Attitude is King in Conflict Resolution

By Peter Barron Stark

Conflict is a natural part of life and can’t always be avoided. Sometime conflict has positive outcomes, other times conflict has negative outcomes. When it comes to conflict, a lot depends on your attitude.

An unwillingness to resolve conflict creates tension, frustration, worry, anxiety and usually, a lack of positive, constructive communication. But what is most important to managers to recognize is that unresolved conflict undermines your ability to effectively lead. When you fail to resolve a conflict on your team, the individuals involved in the conflict, as well as others who observe the conflict, lose respect for you. It’s almost impossible to be recognized as the leader when you aren’t respected.

So why are so many managers hesitant to lean into conflict?

Some simple answers include:

– They hope the conflict will resolve itself
– They are fearful that confronting the problem will make the situation worse
– They have had bad experiences when discussing the topic with the person in the past
– They don’t think the conflict is that big of a deal
– They don’t ask about topics or situations that they’d prefer not to know about
– They feel they can still accomplish their goals and meet their needs by working around the conflict.

When I looked at our updated Leadership Development Assessment (LDA) Benchmark data recently, I was excited to see that one of the top three differentiators of the Best of the Best leaders (top 25 percent) is the ability to solve problems and resolve conflict.

Although the Best of the Best leaders are higher on nearly every question in the benchmarks, they are approximately 10 percent higher in the category of conflict and problem resolution.

The Best of the Best Leaders are clearly doing something differently to gain a rating from their bosses, peers and direct reports that is 10 percentage points higher than everyone else in the Benchmark. From my work with them I’ve learned nine things these leaders do differently when it comes to resolving conflict:

Know the importance of attitude: Your attitude and beliefs will have a huge impact on your ability to resolve the conflict. Having confidence in yourself and believing that by leaning into the conflict you can improve the situation will benefit you as a leader. However, the opposite is also true. Lacking confidence in your abilities or having a negative attitude or vision, will most likely create a negative outcome.

Assume positive intent: Most times, when you develop a negative attitude about someone’s role in a conflict, you assume the other individual has negative intent. Great leaders assume the best about people. Leaning into the conflict with the belief that the other individuals involved also want to resolve the conflict, do the right things and improve the relationship, will help you open up dialogue to resolve the conflict.

Don’t complain…take action: An old sage once told me, “I don’t complain anymore.” He went on to add, “I figured out that 80 percent of the people I complain to don’t actually care about my problems. And, the other 20 percent are actually happy that I’m more miserable than they are.” Complaining is almost always talking about things which you believe you do not control. Focusing your mind on what you do control, believing you have the ability to positively impact the future, and then taking the necessary actions to resolve conflicts will make you the type of leader people want to follow.

Quickly apologize: When you apologize, you take the target off your back. A great opening line to any conflict you are involved in is: “I’m really sorry about what happened. It turned into a conflict and that was not my goal. For my part in creating this situation, I’m sorry.” Unfortunately, some people’s egos are so gargantuan that they impede their ability to apologize for their role in a conflict. When you lack the ability to apologize, I guarantee that this will motivate some people to keep shooting at that target on your back by pointing out your deficiencies that contributed to the conflict.

Be quicker to forgive: Forgiveness is a great healer in letting go of anger. Did you realize that when you’re angry, others have control over you? We all know someone who is angry at their parents, their spouse, their kids, their employees, or their boss and use that anger as their reason for where they are in life. It’s simple but hard for many people to do. When you forgive, and then take action, you regain control over your life.

Determine the benefits: A question every leader needs to ask when faced with conflict is, “What are the benefits of letting the conflict linger?” What are the benefits to you as the leader; to the individuals involved in the conflict; to the team; to the customers and to the organization? Almost always, you’ll find that there are few, if any, benefits to allowing the conflict to continue. Most of the time, resolving the conflict brings many benefits to everyone involved.

Listen: Most conflict is created by people opening their mouths. Use your ears more than your mouth. Asking questions and having a genuine desire to better understand your counterpart’s perspective will help you in resolving conflict. Since people like you so much better when you listen, many conflicts are resolved quickly when people communicate, listen, and truly understand.

Stay calm: It’s easy to stay calm when you have a positive attitude, a positive vision, and a belief in yourself that you have the skills to get the conflict resolved.

Take action now: Most conflicts don’t improve by ignoring them. As a manager who has a desire to be a great leader, people are looking to you with hope to make tomorrow even better than things were today. To improve the team and work environment, conflict needs to be resolved. Put the above listed tips into practice to develop the right attitude and resolve a conflict today.

Peter Barron Stark Companies is a nationally recognized management consulting company that specializes in employee engagement surveys, executive coaching, and leadership and employee training. For more information, please visit http://www.peterstark.com.

Good Employees Make Mistakes. Great Leaders Allow Them To.

20130418-070009.jpg

by Amy Rees Anderson

As a business leader, I found that one of the scariest things to do was to give your people the freedom to make mistakes. While mistakes allow individuals to learn and grow, they can also be very costly to any company. Scared as I was, I knew that truly great leaders found ways to allow their people to take these risks, and I genuinely wanted to be a great leader. I wanted to help my employees to grow. So I set out to discover how to accomplish this without placing my company in jeopardy.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Meg Cabot

I quickly discovered that the first step was to determine the areas of the business where a mistake could take place without causing too much damage. I took careful attention to make sure that any areas where we would damage our clients and the trust they had placed in us were off limits for significant risk without serious executive involvement and oversight. I identified other areas where I could feel more comfortable allowing people the freedom to experiment on new and better ways of doing things.

The second step was to communicate to the employees that we were setting an official company policy: Making any mistake once was OK, so long as it was an honest mistake made while attempting to do what they felt was the right thing. Making any mistake once was OK, but repeating that same mistake a second time was NOT OK. The hard, fast rule was that if you made any mistake for the first time the entire team would have your back in fixing that mistake if anything went wrong. However, if you ever repeated the mistake a second time, then you were 100 percent on your own to face the consequences. This rule applied for every first-time occurrence of each new mistake you made.

We all make mistakes. Every one of us. If we aren’t making mistakes, then we likely aren’t trying enough new things outside our comfort zone, and that itself is a mistake. That process is the best way to learn and grow as a person. As John Wooden once said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” Mistakes are the pathway to great ideas and innovation. Mistakes are the stepping stones to moving outside the comfort zone to the growing zone where new discoveries are made and great lessons are learned. Mistakes are not failures, they are simply the process of eliminating ways that won’t work in order to come closer to the ways that will.

Great leaders allow their people the freedom to make mistakes. But good employees are those who when mistakes are made 1. Learn from them, 2. Own them, 3. Fix them, and 4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again.

1. Learn from them: Good employees recognize that they have, in fact, made an honest mistake. They do not get defensive about it, rather they are willing to look objectively at their mistake, recognize what they did wrong, and understand why their choice or actions were the wrong thing to do.

2. Own them: Good employees take accountability for their mistakes. They admit them readily. They don’t make excuses for their mistake, rather they acknowledge that yes, they made a mistake and they express openly what lesson they have learned from that mistake. They go on to express steps 3 and 4 below.

3. Fix them: Good employees do what it takes to rectify their wrongs. They are willing to do whatever they can to fix the problem and make it right. Certainly there are times when the damage is done and recompense cannot be made, but good employees do their very best to repair whatever damage has been done to the best of their ability. They always establish a timeline with follow up for when the problem will be fixed and make sure that progress is communicated throughout the process so everyone feels the urgency and care with which they are correcting the problem.

4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again: This is the most critical step in the learning process. When a mistake has clearly been made, the most important thing anyone can do is figure out what safety nets and roadblocks can be carefully established to ensure that this same mistake will never take place again. Document this step so the lessons learned and the safeguards setup can always go beyond you. Do everything in your power to help others learn from your mistake so they don’t have to experience them on their own to gain the lesson you’ve learned.

The steps to correcting mistakes apply to any area of life. Whether it’s business life or home life or personal life, the principles of apologizing remain the same. Good employees make a lot of mistakes, and truly great employees are those have mastered the art of apologizing for those mistakes:

Great People Practice The Six A’s of a Proper Apology:

Admit – I made a mistake.
Apologize – I am sorry for making the mistake.
Acknowledge – I recognize where I went wrong that caused my mistake to occur.
Attest – I plan to do the following to fix the mistake on this specific timeline.
Assure – I will put the following protections in place to ensure that I do not make the same mistake again.
Abstain – Never repeat that same mistake twice.

People who implement the Six A’s will find that the level of trust and respect others have for them will grow tenfold. People who implement the Six A’s will find that others will be quicker to forgive them and more likely to extend a second chance. It’s not the making of a mistake that is generally the problem; it’s what you do with it afterward that really counts.

Amy – “you can follow my daily blogs at http://www.amyreesanderson.com/blog”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amyanderson/2013/04/17/good-employees-make-mistakes-great-leaders-allow-them-to/

Good Employees Make Mistakes. Great Leaders Allow Them To.

20130418-070009.jpg

by Amy Rees Anderson

As a business leader, I found that one of the scariest things to do was to give your people the freedom to make mistakes. While mistakes allow individuals to learn and grow, they can also be very costly to any company. Scared as I was, I knew that truly great leaders found ways to allow their people to take these risks, and I genuinely wanted to be a great leader. I wanted to help my employees to grow. So I set out to discover how to accomplish this without placing my company in jeopardy.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Meg Cabot

I quickly discovered that the first step was to determine the areas of the business where a mistake could take place without causing too much damage. I took careful attention to make sure that any areas where we would damage our clients and the trust they had placed in us were off limits for significant risk without serious executive involvement and oversight. I identified other areas where I could feel more comfortable allowing people the freedom to experiment on new and better ways of doing things.

The second step was to communicate to the employees that we were setting an official company policy: Making any mistake once was OK, so long as it was an honest mistake made while attempting to do what they felt was the right thing. Making any mistake once was OK, but repeating that same mistake a second time was NOT OK. The hard, fast rule was that if you made any mistake for the first time the entire team would have your back in fixing that mistake if anything went wrong. However, if you ever repeated the mistake a second time, then you were 100 percent on your own to face the consequences. This rule applied for every first-time occurrence of each new mistake you made.

We all make mistakes. Every one of us. If we aren’t making mistakes, then we likely aren’t trying enough new things outside our comfort zone, and that itself is a mistake. That process is the best way to learn and grow as a person. As John Wooden once said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” Mistakes are the pathway to great ideas and innovation. Mistakes are the stepping stones to moving outside the comfort zone to the growing zone where new discoveries are made and great lessons are learned. Mistakes are not failures, they are simply the process of eliminating ways that won’t work in order to come closer to the ways that will.

Great leaders allow their people the freedom to make mistakes. But good employees are those who when mistakes are made 1. Learn from them, 2. Own them, 3. Fix them, and 4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again.

1. Learn from them: Good employees recognize that they have, in fact, made an honest mistake. They do not get defensive about it, rather they are willing to look objectively at their mistake, recognize what they did wrong, and understand why their choice or actions were the wrong thing to do.

2. Own them: Good employees take accountability for their mistakes. They admit them readily. They don’t make excuses for their mistake, rather they acknowledge that yes, they made a mistake and they express openly what lesson they have learned from that mistake. They go on to express steps 3 and 4 below.

3. Fix them: Good employees do what it takes to rectify their wrongs. They are willing to do whatever they can to fix the problem and make it right. Certainly there are times when the damage is done and recompense cannot be made, but good employees do their very best to repair whatever damage has been done to the best of their ability. They always establish a timeline with follow up for when the problem will be fixed and make sure that progress is communicated throughout the process so everyone feels the urgency and care with which they are correcting the problem.

4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again: This is the most critical step in the learning process. When a mistake has clearly been made, the most important thing anyone can do is figure out what safety nets and roadblocks can be carefully established to ensure that this same mistake will never take place again. Document this step so the lessons learned and the safeguards setup can always go beyond you. Do everything in your power to help others learn from your mistake so they don’t have to experience them on their own to gain the lesson you’ve learned.

The steps to correcting mistakes apply to any area of life. Whether it’s business life or home life or personal life, the principles of apologizing remain the same. Good employees make a lot of mistakes, and truly great employees are those have mastered the art of apologizing for those mistakes:

Great People Practice The Six A’s of a Proper Apology:

Admit – I made a mistake.
Apologize – I am sorry for making the mistake.
Acknowledge – I recognize where I went wrong that caused my mistake to occur.
Attest – I plan to do the following to fix the mistake on this specific timeline.
Assure – I will put the following protections in place to ensure that I do not make the same mistake again.
Abstain – Never repeat that same mistake twice.

People who implement the Six A’s will find that the level of trust and respect others have for them will grow tenfold. People who implement the Six A’s will find that others will be quicker to forgive them and more likely to extend a second chance. It’s not the making of a mistake that is generally the problem; it’s what you do with it afterward that really counts.

Amy – “you can follow my daily blogs at http://www.amyreesanderson.com/blog”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amyanderson/2013/04/17/good-employees-make-mistakes-great-leaders-allow-them-to/