The New York Times recently did some anecdotal research on feeling awkward with talking to friends, in person, to resolve differences. Of course, these social habits are likely to rub off into the work place, and may affect your employees and therefore your business. Do you see a problem with your employees not being able to resolve differences in person? A lot of problems can arise in business from not being able to negotiate a problem, which is a critical social competent skill, as well as a vital business skill. The reliance on the Internet and cell phones have made it easier for people to avoid situations that make them feel uncomfortable.
Is technology hindering our face-to-face ability to communicate? Although the ability to text and e-mail is terribly convenient in a world where time is so vital, is it allowing people to avoid conflict? Although these technological mediums are important, we need to remember how important it is to use face-to-face contact. It is important to have this face-to-face to reduce ambiguity and clearly be able to work through situations that inevitably will arise.
As the younger “texting” generation becomes more integrated into the work place, a greater need to focus on face-to-face communication will become vital. The ability to negotiate problems and handle situations up front and strategically will be critical for the success of your business.
Most successful organizations encourage and welcome the open discussion of opinions and ideas. Among diverse groups of employees, there are bound to be differences in opinions, something that may seem, initially, to be an obstacle that organizations must overcome. To the contrary, those differences have the potential to elevate organizations to the next level of performance. Conflict is natural, and it can be productive. More important than the mere existence of conflict is how that conflict is handled.
So how can conflict be resolved so that teams or organizations are productive and successful? How can a win-win situation be created? The key is shifting the focus from defeating each other to defeating the challenge in such a way that everyone benefits, and in order for everyone to win. A relationship of trust must be developed.
How to create a win-win situation when dealing with conflict:
1. If conflict exists, acknowledge it.
Although this step can be difficult, acknowledging the conflict will inspire a sense of relief. When individuals share a commitment to work jointly towards agreed-upon solutions, they will become partners in the process.
2. Find common ground between the parties involved.
View conflict from the perspective of the organization’s goals. What is the vision that unifies individuals despite their differences? If everyone is committed to the organization’s goals and can find common ground, they should be willing to address any issue that threatens their attainment of those goals.
3. Understand all sides of the issue.
Gaining understanding does not mean gaining agreement. One person does not need to agree with a different point of view to understand another’s perspective. The purpose of this step is to gain the information you need to be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, try to comprehend and understand their points of view.
4. Attack the issue, not each other.
When individuals are attacked, rather than attacking the issue at hand, everybody loses. Learning how to confront the issues will create an environment conducive to dialogue and conflict resolution and will result in teams that function at a higher level. The goal is to reach a collaborative solution that allows each party involved in the conflict to achieve individual and team goals without violating any personal values.
5. Develop an action plan.
The final step in this process is to outline what each party is responsible for and how they will meet those obligations. This action plan should be formulated in writing so that each party is able to be accountable for their parts of the plan.
How would this process look if we were to play it out in a team meeting?
Team members involved in the meeting will need to make a list of the current challenges or conflicts that exist within your organization – these should be issues that, if overcome, would improve the overall performance of the organization.
Once that list has been created, you will need to prioritize the conflicts, which are the highest priority, and which are lower on the scale. After you have established your priorities, ask yourselves the following questions:
1. Who are the parties involved? (acknowledge the conflict) 2. Where is the common ground? (gain points of agreement common ground) 3. What is each party’s view point? (seek to understand all sides of the issue) 4. What are the potential solutions that would benefit everyone involved? (attack the challenge, not the people) 5. What must we do to accomplish our goals? (Develop a specific, time bound action plan.)
Remember, conflict can be beneficial. Seek to embrace conflict in a positive way and you’ll be creating win-win partnerships that benefit everyone.
One challenge that I continually see with managers and supervisors is that recognition and celebration for great results is limited. While most managers and supervisors understand the importance of and are open to
Did you watch the video or did you rush ahead to continue reading? Hopefully you took the time to watch Joshua Bell, an internationally recognized, Grammy award winning violinist. He made an unexpected appearance at a Washington DC metro station. For approximately one hour, he played some of the greatest and most demanding classical music for nearly 1,100 people. He played these fine pieces of music on his rare and coveted Stradivarius violin, worth close to $3.5 million dollars. Of those 1,100 people, only 7 individuals stopped long enough to listen. The entrance fee for this rare and intimate performance was simply time and recognition of great work.
As leaders, managers, or supervisors, who get results, do you acknowledge who those who put forth a great performance? It is my belief that if we paused long enough to recognize great work and reinforce the behaviors of those with great performance, it will be repeated. Conversely, if we don’t see the value of people who are improving, or give lack luster recognition and celebration, organizations will continue to be average, often in survival mode with little drive and motivation from employees.
IF A GREAT MUSICIAN PLAYS GREAT MUSIC BUT NO ONE HEARS . . . WAS HE REALLY ANY GOOD?
It’s an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?
The full article, written by Gene Weingarten titled Pearls for Breakfast was published in the Washington Post. To read the article in its entirety, click here.
Playing the piano is generally done on an individual basis with the occasional duet. When I was 14 years old, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about teamwork from a piano playing experience. I was invited to play in Pianorama, a concert put on in Nashville where piano players are invited and to perform and divided into groups based on their level of skill. I happened to be put in the advanced group with 23 other participants. We were then paired with another individual who we would play a duet with while sitting at the same piano. In my group, there were twelve pairs playing the duet on twelve pianos simultaneously. At one point, the duet splits into two parts, becoming a duet with six pianos (twelve participants) playing one part and six pianos (twelve participants) playing the other part.
When I look back at everything that had to come together for that concert to be a success, there is a lot that can be learned about teamwork. We all came from different parts of the state and had different piano playing styles. Because we came from all over the state, we could only practice together once a week for six weeks. We did a lot of work as individuals to learn our parts and then as we met as a group put it all together. We had to rely on and trust not only our partners to learn their parts, but everyone in the group. In the end, we had the chance to play in front of 5,000 people and our performance was a huge success.
Here at CMOE we define teamwork as a group of people who:
• Combine their energy and efforts to achieve common goals.
• Are committed to achieving the team’s goals.
• Fulfill their roles and responsibilities.
• Have defined processes, procedures, and mechanisms that enable them to function at peak performance.
With Pianorama, our goal was defined and each of us knew exactly what we individually needed to do in order to accomplish the goal. The more specific the goal and the assignments at the individual level are, the better the chance that everything will come together in the end. As we become members of different teams, we need to understand that everyone will have different skills and personalities and that in order to work together as a team, we must learn how to capitalize on those differences.
After all the individual preparation was one and we put all the pieces together, the end result was a beautiful, harmonious song. No one stood out any more than anyone else. Cohesive teamwork occurs when each person recognizes that individual recognition and achievement is less rewarding than achieving the team’s overall goal.
The bottom line is, good teamwork makes beautiful music.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
Each of us is a member of a team – be it through family, sports, work, community, church, etc. Within each of these teams, there is bound to be differences in opinions. In fact, many times those differences can actually elevate the team to the next level of performance. Disagreement and diversity are natural, and they can be quite productive. How does one deal with these differences and resolve these issues? The answers to these questions are vital to making the team work and function as a unit.
How does one go about creating a win-win solution, when a team is faced with various challenges? How do team members go about defeating the challenge rather than defeating each other? How do team members develop trust so that all members in the team can win?
1. Recognize and acknowledge differences – this is, at times, difficult but extremely helpful to the team. Issues, challenges, or conflicts must be recognized and discussed. This recognition helps the team come together to find a mutually agreed upon solution or goal that will help each team member find greater commitment in working together.
2. Gain common ground – how can you put the conflict in perspective with team goals? Is everyone on the team committed to the team goals? Are there issues that could prevent the goals from being attained? If so, these matters need to be brought forward.
3. Understand different opinions – step in another’s shoes to gain their insight. This step is intended to gain insight, not necessarily to gain agreement.
4. Work to overcome the issue – differences in opinion are acceptable and even welcome! Remember, attack the issues and not the person. As a team, what is the best solution that can help the team achieve its goals? One should not have to compromise his or her values in reaching a solution.
5. Develop a plan of action – outline what each member of the team will do, and be extremely specific. This document will also serve as an accountability document.
6. Follow up – put the plan into action, follow up, and revise as needed in order to optimize performance.
“No member of a crew is praised for the rugged individuality of his rowing.”
In an effort to do a fun activity with my four year old son, I recently started a little project that captured the results of teamwork over a sustain period of time. This idea stemmed from my son asking for a pet, and me wanting to find a simple, easy, maintenance free alternative.
I reference this as a “project,” because when I helped my boy select and purchase our Ant Farm, I had an underlying motive to observe the teamwork exhibited by these insects. Ants are known for their teamwork, and used as an example in the book The Team Approach. My intent was not just simply observing them, but documenting them for others to see. Our period of observation lasted 14 days and below are a few observations of Ant teamwork in action:
Upon the ants being placed into the farm, they immediately began to work. It was clear they had a combined objective which was to find a way to the light which represents the surface. It was from the very beginning that teamwork to accomplish the task at hand is everyone’s responsibility. The mission for the ants was to dig tunnels and from minute one they all appeared committed to this goal.
When one ant gets trapped due to a tunnel collapse, a small portion of the team stops working and focuses solely on freeing the pinned individual. They value each team member and the contribution they make. These ants seemed very aware of the needs of others and willingly offered help when the pressure was on.
They have clearly defined processes of where to dig tunnels and where to remove and place the excavated waste from the tunnel. They even have a process on where to put deceased ants and ant waste. Unfortunately, all of our Ants did not survive our observation period.
They project was running 24 hours a day. Some ants sleep or rest, while others continued the work. Once they have completed an element of their mission, they move onto the next one. They work with an intensity any organizations team would want.
They work well across functions because of a shared vision to guide their actions. If ants were digging from two separate points towards each other, they were always able to meet in the middle.
There is a strong sense of community and the ants appear to be connected and unified. One of the ways ants communicate with each other is by touching each other’s Antenna. In a strong community, community, communication is openly shared and people feel safe and secure to persist through challenges.
It makes the point that even lower life forms create organizations and team with roles, structures, and processes for their leaders and members.
– Team Team Approach
See this teamwork in action for yourself and watch the video clip below. There are approximately 25 ants working together over a period of 14 day. Through time lapse you can observe these 14 day in under 1 minute.
From the beginning of this project, it was clear that Teamwork in and of itself would be required between a father and his young curious son. Aside from my boy moving the camera, moving the ant farm, turning off the computer, or turning on the lights, it was a success.
In many ways, ant colonies are similar to human organizations: they work, play, and keep pets. Although small, they are incredibly strong. Often ants will team up, two or more to drag a caterpillar that is several times their weight back to the colony. – Team Team Approach
An interesting fact: It is estimated that there are 1,666,666 ants to every one human being
OMG, RU GOING CRAZY = Oh My Goodness, Are You Going Crazy!
Can you read the above line? If you can’t, it is because technological communication is rapidly changing into encrypted messages like this, which is an unfamiliar form of communication for you! Emails, instant messaging, and text messaging are a few of the most common methods of communication these days and face-to-face communication is becoming outdated. While I can see many benefits these communication methods bring both to the social and professional world, my concerns about how it affects our conflict management and relationship building skills is growing nonetheless.
U Need Help = You Need Help
I have a small counseling practice on the side where I focus on helping teenagers navigate through life. During the past few years, I’ve personally seen a rapid decline in many teenager’s everyday social skills. Some of my observations include difficulties addressing conflict, smaller vocabulary, poor non-verbals communication, inability to express emotions through verbal means (outside of the Text Message Shorthand of sideways smiley or frowny faces), and an overall discomfort with spoken conversations. I know what you’re thinking at this point – welcome to working with teenagers! However, I truly believe that this is largely due to a decrease in experience with face-to-face communication, and solely relying on texting, emailing, and instant messaging, where the human interaction is removed.
YUPPIES = Young Urban Professionals
So, how does this affect our up and coming workforce? While the future is looking bright and full of talented and capable young individuals, it is likely these young individuals will struggle with the basic and essential skill of relating and connecting with team members, leaders, subordinates, clients and customers, and vendors. Some organizations may even be seeing the affects of texting and emailing in employees who are in their early twenties.
Getting the 411 Is ^ 2 U = Getting the Information is Up to You
So, what is the solution? One immediate action we can all take is to preserve the art of face-to-face communication in our own realm. Despite the ease of typing a quick instant message to the person in the cubicle behind you, make an effort to send and receive a more accurate and personal message by doing so face-to-face. Take the opportunity to call that vendor and clarify exactly what your department needs, versus hoping it is understood through a series of emails. When you are going to be late to your next meeting, send a quick text letting the administrative assistant know you won’t be on time, but then take the opportunity to apologize in person and use non-verbals to communicate your sincerity.
Another step companies can take to ensure their workforce is full of effective communicators is to increase opportunities for training and development in the area of communication. Training on communication skills is a great opportunity for employees to practice and learn basic and advanced levels of communication. Your employees will be more aligned when they communicate from learning the same concepts and skills taught by qualified facilitators who are trained in adult learning theories.
Not too long ago, a global insurance company surveyed thousands of its employees through an Employee Satisfaction Questionnaire, seeking feedback to improve what the senior executives identified as a “morale problem.” The results of the survey were enlightening, particularly the response to Question #6: What can your manager do to make this a better place to work? More than 89% of the employees answered, “Recognize me for a job well done.”
One of the most basic findings in psychology is that rewarding a specific behavior increases the likelihood of the behavior being repeated. Praise serves as an important reward and motivation for good work.
Praise strengthens the relationships a manager has with his or her direct reports. People want to know their manager cares about them enough to pay attention to what they are doing. They also want to know their contributions are genuinely appreciated.
Employees who frequently receive appropriate praise for positive contributions are often more receptive to corrective feedback. The best managers know that balancing appropriate praise and corrective feedback are critical to helping employees stay on track. When managers show they have their employees’ best interests at heart, employees are naturally more open to hearing how they can improve.
Dr. Gerald Graham, the RP Clinton Distinguished Professor of Management at Wichita State University, surveyed 1,500 employees from a wide variety of organizations and industries and reported the following participant responses:
58% seldom if ever received praise from their manager
76% seldom if ever received written thanks from their manager
78% seldom if ever got a promotion based on performance
81% seldom if ever received public praise
92% seldom if ever participated in a meeting designed to build morale
This same study invited participants to rank, in order, 65 potential motivators – the top five are those listed above!
Most leaders agree that praise is important, that it leads to better morale, higher productivity, and builds a stronger relationship with employees. So if praise is so powerful, why don’t managers praise more often?
Despite good intentions, many managers have so much to accomplish that praise falls to the bottom of their to-do list
Managers focus on eliminating barriers to needed results and, therefore, focus solely on employees’ failure to meet standards
The tone of the management team is set from above – many managers report they never receive praise from their manager
They have not developed the habit of letting people know how much they are appreciated
Guidelines for Delivering Effective Praise
The following guidelines can help managers become more effective in offering genuine, appropriate praise:
1. Be genuinely appreciative. Every person on your team is doing part of your job for you. While it is important to recognize the true home runs of performance, don’t forget those who plug along solidly every day are committed to doing a good job.
2. Deliver praise from your heart. Your appreciation of their efforts must be evident in your facial expression, your tone of voice, and how you phrase your praise. You want your employees to know that the job they perform well is important to you, to your team, to your department, your organization.
3. Deliver praise as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the quarterly (or annual!) formal performance management discussion to mention something an employee did months ago. By continually observing performance, you can offer timely expressions of acknowledgement and appreciation. Genuine praise helps people feel good about themselves and even more committed to doing a good job.
4. Make praise specific by describing the exact behavior or skill along with your expression of appreciation. “Nice work, Jim” is much less motivating than describing specific examples of what was done. Specific praise assures employees that you are truly paying close attention to what they do and how they do it.
5. Praise people publicly. Acknowledging people in public accomplishes two important things. The employees feel even better as they are recognized in front of their peers. In addition, public praise is one way of reminding other employees of what you want from them.
Praise is an effective tool to increase employee engagement and promote a positive work environment. It can take only seconds to deliver, yet the impact of consistent genuine, appropriate praise can be immediate and long-term.
Leaders and team members need to be perfectly clear when communicating with each other. We cannot assume that the other person will always understand our meaning, and very often we will have to clarify ourselves to be sure that both the message and received message is the same. This lack of common language can be very frustrating when coaching someone on a very sensitive issue.
While my instance didn’t have a dreadful outcome, difference in understanding caused a leader inconveniences, if not major problems. One of the employees at the department store where I previously worked as a manager was a good clerk, but often caused an issue because of the way she dressed. While the elderly gentlemen at the retirement center across the street adored her and would wait in line just to have her talk to them, our women customers (particularly mothers) and the other clerks often complained about her dressing habits. The way she dressed was more conducive to a bar or pub rather than a department store.
It fell to me to discuss the issue with this clerk. Knowing what I know now, my conversation would have been much easier if I had the 8 Step Coaching Model to help me through. In Step 2, Dr. Stowell explains how a coach should Define the Topic and Needs and in Step 3 Establish Impact, always in a supportive way. Unfortunately, when I talked with this clerk, I immediately went to Step 3 – Establishing Impact. “The way you dress is inappropriate, tone it down a bit. Okay?” She showed up the next day in her uniform top still too tight and still too immodest.
When I questioned her why she still dressed the same way, despite our conversation, she looked at me defiantly and said, “I didn’t even wear any makeup!” She then proceeded to complain vehemently how no one else was told to quit wearing makeup. My communication has been totally misinterpreted. “Toning it down” had nothing to do with her makeup in my interpretation, but that was the way she understood it. I should have taken the time to explain that the “topic” was the provocative fit of her clothes, not her cosmetics. Step 2 of the Coaching Model is to create a mutually understood picture of what is happening.
Something I might have said was, “I can see that you are sincere in doing the best job you can. I am concerned of the representation of our organization through the way you wear your clothing.” After she thought about it, we could talk about why her dress style could affect the organization. She needed to understand how the way she dressed impacts the organization and her team members.
Or maybe I could have said, “Our customers shop here because we serve family needs. So our dress code requires clerks present a family friendly appearance. You are very important to that image because you are one of the last and first people our customers see. What do you think you can do to present an image our customers would be more comfortable with?” This would have given both of us an opportunity to clarify exactly how we could reach the most appropriate result.
When you address an issue, do you slow down to make sure the recipient understands or do you assume you are always understood? Coaching requires that both parties are on the same page before proceeding to “Establishing the Impact.”
A few days ago, I was talking with a friend about a recent automobile accident. I told her the driver veered off the road into a barrow pit. “A barrow pit?” she asked. After a chuckle, I explained that a barrow pit is a wide, deep gutter dug along the roadside by the transportation department for drainage purposes – it is usually dry. “Oh,” she replied, “we call those ditches.” “Ditches?” Well, okay, but when I hear the word, ditch, I think of a channel or canal used for the moving water primarily for irrigation. So, when I told my friend, “the driver ran into the barrow pit,” I meant it was a dry accident. If I had said ditch I would have meant the driver went into the water.
How often do we assume the instructions that we give others are perfectly clear when in reality they baffle our listeners or are misinterpreted? Then, when we criticize their performance they look at us with blank gazes or defensively reply, “You didn’t tell me that.”
Leaders and team members will often assume that the other person will always have the same definition or understanding of a word used, so we need to check for clarification. Several years ago, I was a manager of the pharmacy/cosmetics department in a department store. And as with all organizations, we had certain words that had specific meanings only our organization, or trade. One of our most used industry verb was “face”. While this very common word, people do not think of it in the terms we used it.
Annie was still in high school when she became one of my department clerks. She was fairly young, very enthusiastic, and somewhat naïve, but very sincere is doing a good job. Company procedure was two days in orientation and then some training on the floor with a more experienced clerk. On her third day on the job, I assigned Jeri to work with her. Jeri was one of my most experienced clerks. About an hour later, I went to see how she was doing and found her standing staring at the hair care section. I asked if she had a problem. “Oh no,” she said. “Jeri told me to face the shampoo section. I asked her why and she said that’s part of the job.” Jeri assumed that Annie had been instructed about “facing aisles” in the orientation class. Jeri also assumed Annie was being a bit cheeky like some teenagers were. While it seemed very strange to her, Annie did what she thought she was told to do. Of course, in retail, “facing” means pulling product from the back of a shelf and making certain the front of the package faces the customer. Luckily, Annie had a good sense of humor and was able to accept the teasing the other clerks gave her for the next few months for being so naive.
Think about your own industry. What phrases and buzz words do you or your organization use to convey job specific meaning? Do all your team members understand the context in which these words might be used? Do your employees mentally see ditches or barrow pits?
Try this at your next team or departmentmeeting: Throughout the discussion, ask members of your team if they understand all the terminology being used to describe a process, project, or concept. You might be surprised at how many people don’t know the meaning or have a different personal perception of what is going on.