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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘conflict resolution

The Stronger the Personal Feelings, the Less Likely Any Agreement Will Occur

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The primary barrier to mutual communication is a person’s natural tendency to judge and approve or disapprove of what is being said by another person. Judging takes place because people tend to evaluate what they hear from their own personal point of view and reference. These evaluations short-circuit their ability to objectively think through, reframe and analyze responses.

Leaders not only have to communicate their own thoughts, ideas, and messages clearly, but are often responsible for facilitating better communication between groups and individuals with divergent points of view. Leaders must understand that communication is heightened when personal feelings and emotions are deeply involved. One rule of thumb always applies: the stronger the personal feelings of the involved parties, the less likely any mutual agreement between the two.

This is because two ideas, two sets of personal feelings and two sets of judgments exist completely disconnected from each other. When these are not laid aside, nothing remotely resembling communication occurs.

This is a serious consideration for leaders, as they are often placed in situations where a complete lack of communication exists. They can find themselves in an environment where communication has completely broken down due to the highly-charged emotional content of both parties’ arguments. Without an understanding of the factors directly affecting communications, leaders will find themselves unable to facilitate useful exchanges and discussions; the communication that does take place will produce aggravation, conflict and frustration for all parties.

Healthy communication occurs, and personal evaluations are avoided, when leaders are able to listen with a genuine sense of interest and understanding. This is a direct result of seeing an expressed idea or attitude from the other party’s point of view and developing a sense of how the other person feels. This allows leaders to achieve a personal frame of reference linked directly to an individual’s thoughts, perceptions and interpretations. When a leader is able to develop this understanding, he or she is able to facilitate better communication, assuage the other person’s fears, and establish more realistic and harmonious relationships.

Leaders can effectively apply this technique in a difficult environment by requiring each party to clearly restate the ideas and feelings of the previous speaker accurately to the speaker’s satisfaction. Only after this is accomplished does the second party state his or her viewpoint in response.

This should be done before anyone states their viewpoint or makes a response in a heated discussion, because it forces each party to pause and consider the other’s point of reference, helping the individual to identify what lies beneath the communicator’s thought process. This technique works because it immediately gives each party time to pause, think, analyze, evaluate, and remove the emotion from their statements.

This method requires an individual to achieve the other party’s frame of reference, so he or she can understand their thoughts and feelings well enough to summarize them accurately. This establishes real communication guaranteeing amicable solutions can be reached for two reasons. First, when understanding is achieved, it forces the other party to revise his or her own statements and thinking, to filter out emotions and subjectivity. Second, it reduces the differences between conflicting parties to reasonable disagreements that are both rational and understandable.

Leaders should know that complete understanding is often difficult to achieve because of the risks associated with challenging and altering one’s own thinking and views. Most are averse to this perceived threat.

Additionally, when emotions are at their peak, it is extremely difficult to achieve another’s frame of reference at the exact point when it is needed most to accurately interpret what is being said.

Leaders can easily overcome these barriers by assuming the role of neutral third party. In this capacity, they restate both individuals’ positions and points of reference to build clarity, introspection and understanding. This is an effective method for neutralizing potential miscommunication problems through active personal interaction. When individuals realize they are being understood clearly and accurately, and feel comfortable because their views are being mirrored, their statements grow less exaggerated and defensive.

Taking the position of a neutral third party allows leaders to handle any insincerities, exaggerations, lies and “false-fronts” that typically characterize communication breakdowns. This method leads to discovery of the truth and a realistic, objective appraisal of the barriers inhibiting two-way, interactive communication. The aim is to achieve “mutual” communication, focused on solving problems rather than attacking individual or group ideas, reasoning or appraisals.

Excerpt: Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Eight Ways to Improve Communication

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

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Effective leaders know that communication must be personalized to be effective. Each situation encountered in the workplace needs to be addressed at a level comfortable for everyone involved. Leaders must communicate messages and gain feedback with confidence and care. As such, in order to be effective at conveying their message, leaders must pay close attention to individual differences and situations that provide them with a specific context to communicate in.

Leaders must rely on communication to resolve issues that negatively impact the workplace environment and their leadership image. By using persuasion, consultation and empowerment, managers can effectively lead people and positively influence the work environment. In order to successfully present their thoughts and ideas to subordinates, it is important for leaders to fully utilize these three basic communication styles.

How and when leaders apply the styles depends upon the particular situation and the motivation for using them. The three styles are discussed below in more detail.

Persuasive Communication

Persuasive communication is the cornerstone of motivation and task accomplishment. Leaders who use this style are influential in fostering positive change in the workplace. Part of persuasion entails utilizing motivational comments like, “This is great. Let’s do it!” Persuasive communication is most effective in the following situations:

  • Leaders often look to gain a commitment or agreement from their employees. This style works effectively for introducing new ideas, altering performance, deviating from an ineffective course of action, or adapting to various changes in the workplace. Persuasive communication focuses on influencing others in a positive and exciting way.
  • Leaders may need to complete a task or assignment in a given time frame or with particular outcomes. Persuasive communication helps define the importance of a given task or situation. A leader’s effectiveness at attaining employee cooperation depends upon the excitement imbued in the message and its delivery.
  • When leaders want to encourage a higher level of trust from their employees, they deliver a series of persuasive messages and actions that reinforce employee confidence, abilities and involvement.

Consultative Communication

Consultative communication is effective for building and maintaining involvement. It cements employee loyalty in the leader. This style utilizes open-ended questions like, “What do you think needs to be done here?” Such questions unearth hidden issues and personal agendas. This style helps define the direction to take related to the following circumstances:

  • Sometimes there is a need to shift an employee’s thinking away from a particular idea. Consultative communication can also help redirect an employee who is doing something that is not productive.
  • Employees need to know they play a key role in determining a direction, course of action, or outcome. Consultative communication is primarily used to build trust. It is also effective when defining goals, objectives, performance standards or specific expectations.
  • Leaders often want to increase their employees’ participation. This style is effective for securing involvement in a task or assignment that may be intimidating because of either change or the employee’s uncertainty about the abilities or skills that they need to complete a task.

Empowering Communication

The empowering style is effective when leaders want employees to accept responsibility. Leaders utilizing this style tend to use phrases such as, “do as you see fit” and “make decisions you think need to be made” along with words such as, “effectively” and “efficiently.” This style is best used in the following situations:

  • Leaders require cooperative efforts. When situations necessitate the employee work with little direction to complete a task, this style can be used to cement their confidence and help them attain self-motivation. At the same time it helps equalize employee workloads and instills the desire in people to achieve or surpass expectations.
  • Leaders may need to delegate. In this situation, the empowering style is especially effective when combined with the consultative style. Used together, leaders don’t defer responsibility, but acquire commitment to their goals and tasks by fostering respect and harmony between themselves and their subordinates.
  • Leaders demand improved outcomes and standards from employees. The empowered style works to motivate, amplify efforts and multiply results. It is very effective at gaining trust and respect while motivating people to perform at higher levels.

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices on effective communication practices in the workplace to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series.Click here to learn more.

Related:

Focusing Your Employees on Common Goals

Eight Ways to Improve Communication

Ten Steps You Need to Take to Effectively Sell Your Ideas

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Conflict is Inevitable With Persistent Resistance to Change

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Resistance is experienced in most teams as they struggle with the concept of change. The purpose of creating teams is to tackle difficult issues and tough organizational problems. Invariably, the resulting solutions teams develop result in active transformations that disrupt the status quo and personal agendas, which also tends to remove personal positions of power. Consequently, there is a natural tendency for individual team members to resist pending changes.

The main challenge in leading teams is to allow the full complexity of individual personalities, talents, qualities and insights to emerge. These must be actively harnessed in order to achieve major team objectives.

While it is easy to set limits on verbal expressions and behaviors, doing so severely diminishes overall team potential and performance. Since various personality traits of individual members actively shape their general and immediate focus and perspectives, leaders who understand them are able to estimate their direct responses to change. Ultimately, with this related knowledge and understanding, they should be able to anticipate and minimize overall team member resistance. And they should be able to demonstrate that resistance results from differing perspectives that can be reconciled with the objectives of the entire team.

Resistance is an instinctive and energetic opposition to new ideas or someone’s expressed wishes to do something differently. If individual team members persist in their resistance, conflict becomes inevitable. Often resistance is framed as a struggle for control or as a problem that has been eliminated. The lines of conflict are often quickly drawn. Therefore, it is important for leaders to understand the concepts of resistance and conflict within their team environments and to learn how to harness and control them.

Avoidance of Conflict

Conflict should not be seen as something to be resolved, but as an experience to be explored. Opposing views in regard to team direction and change are never totally unrelated and can have great value when considered “different parts of the same story.” Leaders will often find that resistance and conflict are consistently initiated by many of the same individuals on their teams as a result of their inherent personality traits.

Avoidance of conflict either drains interest, enthusiasm and trust or results in concealed tension, internal fighting and impaired team performance. While some leaders meet resistance head on, others often do everything possible to avoid the attached conflicts. Rather than keep conflicts from erupting, avoidance causes increasing internal team resistance. It is extremely important to keep in mind that appeasement in order to diminish conflict is not effective, and instead creates a host of additional challenges to overcome.

Denial of Conflict

When leaders propose change and team members feign agreement, the actual degree of resistance can be immense. This often occurs when teams have strong norms, where dissention and negative views are rarely tolerated and expressed. The core of resistance lies with a particular side of the team or with individual leaders that no one is fully prepared to address or discuss.

While the denial of conflict might be considered a normal process within many team environments, it more often than not builds to the point of erupting into a far more serious problem. Therefore, when active resistance is initially encountered, leaders must ensure that conflicts within their team environments are not denied, but adequately addressed and worked through.

Anxiety

Avoidance and denial of conflict are rooted in personal anxiety. Oftentimes, members can be intimidated by their team environments, their lack of seniority and/or experience, or their own inherent personalities. The concept of change also frightens many people due to associated fears of the unknown and feelings about how change will personally and directly affect them.

It is important for leaders to recognize these factors and the subsequent anxieties that may be created within their team environments. These factors need to be identified and openly and fully discussed. Leaders must address the consequences of allowing anxieties to take root in order to diminish individual fear factors that tend to create undue apprehension, nervousness or panic. Once these issues are addressed and individuals fully understand the root causes and the impact these factors have on their team, personal anxieties will dissolve. When this is accomplished, individual stress levels are reduced.

Addressing the Concept of Change

In team environments there will always be members who desire change and members who wish to keep the status quo. Both of these positions give insight into what members perceive to be the true needs of their team. To ensure that insights are not lost, leaders need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • What is currently happening to and within the team?
  • What force for change is directly impacting the team?
  • Within the team, what counterbalancing forces seek to minimize change?

When leaders are able to identify these factors, both positions are respected, and those who resist change can be viewed as the guardians of the team’s traditional norms and beliefs.

Viewing Resistance as a Strength

Rather than something that must be actively overcome, leaders should be aware that resistance deserves respect for its ability to help teams discover how to change. Since resistance is characterized as a mobilization of energy, leaders must learn how to channel it in positive ways. Resistance should be viewed as a healthy and creative force that can be applied to effectively meet individual challenges. It can be used to frame problems and issues in new ways that all individual team members can appreciate and respect. The team process can be used to work through complex issues, tackle difficult problems and their attached implications and ramifications, and arrive at a consensus in regard to the most workable, practical and effective solutions.

Related:

Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Eight Strategies for Handling Disruptive Situations

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Within many workplace environments, leaders will find themselves in the role of team facilitator. In this capacity, leaders must direct and control team meetings and discussions in order to allow for the free-flow of ideas by all members of the team.

Within the team environment, leaders are dealing with a group of individuals who each has a personal agenda, bias and perspective. In many circumstances, leaders can effectively mold these individuals into a working team. In others, one or more members can stoutly resist the work of the team. These members may not agree with the purpose of the team or feel it threatens their personal position. Unfortunately, these individuals can be disruptive enough to prevent the team from functioning, frustrating leaders and members alike.

Leaders should understand that when individuals are given the opportunity to openly participate and make their views known, some will actively work against the leader and the progress of the team. As these individuals can be devious or openly hostile, it is essential that leaders recognize their behaviors for what they are. Once done there are specific actions leaders can take to handle these individuals or motivate the team to police themselves.

Due to the nature of group dynamics, leaders should anticipate and be prepared for the fact that an individual’s behavior might occasionally disrupt team discussions.

Anticipate and Prevent

When individuals organize into effective teams, most problems can be anticipated and prevented. This happens as members spend time getting to know each other, establishing ground rules and agreeing to norms of group behavior.

Group Problem

Many problems arise because individual team members allow or even encourage them in some manner. Leaders should examine each problem in light of what the team allows and encourages, and what it can do to facilitate more constructive behavior.

Control Reactions

Teams can exhibit a variety of behaviors: some minor occurrences that don’t inhibit team discussion and progress, others highly disruptive and even chronic.

Leaders must respond appropriately to the seriousness of the problem, ignoring fleeting disruptions while directly confronting chronic or seriously disruptive behaviors. Experienced leaders as facilitators develop a range of responses to typical problems.

Non-Intervention

There are times when leaders need not intervene, as individual team members will handle the offending behavior themselves. In this case leaders should be available to guide and direct discussions provoked when one member confronts another.

Minimal Intervention

Leaders can discuss the problem or situation outside of the group environment with disruptive team members. Constructive feedback should be given and solutions agreed to.

Impersonal Group Time

Leaders can discuss the problem with the entire team prior to their meeting in order to focus their attention on how they encourage the problem and what they can do differently to discourage it. The problem should be treated as a team issue, with discussions of personalities and personality issues avoided

Personal Confrontation

When other attempts have failed to rectify the offending behaviors in the team setting, leaders must become more assertive with the responsible parties. Direct action can be taken by the leader to remedy the situation.

Group Intervention

As a last resort and when all other approaches have failed, leaders may need to deal with offending behaviors in the presence of the team. In such an instance they expose the member(s) responsible for the offending behaviors to the open critique of the team.

This technique must be used sparingly, with leaders anticipating reactions and responses in order to minimize the hostility and defensiveness of offending team members.

Excerpt: Boosting Team Communication: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Seven Proactive Steps to Take to Deal With a Problem Employee

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Handling Workplace Complaints, Concerns and Issues

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Leaders in the workplace hear several complaints every day. Some are minor and easily resolved; others are more complex, requiring complicated solutions. Leaders should have a specific procedure or decision tree set up to guide them through the resolution process fairly and consistently.

Decision trees come in different varieties, some more suited to particular issues than others. One type can be quite logical, providing the leader with a rather intuitive model to follow for simple problems. Difficult problems, on the other hand, require more complex models that give leaders the more intricate guidance they require.

Unresolved complaints are symptomatic of underlying issues in the workplace. When left unsettled, these issues fester and ultimately surface as major problems that can impact productivity, efficiency and performance, as well as expose an organization to legal liabilities. Leaders must always strive to resolve a problem; otherwise, employees who continually complain about the same issue yet don’t see action being taken likely have legal recourse. Even a seemingly minor issue can have potential legal ramifications that make the company liable for failing to address the complaint.

Effective leaders understand the importance of immediately addressing and resolving complaints. They know that lingering issues hinder the performance of their organizational unit by disrupting the harmony and balance required to maximize output. Additionally, the time invested in “nipping a problem in the bud” is well spent when compared with the time required to deal with a complaint that has exploded into a major problem. Good leaders furthermore understand that a quick and effective response to a complaint limits the company’s legal liability.

Undoubtedly, leaders are well-versed in dealing with daily operational problems (e.g. production, quality, scheduling and efficiency) associated with the organizational unit’s performance. And while it is possible these methods are effective at resolving related employee complaints, they are not the focus of this lesson. For present purposes, complaints will be limited to general workplace issues such as intimidation, harassment, bullying and other employee-related concerns.

When a complaint is initially brought to the leader’s attention, he or she will most likely immediately classify it as a problem that is either major or minor. This tendency is natural, as quick classification leaves the leader with the necessary time and energy to identify and resolve the problem.

However, leaders must take care not to minimize a complaint. They need to recognize that it takes courage for an employee to voice a concern. In fact, before the complaint is made, quite often the issue has been going on for a sustained period, with the employee making many failed attempts at resolving it. Hence, it is important that the leader carefully consider the complaint’s seriousness. Even if the individual tends to complain or whine about everything, each grievance should be examined on its own merits. If, after thoughtful consideration, the leader finds there isn’t much to the complaint, then it may be dismissed. But a repeat pattern of similar complaints may require further action on the part of the leader. On the other hand, some employees rarely complain, and when they do the problem may be more serious than it initially appears.

Once the legitimacy of a complaint has been established, several steps must be taken. A decision tree, as outlined below, guides the leader to the ultimate solution.

Preliminary Investigation

A preliminary investigation identifies underlying causes, the individuals involved and impacted, and the extent of the problem. When the problems causing the complaint are rooted out early, potential solutions can also be identified right away. If this is the case, leaders can act quickly to resolve the problem and move on to more pressing issues. If not, leaders must move on to the next step.

Documentation

If the problem is bigger or more advanced than originally thought, then leaders must begin to document its extent—that is, the activities of the individuals causing the problem, and the complaints and actions of the employees affected by the problem.

Effective leaders understand the importance of documenting the problem: the process helps develop objective facts necessary for a satisfactory resolution and protects the company if the termination of employees is required.

Interview All Participants

An initial investigation of a complaint and a documentation of the facts should include personal interviews with everyone involved in the issue. This gives all parties ample opportunity to express their viewpoints. Leaders must take care to stick with the facts and not be biased by previous experiences with anybody or let their personal feelings impact their decisions.

Pinpoint the Causes and Solution

After interviewing all participants and listening carefully to what they had to say, leaders should be able to pinpoint the underlying causes of the problem. Sometimes the issue to be dealt with is obvious; in which case, immediate action is advised.

In more serious cases, leaders may need to consult with their superiors or the human resources professionals in their company to determine further action or attain recommendations. When issues of legal liability are involved in the solution, leaders must seek counsel from others more familiar with the issues. Effective leaders understand the limits of their responsibilities and the importance of calling on others with more expertise. When in doubt, it is best to call human resources to get their view on possible courses of action.

Implement the Solution

Depending upon the seriousness of the problem and who is involved in crafting and implementing the solution, leaders must take action as soon as possible. Clearly, the solution can take many forms and have a variety of actions. As a result, leaders will often have to sit down with the people affected, either individually or together as a group.

In these sessions the problem will be plainly laid out, the findings and extent of the problem will be reported, and a discussion of the possible solutions initiated. In certain cases where the problem is very serious, solutions can be presented without options, leaving the people who are causing the problem with clear instructions to cease their behaviors or face specific consequences. In other cases, the parties will discuss and agree upon a solution.

Once again, leaders aren’t doing this alone: they are guided by the seriousness of the problem, instructions from their superiors, and the legal liabilities and ramifications if the issue is not resolved. Each area offers unique guidance that, along with understanding the particular circumstances surrounding the problem, will help leaders identify the final resolution and the actions they need to take.

Monitor the Solution

After a solution has been implemented, leaders should actively monitor the solution and periodically interview the employees affected to assure their satisfaction with the outcome. The leader’s central purpose here is to ensure that the problem is completely resolved. If unresolved, then further action must be taken. Consequences may need to be revisited and more drastic action may be called for.

Leaders must understand that every complaint and problem is unique. Dealing with workplace issues means working with complex human behaviors that often have no simple or straightforward solutions. While some solutions are mandated by company policies or management direction, others require the leader’s persistent application of logic until the problem is completely solved.

Excerpt: Negative Employee Attitudes: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

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Conflict in the workplace is often created when somebody wants to make a change another party does not agree with. Often it only takes one to create controversy. This person draws others—who many times in order to maintain the relationship have no option—into the vortex. Since this can lead to these people then terminating their employment with the company, the conflict must be resolved.

The role of the leader includes mediating conflicts between employees. Many leaders not confident in their ability to resolve stressful conflict may seek to overlook, minimize, or avoid it altogether, allowing it to fester and grow through backbiting and constant complaining that saps the productivity of the organizational unit.

In some cases, unresolved conflict may mushroom into a legal issue with one or more parties using attorneys to resolve the problem. This often has wide-ranging ramifications for both the company and the involved leader.

It is important for leaders to understand that conflict and disagreements are part of the workplace environment and that it is in everyone’s best interest to develop the skills to resolve these disputes quickly and equitably. Effective leaders learn to watch for any potential conflicts and quickly address the pertinent issues before they explode into a bigger problem. Conflicts and disputes are best addressed early on before they become more complex and difficult to handle.

“Conflict” is used to describe numerous situations that are not in fact conflicts, but problems of indecision and personal stress. Conditions induce workers whose jobs are interdependent to feel angry and perceive others as being at fault. These situations and reactions constitute a business problem that must be resolved.

What Causes Conflict

There are seven types of conflicts. The leader who can develop a clear understanding of the issues greatly reduces the likelihood of mismatching problems and solutions.

Leaders should understand that most conflicts are complex and can include several elements of different issues. Leaders must carefully observe to determine the actual issues involved in order to match causes with solutions.

Data

Data conflicts arise over facts, figures and statistics and will have their solutions in obtaining new data or verifying and clarifying existing data.

Personality

Where there are people there will be personality conflicts. While in general a person cannot hope to please everyone all of the time, the problem is often directly attributable to the manner in which parties interact with one another and can be addressed by improving communication between involved parties. This may include clearly stating needs and developing clear expectations or even written agreements between conflicting parties.

Values

Clashes over values occur when disagreeing parties have real or perceived incompatibilities in their personal belief systems. Solutions include increased tolerance, understanding and acceptance of opposing points of view.

Resources

Disputes often arise from struggles over a real or perceived scarcity of available resources to adequately perform a job or achieve objectives.

‘History’

Conflicts can stem from unresolved experiences, problems and issues. These conflicts can only be settled by revisiting the past. Issues were created over time, and as such will take time to resolve. Both parties must be allowed to vent their frustrations and perspectives on the issue. The separate issues identified must be addressed and trust reestablished between the conflicting parties.

External Sources

External conflicts refer to the realities of life outside the workplace including anxiety over childcare, health, finances, divorce and other personal issues.

Psychological

These conflicts are caused or maintained by the psychological needs of individuals including the desire for power, control, autonomy and recognition. Psychological issues are often masked by other more tangible problems and may be difficult to distinguish. These issues can only be resolved by addressing the individual’s psychological needs.

Common Responses to Conflict

Individuals in conflict will normally employ one or more of the following three basic responses.

Fighting

When an individual chooses to fight, they are taking a side and getting caught up in the emotional energy flying around the dispute. These individuals are only in touch with their personal feelings and those on their side of the dispute.

A fighting response may be appropriate when a legal point must be decided, the moral issue is at stake or when a clear victor will not damage the relationship between conflicting parties.

Avoidance

Individuals who engage in avoidance are trying to protect themselves from conflict by erecting psychological barriers. This is their way of handling conflict from a safe distance. These individuals have difficulty empathizing with other parties due to the distance they have created between them.

Avoidance may be appropriate when it is important to allow the conflict time and space to de-escalate.

Acquiescence

Individuals simply give up and drop their demands when faced with a conflict. Most feel it is not worth the fight, but may feel used and manipulated later on. The problem is unresolved and festers until it erupts at a future date.

In other cases, individuals acquiesce because they prefer to give up on smaller issues to win when larger problems arise.

Resolving Conflict

The most effective means of settling conflict is to bring all parties together and allow them to air their side of the issue. Leaders must carefully listen to and observe the interaction between conflicting parties and identify the specific mix of issues involved.

Once the true issues are on the table, each must be individually resolved as outlined above. Leaders must be careful to match solutions to the problem. For instance, a historical conflict cannot be resolved by addressing psychological issues nor can a relationship conflict be resolved by addressing value issues. Solutions must take into account the underlying issues of the conflict.

Leaders must take care to completely resolve each issue to both parties’ satisfaction. Any issue left unresolved will fester and return as a bigger problem in the future. This includes any conflict with a forced resolution that one or more of the parties is compelled to accept.

Excerpt: Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

“Dissent, Even Conflict Is Necessary, Indeed Desirable”

Handling Workplace Complaints, Concerns and Issues

With Conflict, Nothing is Straightforward

Conflict Does Not Occur in a Vacuum

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Six Phases of Critical Thinking

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Critical thinking can be defined as “learning to think better by improving one’s thinking skills.” Individuals who are critical thinkers use the thinking process to analyze (consider and reflect) and synthesize (piece together) what they have learned or are currently learning. Unfortunately, much of everyone’s thinking tends to be biased, imprecise, unclear, uninformed or prejudiced. Since this becomes severely limiting, critical thinking is needed to improve its quality and value.

Within the organizational setting critical thinking is necessary for: overcoming problems, making changes, modifications or adaptations within work structures, methods and problem solving situations, resolving situational conflict and pressing issues, and inventing and implementing new ideas, techniques and solutions.

Critical thinking development is a gradual process. It requires: mastering plateaus of learning as well as maintaining a serious focus on the process itself, changing personal habits of thought, which tends to be a long-range project, and extensive development time.

Within the process of critical thinking it is important to recognize what does not comprise its basic elements or components. Critical thinking is not accomplished by: saying something without carefully thinking it through, taking a guess at what one thinks “should” be done, memorizing material to analyze, discuss or examine, doing something just because it has always been done, believing something because it is what everyone else tends to believe, or arguing about something when there are no facts to back up the argument.

Critical Thinking Qualities

There are certain qualities critical thinkers possess and these characteristics tend to categorize individuals as “deep thinkers,” which separates them from more typical “basic thinkers.” Critical thinkers tend to be self-disciplined, self-directed, self-monitored and self-corrective thinkers. They raise essential or crucial questions and problems and then proceed to formulate them clearly and precisely. Critical thinkers gather, assemble, evaluate and appraise relevant information. They come to well-reasoned deductions, conclusions and solutions, while measuring and testing them against relevant standards and criteria. They also keep an open mind within alternative systems of thought while continually recognizing and assessing their assumptions and lines of reasoning. Finally, critical thinkers communicate effectively with others in seeking out and determining solutions for challenges and problems.

There tends to be six developmental thinking phases that lead to “mastering” the art of critical thinking. Through extensive practice and applications of the process, individuals can expect to begin altering and eventually changing their individual habits of thought. Each progressive phase is described below.

Phase One: The Unenlightened Thinker — individuals generally are not consciously aware that significant problems do exist within their current patterns of thinking.

Phase Two: The Confronted Thinker — individuals are aware that existing problems are evident or apparent within their process of thinking.

Phase Three: The Novice Thinker — individuals try to initiate improvements within their thinking, but without relying on regular or consistent practice.

Phase Four: The Proactive Thinker — individuals do recognize the importance of regular practice to improve and enhance their thinking.

Phase Five: The Developed Thinker — individuals begin to advance in accordance with the amount of practice that is awarded to the process.

Phase Six: The Mastery Thinker — individuals become skilled and insightful, where reflective, analytical and evaluative thinking becomes second nature.

Individuals can only develop through these phases if they accept the fact that there are serious problems with their current processes and methods of thinking, and are able to accept the challenge that their thinking presents to them and make it a point to begin regular practice to improve and enhance the components and elements of critical thinking.

Critical Thinking Relies Upon Clarity of Purpose

In order to develop critical thinking, it is important for individuals to be clear as to the purpose of the task or topic at hand, and the main question that is at issue in regard to it. To accomplish this goal, it is essential to: strive to be clear, accurate, precise and relevant, practice thinking beneath the surface, be logical and fair-minded, apply critical thinking skills to all reading, writing, speaking and listening activities, and apply these skills to all aspects of work as well as life in general.

Questioning: The Impetus for Critical Thinking

Dead questions reflect dead minds. Unfortunately, most individuals, (even managers, leaders and trainers) tend not to ask many thought-stimulating types of questions. They tend to stick to dead questions like, “Is this going to be what is expected from now on?” or, “How are we supposed to understand (or do) this?” and other questions that outwardly imply the desire not to think.

Some managers, leaders, trainers or facilitators in turn are not themselves generators of in-depth questions and answers of their own making, which aids in establishing non-critical thinking environments. These individuals are not seriously engaged in thinking through or rethinking through their own initiatives, issues, concerns, topics or instructional concepts and resort to being mere purveyors of the “questions and answers of others.” They often end up initiating or responding to some initial concerns or issues that tend to surface spontaneously during a discussion or meeting, without having personal background information that would otherwise help stimulate deeper levels of creative probing and evaluative questioning. Sometimes they tend to apply second-hand information, knowledge or questions that have been passed down, which limits creative assessments and deeper level questioning. Often they find themselves referencing authors or others who are considered to be experts or leaders in their field rather than questioning important workplace-related issues, ideas, methods or concerns that need to be probed in-depth.

Questioning Through Critical Thinking Keeps the Organization Alive

Every company stays alive only to the extent that fresh questions are generated and taken seriously. These questions are then used as the driving force for generating and implementing changes. To think through or rethink anything, individuals within an organization must ask questions that stimulate deeper levels of thought. Questions define tasks, express problems and identify issues. While answers on the other hand, often signal a full stop in thought. Only when answers generate further questions does thought continue to add value in terms of personal as well as organizational growth and change.

It is important to remember that individuals within an organization, who generate and ask serious and insightful questions, are the ones who are, in fact, truly thinking, developing and learning. It is possible to move an organization forward by just asking employees to list all of the questions that they have about an issue, method or topic, including all questions generated by their first list of questions. However, deep questions drive out thoughts that rest underneath the surface of things and force individuals to deal with complexity. While questions of purpose force individuals to define “their task,” questions of information force individuals to look at their source(s) of information as well as its quality.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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