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

Building Confidence


by Dean J

Sometimes, you just can’t bring yourself to do it.

– You want to start writing, but don’t think you’re good enough
– You want to talk to that girl or guy, but feel you won’t know what to say
– You want more success, but believe achievement is only for others, not you

Part of the problem? You probably need more confidence.

– If you were confident in your ability to write, you’d probably start
– If you were confident in your social skills, you’d talk to him or her now
– If you were confident in your ability to accomplish goals, you’d begin that new project

And really, building confidence in any area of life is simple.

Now notice…I said simple, NOT easy.

I think where many people mess up building confidence is they get that backwards. I know I did. I once believed building confidence was complicated and mysterious, but that once I learned the “secret” process to get it, self-assurance would come quickly and easily.

That’s not how it works. And there is no secret process for instant confidence, at least not in my experience. Not for the kind of confidence that lasts, anyway.

But I’ve found there is a simple formula for building confidence over time. It’s this:

Confidence = Courage + (Proper Knowledge + Proper Thinking)

Let’s look into each of these in more detail.

Confidence = Knowing You Can Do Something

That’s it; that’s all.

And “knowing” you can do something is NOT about visualizing it or willing it to be so. It’s simply about practicing something until you’ve proven to yourself you can do it.

– Once you’ve written several blog posts or stories, received feedback, adjusted and improved, THEN you’ll trust your writing ability
– Once you’ve talked to more strangers and experienced most people as receptive, THEN you’ll feel confident in your social skills
– Once you’ve begun to reach for your goals and make progress, THEN you’ll believe in your ability to succeed

If you take one thing from these examples, I hope it’s this:

Building confidence takes time.

That’s why you can’t just chant in the moment, “I’m confident, I’m confident” hoping a warm feeling of strength, ability and charm will somehow possess your body like at a cocktail party in Beetlejuice.

You can’t conjure confidence; you have to earn it.

+ Courage to Take Action

To earn confidence you must take action, no matter your current level of ability in the area you lack confidence.

But taking action in an area where you lack confidence is a Catch 22. You fear doing the thing because you need confidence, yet you have to do it to gain confidence.

That’s where courage comes in.

– Courage helps you write that first story and submit it, knowing it might be rejected
– Courage helps you approach that cute girl, knowing she may be put off by your nervousness
– Courage helps you tick off steps to your goal, knowing you’ll makes mistakes along the way

It takes guts to face your weaknesses in anything, because you’re likely to fail and make mistakes.

But by having bravery to slug through, you’ll gain real-life experience and feedback that will allow you to improve. And improvement leads to confidence.

Bonus Tip: Just remember, having courage is easier when you start small and take baby steps.

+ Proper Knowledge to Save Time

Taking action is essential to building confidence, but having an idea what you’re doing helps too.

Think about it:

– If you have horrible grammar, it’ll take longer to get your writing accepted
– If you don’t know basic conversation skills, you’ll fumble for words a lot more
– If you’re clueless about setting goals, you’re more likely to set yourself up to fail

That’s why having a road-map and proven methods can help you avoid a lot of failure and crippling self-doubt. Both of which can quickly sap your confidence and make you want to give up.

So be sure to seek the advice of someone who’s been where you’re headed. It’ll save you valuable time by pointing you in a direction more likely to end in success.

+ Proper Thinking to Stay Positive

Sometimes, even when you begin to see success in the area you lack confidence, your mind plays tricks on you.

– You write a popular blog post but think, “Ah, I just got lucky.”
– You hit it off with someone new but say to yourself, “That was just a fluke.”
– You complete a small task that’s part of a bigger goal but moan, “I’ll never get there.”

So you filter out the good and only see the negative. You discount your progress because a limiting belief inside you says, “you’ll always fail in the end.”

Or maybe you don’t see success as quickly as you’d like, and your inner critic starts chanting, “Everyone else can do it; why can’t I? Something must be wrong with me.”

As human beings, we ALL tend to filter and think in black or white terms like this and it’s almost always damaging to our confidence. It can cause you to give up before you’ve given yourself a chance to gain any momentum.

So try to be aware of the negative and irrational thoughts that tear you down from the inside out. By acknowledging your achievements, no matter how small, and by thinking more rationally, you keep yourself positive and motivated.

Building Confidence is Not Magic, It’s Simple Addition

So remember, it IS possible to feel more confident in any area of your life. But please don’t think of it as a magic or mysterious process.

Think of it as math.

You gain confidence in any area by:

ADDING informative experience through being courageous
ADDING time-saving leverage by gaining more knowledge
ADDING positive perspective by thinking rationally

But one way to build an overall confidence in your life is to become more comfortable around people in general. In fact, Dean J is a once-shy guy who now teaches people simple tips on how to improve conversation skills and self-confidence. Click here to watch his free videos on how to be more confident and have more to say in conversations. You can also find Dean on Google+.

How Complaining Affects Your Leadership


by Peter Barron Stark

My father used to tell me a great story about a disgruntled construction worker. Every day at noon, the construction worker would sit down, open up his lunch box, pick up his sandwich, take a bite, and then blurt out, “Oh crap, not bologna again.” One Friday, one of the other construction workers finally said to him, “Hey, why don’t you tell your wife to pack you something different for a sandwich?” The construction worker shot back, “Mind your own business. I pack my own sandwich.”

All of us, at times, have packed our own sandwich. Maybe you know or work with someone who seems to be continually burdened with bad luck or constantly having bad things happening in their life. Maybe you have an employee working for you who has one performance-related issue after another. People who experience repeated problems tend to reject solutions that might improve their situation. Plus, if you offer help or provide a solution to solve a problem, they’re quick to tell you why your idea is wrong or won’t work in this unique situation. As simple and logical as these solutions sound, some people still find them incredibly difficult to put into action.

Take a look around at these constant complainers. Do they have many others following them? Actually, they do. But, they aren’t usually the people you want following you as you strive to be a great leader. People who love to complain and blame others love to follow other negative, complaining people. It’s one big pity party.

One characteristic that defines great leadership is the ability to admit mistakes, take responsibility, and then complete the actions that are necessary for building a better tomorrow. Taking full responsibility for your life and your team is an important step in becoming a great leader. The responsibility is yours and you are accountable for your life and the areas that you lead. Although you may not always have full authority over everything you lead, you’re responsible for producing the desired results. Recognize that no one else is coming to rescue you, and memorize this mantra: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Here’s how you can focus on taking full responsibility and create an environment where you are a well respected leader:

Focus on responsibility, not blame: There are some people who invest all of their energy in placing blame whenever they’re faced with a challenge. My favorite example of this is people in their 30’s or 40’s who blame their place in life on their mother or father. They should realize that their parents did the best job they could with the skills, characteristics, and DNA they were given. In our seminars, we ask the question, “What do you accomplish by blaming a problem or loss on someone?” Most participants respond with, “Nothing.” This sounds accurate but it’s actually far from it. Sometimes people assume that as long as they can find someone to blame, they’re absolved of the need to take responsibility until the ‘guilty’ party fixes the situation. This is an unhealthy view and won’t get them anywhere. Great leaders take action and spend very little of their time blaming others.

Set goals: Put simply, a goal is the action of looking at your life or team and saying, “I think I/we can.” To be successful, goals must be specific, measurable, time-bound and be accompanied by a solid plan for achievement. One of the most amazing things about goals is that when you set and achieve them, you begin to feel a sense of mastery over your life. Eventually, you begin to believe you can do anything and find it even easier to take responsibility.

Let go to propel forward: In the world of high wire and trapeze troupes, it’s common knowledge that you can’t grab the next trapeze bar until you’re willing to let go of the first bar. For Encyclopædia Britannica, that first bar was the continually expanding, hard-bound books of knowledge that they maintained since 1768. The company has made several major transformations, but the biggest leap came in February 2012, when they announced the decision to discontinue the printed version of the encyclopedias. Only time will tell whether they have successfully grasped the 2nd trapeze bar that is digital, but they had no choice. For them, it was either sink or, let go and grab that second trapeze bar. Once you’re willing to let go of what’s no longer working, you can propel yourself and your team to what’s beyond the horizon.

Take action quickly: It’s almost impossible to take action on improving your life or your team while simultaneously blaming someone else. The first is a thought process and action that moves you forward while the latter leads to inaction because it hinges on the errors of the past.

Admit mistakes: When something goes wrong and your desired goal isn’t achieved, don’t fret, there’s a remedy. The best solution is to admit mistakes, accept responsibility, and take the necessary actions to improve the outcome. A beautiful thing happens when you admit a mistake: you remove the target from your back and it becomes harder for others to keep blaming you for negative outcomes. After all, a defensive attitude makes it a lot easier, and for some, even fun, to keep blaming you.

Admit when you don’t know: Having the ability to say, “I don’t know,” shows people that you’re human and motivates them to help you find a solution. Once you admit that you don’t know something, you gain the ability to ask questions, listen, and learn. As an added benefit, people like you a whole lot more when they’re talking and you’re listening.

Get excited: Most of us are familiar with the phrase, “There is little traffic on the extra mile.” This is true among many disciplines. There are few people who get excited about taking responsibility and making a positive difference in the world. Look at it this way: every time you hear someone complain and blame, you’re presented with an opportunity to take action and stand out as an exceptional leader.

Celebrate success: While this post is all about taking responsibility and action, it’s also important to celebrate successes along the way, both big and small. When you take responsibility for the outcome, recognize the contributions of others and celebrate the successes, you’ll be a respected leader who’s easy to follow.

To grow accountability and responsibility on your team, you must first be the role model that others want to follow. Personal and professional accountability and responsibility always begin with you. Remember, there’s no one else coming to your rescue.

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


6 Ways to Reduce Business Streams

by Simon Reynolds

Any business person aiming high is going to be stressed at times.
But surprisingly few have learnt smart ways to reduce their stress.

Below are 6 highly effective ways to keep your stress under control, no matter what is happening in your business and personal life.

Usually people are stressed about just one or two areas of their life. If they only took a moment to look at the big picture, they would see that the vast majority of their life is going well. Grab a pen and some paper and write a list of all the stuff that’s going well in your life. (You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how long the list becomes.). Now stick that list next to your computer, so that you see it all day long. Watch how quickly your perspective changes and your mood lifts.

Clarity enhances serenity. If you’re stressed by how much you have to do, get precise about exactly what tasks must be done (You’ll often realize it’s less than you thought). Once you’ve created your list put a circle around the truly crucial tasks. Most of the time stressed executives have exaggerated just how much they have to do. Getting it down on paper helps you see that mountain of work may be smaller than you thought.

The renowned personal development guru, Wayne Dwyer, says you can tell the state of a person’s mind by the state of their car. I agree. if you’re feeling overwhelmed one of the most effective strategies is to create order in your immediate environment – car, office, home. As you take charge of your surroundings your feelings of control will increase. And as the esteemed behavioral psychologist Martin Seligman has shown, there’s a strong correlation between feelings of control and well being.

I mentor executives and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Whenever they come to me complaining about stress I get them to do this simple exercise:

Take a deep breath. Then as you exhale imagine all your problems and stress leaving you. Do this just 3 times and I bet your feeling of stressed has dissipated significantly.

One of the most effective techniques for reducing your stress is to take the focus off yourself. When you start devoting time to helping others around you inevitably spend less time thinking about your own problems. There are several studies from the University of Pennsylvania linking happiness with service to others. It may seem strange to connect the two, but the truth is many people who are stressed in the corporate world are so partly because they are incessantly thinking about their own issues and situation, rather than others. We need to balance the two.

There is a concept in psychology known as Learned Helplessness – failing to respond or act to improve our circumstances. Originally discovered in rats, learned helplessness is also evident in some humans who feel overwhelmed by their roles and responsibilities. They feel that things are so bad there is little that they can do to change things. We have all felt this at some point in our business lives and it is a depressing feeling to say the least.

The cure though is simple. Take action to fix things. By proactively acting to improve our circumstances we regain a feeling of control and possibility. If we continue acting we soon get a change in our situation. Soon our situation improves, which encourages us to act further. A virtuous cycle develops which usually quickly improves our predicament.

The key is to act greatly, taking multiple steps to change things, even if we’re not sure if they’ll work. If we act enough, we will usually see vast improvements in almost any area we focus on.

So next time you’re feeling stressed at work, try one or two of these techniques. You’ll find every one of them is highly effective in both reducing your stress and improving your performance.