Is Conflict Undermining Your Leadership?

by David Pierpoint on March 25, 2015

Managing ConflictIn today’s competitive and fast-paced environment, where no one has enough time and everyone has too much to do, there’s NO escaping conflict between co-workers, teams, and management/leadership.

And as long as there are differences (personalities, strengths, interpersonal needs) between team members — combined with the need to work interdependently — conflict will always be part of the process. The most important question is whether or not that conflict is working for you and your team, or against you.

You may be wondering, “How can conflict can be a positive influence and actually work for me and my business?”

The reality is that conflict is always present in any situation where there is interdependence between two or more individuals and differences between those individuals. It’s simply a matter of how that conflict manifests itself and how it is managed by the people involved.

When individuals take an “avoiding” approach to managing conflict, it can make it appear as if there isn’t any conflict, when in fact there may be significant underlying feelings, concerns, or other factors that should be addressed — but are not, in order to avoid conflict.

The problem is that by avoiding the real problems and underlying issues that lead to these “potential” conflict situations, nothing is done to remedy the problems or address the issues — which may be serious and having a significant negative impact within the organization.  As a result, they continue to damage relationships, trust, productivity, teamwork, and employee engagement.

This is a significant problem in most American workplaces, where the avoidance approach to conflict management is common — at least until most of the damage has already been done or it reaches the boiling point and emotions explode.

Unfortunately, unresolved conflict builds walls between individuals and teams, motivates many employees to look for other opportunities, drives away customers (most of whom simply take their business elsewhere without telling you why) and undermines your leadership efforts.

And all of this takes place while there is no (or minimal) apparent conflict on the surface — yet having devastating effects on your business.

On the other hand, some individuals or teams in your organization may take the “competition” approach to conflict management, where the same contributing factors — differences and interdependence — turn into sparring matches, and the parties involved go all-out in an attempt to win the battle by proving that they are “right” and the opposing point of view is “wrong” (or at least inferior).

While this strategy isn’t always the wrong approach in conflict situations, oftentimes it becomes more about the individual’s need to prove themselves right — and “win” the conflict — at the expense of what is best for the team, customer, or organization as a whole.

And while the competition approach to conflict management is completely different than the avoidance style, it can have equally devastating effects on your business — damaged relationships, eroded trust, reduced productivity, and disengaged employees who simply withdraw into isolation.

Avoidance and competition are just two of five different conflict management styles that can be used within an organization, and typically have the most negative consequences on employee engagement and productivity.  Each should be used selectively and only when circumstances are such that these styles help your team move toward a desirable, positive outcome — not simply to avoid real issues or as a means to impose someone’s personal agenda.

In most cases, when there is something of real substance on which the conflict is based — more than just differences of personal preference or opinion — the most productive conflict management style is “collaboration”.

A collaborative approach to resolving conflict enables individuals to focus on the real underlying problem, work toward a solution that is mutually beneficial, and improve the outcome for the team, the organization, or the customer.  In this scenario the underlying issues are surfaced, all voices are heard, alternatives are explored, and a solution that produces the desired outcome is implemented.

As a result, the collaborative approach helps to build trust, strengthen relationships, increases employee engagement, and improves productivity and/or the end result.

While collaboration has many positive outcomes for conflict situations, it typically requires a focused and deliberate effort on the part of  leadership and individual team members to be implemented successfully — rarely occurring naturally in most settings due to the variety of personality preferences and interpersonal needs present in most workplaces.  Without question, it takes more time and a commitment to the process.

However, when a collaborative approach is used effectively to work through conflict, it can result in significant improvements for an organization and create a much stronger sense of shared responsibility for everyone who is involved in the experience — clearly a case where conflict is working for you and your business, rather than against you.

How is conflict impacting you, your team, and your leadership?

Unleashing Extraordinary Performance

by David Pierpoint on March 23, 2014

Unleashing Employee PerformanceWith all of the data and evidence available that explains what drives organizational success, there is NO good excuse for letting your business fail. The mounting evidence points to employee and customer engagement as the keys that propel your business forward and account for increased productivity and profitability.

Why is it then that so many businesses choose to struggle by employing outdated strategies, supporting failing initiatives, and reinforcing disproven paradigms? While companies invest hundreds of millions of dollars in efforts to realize 3%-5% gains in the bottom line, they’re completely overlooking 15%-20% gains that could be realized with a simple shift to strengths-based leadership!

The path to lasting and transformational change begins at the top, with a commitment to appreciating the value of the individual and leveraging what makes each employee unique — in other words, moving beyond the purely rational and analytical approach to business, and tapping into the relational elements that drive extraordinary performance and employee engagement.

The challenge we currently face is that our obsession with viewing business primarily through the filter of analytics (and managing our organizations from a technical and systematic perspective) has prevented us from seeing the key that has proven again and again to unlock unprecedented performance — fully engaged employees delivering extraordinary service (either directly to customers or within the organization).

This article by David Rock explores some startling statistics about this phenomenon and the disturbing impact in the workplace…

Why Organizations Fail

By David Rock, FORTUNE & CNN Money

We have hired and promoted generations of managers with robust analytical skills and poor social skills, and we don’t seem to think that matters.

The technology to see very small things up close showed us we had much wrong about health. The technology to see big things far away showed us we are not the center of the universe.

More recently, a technology called fMRI, that lets us collect images of oxygen use inside an active brain, has shown us that some of our long-held beliefs about human motivation may be wrong.

Matthew Lieberman, one of the founding fathers of a field called social neuroscience, tells this story in his new book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.

As Lieberman explains, for a long time we believed that people were rational, logical agents, driven by self-interest, greed, and desire. While this is not untrue, it is only half the story. It turns out that people have another driver that is of equal, if not greater, importance: the drive to be social.

>>> READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE

82% of Workers Don’t Trust Their Boss

April 13, 2013

Given that TRUST is the most important element of effective teamwork, and a KEY driver of employee engagement — which in turn is the primary driver of productivity and profitability — this statistic should catch the attention of every business owner who cares about the health of his or her business. The fact that an […]

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Help Your Employees Get Stuff Done

March 20, 2013

According to research by the Gallup Organization, one of the top five factors in improving employee engagement is making sure each individual has “the right tools and equipment to do the job right.”  In a world where  changing technology is the norm and obsolescence occurs faster than any business owner wants or expects, it is […]

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Workers Choose Better Boss Over Pay Raise

November 13, 2012

Despite substantial changes in how organizations and businesses operate in order to stay competitive in a struggling economy, one fundamental principle remains the same — the employee-supervisor relationship is a KEY driver of employee engagement and job satisfaction. Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of employees surveyed indicate that they would prefer to have a better boss […]

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Employee Happiness Drives Business Results

September 28, 2012

New studies regarding employee happiness continue to support the principle that high levels of employee engagement lead directly to increased productivity, improved customer satisfaction, and a increased business profits. While this is no surprise to those familiar with the extensive research the Gallup Organization has done over the last thirty years — studying what accounts […]

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Enthusiasm, Engagement & Profits

July 12, 2012

Any business owner wanting to increase the bottom line need look no further than the cultural chemistry or his or her organization. The following article provides additional support to the overwhelming evidence that increased employee engagement can provide a sustainable competitive advantage to businesses in virtually every industry. Citing JetBlue, Zappos, and Charles Schwab as […]

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