seriously and feel listened to.  This is where “linking” comes in – if you link your ideas to their ideas it clearly shows you have listened to and understood their thoughts and feelings.  And when you build on somebody’s ideas it means you are validating their contributions.  This builds rapport and relationships WHICH then makes the process of influencing so much easier...
The big (free) eBook of negotiations language

 

 5 things to keep in mind

1. Is the link already there?Do you just need to draw their attention to it? Or will you need to build the link step by step? If so you need to find some common ground – this could be a shared goal, a previous experience or perhaps the two of you are seeing the same current challenges?  Open questions like “Where do you think we need to go?” or “What are your thoughts?” work well here …

2. When you find your “link”, be explicit about what you like / share about their views, opinion, drives etc. For example. “It’s clear to me that we both want to make sure any changes we make don’t cost people more time” or “What I really like about your approach is that you’re considering the end-user first. I feel the same way”

3. Focus on positives and use positive language. Most people are very rarely completely wrong, just as you are very rarely completely right.  Understanding this means that it is always possible to approach something by looking for the “right” ideas e.g. “What I like about your suggestion is …” thereby creating a positive spiral and rapport – as opposed to focusing on what you don’t like e.g. “ I can’t imagine this working” thereby creating a downwards negative spiral (source – George Prince – The Practice of Creativity).

4. There are going to be differences. If there weren’t you wouldn’t be trying to influence each other! But make an effort to delay focusing on differences until some bridges have been built. When you turn to them, link back to the shared elements you’ve found and be explicit about your reasons. “It seems that we agree on the causes of the problem and we have different ideas about what needs doing. Why do you think this is?” Don’t assume the everything is obvious!

5. And finally as you progress do continually clarify. Use language like “So what you’re saying is …” and “Let me just check I’m understanding you … “. This shows your understanding of their views, ideas and thoughts AND actually ensures you do actually understand. Build your bridge on concrete foundations.

Linking and building is just one of many practical techniques from our influencing seminars that can help you successfully influence others. And it starts with getting all parties to face in the same direction. Please contact if you’d like to know more.

 

What is active listening, how do I develop it and should I be making little noises?

business across cultures

Listening skills are an integral part of many of our training solutions, e.g.  Influencing, Managing Conflict and Facilitating meetings all include practical components on listening skills. However, we had a rare request from a pharmaceutical client seeking training focusing solely on active listening for their senior managers.  The new board member strongly believed that improving her manager’s listening skills would have a major impact on the quality of relationships and the effectiveness of her team. And she was right … the seminar started and almost immediately, one manager asked me, “Active listening – that’s just when you make little noises, right?”


Writing emails that people read: Free eBook download

What is active listening?

Our tactful answer was “not quite”.  Active listening (as the name suggests) is when you actively and fully concentrate on what is being said, rather than just passively hearing the words.  Communication theory breaks what is being said into two elements – the content and the context. Content is the what – the data, the facts, the information etc. Context refers to everything else that is going on when somebody speaks with you – the relationship, the background, the situation, the emotions etc.  Active listening involves paying close attention to the content being shared AND the contextual components between the listener (the receiver) and the speaker (the sender). Skilled active listeners can hear the what PLUS interest, emotion, concern, energy and other contextual factors from the speaker’s perspective. And they can hear what isn’t being said.

Why invest energy and effort in building your active listening skills?

The benefits of active listening are many.  To start with you’ll hear more … much more. You can enrich your understanding through gathering information and understanding the emotions. You will ask better questions through noticing the speaker’s possible intent, and not only their words. It helps you avoid or diffuse conflicts. Better listening means that solutions and discussion are stronger. Active listening is a building block for open, trusting and accountable relationships.

7 practical tips for active listening

Pay attention

I mean REALLY pay attention to what is being said. Put aside distracting thoughts, try to block out environmental factors (side conversations, people watching etc) and listen holistically.

Know your obstacles to listening

Everyone is guilty of having “inner conversations” when listening – and whether it be judging, dreaming, solving or rehearsing what you want to say these common obstacles get in the way of active listening. Check out this blog post for more information or download the .pdf version here.

Develop countermeasures for your obstacles

Self talk to interrupt your distraction and refocus and internal paraphrasing can help. Basically, this sounds like you telling yourself “Stop it and focus on them not you

Listen for context

Approach a meeting with listening tasks such as learning the interests of others in the room and listening for the valued being created in the conversation.

Dialogue approach

Listen with a mind to understand what is being said and not judge what is being said.

Listen with your eyes

Listen to what they are saying, how they are saying it, “listen” to their body language and “listen” to their eyes.

Provide feedback

It is incredibly difficult not to filter, assume or judge when we listen. As an active listener your role is just to listen. Reflecting, restating and asking questions are essential – just make sure you are doing this to check you are understanding the content and context and not to discuss, negotiate, argue, influence, correct etc.

So should I be making little noises when I actively listen, or not ?

Of course we also send messages when we listen IF we listen actively and affectively. In western cultures we expect some feedback from our listeners that indicates interest, from non-verbal messages such as nodding, smiles, eye contact and posture to small verbal comments like “uh huh” or “ “I see”. Do keep in mind thought that not every culture listens in the same way – and likewise not every individual listens in the same way.  A lack of “ums” and “aahs” doesn’t always mean somebody is not listening.

To wrap up

Active listening helps you to create an environment that supports deeper, more honest and authentic communication. Whether you are managing people, negotiating, discussing, influencing, problem solving, why wouldn’t you invest the energy and effort in becoming a better listener?

FOR MORE INFORMATION

,

Apologizing via email – phrases

Being wrong doesn’t feel like anything, and there’s nothing wrong with being wrong. It happens to everybody. Realizing you’ve made a mistake can be difficult and perhaps embarrassing – I’ve been there – but letting others know that you got it wrong is important to healthy relationships. You can do this in person, on the phone, by email, WhatsApp, a personal note or a post-it. Every medium has a different impact, every person has different preferences on how they want to receive/give an apology. In the end, just remember, apologizing is going to make you seem human, regardless of the outcome.


Writing emails that people read: Free eBook download



When is an apology via email appropriate?

It’s not always possible or practical to meet someone in person. Apologizing on the phone can be difficult if you don’t know the other person, or if you’re just not very good at apologizing over the phone.

But, when: …

  • Time is of the essence
  • You want everyone to get the same apology at the same time
  • You have a lot to say
  • Your apology is formal
  • You want or expect very little to nothing in return

…then an email might be appropriate.

The perfect apology

I found this via Google. If your apology contains the following…:

  • give a detailed account of the situation
  • acknowledge the hurt or damage done
  • take responsibility
  • recognize your/the company’s role in the situation
  • include a statement of regret
  • ask for forgiveness
  • promise that it won’t happen again
  • provide a form of restitution (if possible)

… it’s pretty much a perfect business apology. Here are a few phrases to get you started, related to some of the above categories:

Apologize

  1. Please accept my apologies.
  2. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to..
  3. (I’m) sorry. I didn’t realize the impact of…
  4. Please accept our deepest apologies for…
  5. Please accept my sincere apologies for…
  6. Please accept this as my formal apology for…
  7. Please allow me to apologize for…
  8. I would like to express my deep regrets for…
  9. I would like to apologize on behalf of our company.
  10. Please accept my apology for…
  11. I apologize for my failure to…
  12. I’m particularly sorry for…

Acknowledge/recognize

  1. We appreciate that this caused you inconvenience…
  2. I understand that our actions meant…
  3. I can imagine that you felt like…
  4. We see that our actions impacted you unnecessarily…
  5. As a result of our decision, our relationship was affected…

Explain

  1. In our efforts to optimize our distribution process, we overlooked…
  2. The defect/problem was caused by…
  3. The error was due to…
  4. Our internal communication failed. As a result…

Promise

  1. We’re convinced that the changes we’ve implemented will prevent this from happening again.
  2. In the future, our focus will be on…, so that this situation won’t repeat itself.
  3. We’ll be increasing our efforts when it comes to…, so that in the future…
  4. We’ve increased our efforts to ensure that…
  5. I can promise you that the highest quality standards will be met going forward.

The SPASS model

When it comes to writing the email, structuring your email can be difficult. The SPASS model is perfect for email apologies. It’s simple and easy to remember. SPASS = Situation – Problem – Action – Say Sorry. That’s it. Finally, I apologize for keeping you from what you were doing, with another very long post.

Be great!

 

Don’t sweat it – everybody’s wrong sometimes, even your boss

In this video, Kathryn Schultz tells us that by the time we’re nine years old, we have already learned that the best way to succeed in life is to never be wrong. You should watch the video if you want to know how she came to that conclusion and a few others – when you have ten minutes.

Everybody’s wrong sometimes

Some of Kathryn’s words (if you don’t have time to watch it right now), and main points are:

  • Realizing you’re wrong can make you feel embarrassed or stupid, but being wrong itself doesn’t feel like anything.
  • The first thing we usually do when someone disagrees with us is we just assume they’re ignorant.
  • The second is that they’re idiots.
  • Then we move on to a third assumption: they know the truth, and they are deliberately distorting it for their own malevolent purposes.

There’s nothing wrong with being wrong

Assuming that Kathryn’s assumptions are correct, you can see why telling someone that they’re wrong could prove to be the biggest mistake you’ve ever made – all depending on who is on the receiving end of course. Now, let’s say that person is your boss, your teamleader, or anyone in your company with more authority. Speaking for myself and my conflict avoiding personality – Difficult conversations always have a moment or two where I say completely the wrong thing. To others, determining to even speak to the boss about being wrong is enough to bring on sleepless nights.

Before you do decide to confront the person who was wrong, consider this:

Don’t pick the wrong battles

To speak up or not to speak up about it? I don’t know, is it worth it and/or important?

Don’t talk about the wrong thing at the wrong time

Stick to the topic, make the time to have a proper conversation (in private) and give your boss time to prepare.

Don’t say the wrong things

It’s just not the right time to say things like “I told you so” or “I knew this would happen” and to place blame. It’s already done, who cares? How can we fix it?

The DESC model

Once you’re ready to have the conversation, you can use the DESC model to structure your message – positively. This assertiveness model is perfect for giving negative feedback or criticism. It’s simple and it works. It’s for this reason that participants in our “Practical Toolbox for Managers” seminars often highlight DESC as one of the most valuable tools they take away.

Description – In a private setting, start by describing what you have observed. It’s important to be objective and concrete at this stage. Take responsibility for the feedback by using “I” statements.

Effect / emotion – Once you have described what you observed, move on to the effect or impact this has had. If the effect was an emotion, share this openly. Feedback is always personal in the sense that it is between people about people. Emotions play a part in interpersonal relationships and by naming them and getting them out into the open, you can deal with them in an professional manner.

Solution – Now move on to what you like to see happen. This could be directive e.g. “What I would like you to do next time is …”. Even better, build the solution together using a participative approach e.g. “What do you think we can do to avoid this next time?”.

Conclusion (commitments and contract) – End your feedback conversation by building a “contract of commitment”. Check you have a mutually common understanding of what has been agreed, and get commitment for the future. Then conclude looking forward.

The 6 most horrific bosses of all time

I did some Googling on this topic. With any luck, your boss is nothing like these bosses were...so go ahead and have your conversation – you have nothing to loose. And finally, here are 10 things a good boss would never say. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Practical questions for analysing and resolving conflict at work

expressng congratulations target training

A study in Europe, the US and Brazil revealed that 67% of employees avoided colleagues due to bad feelings lingering from conflicts and that 27% of employees have witnessed workplace conflicts turning into personal attacks.

Over the years working with project managers on resolving conflicts, I’ve developed simple and practical approach to handling conflicts at work. The dictionary defines conflict as ‘a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one’. A conflict at work is more than just a difference of opinion with a colleague. There is an emotional component and you feel a tightness in your guts, a knot in your stomach.

The 4 main causes of conflict

“What triggered the conflict?” is the most important place to start. Here are the 4 largest causes of conflicts in the workplace.

  • Goals The cause of the conflict is mainly about goals. Imagine a strategy discussion where one manager wants to focus on client relationships, the other on improving on the website.
  • Resources Here we are talking about resources, often people and budget. Manager “A” wants people for a project team, Manager “B” does not want to release anyone. Or this budget increases, whilst another is cut.
  • Processes It’s not unusual the managers will often disagree on methods and procedures. One manager wants to run the project on Prince2 principles, the other on the principle of whatever works, works.
  • People This is about people and relationships. If you have a good working relationship with the other party, you probably do not have a conflict. If you disrespect or dislike the other party, you will have conflict. And this problem isn’t necessarily resolved – even when agreement on goals, resources and processes is possible.

Using a practical format for analysing conflicts

Here’s a simple preparation format for analysing a conflict and preparing for the discussion. In other words, you buy time before addressing the issue and “the other party”.

Consider the following questions:

  1. What’s it all about and how did it happen? (History)
  2. Who is involved and affected, apart from you and the other party? (Stakeholders)
  3. How far has the conflict gone? (Escalation)
  4. What triggered the conflict? (Causes)
  5. Has anything been done to settle the issue? (Potential solutions)
  6. What do you (and the other party) want to achieve? (Goals)
  7. Do you have any ideas for approaching the other party? (Strategy)

Solving conflicts starts with reflecting and analysing…

Solving conflicts is tough and draining for everyone. Managing conflicts is a concrete and valuable skill – and one which you can develop. Analysing a conflict may help you see that it is more a difference of opinion and judgement, not necessarily a conflict. But it can also make you see discussing resources and procedures is a smoke screen and a diversion from the root conflict, your relationship to the other party.

…and it finishes with engaging, listening and resolving

Practical issues are more easily addressed; relationship issues are trickier to talk about. The above analysis questions will always clarify where the conflict is coming from and therefore make it easier to generate solutions. It will often indicate that the root cause is personal, i.e. resentment, envy, or even chemistry. So can you put your emotions on the back burner and seek a common solution that benefits your organisation? Are you prepared to talk frankly with the other party and clear the air?

 

,

Tips and tricks for delivering bad news from a famous baseball coach

target training team

Is it ever possible to give bad news in a good way?

Some would argue not. Having started my working life around three months before the Global Economic Crisis hit, and watching colleague after colleague being made redundant throughout the media industry, I certainly would never have wanted to swap places with the people who had to give the bad news to their employees over and over during that time.

But while over time, some colleagues remembered the action of being made redundant, for others the way they were told stuck in their minds longer than the pain of having to pack up their things and reconsider their lives at a moments’ notice. If you have to deliver bad news, it will always be tough, but the aim is to do it in a way which leaves the bad memory without you in it.

Some of my participants are controllers. Delivering bad news is one of the challenges they find extremely difficult to overcome in English. While one popular theory is that giving negative feedback to English speakers might follow a hamburger approach – i.e., give some positive feedback (the top bun), followed by the negative (the meat), and finished with a positive plan for the future (the bottom bun), in my experience most employees value honesty far more than any trick designed to make them feel better. There is a need to be respectful, but a positive bun full of too much sugar won’t cut it when the negative meat needs to be delivered hard and fast.

xmas

Free Download

33 ways of saying Merry Christmas to colleagues, customers, suppliers and close contacts

“Would you rather get a bullet in the head or five to the chest and bleed to death?”

Billy Beane summed it up well in the movie Moneyball, when he taught his intern Peter Brand how to cut players from their team. “Would you rather get a bullet in the head or five to the chest and bleed to death?”, he asks when discussing the prospect of firing someone. There are a number of things to be learned from the tactic Billy uses throughout the movie, who in real life was lauded for his business sense within the sport of baseball. They would include the following:

1. Understand who you’re talking to

When giving negative news to a baseball player, you might need to sweeten it less than when giving it to a secretary renowned for being slightly sensitive to change. What are the main personality traits of the person you are talking to from your experience? Are they culturally inclined to handle the truth quickly? Do your research first on who they are are you will get a better idea how to handle the situation.

2. Sugar coating the truth doesn’t make it better

Saying nice things around the bad news won’t make the person feel better. Some cultures don’t use imperatives nearly as often as others (i.e. I hear German clients saying ‘do this please” while British clients might say “could you do this please?’), but all cultures value honesty. Keep your wording polite but also keep the sentences short and to the point.

3. Don’t mislead in the hopes of saving someone from bad news

At all times, the aim should be to give all the information you have and in the simplest way to understand. Like ripping off a bandaid, it will hurt less in the long run. People always find out the truth one way or another if you try to embellish the reasons behind the bad news. If you don’t know the answer to something, say so!

4. Keep it short

People don’t appreciate receiving emails with three paragraphs giving them the important news right in the last paragraph. They don’t appreciate the meetings that go for what feels like an eternity before having bad news dropped right at the end like a bomb. Give the bad news quickly and succinctly and then allow time afterwards for explanations and questions. In my first job, when we found out 30% of our department had been made redundant – explaining why they weren’t in the meeting – I certainly appreciated getting the news first up without a long winded explanation first.

5. Be confident

Billy oozes confidence throughout Moneyball and it’s one of the reasons he was so successful at his craft; and he shows in this clip that the second you are on the back foot after giving negative information, you will fall into a hole that is difficult to get out of. Be confident in what you are delivering and why you have to say it, even if you are faking it. Practice beforehand if you find it difficult.

How do you deliver bad news?

An exercise I often do with my clients is to watch the video and discuss whether they think it’s a good way to deliver bad news to their English speaking co-workers and how they think this method is effective or ineffective. While it is certainly an extreme way to deliver such news; direct, honest and without any flowery language around the sides as Peter quickly learns and applies; it is a good example of showing that cultural stereotypes don’t always apply when you need to tell someone something they don’t want to hear.

What tactics have you found to be helpful when delivering bad news? Would you give it like Billy does in Moneyball? Comment below with your feedback.

Change Management: 3 Tips on Dealing with Resistance

Change management is something we all have to deal with on a daily basis.  It would be nice if all of our ideas were easily put into action without any people resisting the change.  These “resisters” can fight change for many reasons: they are comfortable with how things are, they have different ideas, they don’t see your issue as a priority at this point, etc.  No matter the reason, we have to find ways to get the resisters on our side in order to implement the change we feel will benefit our department, or company as a whole.  You may think it is easier to ignore these people, but that may lead to problems in the future.

3 problems that can arise if you don’t deal with resisters

  1. The transition is slowed down.  When you are looking to implement a new process, the speed of transition is important.  The longer it takes to implement the new process and get people trained on how to use it, the more expensive it is.  The sooner everyone is on board, the better.
  2. People working against you and your change.  If you don’t get buy-in early from people, some may make it a point to make the change difficult to carry out and work with the new process.  This will cause the change to be seen as something that made things more difficult, instead of bringing about positive results as planned.
  3. Future buy-in issues.  If someone resists change on one project, they are likely to do the same for future initiatives you may introduce.  Things may become personal and what may seem to be small issues, can turn into regular resistance in the future.

So, not addressing those who are resisting change early enough can lead to a number of negative outcomes.  How do we deal with resisters, then?

3 solutions to deal with resisters

  1. Use another tactic.  Take the time to listen to the “resisters” and find out what is important to them.  Take this information and shift the focus of your change a bit to take their preferences into account.  If you make an effort to show them you are working together, they will be more likely to buy in and support your efforts.
  2. Start low.  If upper management is resisting your change, then start from the bottom and move your way up.  Building support at levels below you, as well as at your level, may allow you to gain strengths in numbers.  Then you can go to management and restate your case.
  3. Make friends with those closest to your resisters.  By befriending administrative assistants, co-workers, and people who report directly to those who are resisting your change, you can share your ideas and increase the chances of getting your message across.  People listen to and trust ideas coming from close colleagues or friends.

Once you try one, or more, of the possible solutions, you will start to see some positive results.

3 possible outcomes from dealing effectively with resisters 

  1. You will turn adversaries into allies.  The more people that are working with you, as opposed to against you, at work will allow you to get more things done.  Plus it provides for a more comfortable working environment.
  2. You will be seen as more credible and competent.  If you can implement change quickly and effectively, you will be seen as a good leader and someone who can get things done.  This can lead to a number of great career opportunities in the future.
  3. Your company culture will be more open to change.  People naturally resist change, but once they embrace some change, it is then easier to embrace more and more.  A company culture that is open to change is open to progress which can lead to better business results.

Change management will always include dealing with those who resist change.  Try a few of the solutions above and let us know what worked for you in the comments area below.  Also, click here for more information on Target Training’s seminars designed to help you handle conflict within your organization.