Performance Matters: Conflict–Don’t Argue with Me!

Conflict. 

Unless you live on a deserted island, you’ve probably experienced it with someone. Sometimes, conflict manifests itself in an outburst of emotion and sometimes it’s just a sense of tension between two or more people. And sometimes there’s conflict we aren’t even aware exists (which is the worst kind).  But whatever the case, conflict distracts us and makes our teams less productive if we don’t address it.  And as leaders, we have to take action.

So what can we do about it? 

First, we need to recognize the source of the conflict.  Is it over an idea?  A different way of doing something, solving a problem or how to seize an opportunity.  Or is the conflict arising from different behavioral stylesand how we communicate?  Or is it because you or someone else has an agenda—maybe a selfish or altruistic one?  If we can identify the source of the conflict, then we have the opportunity to resolve it effectively.  It might not be easy, and it might take some courage, but it is possible.

If we’ve identified the conflict is over behavioral and communication styles, we can attempt to adapt our own style some and invite others to do the same.  Maybe we are analytical and detail conscious.  So perhaps we need to be willing to look at the big picture in a given situation.  And if we are a bottom-line, let’s just get to it and make a decision sort of person, perhaps we can become more thoughtful, more willing to listen to someone who needs to work through all of the risks and opportunities of a given situation.  We need to seek an agreement with others to keep focusing on the idea, problem or opportunity.

Dealing with people with an altruistic agenda isn’t nearly as difficult as when we suspect they have a selfish agenda.  In this case, we have to recognize there’s little we can do to prove our belief.  The only thing we can do is take responsibility for our side of the relationship—what, when, and how we say something.  We may need to gently challenge someone with this type of an agenda by asking, “Help me understand why you believe this so strongly.”  Or when we are offering our own positions, we might suggest, “I might be wrong, but here is what I think.”Accusations rarely accomplish much.  But we might actually learn something from someone that can help us build a better relationship.  When someone has an altruistic agenda, we simply have to stay focused on the ideasregarding how resources are allocated to solve a problem or achieve a goal.

Finally, we have to realize conflict itself natural. And it can be very productive.  When people trust one another, spirited debate is possible.  And that debate can help us expose biases in our decision-makingand leadership styles. It can help us produce new ideas, innovate, and become more productive.  And if we never have any conflict within our teams, chances are we are missing opportunities for our organizations to prosper.

Now please, don’t argue with me.  I know I’m right!  Or maybe not.

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at http://www.psghsv.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.

 

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Alien Abduction and Other Communication Strategies

We’ve all been there. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a sales professional or a CEO.  Someone we’re trying to reach won’t return our calls, emails, texts, or smoke signals. So what do you do?

One thing we’ve found useful is taking a humorous approach to this.  We’ve done it and so do our clients.  We use humor, hoping to stand out from the crowd and differentiate ourselves some way.

This morning, I wrote the following email to two separate clients, albeit I tinkered with them a bit knowing something about the personalities of each recipient.  

Subject:  Multiple Choice Quiz

Since I’ve called you a time or two and emailed ya, I thought I’d send this.  Please select all that apply.  

___ I have been abducted by aliens.

___ I am being held Taken by a nefarious cabal of evil clowns and need Liam Neesom’s help.

___ I’m swampedcan’t get any feedback from others about your proposal.

___ I need you to quit bothering me.

___ I want you to keep in touch.  

Hope this gives you a laugh and you have a great day.

More often than not, these sorts of emails get a reply.  As do our texts and voice mails when we leave a voice mail with some similar approach. Obviously, some people will consider them unprofessional, so we are always mindful about our audience.  Which leads to another point.

When we are engaging with someone else, we need to be able to meet them in a place and manner that makes them—not us—comfortable. People are busy, and despite their best intentions, they don’t get always get around to responding.  So we have to ask ourselves if we are using the right medium (email, telephone, text, video conference, etc.) to reach them. Some demographic groups may prefer the telephone.  Some may prefer texts or emails.  And some may even tell you to text them after you email them if its important.  The key here is to ask your audience what the best way is to reach them. 

Your message should be succinct, whatever form it takes, if you are asking for something from your audience.  You might say such as, “I’d like to get your opinion on this matter. Can you meet Tuesday afternoon or Thursday morning?”  While this approach won’t always get you a reply, your likelihood of a response is much greater when you take it.  And if you are writing an email, sometimes you can simply put the entire content of the email in the subject line.

We will talk some more about communication next week.  And if you found this useful, please share this blog post on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.  And be sure to tag us.(See what I did there?).

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at http://www.psghsv.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.

 

Performance Matters: A Decision Making Framework

Last week, we discussed a leader’s hesitancy to make a decision about a team member’s role within his organization.  You will recall that this leader was struggling with his own assessment of this individual’s abilities and performance.  Before we reveal our leader’s final decision, let’s talk a bit about decision-making.

The one thing we should be aware of if how we don’t see our own cognitive and experience biases.  In short, sometimes we don’t know we are in our own way.  So in this leader’s case we should note he is extremely analytical. He has a profound need to get things right.  And when people’s livelihood’s are in jeopardy, that makes him both wise and a good guy.  But he was stuck in analyzing the situation.

When we make major decisions, we have to recognize our perspective is colored by our own neurochemistry.  Some of us see opportunities, where others see only risk.  And both extremes can be the cause of a lot of conflict when such people are working together.  So when we coach people about decision-making, we ask them to do several things.

First, we ask them to clearly state the problem.

Next, we ask them to clearly state, as best as the can, the consequences of several courses of action.  We remind them that doing nothing is doing something. Then we ask them to state the best, most likely, and worst case scenarios with all those options.

Our next step is to ask them to engage as many people as they think can provide information and perspective on all of what we’ve done to this point. Sometimes, we will ask them to argue a perspective that they disagree with in order to let them work out the kinks in their own thinking.

Finally, we encourage them to make a decision and move on.  Even if they are doing nothing, we want them to acknowledge that’s the decision they have made and why.  The point here is to be deliberate about whatever decision they’ve made.

In the end, our leader worked through this process and decided to reassign a loyal team member who simply didn’t have the ability or willingness to do the job he was in. He did have other very valuable skills and now, he’s much happier.  The team is happier as a whole.  And our leader has happily moved on to other things.

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at http://www.psghsv.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.

 

Performance Matters: Taking Action, Building Teams

As we’ve discussed what makes a great leader  with people over the last few weeks, we’ve heard some interesting concepts and some frustrations.  It’s all about taking action and risk.

Simply put, leaders who won’t act frustrate their teams and engage in all kinds of unrecognized risks.  For example, one leader we know of had a challenging employee. This employee was irritating co-workers and clients alike.  Our had known about the situation for a while, but he had done nothing about it. With time, his employee was gradually alienating just about everyone around him.

There may have been plenty of reasons this leader was paralyzed in some sense.  Maybe he was busy with other priorities.  Maybe he didn’t agree with other’s assessment of the offending employee’s behavior.  Or maybe there we some things the employee did that were so valuable the leader feared confronting or coaching him.  But delaying some—and failing to communicate why—decision and action left the rest of his team wondering why.

Without realizing it, this leader was frustrating his own team.  He was losing their respect for his inaction.  As you might imagine, the chatter around this topic was adversely affecting the performance of his entire team.

So what should he have done?

First, he should have investigated the concerns he’d heard expressed about the problem months before he chose to do so.  Simply put, problems don’t solve themselves.  And leaders must take action when a genuine problem exists.

Second, his follow up might have included talking to some of his company’s allegedly offended clients.  Getting firsthand information allows us to really understand the damage we need to repair.  Perceptions, when it comes to people, vary from different constituencies.  So getting as much data as possible would help this leader make an informed decision.

Finally, if during his investigation he had learned what the cause of his team member’s conduct, he might have averted the damage done his team’s productivity. He might have helped them understand something within the employee’s personal life that warranted understanding rather than condemnation.  Obviously, he would need to be cautious to comply with HR rules, but life is difficult for all of us sometimes and this kind of authentic leadership can lead to an increased sense of purpose for everyone on the team.

Obviously, there’s far more to this than we can cover in a brief essay.  So we will stop for now—and next week we will discuss a bit about how this leader ended up handling this problem.  Until then, have a great week.

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at http://www.psghsv.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.

 

 

Performance Matters: Acting Like a Leader

What makes a great leader?

According to many of you, it’s the ability to communicate at both an intellectual and emotional level. There’s a theory among scholars that communication is essentially a theater. Think William Shakespeare’s line:

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;”

So what’s the leader to do if he or she is but an actress on a stage?

First, it seems wise for them to be mindful of the emotional connection between an actor and her audience. Leaders, like actors, need to connect with their audiences on a visceral level—and they need to know who it is that’s in their audience to do so. How one addresses the finance department might be different than how one addresses a team of sales people. Their skills are different, as are their motivations and their expectations. So using the one-size-fits-all approach might mean something critical to motivating a particular group of people gets missed if the leader isn’t aware she’s being heard by an audience. And if the conversation is one-on-one there’s even more reason to attempt to share both the facts of a situation but to attempt to harness and emotional connection with a teammate.

Second, it seems wise to recognize the importance of the medium a leader uses to communicate. With his audience in mind, the leader should consider the impact of conveying the message in-person, by email, in a group setting, or even by video or social media. Based on the feedback we’ve had, and the implications of some academic research we’ve reviewed, it appears the best leaders recognize the importance of setting a proper stage to communicate their vision, tactics, and own expectations. Wise leaders recognize how different generations value different forms of communication. And they work to use all of them, sometimes making their messages available via a variety of platforms.

In short, the most effective leaders seem to realize they are always on a stage. And they know that building the most productive teams means winning both the hearts and minds of those they would ask to follow them.

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know. And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at http://www.psghsv.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.

Performance Matters: The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

We’re still getting feedback about our question: What makes a great leader?   So indulge us a bit longer. 

One thing we’ve heard a lot about is how many effective leaders seem to get people to follow them without much effort.  For some, it seems like a learned skill. Still, others seem to have a natural ability to get people to trust one another.  They have the capacity to get people to buy-in to a vision, a strategy, or to inspire people to work through the challenges to executing on the tactics they have developed with one another.  At the heart of these leaders seems to be a sense of kindness.  That doesn’t mean they can’t address problems or challenge people who aren’t doing their jobs.  But they do so with an appreciation for other people’s circumstances.  They try to determine whether performance shortcomings are a willingness or an ability problem.  And they pay attention to the resources their teams need to be successful.

If your team—be they sales people or otherwise—is falling short in some way, make sure you’ve created an environment where they can share the whole truth about why.  If they don’t feel safe—that they can trust you enough to tell you the truth—you won’t have information you need to help them succeed.  And give them the chance to determine how they will improve—don’t just tell them what they need to do. Let them weigh-in so they can buy-in. If you’re leading with the attitude—even unwittingly—the beatings will continue until morale improves, you’ve already lost some followers.  And if no one is following you, chances are you’re not really leading. You’re just going for a walk.    

For more information about Performance Strategies Group go to http://www.psghsv.com or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens, at 256-426-0305

What Makes a Great Leader? Join the conversation

Last time, we promised to revisit the topic of writing great emails.  But let’s pause a moment from that discussion and try to answer a simple question.

What makes a great leader? 

Most of us have had the privilege of working for a great leader during our careers?  Or we’ve served with one in some civic project or in our places of worship. There’s something about them that inspires us, makes us believe we are capable of more than we thought, or helped us come together and thrive during a difficult time.

So what is it?  Are they great communicators?  And if so, how, when, what have they communicated to us that made us feel that way about them?

Are they vulnerable, willing to admit when they’ve made a mistake?

Maybe they taught us something valuable, something we’ve carried with us for a long time without even realizing it.  Think about what that was and share it with us.

What role does kindness play in making someone a great leader?  Do you have a story you can share about that?  We’d love to hear it.

There’s tons of research and a lot of theory about how to be an effective reader, but we’d like your insights.   So subscribe to our blog, make your comments and we may even reach out to you (if you’d like) to interview you for a future article. The first ten subscribers will get a free copy of my book, 40 Lessons in Leadership.  More importantly, this is your chance to reflection how you can improve your own leadership skills—and by sharing your stories encourage other people. 

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at http://www.psghsv.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.