Management

Where Has Professionalism Gone?

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Some friends and I chatted over dinner about a month ago and concluded that either we are getting old or the world is upside down. I prefer the latter view. After college graduation, I jumped into the world of banking. Back then we all wore suits, wearing pants was a crime if you were female, and pantyhose with no toes showing were the norm. Times have changed, and I admit that I enjoy seeing casual bankers not all suited up for battle.

Back then the internet was in its infancy and guess what? We completed our work and surpassed goals without it. We communicated just fine, and the world didn’t crash around us. At dinner we were nostalgic about the old days and wondered where has professionalism gone?

•    The internet has turned us into slaves. Most of us are tethered to our electronic devices and obsessed with checking them – myself included. Managers, co-workers, and customers contact us at all hours and expect a response. Despite calls for a “work-life balance” it seems to be getting worse. Some countries are recognizing the toll that this takes on employees and have implemented laws against contacting employees during specific times.

•    Texting has made our lives easier and can be efficient. Don’t assume that everyone wants to communicate via text. It can be cold and often your message comes across as terse or demanding. Please, don’t text after business hours.

•    We use receiving “too many emails” as an excuse to not respond within 24 hours. The message that teams and customers receive is that they aren’t valued enough for a response. Also, is it really necessary to copy half the company in emails? It blocks effective communication and inhibits action. Moreover, some people feel like they are being “tattled” on.

•    Dress professional. The workplace is not the beach so leave the tanks tops and flip flops at home. No matter what industry you work in or your role, show respect and dress professional. It shows customers respect and you are the face of your company.

•    We have so little time for face to face communication. When you are in meetings, keep the phone away and the laptop shut. A few years ago, I worked for a company where everyone brought a laptop to meetings. People were so busy taking notes or shopping online that they didn’t pay attention.

•    Be respectful of others space and time. Some days I miss closed offices. Recent research shows that open office plans inhibit productivity, people are interrupted too often, none of us want to be rude and tell people to leave us alone. It just plain stresses us out.

•    Technology has enabled us to reach our customers where they are and at any time of the day. Unfortunately, we often assume that clients want to be contacted solely online or by email. What happened to writing customers personal cards of thanks, letters inviting them to meet with us, or personal phone calls to engage?

•    Be spontaneous with your teams or customers. Get out of your office and communicate face to face. Bring them coffee or a company token of thanks. See their offices and find out their pain points. Be unique and do what your competitors aren’t.

•    Treat everyone that you meet as if you are meeting with your grandparents. Be respectful, embrace their opinions, remain professional, keep the technology off, and treat them like they are the most important person in the world.

It’s time to bring professionalism back. As leaders, we may need to mentor our young team members on what professionalism is, the message that it sends to others, and how to be a professional. I would love to hear what your biggest pet peeve regarding professionalism is!

 

 

 

Differentiation Increases Complexity By Sunnie Giles

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I'm honored to share a guest post from Sunnie Giles author of the new book The New Science of Radical Innovation - The Six Competencies Leaders Need to Win in a Complex World. Her insights and big-picture thinking focusing on the complexity around us is fascinating. 

According to complex systems theory, differentiation increases positive (internal) complexity. By allowing more variation, each differentiated agent in a system can make different connections with other agents and systems, which adds more variety and strength to the quality of connection. This additional connection increases the probability of natural selection and evolution because the organism’s variations (i.e., mutations) facilitate better adaptation to the environment. Complexity increases when differentiated parts are connected. This increased internal complexity, in turn, enables an organism to respond even more effectively to unexpected challenges from the environment and increases its chances of survival.

My church choir provides a simple example of how differentiation increases complexity. When we learn a new song, the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices practice their parts by themselves. When each part is sung in unison, the resulting music doesn’t sound very rich or complex. When the four parts are finally combined, they produce a rich tapestry of beautiful, complex music.

Let’s take another example. Fruit flies and humans share 60 percent of their DNA—a surprisingly high number. One would be right to question how the remaining 40 percent could account for the much higher complexity of humans. The key is in the number of interactions in many-to-many networks among the genes. Humans have about twenty-five thousand unique genes; fruit flies, about fourteen thousand. The number of protein interactions among the genes in humans is about 650,000—ten times as many as that of fruit flies. Each additional differentiated gene produces exponential growth in the number of genetic interactions. The network effect, which we discussed in chapter 2, resulting from the interaction among genes explains how a small difference in the number of genes can create an enormous difference in the complexity level between humans and fruit flies. The same pattern of exponential growth we see in the relationship between the number of genes and the gene interactions.

The highest level of internal complexity can be achieved by developing optimal differentiation, connecting the differentiated parts, and replicating that connection on multiple levels. If you have just undifferentiated parts, there is nothing to integrate, which results in suboptimal complexity. Once the foundation of safety is in place, Quantum Leaders facilitate differentiation in each of their team members, as well as the whole team as a unit, maximizing each member’s unique talents, skills, and perspectives.

Differentiation is so important to the optimal functioning of the human race that a differentiation mechanism is inherently built into the human development phase—it’s called pruning, and it takes place in the teenage brain. At birth, neuronal synapses in a child’s brain are more numerous than in an adult’s. Synapses multiply rapidly during childhood, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. This is why it’s much easier for children to learn foreign languages, musical instruments, and sports. As a child matures into a teenager, the brain prunes away underutilized synapses, so the synapses used most often can work more efficiently. The long body of the retained neurons get myelinated in a myelin sheath, which accelerates the conduction speed of the ions between neurons a hundredfold. This increased speed is made possible through the process of saltatory conduction, in which ions jump between nodes instead of steadily traveling along the axonal length of the neuron. In addition, myelination accelerates the resting period between neuronal firings—the refractory period—thirtyfold. The combination of these functions makes pruned synapses three thousand times more efficient than unpruned ones.

The pruning process produces unique patterns of neuronal synapses manifested into unique strengths and talents. This evolutionary mechanism highlights the importance of differentiating individuation before integrating with another differentiated person (e.g., a spouse or a team). Once parts are fully differentiated, connecting differentiated parts and replicating these connections to the next level (in this case, raising the next generation of children or leaders) increases internal complexity. All complex systems strive to increase internal complexity by nature because higher complexity means better chances of natural selection.

About Dr. Sunnie Giles:

Dr. Sunnie Giles is a new generation expert who catalyzes organizations to produce radical innovation by harnessing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA).

Her research reveals that applying concepts from neuroscience, complex systems approach, and quantum mechanics can produce radical innovation consistently. Her expertise is based on years as an executive with Accenture, IBM and Samsung. Her profound, science-backed insight is encapsulated in her leadership development program, Quantum Leadership.

An advisor to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, she also is a sought-after speaker and expert source, having been quoted in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, and Inc.

Dr. Giles’ latest book, The New Science of Radical Innovation, provides a clear process for radical innovation that produces 10x improvements and has been endorsed prominent industry leaders such as Jonathan Rosenberg, Daniel Pink, Marshall Goldsmith and Sean Covey.

 

Knowing the Self Who Leads by Shelly L. Franci

Have you ever found yourself wondering where inner wisdom and courage come from? Have you been in a situation where your real leadership blooms because you know what you value and believe in?

Shelly L. Franci's new book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity offers soul searching and a path you can take to find your authentic self and bring out your true gifts to impact others. Here is an excerpt from Shelly's new book.

The underlying premise of the Courage Way is that we all have a trustworthy source of inner wisdom that informs our lives and leadership. It is our identity and integrity, the sum of our shadows and light, our true self. Without knowing our true self, we cannot be an authentic leader.

Just as Ed came to recognize, leaders must find clarity about what they value, what unique gifts they have to offer, what contribution they wish to make. Strength and resilience as a leader come from knowing the ground on which you stand, the convictions you will act on with courage. But that’s not all. Resilience comes from being aware of and accepting your limits and what problems your shadows are causing. That is wholeness—and that comes from knowing your true self.

Otto Scharmer, author of Theory U, acknowledges this inner life: “We observe what leaders do. We can observe how they do it, what strategies and processes they deploy. But we can’t see the inner place, the source from which people act when, for example, they operate at the highest possible level, or alternatively, when they act without engagement or commitment.”

This inner place Scharmer speaks of is more than intellect, ego, emotions, and will. In the inner work of leadership, it is a light behind the eyes, the energy that animates us, or, as Howard Thurman puts it, “the sound of the genuine in you.” Instead of true self or soul, you could say inner wisdom, essential self, or even trusting your gut. Poets, musicians, and mystics have given words to the essence of who we are—our human spirits—when we take off the trappings of our resumes. John O’Donohue calls it the dignity somewhere in us “that is more gracious than the smallness / that fuels us with fear and force.”  William Stafford appeals to “a voice, to something shadowy / a remote important region in all who talk.”

Although Parker Palmer often refers to his inner teacher, he often says that what you call this core of our humanity doesn’t matter, “but that we name it matters a great deal. It’s important to recognize it: If we don’t name it anything, we start to lose the being in human being. We start to treat each other like empty vessels or objects to be marketed. When we say ‘soul,’ or ‘identity and integrity,’ there is something to make a deep bow to. There is a word for it in every wisdom tradition.”

Beyond being the sum of your life experiences, the true self is a mystery that simply is. How do you get to that underlying mystery of knowing people deep down? Intimacy is not necessarily the goal of every relationship in community, especially in the workplace. But respecting that each person has an essential core self, an undeniable dignity and humanity—now that is worthwhile.

But seldom, if ever, do we ask the “who” question. Who is the self that engages in leadership? How does this self impact the practice of leadership, for good and for bad? How is the self continually honored and renewed as we lead?

—Parker J. Palmer

About Shelly L. Francis

Shelly L. Francis has been the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since mid-2012. Before coming to the Center, Shelly directed trade marketing and publicity for multi-media publisher Sounds True, Inc. Her career has spanned international program management, web design, corporate communications, trade journals, and software manuals.

The common thread throughout her career has been bringing to light best-kept secrets — technology, services, resources, ideas — while bringing people together to facilitate collective impact and good work. Her latest book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity identifies key ingredients needed to cultivate courage in personal and professional aspects of life.

 

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Women Need to Break a Few of Their Usual Rules - Jill Flynn

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Women continue to drop out of the workforce in large numbers because of the barriers that we face. Unfortunately, we don't help ourselves any because we are often our own worst enemy. We need to collectively take back control of our careers and use our strengths to become the influential leaders that we really are deep inside. Here is a guest post from Jill Flynn one of the authors of the new book The Influence Effect. 

There is almost nothing more crucial to success in any organization than developing excellent leaders. It is a no-brainer. But, although there’s no shortage of ambitious people with executive aspirations, what threatens the strength of your leadership pipeline may be a scarcity of senior-level women.

You may have seen the stats: Women are entering the global labor force in greater numbers than ever before; they earn more undergraduate and graduate degrees than men in many countries; yet, just 13 of 500 CEOs running Fortune 500 Global companies are women. In addition, the gender wage gap across the world remains significant. Some of this can be attributed to the type of age-old gender stereotypes and traditions that take generations to eliminate. But there are other culprits to consider—ones that are within our control to address right now that will significantly strengthen women’s chances of rising to the top of organizations.

Over the past decade, my colleagues and I have coached and trained over 7,000 professional women, traveled across the globe and to Africa to speak with women, and interviewed over 3,200 senior executives to find out how they believe women can be more successful. What we’ve found is that for women in middle management, and particularly those approaching the top, continued career momentum is not about adding technical skills. Many women are taught as children to behave in certain ways that don’t help them succeed as executives. What women need to do in order to succeed at higher levels in global business is to think differently.

The New Rules

In essence, we’ve found that women need to rethink the conversations they are having in their heads and tell themselves a new story. They need to challenge some of their outdated expectations and attitudes about themselves and the workplace. These are the rules women need to break:

1. Take Center Stage (Instead of focusing on others):  Many of the smartest women around the conference table focus too much of their attention on other people’s needs. They are assisting others, pitching-in and volunteering to pick-up other people’s slack. This leaves precious little time and energy to allow themselves to thrive professionally and personally. The instinct to put others first can work against women by keeping them from focusing on their own career goals.  The result is that too many women let their careers “happen to them” rather than putting themselves in the driver’s seat. We tell women to invest in themselves and have a written plan for their career. Women who have a clear vision for what they want to achieve are much more likely to own their ambition and work in ways that allow them to succeed.

2. Proceed Until Apprehended (Instead of seeking approval): In our coaching sessions we’ve worked with countless women executives who are exceptionally collaborative leaders. They like to be liked, but the desire for consensus can slow them down. In order to succeed, women need to retain that core strength of collaboration while at the same time acting creatively and decisively to make things happen. They need to stop “asking for permission” and instead demonstrate behaviors that exhibit leadership. In terms of career success, we tell women that remaining silently behind the scenes is much riskier than putting forward bold ideas and proactively campaigning for the big assignments.

3. Project Personal Power (Instead of modesty): We’ve found that many women who are motivated to move into leadership positions are ambivalent about projecting power. Modesty and self-deprecation come more naturally. In fact, some women act downright apologetic in the face of success—as if it doesn’t suit them or they don’t deserve it. To exude confidence and power, women need to pay attention to their non-verbal messaging. Stance, eye contact, tone of voice, and facial expressions all send a message to others about confidence. In addition, women need to take credit for their many ideas and accomplishments. Taking credit for their success and being assertive will help women move more quickly into the jobs they want.

4. Be Politically Savvy (Instead of working harder): Many women are disappointed when their hard work and long hours don’t seem to pay-off in terms of career advancement. They dislike politics and try to remain above the fray. Yet, being politically savvy is actually about building relationships, achieving consensus and networking—women are great at these things. We coach women to build their careers as if they are running for office: create a platform of ideas, line up sponsors, put together a coalition – and then do it over and over again as their agenda and goals change.

5. Play to Win  (Instead of playing it safe): We hear in our interviews with senior executives that women need to get out of their comfort zones, be bold and take risks. Women can make themselves visible in this way by taking the lead on high-stakes projects and bringing in new business. Putting themselves out there means getting comfortable with risk and the possibility of failure. It may seem safer to let someone at a higher pay grade take the risks, but it is the major decisions that offer women the best opportunities to establish their credibility as leaders.

6. Have a Both/And Perspective (Instead of all-or-nothing thinking):  One phrase that has crept into dozens of our coaching files over the years is the notion of having it all. It’s no coincidence that many of the women who are trying to have it all are also the ones who get burned out. There’s no one right way to succeed, but avoiding black and white thinking – and remaining flexible – can help women establish leadership credibility. Because complexity and constant change are everywhere today, dealing with ambiguity has become skill that all of us (not only women) need to master.

As these new rules illustrate, we’ve found that most high-performing women don’t need to make major changes in order to give themselves a better chance to succeed. Small adjustments in how they think about themselves can have a big impact on their everyday behaviors and lead to visibility and continued career momentum. And that outcome will be good for everyone.

From a bottom line perspective, paving the way for more women at the highest levels in leadership is a net positive for business. Women are natural consensus builders and collaborators, so they are well suited for the nimble, less hierarchical workplace of the future. And research proves that companies with more women leaders have a higher return on equity and a better return on sales. There’s no doubt about it: when women get ahead it is good for business.

About Jill Flynn

Jill Flynn is a founding partner at FHHL and a co-author of Break Your Own Rules and her latest co-authored book, The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders. Jill previously served as Senior Vice President at the nation’s fourth largest bank, First Union (now Wells Fargo), where she established their leadership development, diversity, organizational consulting and employee satisfaction initiatives. As the corporation grew exponentially during her tenure, Jill and her team prepared a cadre of high-potential leaders to assume senior positions. Within a three-year timeframe, the number of women in these roles increased from 9% to 26%.

 

It All Matters: I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Is Gone by Paul Cummings

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I'm always drawn to books that can help me find clarity, focus, and more confidence. There are so many distractions pulling at us from every angle. Our brains become fuzzy, our goals fall to the wayside, and we feel disconnected and off track. I'm excited to share this insight from Paul Cummings on how you can start to see clear again and the importance of doing so.

I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Is Gone

By Paul Cummings

Do you know who Johnny Nash is? In my opinion, he is a genius who provided a tremendous life lesson hidden in the lyrics of a great song. If you investigate the meaning behind the message, you’ll discover the impact of his words.

Have you ever realized that your perception of life is the lens through which you view your life? Our perception truly shapes our reality. Is your lens clear, and do you like what you see? Or have you allowed circumstances in your life to cloud up your lens and change your viewpoint and perspective?

“I can see clearly now the rain is gone.”

I love this lyric. Here is a person who has cleaned his lens. The rain was blocking his vision of life. When the “hard rain” is pouring down all around, it’s easy to miss the beauty around you, the opportunities open to you.

“I can see all obstacles in my way.”

This person has arrived at a moment of clarity. Now that the rain is gone, he can finally see the obstacles preventing him from the goals and dreams he has been pursuing without success. Once you define and acknowledge your obstacles, you can create a compelling plan of action to turn these obstacles into tangible opportunities.

“Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.”

Wow, this is such a powerful use of words! We have all experienced "dark cloud" moments in our life. We have been hurt and disappointed. We have experienced losses and unexpected moments of sadness. We have been this close to a major victory only to fall short and have to start over. To me, these powerful words represent a message of hope. The dark clouds in our life will disappear. We will maintain our faith and belief that things can and will work out in the end.

“It’s going to be a bright bright sunshiny day”

Beautiful optimism! What an inspiring and positive outlook this lyric project. This person has cleared off the lens, recognized the obstacles, removed the dark clouds, and replaced his blindness with a powerful vision. The road ahead is bathed in bright sunshine.

Johnny Nash's words are open to interpretation, but I believe the rain could have been a series of negative emotions. The obstacles could have been the source of that (rain) pain. The dark clouds could have been the acceptance of those negative emotions causing blindness to the possibilities. The bright sunshiny day could be the moment the person said, “No more! From today forward, I will take hold of my life and choose to look through my lens with the hope, faith, and confidence that a bright future brings.”

Clear your lens and embrace your future - every day. What song has a lot of meaning to you?

Make A Difference Today,

 ~Paul  

More about Paul Cummings

Paul Cummings is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Paul D. Cummings World Wide Enterprises, a global training and teaching company that has motivated and inspired hundreds of thousands of individuals and businesses to make real and lasting change. Fueled by his personal and corporate desire to give to others, Paul developed skills and techniques in Leadership, Goal Setting, and Sales Techniques, including his Grid Square Technology.

Paul continues to revolutionize the way people and businesses learn by making learning simple, affordable, fun, and efficient. His Level 10 philosophy has become the benchmark that others have aspired to achieve. His latest book, It All Matters: 125 Strategies to Achieve Maximum Confidence, Clarity, Certainty, and Creativity releases October 9, 2017. The book provides an all-encompassing framework for achieving the life of your dreams offering strategies to inspire professionals—and help them develop skill sets, build knowledge, improve attitudes, and develop work habits that pay off.

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Are You Crowding Out Your Team?

Like so many of you, I spent the holiday weekend planting flowers.  A lot of flowers. Before planting my annual flowers I had already renovated some garden beds and moved shrubs around. As I planted flat after flat of flowers I resisted the urge to revert to my past gardening habits.  I have a habit of filling in every empty spot in my garden with a plant. I hate empty spaces and holes. On the plus side, my garden is lush and full by summer’s end. The negative? Some of my plants don’t appreciate being crowded out and can’t flourish in their spot.

You don’t need to have a green thumb to know that cramming anything into a constricted place won’t work.  Plants, animals, and people need their space and room to grow. We have seen the results of overcrowding in so many areas of the world. Why do so many leaders still try to “plant” people so close without a second thought or neglect them and expect them to grow?

Have you ever had a manager that micromanaged you day in and day out? Perhaps they had sound intentions, however; their actions were stifling and wore you down every day until your passion was crushed. You dragged your feet to work feeling like you were crowded out.

A few years ago I had a manager that was obsessed with controlling everything that our team worked on. She went as far as standing over our shoulders when we wrote critical emails. She "coached" us on what to say and when in presentations. We had a difficult client at the time, and in her mind, she was protecting us to keep the customer calm. Needless to say, her actions had the opposite impact, and our group was being crowded out.

Micromanaging isn’t the only way that leaders crush growth. Unfortunately, the result is the same. People grow weary, lose their confidence and purpose, and end up leaving where they know they will have a chance to grow.

Here are some more ways that managers crowd out their people

·         Leaders may avoid challenging folks with new projects or opportunities

·         Neglect to offer vital resources or equipment

·         Provide minimal if any, guidance or critical information to assist in work

·         Fail to build strong teams that work together and support shared goals

·         Lead in front, not from behind. This pushes teams and clouds results

·         Neglect employee opinions and input

·         Refuse to listen to alternative options or points of view

·         Undermine employees to save face with other departments

·         Leaders who take credit for the achievements of their employees

·         Managers who refuse to support and back employees when crises arise

·         Weak leaders hold their employees to higher standards than for other teams

If you have ever felt crowded out or demoralized in your career, you probably have some more suggestions. As a leader, look at your "garden" of employees to verify that everyone has the resources and space to grow in their spot. Offer them the resources, support, and leadership that they deserve to sustain and grow those around them.

Are you ready to give your people space?

 

Photo courtesy of Vlado at freedigitalphotos.com

How Are You Growing Your New People?

Spring has arrived in the Mid-West, and people are scurrying around plant nurseries like frenzied squirrels preparing for winter. The sun and warmer temps along with a wave of nursery ads have convinced many of us to fill our carts with an array of colorful perennials, annuals, and fragrant shrubs.  Yes, I have been right in the middle of the chaos because gardening is in my blood. My reaction has been a bit different than my fellow shoppers. I’ve wanted to throw my hands up in the air and yell “No! They aren’t ready yet”!

Mother Nature has a way of getting even with us. Just because it looks and feels like spring, we need to wait until we know that the season is ready for planting. It was 29 degrees here last night and promises to be another cold one tonight. My fellow gardening aficionados that bought colorful plants and welcomed them into their gardens may have tears running as we speak. The plants that they bought can't take cold temperatures and are probably a lifeless brown color by now. Our actual frost date in Michigan is at the end of May. Trust me; I learned early on that you never put a plant in the ground until the plant and the environment are ready.

In many ways, our new team members are like a young plant. You are both eager to plant them where they will flourish. However, new people need some gentle babying similar to a young flower. New employees need to learn and become accustomed to your culture. Like plants, you can’t just pull them out of a warm greenhouse, plop them into the 50-degree soil and expect them to grow. You need to immerse them in the area with some dedicated mentoring until they adjust and are raring to go.

New employees should be planted in the right spot within your organization. You can’t plunk a Hosta in the middle of a hot spot in the yard in the midst of a cactus garden and expect results. Likewise, be cognoscente of your new player’s skills and strengths and place them where they can contribute and thrive.

Leadership responsibility doesn't end after your new team member is planted. They need periodic touch bases with you to learn how they feel in their new role and what support they require along the way. Periodically, you need to fertilize your people and nourish their growth and progress. Checking in with people should be planned, consistent, and heartfelt. You've invested a lot in your members, and you don't want to wake up some day learning that they are listless and leaving the organization.

Seedlings are fragile and small in the spring, yet they can outgrow their space in a matter of months and become overly crowded and no longer thriving. Perhaps they are shaded by other companions or being choked out by weeds. Don’t let this happen to your newer teammates. Don’t assume that life is just humming along fine. Get out there in the trenches and see how your people are interacting and growing. What areas need attention? Is there some weeding that needs completing so that others can continue their work and grow? Do your people have the support that they need so that they can have an impact where it's needed? Are they receiving enough doses of information to succeed?  Get out into your “garden” every day to walk around and notice anything that just isn’t thriving.

A garden is a sanctuary for those that plan, prepare the environment for planting and spend precious time picking the right "plant" for the right place and nurture growth. You need to think of your team and ask yourself how well you are tending to your work "garden".

Photo courtesy of IMGPK via freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tackling Workplace Conflict: Research and Best Practices to Stop the Drama by Nate Regier

Nate Regier is the author of the new book Conflict Without Casualties. Nate's work sheds some new light on the conflict in the workplace and the costs that arise when we don't address it. If you have ever avoided conflict or don't understand how to deal with it pick up Nate's book today. Here is a guest post from Nate to help you start taking on conflict at work this week.

 

Tackling Workplace Conflict: Research And Best Practices To Stop The Drama

By Nate Regier

On average, employees around the world spend about 2.1 hours per week, or over one day per month, dealing with workplace conflict in some way. In the US, that number is higher (2.8 hrs/week) equating to approximately $359 billion in paid hours. Non-profit sectors experience the most workplace conflict, with nearly 48% of employees reporting conflict at work.

What is the actual prevalence of conflict in the workplace, what causes it, and what opportunities are there for positive changes? To answer this, I’ve studied the most comprehensive workplace conflict research I could find, a 2008 study commissioned by CCP Inc., one of Europe’s leading business psychology firms, and Fellipelli, one of South America’s leading business psychology firms. The study included survey data from 5000 employees at all levels of their companies in nine countries around Europe and the Americas and remains some of the most comprehensive and useful research available. Here’s a summary.  

Costs of workplace conflict

Conflict often escalates into personal attacks, insults, or absence from work.

  • 2.1 hours per week spent dealing with conflict (Belgium was the lowest at 1.3 hrs/wk. Germany and Ireland, the highest at 3.3 hrs/wk).
  • 90% of respondents experienced a conflict that escalated, most often into personal attacks and insults, sickness or absence from work, and cross-departmental problems.
  • Feeling demotivated, angry, frustrated, nervous, and stressed are the most common psychosocial consequences.
  • Negative conflict with customers is risky since it is less costly to keep an existing customer than to replace one who has left dissatisfied.  

Causes of workplace conflict

Personality clashes are the number one cause of workplace conflict.

  • Personality clashes and warring egos top the list at 48% overall, but much higher in Ireland (66%), the US (62%), and the UK (59%).
  • Stress, too much work without enough support, and poor leadership are also significant (around 30%).

Who is responsible to deal with it?

  • Everyone! 62% of respondents believed conflict is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Surprisingly, only 15% felt that HR should be the ones to deal with workplace conflict.  

What should leaders do to improve how conflict is handled?

  • Identify and address underlying tensions before things go wrong (54%).
  • More informal one-to-one conversations with direct reports (42%).
  • Act as mediators (40%).

Research reported in Harvard Business Review revealed that 69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with employees.

  • Provide more clarity and guidance over healthy behavior (40%).

* Twelve key leadership behaviors were highlighted by respondents in this study. Our PCM and LOD training and certification programs target all 12 areas.  

What have companies tried and how did it work?

  • Less than half of the employees surveyed (44%) have received any formal conflict training. Belgium and France have the lowest level of workplace conflict training (28% and 27% respectively).
  • 27% of those receiving formal training said it helped them feel more comfortable and confident in handling a conflict situation. Confidence is one of the biggest predictors of success (which is why our trainers use NEOS to measure changes in self-efficacy for their conflict communication training programs).
  • The most frequent positive outcomes of training were better understanding of others, improved work relationships, and finding a better solution to a problem.
  • 39% said training provided no help at all. We concur with the researchers that many conflict-communication training programs do not target the right issues and skills, especially personality differences and communication skills.
  • Conflict can generate positive outcomes. Three quarters (76%) of respondents had seen conflict lead to something positive.

In a nutshell

  • Conflict is costly.
  • Personality and ego clashes are the top cause.
  • Everyone is responsible.
  • Coaching and mentoring through daily conversations is the key to improvement.
  • Conflict can be positive and requires targeted training at all levels of an organization.  

Best Practices

Companies will make the most gains around workplace conflict by following these guidelines;

  1. Implement formal training targeted on understanding and communicating with different personalities.
  2. Focus not just on individual competencies, but skills to coach, facilitate, and mentor others during difficult conversations.
  3. Adopt a pro-active approach that recognizes conflict is inevitable, and is a source of energy for positive outcomes.

 Train these Core Competencies

Search for training programs that assess, develop, and measure these competencies:

  1. Self-awareness and recognition of positive and negative conflict in self and others.
  2. Awareness of personality, communication, and motivational differences in self and others.
  3. Ability to assess and respond to individual differences in and out of conflict.
  4. Ability to lead self and others out of drama and into positive conflict conversations.

About Dr. Nate Regier
Dr. Nate Regier is the co-founding owner and chief executive officer of Next Element, a global advisory firm specializing in building cultures of compassionate accountability. A former practicing psychologist, Regier is an expert in social-emotional intelligence and leadership, positive conflict, mind-body-spirit health, neuropsychology, group dynamics, interpersonal and leadership communication, executive assessment and coaching, organizational development, team building and change management. An international adviser, he is a certified Leading Out of Drama master trainer, Process Communication Model® certifying master trainer and co-developer of Next Element’s Leading Out of Drama® training and coaching. Nate has published two books: Beyond Drama and his latest work, Conflict without Casualties.

 

Does "Going Green" Need to Cost You Green? By Nat Greene

 

I have an unwavering passion for growth in the garden and of people. Following is a guest post from Nat Greene that really speaks to me and the impact that we can all have on the world every day. Nat is the author of the new book Stop Guessing - The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers. His book reflects on how we should be solving problems and he offers 9 behaviors to push our skills to the next level. Nat's book is available on Amazon.com

I’ve seen environmental sustainability gradually added to almost every business's short list of bottom-line success metrics over the past decades, right up alongside safety, employee happiness, and profit. It’s a priority for many businesses to improve their environmental impact, but they often find themselves at a tough decision point: how much money should they invest in improving their environmental impact? How much will they demand of their shareholders, and how much should they put their bottom line at risk for the good of their community?

Environmental sustainability doesn’t have to be a trade-off between the earth and the business’s financial health. Most people believe in this fundamental trade-off because they don’t believe they can effectively improve their environmental performance using their current assets and business processes. So many businesses will upgrade to new infrastructure that runs more efficiently or uses fewer resources. They may switch their electricity to a more expensive alternative. Or they may switch their raw materials to a more expensive recycled or environmentally-friendly alternative. Even if these pay off in the long-term, they require significant up-front capital investment.

The reason many businesses only believe in shelling out money to improve their environmental performance is that they believe their business processes are nearly optimized. They believe their assets can only work with the amount of fuel or electricity going into them, that the waste they produce is inevitable, or simply that they can’t make more of their product without adding new systems to the mix. But, on the contrary, the performance of every business process has incredible potential to be improved. There are critical performance problems holding every process back from its best performance. Great businesses, instead of horking over money, solve these problems--leading to both greater profitability and better environmental performance in the same stroke.

If businesses develop the skills in their employees to identify and solve these problems, they’ll turn sustainability from a scary word into an addiction.

War Stories

Reducing wasted raw material:

At a business that makes rubber belts, they had a scrap problem. Their belt-cutting process intentionally created a significant amount of scrap in order to make sure the belts were the right width. They had accepted this as a part of the business until the plant’s leadership piled a week’s worth of scrap in the middle of the plant to visually demonstrate how much they were throwing away.

When the business set about to solving the problem, they understood that they were cutting the belts because the process that made them was unreliable, and the width of the belt varied. They dug into how the machine controlled belt width, and were able to reduce variation almost entirely, allowing them to make the belts thinner and cut 90% less scrap.

Transportation optimization:

A consumer products company shipped materials from its plants to warehouses all over the country in order to deliver it to customers. They found that their deliveries were late over 60% of the time, but struggled to solve the problem--they manufactured each product in a day and could not safely and legally drive the trucks any faster.

They approached the problem by modeling their shipping network and schedule, and challenging every shipping route. They found that they were transporting many products from facilities much farther away than was necessary, and were sometimes even shipping twice to make up for shortages in other warehouses. They rebuilt their shipping schedule to reduce the total distance each product traveled, bringing their on-time deliveries to over 95% and reducing fuel burned per product by over 20%.

Reducing CO2 output:

A chemical upgrader has iconic yellow flares, that are used to alleviate pressure in the plant as variations occur. The business had accepted these flares as part of life, but when they analyzed how much money they were losing by flaring this gas rather than selling it, they found an urgency to solve the problem.

They dug into understanding what controlled pressure variations, and found they could greatly reduce variation by eliminating clogging in some of the smaller pipes. They searched for and found the source of the clogging, leading to smoother operation. This saved them millions per year in flaring, and eliminated enough excess CO2 production to offset the carbon footprints of everyone in the facility for their whole lifetimes.

Avoiding a new facility:

A consumer products business was planning on building a large new facility to take on additional volume. When they realized how much opportunity was in their current facility to produce more, they realized they could increase the production of their current assets and avoid the new facility altogether.

In the span of three months, they solved a number of large, valuable problems in the business that let them take on the new volume almost a year earlier than previously estimated, and eliminated the cost and footprint of a new facility.

Every business process can run more effectively by solving problems. No matter the business, the environmental impact per product can be reduced by increasing the performance of the process. Even in processes that have little marginal environmental impact can improve the impact per product by solving problems to produce more with the same overhead.

Improving Problem-Solving In Your Business

Businesses can improve their problem solving results by investing in developing their talent to become better problem solvers, and unleashing them on valuable problems in the business. Most problem solving efforts in business are held back by a habit of using brainstorming, guess-and-check, or more structured ways of “producing ideas” to solve problems. Such approaches waste time, often cost money, and frequently don’t work.

To solve these problems, teams need a new approach to stop guessing and improve their skills. To replace the guessing habit, teach your team a new set of behaviors that far more effectively solves problems. Help them practice by unleashing them on easier problems in the business, and progress them to harder problems as their skills and confidence grow.

Want to test which behaviors are your team’s greatest strengths? Use this quick quiz.

Nathaniel Greene is the co-founder and current CEO of Stroud International, and author of Stop Guessing: The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem-Solvers. Nat has a Masters of Engineering from Oxford University and studied design, manufacturing and management at Cambridge University, in addition to executive education coursework in Harvard Business School's Owner/President Management program.