3 Simple Steps to Turning Conflicts into Opportunities I learned something really important this week from watching a reality show. Yes, that’s right. While watching a married couple in the grips of an intense conflict, I realized three very important facts about conflicts and three simple steps to resolving them every time. Fact #1 – When we allow our saboteurs to interfere, conflict resolution is extremely unlikely. Our saboteurs are those habitual and automatic patterns of thinking that work against our best interests. Our saboteurs are our internal enemy. Everyone has saboteurs. They develop in early childhood to protect us from perceived physical and emotional threats. In the conflict I was witnessing on TV, the wife’s Controller saboteur needed to control the situation and her husband’s actions. The husband’s Avoider saboteur caused pent up feelings that festered and eventually erupted. Fact #2 – When we become stuck in our saboteur position during a conflict, we naturally create opposition in others. Our saboteur will vehemently defend our position to the bitter end and may even attack the position or character of the other party. This in turn triggers their saboteur, causing greater opposition and escalating emotions; a vicious negative cycle.
Image courtesy of Michal Marcol at FreeDigitalPhotos.netFact #3 – When we engage our inner knowing, our deeper wisdom (sometimes referred to as our Higher Self, our Sage or our Captain), we can see the conflict as an opportunity for growth and a gift for building stronger relationships. So how do we shift from saboteur mode to Sage mode? Step #1 – Listen to and acknowledge the other side’s position. Many people in conflict sound like broken records, repeating themselves over and over again because they do not feel heard. When we do not feel heard, we are not willing to listen and the vicious cycle continues. But there is another choice. Rather than thinking about the next brilliant argument you will make in response to whatever is being said to you, try truly listening and acknowledging the other’s position. Repeat back what you heard in your own words, without offering solutions, to ensure understanding. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, it just conveys that you are seeking to understand. Once they feel totally heard, ask that they do the same for you. Listening and acknowledging immediately diffuses tension and sets the foundation for resolution. Step #2 – Empathize with the other’s position. We are often reluctant to do this because we worry that we will legitimize and encourage their position and downplay our own. Let that go. Empathy is not about analyzing or problem solving; it’s about feeling what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. Step #3 – Brainstorm solutions, narrow the choices, and prioritize actions. Moving to Step #3 without first moving through Step # 1 and #2 is usually a waste of time. Collaborating on a solution with your saboteurs engaged is like driving your car with four flat tires. Friction is high, there is little momentum and you are essentially stuck in one position. Resolving conflict with your Sage engaged is like installing racing slicks on your car. There’s high traction which creates huge momentum and a winning solution!
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.netThe reality show couple, after much arguing, name-calling and character attacks, finally listened to each other, empathized with the other’s position and worked out a solution that both of them were happy with. When you are able to resolve conflicts using these three simple steps, you will bypass the emotional pain and drama, turning fights and disagreements into opportunities for ongoing learning. You will discover a great deal about yourself and be able to apply this knowledge to build strong and trusting relationships in all areas of your life.
Have you ever worked in an organization where everyone was miserable, where no one wanted to be there and the highlight of everyone’s day was quitting time? Unfortunately, many modern-day workplaces are filled with clock watchers; workers who yearn for the hands on the clock to move faster so that they can high-tail it out of there and forget about their work day over a few beers.
As a student, I can remember many summer jobs working in factories alongside people that had been there for many years. The prevailing sentiment was, “this place sucks” “the boss is an idiot” and “what bar is everyone going to after work?” I can remember at first thinking that these people seemed very ungrateful for their jobs, but it didn’t take long for the culture to affect me. In trying to fit in and belong, I soon became like them; their behaviour was contagious.
According to numerous research studies, a staggering number of North American workers are disgruntled, dissatisfied, disengaged, and feel deeply disregarded by their employer. Gallop reports that roughly 20% of employees are actively disengaged. These employees have bosses that make them miserable and spread discontent. About 50% of workers are not engaged; they’re present but not inspired by their work or their leader.
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What affect does this have on the human spirit? And how does all of this affect the bottom line?
Well, to put it mildly, this environment is not good for people and it’s not good for business. Our attempts to make workplaces fair to all, to treat everyone the same and to prepare for and control every possible scenario has created bureaucratic, policy ridden environments that are bogged down with red tape and are plagued with disconnection, tension and an us-against-them mentality. The traditional autocratic, directive, top-down leadership of the twentieth century just doesn’t cut it anymore and is creating workers who are just plain unhappy, unhealthy and unproductive.
So what’s the fix? Thankfully, there are many organizations that are now responding to this problem. Astute business owners are discovering that even one ineffective leader can have a huge detrimental effect on the success of their company and in response they are transforming their leadership practices. By creating more caring, supportive environments where employees are highly valued and respected for their individual qualities and are encouraged to grow, achieve, and fulfill their potential, companies are gaining a competitive edge over others, financially surpassing more traditionally run companies.
And there is plenty of evidence to support this positive trend. Canada’s Top 100 Employers 2013 competition winners include large and small companies from a range of industries. What is common to all top 100 employers is that they are all leaders in their industry, are great at attracting and retaining top talent and are very successful and profitable.
At Google, their number one mission is to be the best workplace on earth. Google places high value on employees, giving them a significant voice in how the company is run. In nine years, their stock has skyrocketed by 800%.
And what does Gallup say about fixing the employee engagement problem? Gallup’s research has found that the factor most affecting employee engagement is leadership. Companies who provide coaching for their leaders are most successful in engaging employees and increasing the bottom line. Coaching involves working with leaders to build engagement plans, hold them accountable to those plans, track progress and continually focus on emotionally engaging others. Gallup’s Great Workplace Award winners include employee engagement in each leader’s formal review process and as criterion for promotions.
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The bottom line is this; when leaders truly value, respect and authentically care for their employees, the company thrives. This goes beyond proclaiming that “people are our greatest asset.” It is much more than that. There is truly a shift that is happening in organizations today. Organizational survival will soon be dependent upon more caring, collaborative and engaging leadership practices. Just like global competition sparked the quality movement of the 1970’s where delivering ever increasing quality standards was a matter of survival, so too is the push toward more effective leadership. As competitive pressures increase, companies who embrace leadership development and stay ahead of the curve will come out on top.
As a leadership and executive coach, Susanne works with organizations to enhance the skills of the leadership team, cultivating environments where talent thrives, staff are engaged and profits soar.
Image courtesy of ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net Have you ever felt like there is just so much for you to get done and never enough hours in the day? Have you ever felt like you're working harder and longer and falling further behind? If you answered "yes" you are not alone. The statistics regarding working hours, sleep, stress, health conditions, and missed vacation time are staggering. Leaders are often under pressure to perform at ever increasing levels and to do more with less. Unfortunately, prolonged feelings of overwhelm can lead to anxiety, irritability, ulcers, weight gain or loss, sleeplessness, difficulty concentrating, depression and hypertension to name just a few. Here are a few simple strategies that you can incorporate into your busy schedule that take little time and offer big results. 1. Simply notice what you are experiencing on a physical level. We are often unconscious as to what is going on within ourselves because we are so focused on our external world. Allow yourself to simply acknowledge what you are feeling, especially in those moments when you feel overwhelmed. Notice how your body may be reacting to what is happening around you. Are you tensing up? Is your breathing shallow? Bring your awareness to your body and then make a conscious choice to relax your muscles and breathe deeply. 2. Being aware of your thoughts and any negative self talk is essential to dealing with feelings of overwhelm. Often, when we really pay attention to what we are telling ourselves, we realize that we are our own worst critic. Hear what you tell yourself and then make a choice as to what you really want to hear! 3. Let go of needing to be perfect. Perfectionism often leads to overwhelm and can stop you in your tracks! 4. Pay attention to where your focus is. What we pay attention to expands. Focusing on what is not going right will amplify those negative experiences. Focus on what is going right and on what you do want, and those positive experiences will grow and expand. 5. Pay attention to how you care for yourself. If there are areas that you have neglected, commit to making improvements. 6. Stay connected to your own core values - to what is really important to you and your company, especially when making decisions on what to do next. 7. Engage others in your cause. Good leaders know how to advise, direct and delegate effectively. Great leaders develop their people, engaging them and empowering them to make decisions independently. Simply stated, great leaders get more work done through others with greater ease and with less feelings of overwhelm! Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The term "transformational change" means different things to different people. Many leaders share a common desire to change others in their organization, to alter systems that no longer work well, or to bring about some kind of transformation in their organization. One thing is for certain; transformational change is profound and irreversible. Like the pupa that undergoes a metamorphosis and transforms into a butterfly; once transformed, there is no going back. Transformational change affects behaviour and relationships. It is distinguished by radical breakthroughs in beliefs, perceptions and attitudes. What was once seen as an obstacle now appears as an opportunity. Change that seemed impossible now happens quickly and easily. Transformational change focuses on the present. It does not dwell in the past but learns from it. It does not live in the future but plans for it by establishing goals and commitments. The power of transformational change is in being fully who we are, right now in this present moment. It follows then that the first step in transformational change is self-awareness; knowing who we are. Transformational change focuses on the positive, on the vision, on what we want to create, and on what's possible. It doesn't ignore what's wrong and what's not working, but rather balances those things with what is working and what is possible. Transformational change focuses on what is and lets go of the need to control what we cannot control. It is change that works in harmony with others and the world rather than against. It requires collaboration, commitment and skill. Transformational change engages both the heart and the mind. It moves beyond an analysis of facts and critical thinking and incorporates our values, our aspirations and our purpose. In so doing, it creates greater connection, compassion and trust. Transformational change begins with each one of us. Through self-awareness, connecting to our true potential and applying a coaching approach in relations with others, we all have the innate ability to change our game and bring about positive aliveness in ourselves, others, organizations, communities and society.
Coaching in the workplace has been proven to increase performance, morale, satisfaction and bottom line results. When leaders and human resources professionals approach their work with a coaching perspective, their interactions with others and their ability to lead is positively affected. Coaching has become a leadership attribute that is essential in today's dynamic environment and the need to integrate coaching competencies into one's repertoire will continue to grow in the future. There are several features of the coaching model that specifically work well for leaders in organizational settings to support learning and performance. One such critical factor is that the leader as coach holds the assumption that others are innately capable of problem solving, of making effective decisions and of performing at a high level. When the opposite is true and the leader as coach perceives someone as a mediocre performer, they tend to perform at a lower level. Either approach is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Creating an environment where employees are valued and viewed as whole people with lives outside of the organization is another key feature of the coaching model. Their agenda is important and they are encouraged to develop themselves in a way that is meaningful for them. This climate is conducive to employee satisfaction and high individual and organizational performance. The leader as coach supports others in cultivating their unique talents and in reaching their true potential. Other important features of the coaching model include listening, empathy, trust, challenging, self-management and intuition. These skills are among the least developed in organizations today. As the leader as coach develops these skills and applies them in their interactions with others, their influence and connections greatly improve. As organizations continue to rely more on accomplishing tasks through others, it is vital to their sustainability that they empower leaders and employees to harness their talents to their fullest potential.