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.
My children have been back at school a few weeks now and we have just about settled back into the routine of it all. My eldest son is now at secondary school and has been subjected to various assessment tests to determine which sets he goes into for the key subjects. This process of working out his strengths and areas for development reminded me, of course, of my ‘day job’. However, it struck me as no coincidence that my360plus saw a marked increase in demand for 360 degree profiling in September.
I think that it is has been ingrained in us that this time of year we all go ‘back to school’. In the world of work there is often a shift from the slower summer mindset to a more focussed attitude. The French even have a word for this: ‘La Rentrée’. Many French people are on vacation for all or part of August, which means that la rentrée, in September, is when everyone is returning home and going back to work.
So as we look at the year ahead, it is a good time to analyse what additional skills or training might be useful, so what should we be considering?
- Talk to our managers and discuss any available training that is related to the job we are doing, or future projects we will be involved in.
- Do we have a good self-awareness regarding our skillset? We should talk to our managers, peers and teams to gain their views.
- Consider what we are naturally good at and would like to develop and use more, rather than just the things we need to improve.
- Another option is mentoring or being mentored, providing the chance to share skills and experience with colleagues.
- If appropriate, talk to our managers regarding changing some responsibilities in order to develop new skills.
- Create a clear development path for the months ahead with distinct goals.
So how could my360plus profiling help you now?
- It creates a simple, straightforward, easy-to-understand profile of strengths and areas for development.
- Our 360 tool is straightforward, quick and easy to use online.
- It is an efficient and cost effective process.
- Our approach does not stop with the production of a report. my360plus sets up ongoing real-time coaching with plain English suggestions on what to work on and how.
- The development is measurable and is directly linked to improved performance.
- The approach is proven, and is underpinned by robust science.
“My philosophy is, put your employees first, your customers second and your investors third and, in the end, everyone will be happy.”
Virgin Boss, Sir Richard Branson, has nailed another PR coup. Setting the cat amongst the pigeons and challenging employers to discard the traditional holiday contractual allowance, he has dared to suggest that staff should be able to take as much holiday as they like.
At first glance this is a great way of empowering the workforce and trusting them to have more ownership of their work-life balance. I will watch his ‘experiment’ with interest as he has initially rolled out this new policy to 170 of this staff (his total workforce has more than 50000 employees around the world). The clever proviso is that any absence should not damage business or ‘their careers’.
Sir Richard Branson is a great case study in modern leadership, and we often cite him at my360plus as a great example when we are discussing the ‘involve’ and ‘inspire’ clusters of high performance leadership behaviours:
Involving Leadership Behaviours:
- Encourages a ‘hands-off’ approach to management so that employees make their own decisions. Branson trusts and empowers his teams.
- Makes employees feel truly valued and appreciated. This increases company loyalty and provides a true sense of purpose.
- Encourages communication and feedback. Did you know that he even gives out his phone number to all employees encouraging ideas, suggestions or comments?!
- Actively listens: he is very approachable, and is able to connect with people at all levels. Feedback is truly encouraged and valued.
- Seeks to always look for the best in people. He moves people into different jobs within the organisation to transfer, develop and maximise skills.
Inspiring Leadership Behaviours:
- Encourages his employees to be innovative and take risks. Branson himself is not afraid to make mistakes, taking on challenges, demonstrating determination and persistence to bounce back and learn.
- Promotes a clear vision that is consistently and clearly communicated – the ‘Virgin Brand’.
- Builds confidence in the company’s potential for success.
- Is a role model. Branson is motivating, energetic and ‘walks the talk’. “If you love what you do and if you believe in what you do, others will share your enthusiasm.”
- Has an innovative approach to business: likes to break ‘rules’ and do things differently.
- Values and rewards truly exceptional customer service.
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules,” Branson says. “You learn by doing, and by falling over.”
The big decision faced by the Scottish dominates the news at the moment; as the outcome of the impending referendum currently appears too close to call. The answer each individual has to give might just a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but the complexity of the decision making process makes it far from black and white.
The basis of any good decision is the depth and breadth of the information available. In this instance it is not for lack of relevant information and advice, but because of all of the unknowns. Politicians are scurrying around making firm ‘promises’ regarding Scotland’s future, but they can’t escape the key factor: the future is certainly unknown. Therefore making a decision seems risky.
Complex decision making, full of unknowns, is prevalent in the business world. It is accepted that often there is no ‘right’ answer. However, business leaders recognise that with uncertainty also comes opportunity and, for Scotland, whichever way the vote goes, change is now inevitable. The issues that are the most important to the electorate have been shaken to the surface and won’t be allowed to continue on in the same ‘old’ ways.
So that’s a good thing – surely?! To sweep away the old cobwebs and refresh; to identify the critical issues and review better or different ways to address them; to regularly adjust the direction.
We know that businesses that constantly review and adapt are more likely to succeed. Armed with rich information and strong diagnostics, a good leader will encourage flexible thinking and scenario planning throughout their business. This is all about seeing things differently, trying new ways, and looking at things from a different perspective. My360plus encourages businesses to challenge the ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ mentality. The ability to acknowledge alternatives is a vital leadership skill, proven to increase performance, and that is why it is one of the key high performance behaviours that my360plus rates and coaches.
The Scottish people have been discussing the pros and cons of Independence or Union for the best part of 300 years. They are a well informed electorate. Whatever the result on 18th September, Scotland will move forward with a clearer, cleaner vision, with a more engaged population. This can only be positive.
How do we get our heads around all that is going on around us, so we can create powerful ideas, solve problems and make decisions? Effective decision making involves three high performance leadership behaviours: ‘information search’, ‘idea creation’ and ‘flexible thinking’.
These are the ten key steps involved:
- Clearly define the situation or goal.
- Create a value for research and knowledge gathering throughout your team.
- Collect as much information as possible from a board range of sources, from both ‘within’ and ‘outside’ of the situation to get a wide rich viewpoint of what’s going on. Governmental regulations, legal developments, market conditions, economic factors, market research and technological developments can all affect the situation.
- Form ideas and judgements from the information available. Link in the information from the wider environment to make better sense of the situation. Don’t get bogged down by the details – look at the ‘whole’.
- Involve others to encourage the generation of ideas. Brainstorm all alternatives. Entertain all ideas at this stage.
- Consider at least two viable solutions or options. Hold options in ‘parallel’ not ‘in series’.
- Compare the pros and cons of all solutions simultaneously.
- Consider the consequences and impact of each option. Who does it impact? Is it achievable? Are the timescales realistic?
- Based on your analysis, choose the best possible option, form an action plan and implement your decision. Be specific and set measurable targets.
- Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Always have a backup plan. Implement a process for continuous review so, if new information arises, you are ready to revise and adapt.