Did you already have a reaction to that word? If so you are not alone!
Let me clarify, not all conflict is useful or productive.
There is the nasty, pointless, destructive type – and then there is the regular old type that happens when people are just being people.
The regular type I call ‘potentially healthy conflict’, why potentially? Because it only becomes healthy when there are two sides who have the desire to move forward, move through to the other side whatever that may look like. Those who view it is a tool, a starting point for change often understand that conflict can be healthy.
Bad news for those who have decided, for whatever reason, that they don’t like conflict and have labelled all conflict as bad, scary, or even dangerous. A happy healthy live living and working with other humans cannot exist well on a functional level without the conflict.
We are all people who have been created differently, we are all unique in many ways, so there will be conflict arising from just that fact alone.
Don’t aim to be right – Aim for better understanding
How about inviting it in, getting to know it, re name it, expand your tool kit to deal with it better, learn how to use it as a tool.
I recently decided to re name the conversational side of conflict ‘Robust discussions’ Be willing to go there, have that important robust discussion.
3 Things I Love:
- Conflict shows we are all different and that is a GREAT thing! Let’s celebrate our strengths and differences – learn that we need each other’s strengths to make great teams and relationships.
- Conflict can provide the opportunity to grow, learn and gain greater understanding and knowledge about situations and people. It can bring perspective if we are willing. Knowledge and understanding are powerful things.
- Conflict, when dealt with in a healthy way, with good practice, framework, planning and support can lead to breakthrough that may not have happened had that ‘robust essential conversation’ had not taken place.
5 tips for being more open those robust discussions:
- Plan your conversations, what is your common desired outcome? What are the facts? What is the real issue without personal opinion or bias? How is the other person feeling? What are they thinking? What is their real intention?
- Practice using different words, if your conversations are not going well, have a think about the language you are using – both verbal and nonverbal (body language, facials and tone).
- Never assume anything about another person or situation, assumptions are among the top things that can cause negative conflict and reactions. Instead ASK questions like, ‘what did you mean when you…?’ ‘Can I ask if my assumption about this is correct..?’ or ‘ I would just like to clarify..’ ‘Can/may I ask what your intention is here?’
- Pick your time carefully, poor timing can lead to things spiralling, is the person busy? Tired? Are there others around? NOTE: A meeting is rarely a good place to work through something personal with something. Naming and shaming is NEVER a good idea.
- Consider the mode of delivery, is it appropriate? There are so many ways we can have ‘robust discussion’s now. Email, Txt message, instant message, intranet message, by phone and in person. My experience is that all Robust discussions must be had as close to in person as you can get, face to face is always best where possible, failing that on the phone. It is OK to follow up with an email to confirm anything you need to be in writing but there is FAR too much room for mi interpretation in written words to have the whole discussion that way. The mess can become bigger than it ever needed to be
Be Brave, Be Conscious, Be Compassionate,
Be authentic and honest, Be willing.
Remember: It doesn’t have to be right or wrong, it can be just perspectives that differ
Now go have that next robust discussion, you never know what may open as a result, and it is never as ‘bad as you thought’ it would be
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!
A peak into my world and 5 tips for singular focus when it counts
I was in my kitchen today after a full on day working, from my home office, the house was a buzz with activity, I had already dropped miss 8 at her dance lesson and offered to watch my 12-week old granddaughter while her mum ran an errand. It was 5pm….I was running bath for miss 7, had mister 14 playing with miss 12 weeks while I turned the sausages, boiled the pasta, put mountains of washing away….as I paused to turn another sausage It occurred to me that in this situation MULTITASKING is a skill to die for, one I am proud of, a skill that is USEFUL….as long as I stay focused….boy was I focussed.
PHEW are you exhausted just reading this!? In my domestic life multitasking is useful in most cases, I can get a lot done in a short period of time and usually without dropping ‘any balls’ from my juggle, possibly because many of the tasks are routine, don’t require much detailed thinking or focus. I can even add in a conversation with a husband or a child to the above and be quite engaged.
When multitasking is NOT useful – when tasks require more focus, more concentration and detail.
I learned a long time ago, multitasking like this doesn’t belong at work….almost EVER. In the work I do I have multiple roles, many ‘seasons’ in any one day, things are complex, strategic, and involve singular focus.
I have learned the importance of planning my work time, having lists, prioritising those lists, using ONE diary system that works well for me on all levels, and working in SPRINTS. My sustained sprint time is around 45 – 60 mins. If a task will take longer than that I will sometimes extend this time but usually will come back to the task after a break.
I get up…. stop what I am doing get a drink and move my body. Then I can re focus again.
Working like this I get very productive, less stuff falls through cracks. Jobs get finished
I call this sharpening my AXE, a woodcutter will be more successful if he stops to sharpen his axe than the one who keeps hacking away with a blunt tool. Based on an old story I heard years ago.
My tips for singular focus and single tasking at work
- Plan your day – know what tasks, calls and emails you HAVE to get done that day, everything else is a bonus, if you have work that you get interrupted by phone calls, take small phone breaks where you put it on silent, switch if off or leave it in another room for a short period, NO ONE WILL DIE if they can’t get hold of you in a particular moment.
- Use time chunking, chunk blocks of time in your diary to do a task or a bunch of tasks.
- Work in healthy sprints, set a timer and focus on that ONE task for that time period when the timer goes off you stand up, walk away even just for 5 mins, get a drink, some food if you need and then come back re set the timer again.
- Plan NOT to multi-task, this means having only relevant tabs open, leaving social media, emails or other distracting tabs closed and notifications OFF
- Learn to be assertive (this is not the same as aggressive) try to say things like “sorry I will have to get back to you I am in the middle of something” and do just that, don’t allow people to steal your time with their emergencies unless you are completely responsible or someone will be injured. Find your own nice way to stay assertive
Either you run your day or your day runs you, is a favourite quote of mine and also is true for people and time – either you manage your time or have other people manage it according to their needs.
By all means be flexible when needed, but set boundaries, set work time, be assertive and learn to know when multitasking is useful and when it’s not.
Here’s to your singular focus
When you are running a small or medium business, depending on your situation, it is not always possible to ‘shut down’ or ‘shut your doors’ and walk away for weeks on end, unless you have structured yourself in as an employee with full annual leave rights, or have a backup income that will fund your business and lifestyle in your absence.
Being self-employed often means if you don’t work you don’t make money and don’t get paid. This can cause stress for some, especially if they don’t know what to do about this.
Some business owners even resent the season because they find it harder to get clients, know there will be a ‘lull’ in business and also in the months leading up, a lot of people use the excuse “ I am too busy now, contact me next year”
Let me share few things I have learned after working for myself for most of 16 years:
- Planning is VITAL, even if you dislike it. I am not talking about doing a full business plan for the new year if that feels too big, but it is about planning a few things.
Cash-flow – Expenses – Buffer – Momentum
The reason I have love a bit of planning is because it means that when I do have ‘down time’ I am relaxed and not stressing about money or trying to work despite the holidays.
If you want a whole month off, make sure you can financially support that, this may mean slowly saving throughout the year, putting money aside into a separate account so it is there.
Planning also helps you to get more work in before Christmas and then set up some to go back to when you choose to return. This, I call the Momentum factor. If you have momentum coming up to December and through the month, you will more than likely have work spilling into the new year, use Dec to not just hop on the hamster wheel and run into Christmas like a crazy person, set some time aside to book in work for Jan – March.
- Keep in touch, how will you keep in touch with your customer base over the summer?
Send a Christmas card. Schedule some social media posts to give them some information etc or a newsletter that shares useful tips and ideas they can use, maybe schedule a couple of short ones. Use a VA (virtual assistant) if you need someone to ‘man’ your phone line and you are going to be away for more than the usual few weeks when everyone else is. Have someone handle inbound calls for that time, and fulfill orders if you need.
- Use an Autoresponder or Vacation reply so people KNOW you are away, they get a response, redirected to your website perhaps?
And say when you will be back on deck this is good manners – if you don’t want to say you are going away for security reasons, you can just say you are on leave.
- Say NO sometimes, we can’t be everything to everyone, or attend every social function.
If you are a social butterfly this may be harder than if you are not, but overloading your calendar at an already busy time of year ROBS you of energy, and precious time you could be spending getting your business to run smoothly over this time. I have also found that if I overload my diary I just get ‘over’ going to things, CHOOSE the things you like.
- Keep up your self-care, if you have a routine STICK to it like glue, your mind and body needs it even more at this time of year.
That way you head into your summer holiday feeling as healthy and fit as you can, if you don’t have one in place, DEC is a great time to start looking after yourself.
Remember, momentum can be LOST a lot faster than gained, so if you have some already, sit down and ask yourself:
- How can I keep some of this going and still have a break myself?
- Do my customers or clients want to hear from me over this Christmas period?
- If so what would they like to hear? Or know?
- What time do I want to have off completely and when do I want to return for what hours?
If you don’t have some momentum to carry you through, perhaps spending some of the time leading up to Christmas creating some, this involves networking for business, contacting your customers with an offer and other activities that can generate some activity.
Plan to enjoy this season with family and friends by being prepared, financially, personally, customer care, and growth wise. You can finish this year WELL and Start the new year even better with a bit of the old planning that is for sure.
I hope by now you have downloaded my free basic business planning work-book, many are using it now and loving its simplicity yet thought-provoking questions. If you haven’t yet had a look, make some time to chip away at it. If you haven’t yet you will find it on my home page at the top.
I wish you a very happy and healthy Christmas and start to 2017!
Best wishes and blessings
“ If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always got”
A powerful quote we all hear, or see time and time again, and often nod, agree, and make private or spoken recognition of the change needed in our own lives at some level.
To get from where we are today, to where we want to be in the future, either long term or shorter term, there is a BRIDGE – That bridge is called CHANGE.
In business, this is just as true as in life. If we want to succeed in business we must learn to better embrace change.
Some are more comfortable and able to embrace change more than others, but even those who shout ‘Change? BRING it on!’ have a tipping point, a limit to where their avoidance of change would turn up.
On that bridge called change, there can be discomfort and for some this may mean PAIN, as human’s when faced with a choice to face discomfort or pain we can experience FEAR, or apprehension, especially if we cannot see an end ‘date’ or time frame, or even at times a perfect outcome. Which then can lead to avoidance.
At times, we have ventured courageously onto the bridge, but when it got too ‘hot’ – too uncomfortable, we turned back, retreating into old habits, and the comfort of what we knew.
An interesting observation I have made about the space called ‘where you are now’ – even if that space is not pleasant for many reasons and we KNOW we need to change, the FEAR of crossing that bridge is greater than the pain of staying where we are, the old saying “Better the devil you know, than the one you don’t” seems to fit well here.
We are HUMAN, and humans like comfort – no one likes to be uncomfortable for long, especially the concept of being uncomfortable for a period of time that seems to have no end in sight.
Going to the dentist, having a medical procedure, squishing into a small car for a short trip, standing on a bus to give someone your seat, are some examples of being uncomfortable for a short period of time where we see an end, we know it will be over in a set amount of time and so we tend to carry that off.
5 things you can do to embrace the changes needed to get to where you want to be:
1. Acknowledge where you are with a trusted mentor or coach, if you are really stuck to a good old fashioned ‘pros and cons’ list for staying there.
2. Make your goal, where you want to be, written and clear following the SMART model or something like that, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound – WRITTEN goals are 100 times more likely to become a reality, especially if shared with someone you trust who will keep you accountable and encourage you.
3. If the main goal or where you want to be is BIG and long term, then you need to get smaller shorter term goals, 6-12 months, that are milestones and pointing you in the direction of the bigger goal. For each of those you then need some ACTION steps to make sure you are doing something every month in the direction of where you want to be
4. NOW would be a good time to acknowledge any ‘failed attempts’ of crossing this bridge in the past and to notice the thoughts and beliefs you may have collected from that experience, these need to be dealt with in order to move forward – you may have got half way across and something happened, you made it mean something, retreated and made your mind up about the situation, the BEST way I know is to write down that thought, ask yourself “ is this useful to me crossing the bridge?” If not then you are at choice, you can re write this – BE your OWN COACH in your mind. Cheer yourself on with positive statements as you would if you were helping another.
5. CHANGE your mind about CHANGE – within in change there is incredible growth, with growth comes strength and sometimes new opportunities and confidence – your comfort zone expands, CHANGE is a good thing, and necessary in business and LIFE unless you want to stay in one place for the rest of your days.
‘LIFE and BUSINESS, is 10% about what happens to me, and around me, and 90% how I respond to it’
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time, it has inspired me over the years to look at how I am thinking about something and to make a positive change or keep on putting one foot in front of the other on that bridge.
Oh and what is with the other arrow going up half way across the bridge? This arrow shows that sometimes we have got half way across the bridge, things got painful, we got disillusioned and instead of retreating to where we were, we take a detour! Go down another path, because it seemed more comfortable, easier, but because that is a detour off our path of purpose, our bridge to OUR goal or future that burned in our belly, this other path often leads to its own set of discomfort and in fact can be a lot hard to come back onto the bridge from.
Now go cross that bridge!
To your beautiful journey of change