Conflict in the workplace cannot be avoided — it’s the leaders job to deal with it!

Let’s face it, if you put two people together in any given situation, the likelihood that conflict may arise is extremely high. What is conflict? Conflict is disagreement, but contrary to popular belief conflict does not necessarily involve fighting. Conflict exists in any situation where facts, desires or fears pull or push participants against each other or in divergent directions.

Conflict is a normal and natural part of any workplace. When it occurs, however, there is a tendency for morale to be lowered, an increase in absenteeism and decreased productivity. It has been estimated that managers spend at least 25 percent of their time resolving workplace conflicts — causing lowered office performance.

One reason there is so much conflict in the workplace is primarily because most people simply haven’t learned how to resolve conflict before it turns into fighting, or more often than not, try to avoid conflict at all cost. This is why we have so many ‘elephants in the room’ which grow and fester. The problem with this is everyone is expending massive amounts of energy trying to avoid these ‘landmines’ and find themselves feeling they are treading on ‘eggshells’, avoiding bosses and peers, ignoring a colleagues bad behavior or poor performance, and seemingly are unable to have productive and fruitful conversations.

I have seen up-close and personal numerous situations where the absence of conflict resolution has led to disastrous outcomes and many wasted hours of employees time and energy. I was made aware of a manager who on a daily basis would appear to be involved in a negative interaction with either a peer or her manager. On one occasion, she took it upon herself to barge into a closed door meeting with her boss who was having a private (skip level) meeting with her employee. She demanded to know from her boss why he was meeting with her employee — even though there was a company wide initiative encouraging skip level meetings, in order to break down communication bottlenecks within management. Neither the manager’s boss or the employee confronted the situation, but avoided the conflict because of either the shock of what had happened, or just not wanting to appear to be a part of the problem. Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a contentious situation?

I’d like to provide three steps to moving you and your workplace, and even your home, to working through conflict. I believe this approach may get you the results that may have eluded you to date:

  • Engage both parties in an empathic way. This is, recognizing that both parties have been affected on an emotional level — they may be angry, bitter, wounded, fearful, even disgusted by the other person. If individuals are unable to express and label their emotions (how they’ve been impacted), they will not be able to move onto working through solutions. There is often a danger in these situations to expect people to “act” like professionals. Unfortunately, this approach never works, because what makes us human is our ability to feel and express a very wide range of emotions. Ultimately, when both parties acknowledge the other persons feelings, they can begin to the next step.
  • Allow both parties to explain their version of the events. Sounds incredibly simple. But it is because of misunderstanding — in the first place, that conflict has arisen. When I conduct a mediation session or coaching an individual through a challenging situation, it is without fail, that the parties have a different understanding of what has transpired. And if the conflict has risen to the level to require mediation, then there is significant misunderstanding on many levels. Often times, it can be very difficult to have individuals clearly articulate the events without creeping back into misunderstanding. The ability to listen deeply to both parties and understand how each individual has contributed to the conflict will enable you to identify potential solutions.
  • Create a psychologically safe environment for the individuals. When conflict arises, it will always have an impact on trust between people. It is staggering to me how many times this critical factor is overlooked. Again, the workplace can often feel cold and inhumane when we fail to recognize how allowing conflict to exist amongst co-workers on a daily basis is damaging, if not traumatic, to an individual’s psyche. In a recent study at Google, they found that teams with psychologically safe environments had employees who were less likely to leave, more likely to harness the power of diversity, and ultimately, were more successful. As leaders and managers, it is our job to protect people from work environments that are dysfunctional. We dare not abdicate our mandate to create environments where people can thrive, lest we expose our associates to emotional trauma, anxiety and stress.

So when the conflict inevitably arises, follow these three steps and you will minimize the negative impact of conflict at work.

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Be A Better Boss – The Twenty-First Century Imperative

If you have had a boss in your professional life, which is probably everyone reading this, you are acutely aware of the impact they have on you professionally and personally. They have either helped you succeed on the job, or have possibly created obstacles to your success. They may have supported your wishes to balance your family obligations with your career, or caused you to sacrifice your family to succeed at work. They perhaps gave you opportunities to grow and develop and are partly responsible for the success you are experiencing in your career. Or, they have been ambivalent towards you and your colleagues, by demonstrating no interest in your career, but only in their success. If you are like me, I’ve experienced all the aforementioned scenarios. I think you will agree that the type of boss we have, or the kind of boss we are, is extremely critical to our daily work experience and entire career. Said another way, your boss directly impacts the quality of your life. According to Robert Sutton, professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and author of Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best and Learn from the Worst, having a good boss decreases your chances of getting a heart attack!

I’d like to suggest the following steps to help you begin the journey of becoming a better boss.

  • Understand that you have the greatest impact on your employee’s engagement — which is both their commitment to the job and their performance on the job. The latest research from Gallup finds that 70% of U.S workers are disengaged — “checked out,” sleeping-walking through their days. Recently, I overheard two business professionals chatting at lunch, and I could tell by the conversation that they were discussing situations at work. When they were finished with their lunch, one of the individuals said, “Back to the unhappy place!” I had to ask what they meant by that comment. Their response, “You don’t want to know!”
  • The need for bosses to develop self-awareness has never been more important. Your emotional intelligence quotient should be a priority right up there with your knowledge of your business. A good boss knows themselves well, as well as knows the business well. If you’re not already aware, your employees are listening and watching everything you do and say! If that doesn’t cause you a little concern, I would question whether you are “fit” to be a twenty-first-century boss! I recently interviewed a client’s executive team, and in giving feedback to my client from those interviews, they responded numerous times with regret that they have behaved in ways that had undermined their credibility. When I asked if they were aware of their actions at the time, they often surmised that they were completely unaware. So my question to you is, are you not watching your boss closely, hopefully to learn from them? If they are thoughtful, kind, respectful, intelligent and fun, then it is likely that you will adopt some of these good qualities. On the other hand, if they are dishonest, obnoxious, arrogant and ignorant, you may have to fight your better self to fend of adopting such destructive characteristics.
  • A twenty-first-century boss listens to his or her employees. I remember a former boss who during our 1-on-1 meetings would spend the entire hour typing and looking at her screen. Either she found me incredibly dull and boring, or she was oblivious to the fact that by typing on her keyboard and glancing at me on occasion sent a strong message to me that she could not be listening to me.The twenty-first-century boss does everything possible to help people experience dignity and pride. Listening not only shows respect and consideration for another human being, but is the first step to truly understanding their concerns, needs, and wants. Today’s bosses must have a keen awareness that people in power tend to become self-centered and oblivious to what followers need, do, and say. If you will make a commitment to listening well, you can stave of falling into the trap of becoming a bad boss. In conclusion I’d like to leave you with a selection of Bob Sutton’s “Commandments for Wise Bosses”:
  • Do not treat others as if they are idiots
  • Listen attentively to your people; don’t just pretend to hear what they say
  • Ask a lot of good questions
  • Ask others for help and gratefully accept their assistance
  • Do not hesitate to say, “ I don’t know”
  • Forgive people when they fail, remember the lessons, and teach them to everyone
  • Know your foibles and flaws, and work with people who correct and compensate for your weaknesses
  • Express gratitude to your people.

To be a better twenty-first-century boss, you must remind yourself that you are a steward — of careers, capabilities, resources and organizational values. Challenge yourself today —  to be a better boss — nothing less should be acceptable.

Why I Love Peter Drucker – The Timeless Business Prophet

Lessons+In+Mentorship+From+Peter+Drucker

What an amazing coincidence that a week ago I had the idea to write about the great Peter Drucker. Today, I took my collection of his books from my library and opened his classic and seminal work, The Practice of Management published in 1954. Inside I found his obituary I cut from the Los Angeles Times, dated Saturday, November 12, 2005! Undoubtably, Peter Drucker has articulated some of the most cogent and profound thoughts on business. I think he probably said it best when asked about the focus of his work, “I looked at people, not at machines or buildings.” It is the norm to think that people fall into the ‘soft’ side of business, and the matters of finance, process, strategy, and operations are the most important. This is precisely why I can say that I ‘love’ Peter Drucker.  He validates the idea, which is to recognize that without elevating the role of people, you may begin to focus wrongly on machines or buildings! Once you recognize that any and everything accomplished is a result of human effort, one is able to see the profound truth of Druckers’ statement; “ Only superior management competence and continuously improved management performance can keep us progressing, can prevent our becoming smug, self-satisfied and lazy.”

So why is Peter Drucker such an influence on my thinking?  He passed away almost 14 years ago and a few days today. I think I love Peter Drucker because he reminds me every time of what is most important for any business “…a business enterprise is created and managed by people. It is not managed by ‘forces’. It is my sense that most businesses get lost in the ‘complexities’ of business and fail to realize that we are always simply dealing with people. That said, people are not simple – we must have a laser-like focus on the needs and concerns of people. And equally important is a clear recognition that, “there is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. The customer is the foundation of a business and keeps it in existence.” Drucker is the 20th century’s most prominent management thinker and one of its great social philosophers. I’m a huge fan of folks such as Edgar Schein, Patrick Lencioni, Gary Hamel, Bob Sutton, Dan Pink, Daniel Goleman, all whom I thoroughly recommend, but Drucker seems to cover so many topics and disciplines in his very unique way.

In his writing you will find a management and leadership expert, innovation strategist, organizational culture sage, and operational excellence proponent. “To emphasize only profit, for instance, misdirects managers to the point where they may endanger the survival of the business. To obtain profit today they tend to undermine the future.” You won’t find trendy or frivolous fads in his writing, only tried-and-true, time tested advice and ideas. “Management must with every decision make provision for molding the future as far as possible toward the predicted shape of things to come.” When I think about the climate of most organizations, and the slew of engagement surveys which conclude far too often that our workplaces are unhappy places, it is powerfully profound statements like the following which we need to reflect on and seriously consider; “A mean spirit in the organization will produce mean managers, a great spirit great managers. A major requirement in managing managers is therefore the creation of the right spirit in the organization. He further goes on to say that managers are either guided in the right direction or are misdirected, and he lets us know where your organization is on the effectiveness continuum.    “Every business enterprise has either an effective or an ineffective organization structure; but it has an organization structure. It has either a spirit that killeth or one that giveth life. People are always being developed. The only choice is whether they are to be developed equal to their potential and to tomorrow’s demands or are to be misdeveloped.

I was first introduced to Peter Drucker by a friend who’s MBA professor was a Drucker fan. Upon being handed the book, The Practice of Management – The Study of The Most Important Function in American Society, and reading for the first time, “ A manager’s job should be based on a task to be performed in order to attain the company’s objectives. It should always be a real job – one that makes a visible and, if possible, clear measurable contribution to the success of the enterprise… the manager should be directed and controlled by the objectives of performance rather than by his boss.” I have seen so many positions in many organizations which quite frankly seem useless. Perhaps at some time the need may have been real, however, today the scope of the  job does not embody a significant challenge, significant responsibility or significant contribution. Drucker puts it this way, ‘The manager should be able to point at the final results of the entire business and say: “This part is my contribution.” I think many managers would be hard pressed to point directly to their contribution, but managers need to, because their team is really only concerned with the bosses’ contribution. Drucker is right because he orients leaders to focus on what is most important; “It’s the abilities, not the disabilities, that count.” Gallup StrengthsFinder is all about reorienting our focus on building on what we do well. When I work with teams that are experiencing disharmony and dysfunction, I will point them to focus on the strengths that exist within the team. “Nothing destroys the spirit of an organization faster than focusing on people’s weaknesses rather than their strengths.” My goal as an executive coach, is to create an atmosphere or spirit that focuses people on the organizations performance and the individuals contribution.

As I reflect further on why I love Peter Druckers’ work, it is chapters in this book such as; The Objective of a Business, The Spirit of an Organization, The Ford Story, Management by Objectives and Self-Control, Developing Managers, Employing the Whole Man, Is Personnel Management Bankrupt, and The Manager and His Work; which will convince the reader that his ideas were and are, way ahead of his time. His wisdom and insights are so needed today, because in so many ways the corporate world has lost its way, especially when we think about how people are consistently mismanaged. When you read his writings, he always serves to remind us, always eloquently, of what matters most. Or as Andrew S.Grove co-founder of Intel Corp said, “Unlike many philosophers, he spoke in a plain language that resonated with ordinary managers.” Drucker, called the Father of Modern Management cared deeply about people, because they are the ‘lifeblood of any organization.’ He describes the kind of workplace culture which we all desire; “the simplest practice is one that says in effect to all managers: the spirit of this organization is the business of every one of us. Find out what you are doing to build the right spirit in the unit you head and tell us, in higher management, what we can do to build the right spirit in the unit of which you are part.” In 21st century vernacular, it is appropriate to say that Peter Drucker rocks!

TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT

“… developing talent is business’s most important task – the sine qua non of competition in a knowledge economy.” – Peter Drucker

The foundation of a great company is the way it develops people, providing the right experiences, such as learning in different jobs, learning from other people, giving candid feedback, providing coaching, education and training. Development is also critical to attracting and retaining people. Talented people are inclined to leave if they feel they are not growing and stretching.

Making training and development at all levels of the organization attractive and valuable is a challenge at the management level. I personally have observed a level of cynicism at various management-training classes, that suggests many managers do not find the training pertinent to their jobs, or that training is a waste of time. Managers should be asked to provide feedback to their managers, and then be given tasks to implement the ideas or tools presented at these training classes. That said, training is only one part of the equation – development primarily happens through a sequence of stretch jobs, coaching and mentoring.

Engendering a culture of learning, as well as making it acceptable for individuals to pursue ‘alternative’ tracks, ultimately broadens the skills and competencies of people. Ken Blanchard says’, ‘What people want from a company is the training that will teach them new skills that will help them add value wherever they are.’

BECOME A LEADERSHIP TALENT MANAGER

“ The power of a company to attract good people is directly proportionate to its reputation as a developer of successful people for itself as well as for other companies.”- Peter Drucker

 

 

 

 

McKinsey & Company’s War for Talent survey found that at most companies, talent is not a priority! Disturbing as this is, effective talent management begins with adopting a different mindset. Every leader has to be committed to getting better talent – HR alone cannot do the job.
The War for Talent survey conducted by McKinsey & Company of 13,000 managers and several hundred corporations identified five imperatives for ‘winning the war for talent’:

1. Embrace a talent mindset
2. Craft a winning employee value proposition
3. Rebuild your recruiting strategy
4. Weave development into your organization
5. Differentiate and affirm your people
Talent is the most important strategic resource for future success. According to Robert Hargrove, co-CEO of Masterful Coaching, leaders must place an emphasis on coaching and mentoring over managing the details. Put another way, an organizations humans beings are its most reliable resource for generating excellent results year after year.

The survey also found that a Winning Employee Value Proposition – a reason why customers should do business with you – is equally important to people management. The key is not what core values and organization has, but that it has core values at all. A core ideology provides the glue that holds the organization together through time.

Leadership Values

“As you work on yourself to develop the human traits that will serve the new strategic order, you will be required to unlearn many of the traits you thought came with the territory of leader.” Ken Blanchard 

The question should be asked, “Are your subordinates there to serve you, or are you there to serve them and your organization?” Are you developing your own self to build the confidence required to inspire others? Moreover, leaders have to monitor themselves to keep from slipping into arrogance, either as a cover for insecurity or as a means for getting things done. Ken Blanchard, author of such books as The One Minute Manager and Who Moved My Cheese? is probably the most engaging and penetrating thinker on leadership values, states with some authority, “As a managerial leader, you will go further when you concentrate on serving others rather than on serving yourself.” The same sentiment is echoed in The Leadership Pipeline, “Managers must cease thinking only about themselves and start thinking about others.”

It is essential to gain an appreciation of the underlying values structure of the individual. If one’s value system has not been fully developed, one may not be capable of learning leadership. Strong managerial leadership is connected with the values of openness, integrity, trustworthiness, and respect for others. Without these, one can never be an effective leader. Furthermore, effective leaders put the organization’s needs and their followers above their own.

The ability to take a realistic self-assessment enables leaders to reflect on whose needs come first. 

The Chief Culture Officer

Culture Overview and Metrics
Changing an organization’s culture is one of the most difficult leadership challenges. That’s because an organization’s culture comprises an interlocking set of goals, roles, processes, values, communication practices, attitudes and assumptions.

Utilities in particular face a steep challenge. The core of foundational performance enabling is the transformation of the enterprise from an entitlement culture to a performance culture.
• When asked which elements of workplace commitment most benefits daily operations, companies ranked culture at 80 percent and recruitment/retention at 70 percent. – Harvard Business Review

• Research suggests that between 66 percent and 75 percent of organizational culture change efforts fail. – Center for Creative Leadership

• An effective culture can account for 20-30 percent of the differential in corporate performance when compared with “culturally unremarkable” competitors. – Harvard Business Review
Why a Chief Culture Officer?
“Corporations live or die by their connection to culture.”₁
“Culture matters – it can make or break your company.”₂
“Fixing the culture is the most critical – and most difficult – part of a corporate transformation.”₃
“If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself.”₄
“Your organization’s culture determines your results, and the results you want should largely determine the kind of culture you need.” ₅
Role Objectives

The CCO is responsible for supporting the Chief Executive Officer and President in aligning the culture with the espoused values of the company, with particular emphasis on espousing and promoting the culture needed to improve the current environment.

The CCO is responsible for helping the Chief Executive Officer, President, and other key officers maintain awareness of all aspects of the culture, and to identify and address cultural issues and concerns.

The CCO must demonstrate deep business acumen for industry and market trends in the energy industry as well as across other business sectors.
Role Responsibilities
• Serve as the subject matter expert both to senior management as well as management within the business units in the area of corporate culture, developing strategies to strengthen a culture based around SCE’s core values
• Make cultural awareness and development an integral part of YOUR COMPANY leadership philosophy by establishing education and assessment metrics for management
• Develop a strategy to align culture with YOUR COMPANY business objectives
• Establish cross-organizational networks of culture change agents to promote and advance the desired cultural norms and behaviours through both formal and informal channels
• Create channels and communities to gather information and input from employees, and feedback about culture and culture change efforts
• Identify cultural and sub-culture norms which support and conflict with YOUR COMPANY’s strategy and business objectives

1. Chief Culture Officer – Grant McCracken
2. A Perspective on Organizational Culture – The Katzenbach Center at Booz & Company
3. Lou Gertsner – Retired CEO of IBM​