The Sunday Times recently published an article about the major problems conflict can cause in the workplace, especially if avoided by managers and leaders. Studies have shown that up to 40% of an executive’s time is spent dealing with conflicts. Another study shows that more than 65% of performance problems result from difficult employee relationships. The ability to manage conflict can define a good and a bad leader.
We are all, by nature, emotional creatures, and it would be impossible to conceive that all differences between us could be avoided. The workplace breeds a climate rife for blowing conflicts out of proportion. It brings together so many different aspects of society – be it through differences in age, experience, upbringing or culture – and mixes them together in a close environment. To use a cooking analogy, rarely do recipes succeed when ingredients are randomly chosen and combined without forethought and careful planning! The resulting dish can certainly be unpalatable!
So how to do we ‘choose the correct ingredients’ and ‘mix them’ together for a successful recipe?
- Recognise that conflict exists and seek it out. By addressing it early it is possible to avoid an escalation. However don’t look for arguments for argument’s sake – analyse what is important and likely to impact on performance.
- Set the ground rules. There should be a clear understanding of what is acceptable behaviour.
- Effective communication. Clear, concise, accurate and timely communication of information will help ease both the number and severity of conflicts.
- Use empathy (a Schroder High Performance behaviour) to understand individual motivations and attitudes. Involved parties often have personal agendas that may conflict. Also remember what might seem trivial to one person, might be a source of stress to another.
- If possible, approach conflict from the perspective of taking the action that will help others best achieve their goals. Always look for a win-win solution if possible.
- Identify the strengths of his individual team members and clearly communicate their roles and contributions towards a common goal.
- As we often discuss in our my360plus blogs, regular feedback is essential towards creating a more open and constructive working environment, with increased self-awareness. Openness in the workplace is a vital ingredient, essential for encouraging creativity, improving systems and making team members feel valued. If fear of conflict is acting as a barrier to this then productivity will be impacted. Recognise that differences in opinions are not always a negative.
- Have relationship and team building events. These are always valuable whether you are building a new team, integrating new members to an existing team, or need to refresh relationships within more established groups.
- Don’t put your head in the sand. Conflict rarely resolves itself and will normally escalate if not dealt with proactively and properly.
- Don’t get involved in the ‘drama’. Maintain neutrality and don’t tolerate self-serving behaviour.
Back to the cooking analogy – by quickly recognising when an ingredient is damaging the taste, it needs to quickly be removed, or counteracted with a remedy that removes the bad taste. Ignoring it may result in burnt offerings.
A classic case of win-win. This morning, as I booked a courier online, I noticed the option to select ‘drop at post office’. Clever – I don’t have to wait in tomorrow for the collection, the parcel is on its way a day earlier, and the courier has one less pick up in his already busy day. Everyone is happy.
This is just one example of how win-win solutions are woven into our day to day lives: look around you! The branded sports players providing the clothing companies with marketing; BBQ food discounted at the supermarkets in the hot weather; contractors rewarded with a bonus if they complete a project on time – I am sure you can think of many more examples, which show how advantageous a truly beneficial supplier-customer/ business-business partnership can be.
One of Schroder’s High Performance Leadership Behaviours is ‘Influence’ and it can be very powerful, having a positive impact on individual, team or organisational performance.
So what is influencing?
- It is the art of developing ideas and solutions that are mutually beneficial.
- The ability to affect another’s attitudes, beliefs or behaviours.
- Persuading without using exertion or force of formal authority.
- Allowing the ‘influencee’ to believe that they are acting in their own best interests.
What are the benefits?
- Strategic alliances, joint goals and shared interests which foster a positive climate of co-operation rather than domination or imposition.
- It builds confidence and excitement for the project or goal
- The formation of alliances to ensure long-term buy in.
- Socialised power (as opposed to centralised around one or a few people).
How to Influence?
- Define the situation and identify the goal.
- Identify who needs to be influenced and determine what makes them tick. The High Performance Behaviour ‘Empathy’ plays a key part here as it is vital to find out what is really important to the other party.
- With this knowledge the next step is to work out the most appropriate way to get their buy-in, and to know which skills or behaviours are best to employ: reason, friendliness and bargaining are primary strategies. Back up strategies include assertiveness, higher authority, coalition or sanctions.
“Work today gets done in an environment where people don’t just ask “What should I do?” But “Why should I do it?” To answer this question effectively is to persuade.” Harvard Business Review
Empathy and Influencing are two of the behaviours that we rate and coach at my360plus. For some more information please contact us.