Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘conflict resolution

Conflict Is More Than Simply ‘Not Getting Along’

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manpointing-atemployee

Conflict is commonplace within any organization. Whenever individuals of diverse interests and backgrounds interact with each other, discord will arise. In some management circles, this friction is viewed negatively; however, when effective conflict resolution techniques are applied, productive agreements can be reached. This strengthens both individual personal relationships and the organization as a whole.

Conflicts should be considered part of the normal business environment. They arise because managers build teams consisting of diverse people with different abilities. This is what brings a sense of balance to the team and facilitates a synergy created by a unit that is greater than the sum of its parts. Yet even when a team is developed with productive synergy, conflict will arise.

The key to effective conflict resolution is to view it as an opportunity, not just as a sign that a problem exists within the organization. A team created with a productive synergy brings many diverse viewpoints and perspectives to a situation or problem. While conflict enters in when these perspectives clash with one another, this is the opportunity to stimulate a healthy debate around the issues and build a consensus.

The problem many managers have is that some individuals loathe conflict and prefer to run from it, which confines them to a play-it-safe world where little is accomplished or learned. Additionally, the conflicts are allowed to fester, resulting in long-term problems that will at some point need resolution.

When managers encounter conflict within their organization, there are four critical factors that they need to be cognizant of to assure that the situation can be resolved successfully. These are:

Resolution

While conflict presents a healthy opportunity for an organization to grow, all parties involved in the dispute must possess the right attitude if the situation is going to be resolved, which won’t happen without a healthy outlook.

If both parties don’t want to arrive at a resolution, it won’t happen until someone intervenes; however, the conflict can still continue to fester if one or both parties feel the outcome was forced.

Personal Agendas

Often when conflict occurs, personal differences, agendas and feelings about past problems arise and interfere with the resolution. Until all parties are willing to put these issues aside and look beyond them and at common issues and concerns, the conflict will not be resolved.

All parties must ask themselves what is more important to them: clinging to their personal opinions and perceived injuries, or working together to solve a problem or issue that is important to the organization and ultimately to each individual involved in the conflict?

Communication

Within the context of conflict resolution, true communication must take place. This process requires doing more than just persuasively arguing for one point of view over another; it requires proactive listening to learn and appreciate the other person’s needs and concerns.

Before any successful resolution can take place, all parties’ needs and concerns must be addressed. Thus, effective communication is the key to effective management and organizational health.

Dedication to the Success of the Relationship

The manager’s goal in conflict resolution must go beyond merely keeping the peace and averting a crisis. Rather, they must foster a productive relationship between the individuals involved in order to build positive momentum.

If managers want this momentum to be successful and enduring, resolution must be dedicated to the success of the relationship, and not to the fulfillment of one group’s wishes over another. All parties must stay focused on what is good for the organization rather than on the quest for power and advancement of their personal agendas.

The key is to face the problem, separate the parties involved from it, and then commit to resolving the matter in a way that meets all participant needs. Conflict can develop into an opportunity for all parties to grow while simultaneously advancing the organization.

Related:

How Employees Handle Conflict

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

Unresolved Conflict is Corrosive to Leadership

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

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

Unresolved Conflict is Corrosive to Leadership

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fearfulman

Conflict and problems do not typically occur in a vacuum. The roots of existing conflict reside within each organization and its individual members. These potential conflicts can undermine the manager’s ability to lead the group he or she directs and to make sound decisions that result in a positive outcome.

Managers are confronted with a dilemma when it comes to conflict resolution. If they are unable to find the most workable fit between the problems that result in conflict and the group they direct, their ability to lead their employees will be diminished.

Many of the factors that contribute to conflict and undermine a manager’s ability to lead can be treated independently. Conflict resolution is complex, and managers must identify contributing factors and modify their approach accordingly in order to arrive at the best solution. This takes time, attention to detail, and a careful assessment of the most critical elements and surrounding circumstances within each specific conflict situation.

Not all managers are in situations where their people possess sophisticated interpersonal skills and have an open mind toward the resolution of conflict. In fact, many manage and direct groups whose makeup creates additional conflict rather than proactive solutions to already existing situations. This places managers at a disadvantage and creates situations where their ability to lead is undermined.

Managers should be cognizant of the following workplace factors and circumstances that can lead to diminishing management capabilities.

Required Knowledge and Analytical Skills

Conflict takes many forms, from simple arguments between employees over minor issues to more sophisticated discussions and negotiations regarding issues of unit efficiency and productivity. Yet no matter the type of conflict, without required group knowledge and analytical skills to assess the problem and arrive at an objective assessment, problems will occur.

Groups will assume a predominantly smoothing and avoiding approach to maintain the status quo or a bargaining and forcing mode that is destructive to the cohesiveness of the group and the organization. Both modes consistently applied in all circumstances will erode the manager’s ability to lead and direct their organization.

If managers observe some of their people lacking the requisite skills and knowledge to effectively deal with conflict within the group, they must determine whether they have the capacity, and if so, take the necessary actions to ensure this aptitude is acquired. In this fashion, managers can transform potentially dangerous situations into ones that enhance their ability to lead.

Workloads

Groups can have the required knowledge and analytical skills to effectively handle internal conflict, but be so overburdened with other tasks and responsibilities that their ability to work through it is still greatly diminished. The constraints of other higher priority assignments lessen both the desire and ability of members to manage their conflicts. As such clashes are viewed as an unnecessary interruption in more important work, they defer resolution to the manager.

High levels of stress generally characterize overloaded groups. High stress leads to a shallow and incomplete diagnosis—as well as a preference for solutions that are simple and inflexible rather than creative and effective.

Expectations

Each individual member of a group has an established idea regarding the degree to which they will become involved in conflict resolution. While approaches vary according to participants’ makeup and personality styles, the predominant mode of conflict resolution is smoothing and avoiding, where peace and the status quo are maintained. In other situations, depending upon company norms, some groups feel very strongly about their right to be involved in a decision.

Research has shown that many of the tensions that develop between managers and employees stem from differing assumptions regarding the appropriate degree of group participation in certain types of decisions.

Managers must account for members’ individual personality styles and expectations since reactions and expectations will vary from group to group.

Conflict Resolution Norms

Group conflict resolution can be especially difficult when individual members have different and/or conflicting goals and needs. The most critical aspect of a group’s problem solving ability is its capacity to handle internal conflict.

Managers must ensure that the groups they direct have developed positive and healthy norms. Only when this is achieved is an appropriate forum created in which to work out problems and resolve conflict. Without these resolution norms, serious and heated group controversy will be divisive and result in ineffective and potentially harmful solutions.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

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 © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

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manpointing-atemployee

While internal conflict and friction can be healthy for an organization – in that it can channel that energy into creative and innovative solutions – there are times when managers must understand that conflict can be costly, especially if personal interests and agendas are placed above the needs of the organization.

By definition, managers are concerned with the entire organization, not just their own personal spheres of influence. Managers must rise above the desire to attain a power base or advance an agenda. They must direct any conflict resolution toward creating and crafting the best possible solution for the entire organization.

While conflict is healthy in most working environments, there are two general areas where conflict can be damaging and destructive to the entire organization.

Personal Agendas and Perspectives

One of the most problematic areas of conflict resolution is the application of personal agendas and perspectives to conflict resolution. A natural tendency in all individuals, this can cause difficulties if the personal agenda of one or more members of a group overpower the needs of the organization.

This is especially problematic when someone senior to the rest of the group members is advancing their personal agenda. The areas where individual personal agendas can be damaging include:

Biased Assimilation of Information

How a problem or conflict is perceived and defined impacts its resolution. Personal agendas and perceptions can create a bias that adversely affects the definition of the problem and, ultimately, the solution.

This misstep occurs when information and data is received from an external source and processed with a lack of understanding or adequate background information. Additionally, the information can be processed using incorrect assumptions, perceptions or decision making norms to frame the issue; this ultimately impacts the formation of the solution in regard to conclusions and the actions caused by them.

When personal agendas strongly influence a group—either in the form of intimidation or by the use of power over the group—there is a reluctance to question the information and perspectives being presented.

The group assumes a smoothing and avoiding conflict resolution style that allows these differences in opinion and perspective to be both minimized and glossed over. When a wrong decision is made that impacts the organization, the primary influencer can disclaim any exclusive association by pointing out the group nature of the decision. This tactic serves to mask any personal agenda at play, often to extremely destructive effect.

Partisan Perceptions

Research has demonstrated that there is an unconscious tendency in individuals to enhance their own side of a conflict, portraying it as more insightful, honest and morally upright. An associated phenomenon is the tendency to vilify the opposition, portraying them as both unscrupulous and vile.

These two phenomena have dominated research on inter-group relations for over 40 years. In more recent studies, the insidious and involuntary nature of partisan tactics has become more apparent, as it affects the nature of conflict and the specific manners in which the resolution process is undermined.

When applied to the aforementioned concept of biased assimilation of information, it is obvious how conflict intensifies when one group strongly believes in their viewpoints while simultaneously vilifying their opponents.’

Organizations feel the impact as the conflict degenerates into personal battles and animosities that can endure for prolonged periods of time. This partisanship poisons the workplace environment to the point that satisfactory resolution becomes nearly impossible without outside intervention.

Scarce Resources

The other major source of internal conflict within organizations is the battle between groups and departments over the utilization of limited resources. This situation readily surfaces when organizations lack clear direction.

In certain circumstances, larger and more powerful departments are able to dominate this battle and intimidate smaller and less influential groups.

While this “survival of the fittest” confrontation might be considered productive by some members of management, it is ultimately unhealthy and damaging if badly needed resources are diverted away from those areas of the organization most in need of them or from those who can put them to the most productive use.

Related:

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

How Employees Handle Conflict

Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution – Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series (Majorium Business Press – Stevens Point, WI, 2011)

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 © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

How Employees Handle Conflict

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The natural tendencies of many individuals and other group dynamics can hinder a leader’s ability to be effective in resolving conflict in the group setting. The leader must take the time to observe and then rectify specific behaviors that interfere with conflict resolution.

When problems and issues arise, many individuals have a natural tendency to avoid friction. When that is not possible, they seek to remain uninvolved in its resolution.

Employees may be forced to be part of a group charged with solving a problem, but these individuals are often not happy about it. The fight-or-flight response takes over, and even if they are physically present, they have mentally left the conflict.

When problems do occur leaders must ensure that all viewpoints and perspectives are heard and all alternatives explored. Techniques can be utilized to ensure that all members of the group are included in both the discussion and crafting of an acceptable solution.

Leaders can look for specific behavior patterns in order to determine how employees handle conflict. These patterns may be nonverbal and not readily apparent, but a careful examination will help leaders spotlight the behaviors impeding conflict resolution and enable them to address and rectify the situation.

Related: Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

Such an examination includes looking at:

Alternatives

The first behavioral patterns leaders need to explore are the alternatives that are considered when solving a problem in the group setting. Problems can present themselves and additional conflicts can be created if employees tend to consider only a few potential alternatives.

If leaders observe these patterns, they must engage the group in brainstorming techniques that explore all possible avenues toward resolution. This action fosters creative thinking within the group and provides innovative solutions to eliminate the causes of conflict.

Emphasis

Within some groups, the smoothing and avoiding approach to conflict resolution is predominant, resulting in areas of agreement being overemphasized while leaving areas of disagreement unexplored. This deficiency allows the situation to fester and explode into a bigger problem down the road.

When leaders observe this pattern, they must shift the group’s emphasis to balance areas of agreement with disagreement. All aspects must be fully examined and the alternatives considered before the problem can be adequately resolved.

Disagreement

Leaders need to observe how members respect individual disagreement, as group norms may keep any discordance from being voiced. In other situations, individuals who convey disagreement may be ridiculed, bullied or intimidated so that it is not taken seriously or considered by the group.

Leaders must ensure that all members of the group have an open and equal opportunity to voice any problems they might have and offer valid points and perspectives. Any attempt to quiet opposition will create additional conflict and deeper problems.

Related: The Challenge of Handling Conflict

Agreement

There are many criteria that a group can consider in establishing agreement among its members. Some will use a majority vote, while others will arrive at a consensus before moving forward. Some group norms interpret a lack of opposition as agreement.

Leaders should shift the group toward a consensus where all viewpoints are both voiced and considered. All members of the group must be included, especially those who may be reluctant to say anything. Only in this fashion will all viewpoints, options or alternatives be considered.

Openness

In several conflict resolution modes, leaders should be watchful for members “stumping” for a specific viewpoint or perspective rather than inquiring about the potential alternatives available to the group.

Additionally, leaders can observe how actively members listen to each other’s perspectives and whether or not the members respect the input of all individuals. These clues help the leader determine the group’s openness to alternative perspectives.

Leaders must ensure that all perspectives are voiced and respected. The advocacy of one point of view without a full exploration of the facts and all possible solutions should not be tolerated.

Participation

The participation of individual members, their reactions to the group setting, and their involvement with specific issues should be carefully observed. Leaders should pay attention to whether members are apathetic, frustrated, defensive, warm or enthusiastic.

Each of these emotional states will impact both conflict resolution and problem solving. Apathy, frustration and defensive postures can result in faulty or unresolved solutions that will lead to subsequent issues.

Leaders should meet with each employee displaying negative personal attributes in order to determine the causes of their attitudes. In some cases, these attributes can surface because conflict and disagreement are not tolerated. Individuals may feel that their opinions are not respected or wanted. Such difficulties must be addressed if the group is to be effective.

Related: Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

Interaction

The final area that leaders must monitor closely is the interaction of individual members within the group environment. Some of these factors have already been discussed, including individuals who are overly nice and polite and emote only positive feelings.

Group members might too readily agree with one another while suppressing their true thoughts. This indicates that the group is in a destructive conflict resolution mode where suppression dominates and the status quo is maintained.

Leaders who observe these clues must intervene in meetings and take the initiative in order to draw out the true feelings and perspectives of the group. They can effectively do this by using open-ended questions that operate until satisfactory responses are obtained.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

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 © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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.

Related: Eight Ways to Improve Communication

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.

Related: The Challenge of Handling Conflict

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.

Related: Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

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

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices effective communications tactics, strategies and techniques 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.

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 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog | 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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.

Related: Focusing Your Employees on Common Goals

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.

Related: Ten Steps You Need to Take to Effectively Sell Your Ideas

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.

Related: Eight Ways to Improve Communication

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.

________________________________________________________________________

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 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 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.

Related: The Challenge of Handling Conflict

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.

Related: Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

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.

Related: When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

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?

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices on dealing with personality differences in the team environment to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to Personality Differences within the Team Setting: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. Click here to learn more.
________________________________________________________________________

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 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 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.

Related : Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

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.

Related: Seven Proactive Steps to Take to Deal With a Problem Employee

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.

Related: Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

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

If you would like to learn more about improving communications, especially within the team environment, refer to Boosting Team Communication: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

________________________________________________________________________

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 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Handling Workplace Complaints, Concerns and Issues

with 5 comments

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, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about techniques to manage and handle negative employee behaviors, refer to Negative Employee Attitudes: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

______________________________________________________________________________

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 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

with 7 comments

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, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about overcoming leadership challenges, refer to Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

________________________________________________________________________
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
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog| 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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