Archiwa tagu: test of competence

CONFLICT – CAN IT BE SPARKED BY A TEAM’S DIVERSITY?

It is said that the only constant in business is change. And as there is no business without people, I’d add the conflict in the team to the “constants” list; even in the most close-knit teams, difficult situations happen, which springs from the very group life process. And that’s okay. What’s important in all of this is being aware of the fact that those uncomfortable moments do not always have to turn into a conflict. That’s right, you can control it, and this is what I want to tell you about…

If you were to determine, in a nutshell, the main source of conflict, what would you say? I’ll give you a hint: IT’S PEOPLE. I’d also add that the PEOPLE themselves are not the problem – the fact that people are different is. And the fact that I don’t understand “how could he do that”, because I’d never do that this way or “how could he take those steps”, even though we agreed on something else, the tension bubble is pumping up so hard it makes it difficult to breathe.

When I teach the teams about conflict and how to prevent its escalation or how to cope with it, I point out that there are 3 elements to the situation:

THE FIRST ONE is the circumstances – and everything around them: what, where, when and what should be done; facts are crucial.

THE SECOND ONE is people, everyone who is involved in the situation; importantly, what they bring in the situation are their needs and motivations, but also their fears.

THE THIRD ONE is relations and interactions between those people. The more positive the interactions, the higher the level of involvement and efficiency of the team as a whole.

Don’t be misled by what some people claim (and are wrong about), that work is about getting the job done, not mucking about what is going on between people. The more we avoid talking about what’s going on between people who are performing their tasks, the higher the chance of getting mucked for good. The only things left will be weeping and gnashing of teeth at the thought about how the employees/bosses are cruel. Sounds familiar?

It’s just a little digression, let’s go back to the point and to what is happening with those 3 elements in a conflict situation. Now recall a situation (“Problem or situation” on the “Pyramid of conflict” below) which sparked a conflict, was difficult for the relations in the team or for your relationship with the client.

What did you think about all that then? Maybe instead of focusing on the facts, looking for a solution, you redirected your thoughts to the other person (“Person” on the pyramid): what did this person say, do; or maybe you focused on how you found that situation difficult and frustrating? My point is that maybe you’ve lost control over the situation by giving in to negative convictions, misunderstanding of the other person’s behavior?

And even if you think that you simply don’t do that, maybe you should analyze, fair and square, what you “automatic” reaction in a conflict situation is. The more diversity in a team, the harder the situation, because there is little understanding for doing things differently – that’s just how it is. And when we wrap others with assumptions that he or she is doing something wrong, that he or she can’t do it like that, that something is not right etc., the positive relations and good influence are blocked. And what about trust? What trust? There is no room for that. The room has already been taken by the SITUATION/CIRCUMSTANCES, which is unnecessarily treated as if it was a “big deal” (showing on the graphics that it takes the most of the space), imposing negative convictions about a person, which is usually the result of misunderstanding of the person’s behavior and judging it using our own measure – what I do, what I need, how I think it should be etc.

As in conflict situations it is easier to impose negative thoughts on others than to focus on finding a common solution (that happens in RELATION, for which there is little room in the pyramid of conflict), how to find a way out of the situation? Knowing different behavior patterns, motivations (diagnosed by DISC D3) will help you not to get stuck on the person and, with the help of relations, look for a solution. The pyramid of conflict will turn around, giving space for the understanding of what someone really wants to say, not only for what you hear, for building and developing relations instead of being stuck in a difficult situation.

Summing up, conflicts in teams have been happening and will continue to crop up; the more diverse the teams are, including diversity at the level of values, the more likely the escalation of difficult emotions and unnecessary exaggeration. The cure is to work on the willingness to understand where the behaviors, mine and the other person’s, come from, to avoid judging others and making use of the diversity in the team, looking for solutions together.

WE, THE PERFECTIONISTS… TO WHAT LENGTHS DO WE GO AND HOW OTHERS SEE US

When they do something, they do it well. When they put their name on something, they want to take care of every little detail. They always opt for a clear message, for them, 9 A.M is 9 A.M, not 9.10, but 9, period. They go to work to do their job diligently; that’s why they are very focused on getting the job done and they don’t want to waste their time on chit-chats. Perfectionists. The leitmotif of their work-life is quality.

Do you know anyone like that? Or maybe I just described you? Because this description definitely fits me very well – conscientious people, who in the DISC model present a high C style ratio (compliant; remember that we often represent two or three behavioral patterns; I also have a high D style). Interestingly, we are often seen as perfectionists, but our reply is: „Come on, everyone cares about quality, it’s natural, details are important etc.”. Dear PERFECTIONISTS, not everyone is like that; in the workplace, it’s only 20% of people. Let me quote some arguments about why teams need us and how others can perceive us in cooperation:

– We have VERY HIGH WORK STANDARDS or at least standards higher than 80% of our employees, coworkers and clients. I know that we set those high standards for ourselves first, but we also expect high-quality work from others. The problem is that not everyone is capable of meeting those standards. Not because they don’t want to, but the thought of polishing the same document or idea again and again from yet another point of view just does not cross their minds.

Dear perfectionists. Let’s remember that the quality we represent is our gift. Let’s share it, but if we are team leaders we mustn’t forget that we have to teach our employees our standards, show them what it means to meet our standards. Seriously, not everyone finds this obvious. I used to get frustrated when I heard that delegating is the boss’ job. What was the point if I had to redo my employees’ work over and over again and if getting the job done, at the end of the day, took more time. Right, there are things that I can do faster and better than others, but I invested in teaching them my standards. Only I know how much patience it required, but it was worth it; I let others make mistakes and learn from them. Let’s not forget that teaching standards is to consist in showing good practices, not pointing out mistakes or highlighting that the other person still „doesn’t get”

– We can foresee the upcoming RISKS. We hold our ground like no one else and we are able to sense what could go wrong in every new initiative. Notably, we are usually right. However, there is a „but”… I remember when my boss or a different department in the PR agency were presenting a new project and it was me who took the lead in presenting the list of what could go wrong and why, what they’ve forgotten about, what they’ve omitted etc. Even if I didn’t actually say anything, believe me, my face expression said it all. It is worth underlining that I really meant well. I wanted to help. I believe that if you are to do something, you have to be well prepared. That’s what I wanted to say every time.

Today, my attitude has changed. My philosophy on quality hasn’t changed, but when I hear about a new project, I deliberately redirect my thoughts, to first find something positive about it, to focus on the possibilities; I still think about the risks, but I don’t let them be the starting point of the conversation. There is nothing wrong with thinking about the risks, but we, the strong C style personalities, naturally tend to look through black-colored glasses (which is why we often decide against taking a risk or we take our time making a decision – which is not always a good thing).

I know myself well and accept myself, which is why today I have no problem admitting that now I understand how difficult working with me used to be for people who are different than me. Presenting a new project, having the best intentions, they felt how I cut them down saying that something wouldn’t work. I humbly admit I made mistakes and here are the two main lessons I learned from them:

LESSON 1 When hearing about new solutions or ideas, I learn to first seek possibilities, not risks. There is something positive in each idea, in each and every one (!) of them.

LESSON 2 I don’t ignore risks, but I pay attention to the way I talk about them; for example: instead of saying “That won’t work because you haven’t thought about xyz”, I say: “That’s interesting. I haven’t thought about that. And how about checking xyz” – it does sounds different, doesn’t it? I talk to my employees in a similar way. Instead of presenting the list of what wasn’t perfect I say: „It is important to pay special attention to xyz in texts like that. That will help us in …”. It may sound like a nuance, yes, but this nuance does make a difference. I can see that thanks to this kind of feedback, next time people want to impress me, prove that they „got” what I was talking about, that they want to get better at what they do. And it’s not easy, doing in every day, believe me, but I know that it is worth it. I know that it is the only good way to be a leader, to let people grow and encourage them to do it while working with me. And also to show them that I care about them.