Three Tips for Dealing with Conflict in the Workplace

If you work in an office with people, you will experience conflict in the workplace. It’s inevitable.

workplaceDoesn’t matter if you are in a large or small company. Conflict will arise.

As a leader, even if you’re not part of the conflict, you have to learn how to help others work through it–if you want to get any real work done.

Here are a few quick ideas to help you or your team deal with conflict more easily when it occurs.

1. Focus on the end goal. Often people in conflict are too focused on each other. They point fingers at each other. Sensitivities flare.

Instead of thinking about how to achieve results, they try to second guess the motives or actions of the other person with whom they are supposed to be working. Their view is skewed. Help orient them back to the outcomes that need to be achieved.

2.  Look for opportunity. Ask the question, “Where is the opportunity in this?” Hint: There is opportunity to work together better, to understand each other better, to see different points of view, to demonstrate flexibility, to test your assumptions, to learn something helpful.

It’s easy to avoid conflict when you perceive it as something negative. Look for the good.

3.  Listen more. Some people are good at making a mountain out of a molehill. Acknowledge concerns that people have. Sometimes people simply need to know they are being heard. Listen to what’s being said…and what’s not being said.

When you’ve listened to all sides, let your team members know you believe the conflict can be resolved constructively. Your attitude as a leader influences their belief in their ability to work through problems.

Dealing well with conflict strengthens you as a leader. Walk away from conflict and it will grow and come back to bite you. Don’t let conflict in your workplace become a destructive force in your business. Approach conflict with confidence.

PS– If you know someone who is dealing with conflict in the workplace, please pass this along.


Let me know if I can be of help to you or your team.

A Leadership Challenge You’ll Actually Like

In my role as executive coach, one of the most rewarding experiences is helping others see themselves in a new light so they can accomplish goals they didn’t think were possible.
3d people - man, person with magnifying glassYou can do the same to help the people you lead.
In my last post I talked about the importance of being able to change your own perspective.
As you learn how to change your own perspective, you can help others do the same.
Sometimes subtle shifts in how people view themselves can make a significant difference in the business.
As a leader, put on your own executive coaching hat as you view your team.
Try to change the lens through which you are accustomed to viewing your team or staff. It’s easy to find weaknesses. Employees are sensitized to weaknesses. (That’s why performance reviews can be so stressful.)
Instead make sure they see themselves as strong, capable performers, important contributors.
So much of an employee’s performance is based on the support, belief, recognition and coaching they receive from their manager.
If your team is not performing at the level it should, you may not be challenging the team in the right way.
It’s easy to challenge team members by giving them a big stretch goal. Or you might be thinking, “I just need to push them harder.” Pushing people too hard leads to burnout for them–and you.
Instead challenge team members to see themselves differently.
For example, you may think your new salesperson is not making calls because they’re unsure of the process. But they are thinking, “I’m too new.” Tell them to trust their instincts. Let them know you have confidence in their skills and capabilities.
Your key employee feels too nervous to speak at an important event. Tell them you look forward to hearing them speak. Let them know you believe they have exactly what it takes to deliver the talk.
You don’t have to be an executive coach, but you do have to develop a couple of key leadership coaching skills:
Challenge and encouragement. It’s a good combination often found in effective executive coaching relationships.
When someone is complaining that they don’t have enough time or resources, CHALLENGE them to see themselves as more resourceful. ENCOURAGE them to bring new ideas or solutions.
So the key is not to spend your energy pushing people so hard to get the work done. Instead CHALLENGE the beliefs and assumptions they have about their own capabilities. ENCOURAGE them to see new possibilities about what they can do.
What to say?
Here are some suggestions:
  • I think you are more capable than you realize.
  • You’re really smart. I know you’ll figure it out.
  • What are some new ways you might help us achieve our goals?
  • What if you weren’t so afraid to step into the new role? What would be possible?
As they change or expand their self view, they’ll expand results in your business.
See how many team members you can challenge and encourage this week.
Are you up for that leadership challenge? I hope so.

Are You on the Right Path?

My teenage son just returned from a long hiking trip. He was on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina–his first “real” hiking trip with backpack, tent, food, first aid kit, etc. (He learned that raw eggs don’t travel well even if you have a burner to cook them.)

Path winding through dark moody forest with tall old trees

As a mother, I was concerned he would get lost. He did. Thankfully he was with a friend.

He said they got to a point when they weren’t sure if they should go down a new path that was unfamiliar or backtrack on the path they had taken. Storm was coming. They decided to go back on the path they knew to get them to safety.

As a leader, your job is to help people get to a destination.

Too many people are simply trying to get through the day. They are doing the work, but they’ve lost sight of the big goal. They’re hiking a familiar trail. Some are moving in circles.

Like lost hikers, they revert back to what they know. They don’t have the clarity or courage to move on a new path that might take them to their destination more easily.

They need leadership.

Where is your team trying to go?

One of the best exercises you can do with your team is to have a discussion dedicated to:

a) clarifying the destination–that means understanding the overall team goals (including why the goals are important)

b) determining the best trail–identifying new ways to get to the destination.

It’s especially important if you’re trying to get better results or encourage innovative thinking.

Include that discussion on your next retreat agenda or hold a special short meeting to get some quick ideas.

Confirm if you’re on the right path.  Ask, “Are we getting the best results possible?”

Challenge your team to identify improvements. Ask, “What other ideas, strategies or improvements should we consider?”

Get commitment. Ask, “What’s one thing you’ll do differently to help us accomplish our goals?”

Beware of the path you know that’s comfortable and familiar. Be willing to take yourself or your team on a new path if needed.

Prepare for resistance …and growth.

You’ll likely arrive at a destination that’s even better than what you were hoping for.

Father’s Day Lessons in Leadership

With Father’s Day approaching, I’m reminded of my dad’s positive leadership influence on me.

As an electrical engineer he was obsessed with problem solving. Always looking for something to fix or improve.

When I was learning how to drive, he thought it would be helpful for me to know exactly how far to pull the car in the garage so that the garage door could close without smashing the back end of the car. (Not that I was a bad driver.)

He tied a ping pong ball to a long piece of string. Then he mounted it on the ceiling of the garage so the ball dangled in the air in just the right place. When I slowly pulled in the garage and my windshield gently touched the ping pong ball, I could stop the car knowing I was in just the right place. A simple fix.

In my consulting and coaching work with leaders, they’re often overwhelmed.

Some are grappling with guilt about not completing their to-do list because they’ve been distracted by urgent matters. Some aren’t spending enough time with their team because they’ve been on the road so much. Some haven’t focused on their strategic plan because it just requires too much thinking right now.

I see executives over-complicating and over-thinking situations all the time. They let those issues keep them up at night or create knots in their stomachs.

What these leaders are beginning to realize is that one of the best ways to lead is to look for a simple fix.

If you think you’re overwhelmed, you will be. If you look for a simple fix, you’ll find one.

You might have to use a little ingenuity.

Leadership can be challenge. You still have to have a big bold vision, but it’s the little things that will make the greatest impact in your leadership.

It’s about noticing what will help employees do their work more easily–and taking one step at a time to do something about it. Not complicated.

It could be improving a process, or even part of a process, so that work flows more smoothly.

How are you showing up?

Leadership is as much about how you’re being as it is about what you’re doing.

Dad showed up with solid determination and a positive attitude. He cared a lot about people.

Not just an engineer…He was an “encouraganeer.”

Are you greeting people and making eye contact in the morning, even when you feel like retreating to your office? Are you really listening to what they’re saying?  Are you acknowledging something they did well on the job that day?

As a leader, Dad was relentless about making systems, situations and people better. He was committed to helping people learn, grow and develop.

Tough on problem solving. Compassionate with people.

It’s the little things in your leadership that make a big difference.

It’s the simple fixes.

As you look for simple fixes, help others do the same.

When everyone focuses on small improvements, it lifts the whole organization.

And those you lead will feel like they’re in just the right place.

Where Are Your Executive Boundaries?

It’s easy to go off-roading during the day when you should be staying on the path to productivity instead. Executives often talk about the need to be more productive. They’re frustrated about daily interruptions. They want to make more progress – faster.

Of course, in your role, you’ve got to focus on the big goal. Who else will keep the ultimate destination in view for your team?

When challenges arise, you may question the goal. “Is that really where we want to go?” “Maybe our goal isn’t clear.” “Perhaps it’s too unrealistic.”

The problem isn’t the goal. It’s often a boundary issue.

Without clear boundaries, you’re taking a circuitous path to reach your goal.

What takes you off path?

Here are three possibilities:

1.     Unclear boundaries. You don’t have proper boundaries in place to begin with. You’re stuck in habits that don’t serve you well. It could be that you’re responding immediately to any request regardless of the level of urgency. Or you’re allowing too many people to have too much access to you.

Establish clear boundaries to determine how you’ll go about your work and how other people will engage with you.

2.     Violated boundaries. These are boundaries you’ve established that aren’t being respected by other people. For example, you’ve asked team members not to disturb you for a couple of hours during a critical meeting, yet they continue to interrupt. You may have conditioned them to come to you before making decisions. But you’re really bottle-necking the processes.

Help other people identify new ways to work around you when needed.

3.     Invisible boundaries. You’re crossing your own boundaries and don’t even realize it. For example, you think you need to be involved in a meeting when your presence isn’t really required. At your level, no one is stopping you. Exercise self-restraint. Discern each temptation to get involved. Remember the more commitments you say “yes” to, the more you need to say “no” to.

Boundaries in business are a good thing. They keep lower priority issues from entering your space. And they keep you from meandering into territory that you don’t belong.

In some cases, you need to build a wall, especially when stakes are high.

In other situations, a screen will do. You can keep an eye on outside activities while remaining inside to handle your own.

Build better boundaries to guard your time and reserve your energy to do your best work.

Secure your boundaries to unlock greater success.

PS: What top priorities are you working on in your business?

Let me know if I can help.