Source: Insights From The Front Line
Insights from the front line of communications training and conflict resolution….
Plus my top tips for improvement
What a week it has been in the world of communications coaching and training, from private sessions, small business training and a full day public workshop specifically for the building industry, I have only had solid confirmations of what I already knew.
Almost all conflict originally stems from a few things, and there is something we can all do about it before there is ‘blood on the floor’.
- Misunderstood or misinterpreted communication
- Difference of opinions or perceptions
- Unmet expectations
- Assumptions, judgements or pre-conceived ideas
- Personality ‘clashes’
From there, how it works out all depends on how things are handled or not handled, and what type of culture or environment there is in that work place for training, support and ongoing awareness around healthy communication and conflict resolution.
We can all take 100% responsibility for our own communication and when we make positive changes, even one small thing can create a positive ripple effect on those around us, so whilst we can’t change others we can change ourselves.
Let’s unpack a little to get better clarity on what I may mean
- Misunderstood or misinterpreted communication
This is fuelled by our modern technology driven world, our kids being taught from a young age that communication can be done any other way than in person, faster, easier, less confronting and yes impersonal. Emails, txt messages and instant messages have their place in the world for sure, I use them every day, but they are not meant to handle every type of conversation, there is far too much room for interpretation. Important conversations should always happen in person.
I see business owners, managers, sales people ‘hide’ behind a computer or phone, and when they know they need to pick up a phone and have a chat or set up a meeting in person they send an email or txt, because its ‘easier’ ‘less confrontational’ ‘they don’t have time’ etc etc etc….
We cannot expect an electronic device or typed email to ever replace the basic human need to hear a nice voice on the other end of the phone or even better face to face in a meeting or over a coffee.
- Difference of opinions or perceptions
I love the saying that ‘perception is reality’ this is true for us all, and if we all approached communication with others with an open mind, consider for a moment that another person may in fact have a different view but valid because its theirs, and not try to be right all the time or win an argument, we can in fact be perfectly happy in the world by agreeing to disagree.
- Unmet expectations
Someone is late for a deadline, over promised and underdelivered, or didn’t behave in a way we expected – this is all fuel to a fire of conflict if not approached in a healthy way.
My biggest freedom from disappointment when it comes from others behaviour was when I learned to let go of my expectations, stop expecting people to be like me, think like me, communicate like me. We are all different – THANK goodness for that!
- Hot on the heals is – Assumptions, judgements or pre-conceived ideas
My rule of thumb in most cases of life and work is never assume anything, always ASK! Or find out.
We can default to making assumptions about what people meant by that comment, email or txt, in fact we can make anything MEAN anything we like, we have a choice! Isn’t that freedom?
OR we can find out what they did mean by asking a clarifying question.
Assumptions or pre-judgements about others, what they said and did is not useful for clear and effective communication, it is not useful in creating harmonious working environments, because we as humans are self-focussed we often assume wrong, make it about us personally and it was nothing to do with us in the first place! Don’t even get me started on the ‘judgement’ topic!
- Personality clashes
The great news is we are all created differently, the challenging news is…..we are all created differently!
We all need each other, we could not possibly have a functioning world full of one personality type.
I prefer to see other strengths as complimentary to mine, even the ones that are so opposite and I struggle to relate to or understand, they do things well that I don’t. They are often happy doing things I am not. They often see things I don’t, and like it or not that is necessary in some situations. Our goal in the world should be to better understand others around us not seek to change them.
Tips for improving our own communication:
- Remember we are all human, not electronic robots
- We are all different and this is the GOOD news – we all need each other
- We can change our world by changing ourselves, even small tweaks have big impacts
- Check in with your default methods of communicating – are they working for you? Are they being received, responded to well? If not it may be time to find out what other way of delivery may work better.
- PICK up the phone – STOP and have a coffee/chat
- Have an arsenal of good questions to ask – the power is always in the questions we ask, ourselves and others?
- Improve your listening skills, if you are going to bother asking better questions be sure to listen to the answers, listen to understand rather than to respond.
Let’s change the world we live in, one conversation at a time
NO people are not steel parts, rigid and disposable, but I believe we can learn a lot from looking at the inner workings of a clock or watch and apply some of these basic principals in order to grow or manage high functioning, healthy and productive teams in both small businesses or large organisations. The principals are the same, the application is variable based on size and level of dysfunction.
If we all thought and behaved the same, the world would not only be boring but almost unable to function.
We are all meant to be different, be able to see things differently, to have different natural talents, skills and abilities. This is the necessity of a functioning or even semi functioning world.
Think of an old-fashioned watch or clock, with all its bits and pieces, different sizes, different purposes. Each piece relying on another piece to function.
When I am working with clients who have small or medium business’s or even larger teams, most of the internal struggles they have with the people resource factor, is about people getting frustrated with another person, personality clashes, poor communication, differing opinions and views, un-fulfilled expectations. These are the core issues in most cases, the initial verbalised frustration will be something more minor, but if you dig deeper any or all of these things are usually at the core.
Sometimes driven by motives based on power, control, greed, pride or ego, lack of trust, or by someone lacking the skills to be in a particular role.
Even though a manager or a leader may be frustrated with a team’s inability to function in a healthy and productive manner, it is essential that the solutions begin at the top and filter down.
Liken a leader or manager to a watch maker – To become a watch maker is a skill, it takes a certain kind of patience, thinking, planning, skill set and practice.
I believe excellent management and leadership is a similar skill and some of the same principals apply when putting together a high functioning, healthy and productive team
Lets look at why the wrist watch functions the way it does:
Every part has its place:
It stays there, I can’t move except in the direction it is supposed to (unless it breaks). It is placed in there by a machine or human hand that knows exactly where that part needs to be in order to support its neighboring parts.
KEY POINT for human teams: Each person has a primary focus or function in a team, when a role is vacant and another person is trying to ‘juggle’ roles, you may see signs of overload, overwhelm and poor productivity. While this is sometimes necessary in transition, it should never be left un-attended or be seen as a long term solution, it is not sustainable.
Every part has its purpose:
Some parts are large and obvious, some are small. Some are support parts like screws and stays, others are functioning parts like wheels that rely on other wheels. Many parts are needed to make the watch work. Even the casing, that protects and keeps everything in place.
KEY POINT for human teams: Each person in a team is important to the overall purpose of the business or organisation, no matter how ‘front line’ or ‘back of house’ that role is, everything effects everything when it comes to a well-oiled and high functioning team. From the tiniest role to the leaders and managers.
Every part is needed:
In this illustration when one part breaks the whole watch stops, in an organisation or team this isn’t always the case with a human absence or malfunction, but there is no doubt that, depending on what that person’s function is in the team, there are ripple effects for others.
KEY POINT for human teams: The ripple effect, although variable, is real. When one person in an organisation is unhappy, under-skilled, under equipped, or over worked, there will be a negative ripple effect, it cannot be avoided, and the longer this is allowed to carry on, the bigger the impact will be.
Every part must work:
Each part of the watch must work, or it will have to be repaired or replaced, the watchmaker knows that if something is not working the watch stops working. With teams this can happen over time, and in subtle ways, slowly eroding a culture, relationships, productivity and ‘bottom lines’.
KEY POINT: Dealing with small issues early will prevent large more costly issues arising. Having a healthy transparent process for conflict resolution will avoid bigger issues. Creating a high trust, environment backed by clear processes for issues will empower and enable people to deal with situations as and when they arise.
Notes for existing teams:
- There is always a solution and a path through
- The time needed to clean up a dysfunctional team will depend on how long it has been left un attended
Back to the watch for a moment: If you have ever owned one this will make sense, if a bit of water gets in a watch that is not dive resistant, the watch is taken apart or dried somehow quickly the watch will most likely get working again without a further hitch.
IF the water is left in the watch and NOT cleaned up, the watch will rust, part by part, until the whole thing just stops working and becomes beyond repair.
- Always be prepared to start at the top down, with management, leadership. If that is you then be prepared and open to some self-awareness and learning. Don’t spend money ‘fixing’ your team if you are not prepared to get your hands dirty too.
- If the roles are clear, defined, filled with the right people working in their strengths, there is a clear, transparent process for dealing with conflicts as they arise, and healthy communication internally and externally – teams can become a high performing, high producing machines.
Notes for creating a new team in a growing organisation or business:
- Think like the watch maker, plan the roles ahead of time, know what you need each part to do, what skills they need, get the right people in from the start. If this is not your skill set INVEST in help, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune but it will be a great investment long term
- Outline and plan the culture you want to create by looking at your core values, company direction and long-term goals.
Final note for all, where there are people there will be conflict even in a healthy team, there is such a thing as HEALTHY conflict, and processes for dealing with it in a healthy way.
A conflict free zone is not possible in a high functioning team. The difference is made in how the conflicts arise and are faced, NOT avoided.
Avoiding or trying to avoid conflict almost never works. Its time to make friends with it, shake hands with it, and find out how to have a healthy relationship with it for the sake of the relationships in your world.
Go the watch maker!