Coaching Leaders and Teams to Grow Conflict Resolution Skills

February 27, 2017

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

We are often asked to work with leaders, staff and organizations to guide them in improving their conflict resolution and communications skills. It is an honor to have this opportunity, one we don’t take lightly. Our intention is to facilitate a transformative process that results in sustainable behavior change. Reaching that long term goal requires investment by the individual, team or organization and the coach/facilitator.

Make no mistake about it; this is about making significant change and usually from deeply imbedded habits. Change is Hard Work – it’s possible yet it requires focused commitment and practice. Coaching individuals & teams to change, grow and produce requires:

  • Understanding (the cognitive part)
  • Commitment (the inspirational part)
  • Practice (the determined part)
  • Feedback (the collaborative part)

Success is built through following our four step process to improving conflict resolution skills. If sustainable change is desired, none of these steps can be missed and the dimensions of understanding, commitment, practice and feedback must be interwoven throughout the engagement.

Step One: Diagnosis and Willingness

The first step is making the decision to seek coaching and facilitation to help an individual or team to improve their conflict resolution and communication skills. You’ve heard the maxim that a stitch in time saves nine. However, it’s likely that by the time this decision is made there’s considerable challenge. Nevertheless, build these skills as soon as possible, the earlier you can intervene the better, even if you only save four stitches instead of nine.

At the beginning we normally ask the participant(s) to take one or two assessments, the EQi for individuals and teams will take the TESI or both the EQi and the TESI. All individual responses are confidential and used only to support development. This allows the participants and the coach to have data on the current state of skills and

competencies and to highlight both areas that need to be improved as well as existing strengths that can facilitate the change process. The EQi2.0® reflects one’s overall well-being and ability to succeed in life. It explores the role that sixteen different elements of emotional well-being play in one’s life, by applying the fifteen skills in this model together with happiness as an indicator of emotional and social well-being. How one uses skills such as assertiveness, empathy, impulse control and optimism significantly influences their communications and conflict resolution success.

The TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) is an internal 360 which measurers the team’s performance on seven team competencies including communications, conflict resolution and stress tolerance. Team members rate the team’s performance and then the aggregated results are presented to the team, with each individual’s scores remaining confidential. This allows team members to speak frankly with one another and quickly advances the discussion to building a successful action plan.

Willingness to honestly review current behaviors and results is central to making meaningful change. Fortunately, we don’t need 100% willingness at the beginning. There needs to be agreement to participate, however the vigor with which the participant(s) engage usually expands over time. As they perceive the possibility that they don’t have to stay stuck in this uncomfortable pattern and gain a sense of safety and trust in the process, willingness to make change usually grows significantly.

Step Two: Recognition and Ownership

Before a person buys into making personal change, he/she must recognize that the current way isn’t working. They need to take ownership of their own behavior and how that contributes to the difficult situations. At first it seems much easier to blame someone else – “It’s my bosses fault” or “It’s my team member’s fault” or “My organization doesn’t give us enough resources or time to do it right.” There could well be some truth in any of these statements, but they are not the point of the individual’s power. We can only change ourselves. Yet, fortunately, our changed behavior often leads to different responses. If an individual who used to create difficult conversations instead responds with collaborative invitations to work together, they are likely to receive a different response, although it may take a few times before the change is trusted.

Others, such as the team or organizational system likely contribute to the challenges. Often one person is treated as the Identified Problem yet it’s really a systemic issue. Frequently, the individual does contribute significantly to the difficulties occurring; however, they are very seldom alone in creating the difficulties. Thus in individual coaching we need to work with the individual to take full responsibility for their behaviors and to embrace learning to be more successful. Additionally, it is very useful when we also work with the team leader, the whole team or other key individuals to address how they are working together. Nevertheless, even if the others in the process won’t participate in recognizing and making changes, the coaching can be significantly beneficial for the individual. They will still gain skills that improve their engagement, are likely to enhance their productivity and reduce the negative feedback they receive. Sometimes these benefits play out more effectively in new situations rather than the on-going challenge area. The benefits of these behavior changes are certain to impact both their professional and personal lives as conflict shows up everywhere.

As a part of the recognition, the participant(s) need to understand what their challenges are as they respond to conflict. Are they avoiding, aggressive, or unreliable in that they don’t follow-through? These can be challenges for anyone, however, the problem to the team and organization is multiplied when these are challenges are held by the team leader. Then many people suffer the consequences of their poor conflict management.

Step Three: Learning New Behaviors

This is the role up your sleeves and build new habits time. It involves are four components of understanding, commitment, practice and feedback. As the cognitive awareness is developed of what occurs when their responses are curt and perfunctory, and the participant(s) become curious about what else they could do, we are starting to build commitment, the inspirational part. This is quite important to supporting the determination needed to start practicing the new ways. Finally, feedback will help to in fine tuning their approach, learning the right nuancing and getting it right. Both introverts and feisty people may not want to respond to feedback. This reluctance comes from different reasons, but can have the same consequences of not building the new relationships needed. Thus part of the coaching we do focuses on how to work with feedback as they begin using their new skills.

Key skills from the EQi that particularly influence conflict resolution skills are: impulse control, empathy, assertiveness, problem solving, flexibility and optimism. All 16 skills are influential because of the complexity of working with conflict, but these 6 are at the core of effective functioning with conflict. Let’s say that Jill has taken the EQi, which reports lower scores in impulse control and empathy. She talks over people, responds hastily, is highly judgmental and will tell her direct reports abruptly how they are failing, but seldom offers solutions or helps them make changes. She seldom recognizes their successes. You can imagine that it’s hard working on her team.

Circle-of-EmotionShe has come to us for coaching on how to improve her work with her direct reports because her performance review calls out these ineffective behaviors. First, we will help Jill understand the process of working with emotions as reflected in this graph that shows the circle of emotions. We would work with Jill to understand the consequences of her approaches, build her optimism that she can change and help her understand how valuable that change will be. Next we will work with her to articulate specifically how she is interacting with her direct reports. Together we will diagnose the trouble spots so new approaches can be identified and practiced. For example, if a direct report is speaking she needs to not rudely interrupt, but listen and then respond. Jill can create reasonable boundaries up front to let them know she only has five minutes before her next meeting if necessary, and then set a better time to fully deal with the matter. There are many specific and concrete skills that she can begin applying that can greatly change her success.

PIE color whole tagIf Jill’s team is also involved we will have them take the TESI and work with them on how they are participating in resolving conflict, which will necessarily include other competencies, especially communications. Through this process we can build enhanced resourcefulness throughout the team. As everyone gets better at working through difficult issues, the team’s success will improve and Jill’s changes can be more effective and likely will be more appreciated.

Step Four: Implementation – Practice, Fine Tune, Practice

This is the follow through stage that requires diligence and has the most positive payoffs. It involves the components of commitment, practice and feedback. A key part of coaching is to help pace the process of change so that her work builds her success and isn’t so overwhelming that the changes aren’t practiced. In our example of Jill we will encourage her to practice some changes, get feedback and then fine tune her approach. As a few changes start working and become natural, we can work on new and perhaps more transformative changes. Deliberate steps and managing the magnitude of what she is asked to do will promote and anchor her success.

Overall, investing in leader, staff and team improvements in working through difficult challenges can be quite effective. Building effective buy-in to the process from all parties greatly contributes to success. It is valuable to make a sufficient investment so that all four stages are implemented.


Avoid Emotional Intelligence Pitfalls at Work

February 1, 2017

pitfall_guyFrequently encountered emotional intelligence (EI) pitfalls that limit relationships and productivity at work are numerous. Ordering people to just “get it done” could well be the top pitfall of all. Several pitfalls and better EI Options are listed below.

Pitfall: Just tell your direct reports or others to do something.

Better EI Option: Use your EI skills in empathy and assertiveness to influence others to want to engage in your project.

trap-jump-pitfallPitfalls sabotage your success. When you just tell people to do something and you don’t take a few minutes to acknowledge them, build buy-in and guide understanding, you often invite opposition and resistance. Ironically you might have been so directive because you felt you didn’t have time for more engagement, yet the resistance will cost you more time in the long run.

Pitfall: Order your direct reports or others to be happy and engaged.

Better EI Option: Create a culture that builds skills in optimism, self-regard and emotional expression and thus supports staff agility and buy in. These and other EI skills are central to building an engaged culture with a “can-do” attitude. Your leadership has a lot to do with the responses you get. If you want happy and engaged direct reports, use positive language that supports optimism. For example, express the belief that together all of you will meet the big challenge, you just don’t know how yet. That wonderful word “yet” establishes the presupposition of success, and that helps create the outcome you’re looking for.

 

Pitfall: Ignore the impact of reassigning employees who have become friends and are working effectively as team members.

Better EI Option: Respond to and acknowledge relationships, notice how they support or weaken team work. When you need to make new assignments, help people process and accept the change.

people-puzzlePitfall: Insist that emotions be left at the door when it’s time to solve problems.

Better EI Option: Use all your smarts in solving problems; that is both your IQ and your EQ. People can’t think without using their emotions. So the question becomes whether you and your team want to be aware of your emotional responses, including your intuitive awareness, and factor in all your data when resolving the problem. We suspect people seek to avoid their emotions when they are afraid they don’t have the skills to manage the emotions successfully. However, this strategy frequently backfires as the emotions will leak out in some poorly managed format. It’s better to get training and coaching and be fully in charge of your responses.

 

Pitfall: Blast your stress on all in your path.

angry-redhoopBetter EI Option: Learn strategies to regain your equilibrium when your buttons are pushed, then talk to others. You can breathe, use stair therapy, count to 10, any number of strategies work. Just give yourself time to avoid the adverse consequences of getting all tied up in knots! The key point is get more oxygen to your brain and give yourself a few minutes before you respond. Stair therapy is one of our favorites. When you feel triggered, tired or cranky go climb a set of stairs then come back to your office or to the situation and respond. Your renewed resilience will invite more welcome responses.

 


Facilitation Supports Collaborative Decision-Making

April 2, 2014

“There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish.” Warren Bennis

dancersGood facilitators create a curious and safe environment that promotes singing, dancing and decision-making!  Organizations seek facilitation when they value an integrated group process with lasting results.  A well facilitated process focuses on building Collaborative Intelligence™. A good facilitator works with the leaders to ensure a well-designed and run event, which can take many shapes and sizes.  It can be an offsite, a retreat/advance, a high conflict session or a discussion by a well-functioning team looking to expand their skills.  There are times we help an organization with employees in conflict select between a facilitated process and a mediated process.  In mediation a neutral third party assists others in arriving at a mutually acceptable decision, but doesn’t add his or her own thoughts to the process.  In facilitation, the facilitator actively assists the parties in brainstorming options and solutions.  It is always important, though, that the decisions are made by the participants.

Collaborative Growth provides facilitation for elected boards and commissions, executive sessions, organizational retreats or advances and employees in conflict.  There are many elements in common for all the processes.  Possibly the most important is that the facilitator elegantly promotes the full participation by all parties.  This calls for guiding those who want to over-participate to pull back on their comments while the facilitator invites the more quiet introverts to share their insights and questions.

At a recent facilitation a participant commented on the great benefit he and others were receiving because of our reading and responding to the non-verbal messages from the team members.  It is important for the facilitator to notice when someone wants to speak, acknowledge that and then remember to get to that person in order of others who have indicated a desire to speak.  Non-verbal communication can also include indications of discomfort with a topic such that the facilitator calls on the person making his or her participation safe, saying something such as “Jason, give us your thoughts on the challenges or possible concerns with this approach.”

Facilitation benefits include:

  • The comfort for participants is increased because they know they will all receive help in speaking up with balance and respect for one another.
  • The leader can participate as he or she doesn’t have to be in charge of managing everyone else’s participation.
  • A highly interactive and engaging process can occur.
  • The facilitator structures the topics without stifling creativity thus helping the group take time to vet a decision and then consider all aspects of implementing and working with the decision.
  • The facilitator guides the group to apply reality testing to potential decisions and to access if it can get done and by when and to identify and assign responsible parties.
  • The facilitator can help the participants combine their EQ and their IQ.

Good facilitation is welcomed by organizations when done well.  That means it is focused on assisting all parties to participate, reach sustainable solutions and along the way provide assistance in resolving conflict and exploring difficult topics. Curiosity is welcome and promoted.  Imagine what can be created – Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talent.  I am only passionately curious.”


Avoiding Emotional Intelligence Pitfalls at Work

October 3, 2012

Frequently encountered emotional intelligence (EI) pitfalls that limit relationships and productivity at work are numerous. Ordering people to just “get it done” could well be the top pitfall of all. Do you agree? Several pitfalls and better EI Options are listed below. Listen to our recent webinar on these pitfalls and then comment with your thoughts and additional pitfalls.

Pitfall: Just tell your direct reports or others to do something.
Better EI Option: Use your EI skills in empathy and assertiveness to influence others to want to engage in your project.

Pitfalls sabotage your success. When you just tell people to do something and you don’t take a few minutes to acknowledge them, build buy-in and guide understanding, you often invite opposition and resistance. Ironically you might have been so directive because you felt you didn’t have time for more engagement, yet the resistance will cost you more time in the long run.

Pitfall: Order your direct reports or others to be happy and engaged.
Better EI Option: Create a culture that builds skills in optimism, self-regard and emotional expression and thus supports staff agility and buy in. These and other EI skills are central to building an engaged culture with a “can-do” attitude. Your leadership has a lot to do with the responses you get. If you want happy and engaged direct reports, use positive language that supports optimism. For example, express the belief that together all of you will meet the big challenge, you just don’t know how yet. That wonderful word “yet” establishes the presupposition of success, and that helps create the outcome you’re looking for.

Pitfall: Ignore the impact of reassigning employees who have become friends and are working effectively as team members.
Better EI Option: Respond to and acknowledge relationships, notice how they support or weaken team work. When you need to make new assignments, help people process and accept the change.

Pitfall: Insist that emotions be left at the door when it’s time to solve problems.
Better EI Option: Use all your smarts in solving problems; that is both your IQ and your EQ. As we described in an earlier article, people can’t think without using their emotions. So the question becomes whether you and your team want to be aware of your emotional responses, including your intuitive awareness, and factor in all your data when resolving the problem. We suspect people seek to avoid their emotions when they are afraid they don’t have the skills to manage the emotions successfully. However, this strategy frequently backfires as the emotions will leak out in some poorly managed format. It’s better to get training and coaching and be fully in charge of your responses.

Pitfall: Blast your stress on all in your path.
Better EI Option: Learn strategies to regain your equilibrium when your buttons are pushed, then talk to others. You can breathe, use stair therapy, count to 10, any number of strategies work. Just give yourself time to avoid the adverse consequences of getting all tied up in knots! The key point is get more oxygen to your brain and give yourself a few minutes before you respond. Stair therapy is one of our favorites. When you feel triggered, tired or cranky go climb a set of stairs then come back to your office or to the situation and respond. Your renewed resilience will invite more welcome responses.


Facilitation Supports Collaborative Decision-Making

August 27, 2012

“There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish.” Warren Bennis

Good facilitators create a curious and safe environment that promotes singing, dancing and decision-making!  Organizations seek facilitation when they value an integrated group process with lasting results.  A well facilitated process focuses on building Collaborative Intelligence™. A good facilitator works with the leaders to ensure a well-designed and run event, which can take many shapes and sizes.  It can be an offsite, a retreat/advance, a high conflict session or a discussion by a well-functioning team looking to expand their skills.  There are times we help an organization with employees in conflict select between a facilitated process and a mediated process.  In mediation a neutral third party assists others in arriving at a mutually acceptable decision, but doesn’t add his or her own thoughts to the process.  In facilitation, the facilitator actively assists the parties in brainstorming options and solutions.  It is always important, though, that the decisions are made by the participants.

Collaborative Growth provides facilitation for elected boards and commissions, executive sessions, organizational retreats or advances and employees in conflict.  There are many elements in common for all the processes.  Possibly the most important is that the facilitator elegantly promotes the full participation by all parties.  This calls for guiding those who want to over-participate to pull back on their comments while the facilitator invites the more quiet introverts to share their insights and questions.

At a recent facilitation a participant commented on the great benefit he and others were receiving because of our reading and responding to the non-verbal messages from the team members.  It is important for the facilitator to notice when someone wants to speak, acknowledge that and then remember to get to that person in order of others who have indicated a desire to speak.  Non-verbal communication can also include indications of discomfort with a topic such that the facilitator calls on the person making his or her participation safe, saying something such as “Jason, give us your thoughts on the challenges or possible concerns with this approach.”

Facilitation benefits include:

  • The comfort for participants is increased because they know they will all receive help in speaking up with balance and respect for one another.
  • The leader can participate as he or she doesn’t have to be in charge of managing everyone else’s participation.
  • A highly interactive and engaging process can occur.
  • The facilitator structures the topics without stifling creativity thus helping the group take time to vet a decision and then consider all aspects of implementing and working with the decision.
  • The facilitator guides the group to apply reality testing to potential decisions and to access if it can get done and by when and to identify and assign responsible parties.
  • The facilitator can help the participants combine their EQ and their IQ.

Good facilitation is welcomed by organizations when done well.  That means it is focused on assisting all parties to participate, reach sustainable solutions and along the way provide assistance in resolving conflict and exploring difficult topics. Curiosity is welcome and promoted.  Imagine what can be created – Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talent.  I am only passionately curious.”