This Common Workplace Problem is Costing You Money

It’s a workplace epidemic. Poor conflict skills are hurting business teams at every level. 

We’ve all been there: 

You notice a problem but it feels “nicer” to avoid confrontation. But “nice” can’t stop the problem from continuing or resentment from growing … before long emotions are festering… until someone blows up! 

Now a moment of misunderstanding has become an emergency. 

Not only do poorly managed conflicts damage team unity, interpersonal trust, and communication—but they hurt the bottom line! 

The American economy has lost billions, yes billions, of dollars of work hours to unresolved arguments at work. The top offenders? 

  1. Personality clashes
  2. Stress levels
  3. Workload amount
  4. Poor leadership 
  5. Lack of honesty 

Do any of these sound familiar? Well, thankfully your team isn’t alone. 

It’s just a fact that not every belief and behavior is going to line up. 

That’s why leaders need a plan for discussing conflict with the individual member(s)—and realigning the powerful pull of the team. 

So how does it happen? Here are 4 steps to facilitate your next workplace conflict: 

Understand the Specifics

Instead of entering the conflict with guns blazing generalities—“You’re delivering the wrong results! Do something about it!”—help each listener understand the specifics. 

Break the problem into tangible pieces—only then can you create tangible steps back to cohesion and reconciliation.  

Watch out for ad hominem attacks, personal grudges, or conflict of personality.

Identify what expectations are unmet, how the team member might have gotten off the trail, and where the disconnect actually lies. It may be a simpler fix than you think. 

Assume Better not Worse 

Many people interpret correction or confrontation as an assault or a rejection of them as a person. Biting assumptions about their intentions immediately backs that team member into a corner. 

And when anyone gets cornered, they will almost always lash out for self-preservation. 

You’ll be amazed at how giving people the benefit of the doubt clears the way for honest communication. 

Ask for Perspective 

For years I’ve taught on using the “sandwich method” for confrontation—where you affirm the person (bread), deal with the issue (meat), affirm the person, their contribution / value (bread) and set points of accountability and clarity around future behavior.

When asked, genuinely, for their point of view, they are more likely to feel seen as a whole—even to return the favor.

De-escalate the conversation by putting yourself in their shoes. It’s harder to argue when you know you are affirmed. 

Rediscover the Trail

After you’ve identified where someone has lost the trail (or maybe the trail went somewhere without their knowledge) don’t leave them wandering! 

Most of the time, sharing your lens and the desired lens of the future will be enough to start the change process.

If a team member continues to engage in divisive behaviors or continues to hold onto beliefs that are contrary to the team and harmful to progress then we’ll need to increase the intensity and frequency of the confrontation. 

A last resort: you may recommend that they run for a different team. And that’s ok. 

To move forward, everyone has to pull in one direction—one purpose, one goal, one team.

Craft New Expectations 

I mention all the time that frustration happens when expectation meets reality. 

Here’s our reality—conflict happens. As long as your team works together, you will experience miscommunication, clash of opinion, and other conflicts. But it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s an opportunity. 

When your team members can expect purposeful, balanced, and thoughtful conflict assistance they are free to do their best work. They are free to communicate. They are free to ask questions. 

They can lean into a unified, positive, and purposeful culture. 

If we value the mission and we value the players on the team—we can’t do without these resolution skills. 

 

3 Qualities that Separate Great Leaders from the Pack

One of the most common questions I’m asked by listeners, readers, including people from all walks of the leadership path is: So what do I do now?  

Whatever level you are on—whether you’re adding new teams, scaling for new growth, managing a new obstacle—this is your re-aligning step: Start with Self!

You can analyze roles within the team, and the most influential member is the leader. 

As the leader goes…so goes the team.

It is essential that Leadership direct all things (people, process, resources) toward an outcome and that cannot occur without an understanding of present reality. Which leads to the first role of a leader:

A Leader Assesses the Present

In order to lead, in order to attain any destination, we have to look at where we are presently. If we don’t assess the present (with an understanding of what got us here) then we might not make the right moves for the present scenario.

Please spend the time to gain full awareness in assessing the present. So what components of the present should we assess?

  • Assess the Situation
  • Assess the Team
  • Assess the Resources

Assessing the present opens up to knowing your product or service, knowing your process, market conditions, customer satisfaction and in the midst of all of that—the team you have inherited to get you there. (Their capabilities, their capacity, their commitment; the present culture)

A Leader Inspires Future Possibilities 

While an eye on the present is an obvious necessity, we can’t short-sight our vision—for the sake of sustaining business success and keeping an engaged team.   

People need to believe that tomorrow will be better; that the promise of the future is greater than the past.

A mark of a good leader is to be able to cast vision for what the future might look like, to inspire the workforce that they can achieve greatness, AND to create buy-in that you are the leader that will help them achieve it.  

See the envisioned future, raise the bar, and infuse the team with the right mindset.

  • Believe in your people
  • Develop your people
  • Map the methodology

Determine the Direction

Once you’ve set roles 1 and 2, the next role is to determine and communicate the next step. 

(Without the right expectations, clearly communicated, no teams can fulfill their roles with excellence and efficiency.)

When the true leader speaks with confidence and points the team in the right direction, dynamics start to change. 

Setting the direction doesn’t mean that you must know every single step in the process. 

But can you successfully find out THE next step, take that step, and look for the next? It is ok to walk out your envisioned future, expecting that after taking a step—the next one will reveal itself. 

You will be 1 step closer with a little more knowledge and trust that the next door will open.

But a word of warning: Avoid dragging whenever possible! Forcing people into the right direction is usually a copout for poor communication. 

Good leaders orient the team. Great leaders orient and engage. 

Expect your Roles.

In leadership, there are principles and practices; characteristics and competencies. A principle of mine that has proved true for decades is, “What you permit, you promote; what you allow, you endorse.”

Mediocre leaders pass the buck. They ditch their roles. Maybe it’s how their bosses before them acted. Maybe it’s just the norm. But teams have leaders for a reason—

If your team has fallen into disarray, miscommunication, inefficiency… the root of the problem may be a misunderstanding of leadership roles. 

So first, check yourself. Then, check your vision. Check your team communication—and make sure their direction is true.

The Team-Building Process in 6 Steps

Lead Where You’re Strong, Team Where You’re Weak

Maybe you think, or even know, that there is a certain way you are expected to act, so you put on a persona each day you walk into the office.

You want to be the real you, but you’re so busy figuring out the right thing to say that you forget the best thing to do—be real and authentic to who you are. 

Inauthenticity drains your energy and renders you ineffective. 

Even more importantly, if you’re not comfortable with and can’t get along with you, how in the world are you going to get along with anybody else? 

Everyone is wired for greatness, but everyone is not wired for greatness in the same areas. 

It’s a key life principle, not just a business one. That’s why I encourage leaders to have their people use self-assessment tools so everyone gains an awareness who he or she is and best to work together. 

For example, if you are a blunt, get-it-done person, you may be great in crisis management, but not so great where the situation calls for empathy and patience such as mobilizing the day-to-day habits that create a profitable workplace. 

That doesn’t mean you’re inferior or defective. That doesn’t mean you’re weak, but you’re weak in that role. Continue reading and check here for tips on building a great team.

Team-Building Requires Interconnection—Instead of Shame

Weakness is more about role-fit than anything else. And finding yourself in a role that doesn’t leverage our natural strengths is stressful.  

We do need to learn to stretch, grow, and adapt. But if we are spending most of our time and energy out of our strength zones, we’ll run into trouble and wear out everyone around us. 

Genius and flaws exist in each of us, and neither one has to diminish the other. If you know where your genius lies, but struggle in one particular role, you can create a multifaceted team. It’s important to foster an environment where employees feel valued and respected for their unique characteristics safeguarded by law in the workplace.

Lead where you’re strong, team where you’re weak. Don’t have someone to team with? Lead where you’re strong and put a system where you’re weak!

Thankfully the process to “teaming” up your weak areas is straightforward. 

In fact, the hardest part is mustering the honest, authentic courage to reach out for help and collaboration.

adult-brainstorming-group

Teaming Process: 

  • Recognize Areas of Weakness
  • Ask For Guidance  
  • Hire the Strengths You Lack 
  • Learn from Your New Team Member 
  • Grow Strength as a Team 
  • Move on to help others with similar problems 

It’s time to admit you can’t do it all. And you’re not expected to!

What is expected of you is to realize that truth. 

I help leaders all the time who say, I can’t admit weakness to my team or tell them what I’m not good at. 

In a sense, the joke is on them, because their team members already know their weaknesses.  

Think about it. How hard would it be for you to rattle off the top five things your leader doesn’t do well? Pretty easy, right? 

So why would you assume that your direct reports can’t do the same? You aren’t hiding your weaknesses from them when you won’t admit them. 

They know your weaknesses better than you do. That’s why you need to be authentic. 

You’re not fooling anyone.

Team Building Begins With Humility

It takes humility to admit, “I am not amazing at this, so I should partner with someone who is.”  Humility multiplies strength. 

Pride isolates people and breaks down teams. 

A humble leader, rather than trying to do it all, functions like an air traffic controller who scans the radar and calls certain team members to move depending on the strengths needed in any particular situation. 

If inauthenticity has created a rift between you and your team, you’re missing out on their support to cover your weaknesses and maximize your strengths. 

Remember: leaders are to achieve results with—and through— their teams.

 

Why Your Winning Team Should Act Like Sled Dogs

Build a Thriving and Efficient Force for Productivity and Support

Part of what makes the great Iditarod race such an inspirational feat is the level of teamwork necessary at every step. 

What looks like a bunch of dogs all doing the same job is actually a multi-faceted team—trained, orchestrated, and equipped by their musher. 

A full team is made up of 16 dogs, running in 4 different positions. Every dog has a particular strength, and every musher knows exactly which dogs will play each position best. 

It takes the same analysis and social understanding to create a winning team in the workplace! 

Let’s look at each pack member in detail and how their strengths translate to your team. Keep in mind which of your own members would thrive in each position. 

Who Are Your Lead Dogs?

Lead dogs know their way on the trail without being watched and you can trust them to make decisions guiding others on the team. 

Lead dogs are smart, possess initiative, common sense, and the ability to perform even in less than ideal conditions. 

How can you tell which of your team members will execute well as a Lead? 

Some will take that initiative pretty early. But sometimes you take a leap of faith on an untested pack member— and they surprise you

Let the Leads get to know your heart, and keep them close. Learn to develop a mutual intuition and give them access where the rest of the team might not have. 

Watch for their health, so you don’t have to replace them. Make sure their “paws” are in good shape—in other words, make sure they are free to run without anything hindering their running with all of their potential. 

Stay Prepared with Swing Dogs

The best teams have members who can operate in other positions. The Lead can be a burdensome place that wears, wearies, and stresses.

So it’s natural for mushers to have their ‘leaders in waiting’ to run in the next position—which is Swing. These dogs have to be leaders in their own right, and for many, becoming that Lead dog is the next natural step. 

Swing dogs are directly behind the leader, understanding their moves and translating that to the rest of the team. 

They ‘swing’ the rest of the team behind them in turns or curves on the trail. They protect the Lead dogs from attempting a turn—only to find the rest of the team choosing not to follow! 

They are crucial to making sure everyone makes the journey and stays in sync. 

Pro tip: When Swing dogs are able to rotate with the Leads, both sets will remain fresh and the results will show. 

The Powerhouses: Your Team Dogs

Not everyone on your team will be a Lead dog. In fact, if you had a pack full of them, your mission would probably fail. Chaos would ensue with everyone trying to lead.

That’s why, settled in the middle, are Team dogs. 

They don’t have to be concerned with the stress of leading and the sled is a comfortable distance behind them. They are free to simply pull with power and run. 

These pack members make up the momentum and pull you need to get the race done. To get the project finished. To keep going towards the prize. 

Most of your Team dogs will never be Lead, and they are fine with that. But you know what? If we didn’t have them, we couldn’t do what we do. They are vital to every pack—and every business. 

We should accept that the race is not their life—and let them run from 8 to 5 as hard as they can, then clock out and leave it all. 

Steady the Sled with Wheel Dogs

Wheel dogs run at the back of the pack, but are important for the steadying element they bring the entire team.

It takes a calm and even temperament to run close to the jolting, unpredictable sled.

These dogs know how to pull with power and steadiness to maneuver the sled around turns and rough bumps. (Not all dogs can handle it, nor should they.) 

The sled is not always pretty—things like cash flow and layoffs and contingency planning. There are things in your business that not every pack member needs to see and some will be scared off by. 

Which people do you allow close to the sled of business? 

Team dogs need to run unhindered from the burdens of the sled. But remember, even Wheel dogs that are closest to the sled are still not on the sled itself.

Though Wheel dogs are seasoned confidantes, people you count on to help you turn the business, they’re not meant to be pack mules for your emotional burdens. 

Keep an eye on those boundaries, establish outside sources of emotional care and support, and you’ll keep the Wheel runners—as well as the team as a whole—healthy.

Create Your Racing Team

Of course, your people aren’t actual racing dogs. And you probably don’t wake up every morning, tie on your fur hat, and climb into a wooden sled. 

But it’s still true that how well your team performs is in direct proportion to how well you know your people and put them in the right spot on the team. 

All positions are necessary. Knowing which ones your team members naturally play and allowing them to run there not only increases their satisfaction, but can lead to better team performance in the long run. 

Building the perfect team is rarely a sprint—more like an adventure of endurance that is wildly rewarding to those who take the time to learn and truly prepare. 

As always, if I can help you maximize your team’s unique talent, drop me a note using the form below.

 

One Leader’s Tragic—but Avoidable—Story of Failure

The Secret to Managing Team Relationships

Captain William Bligh possessed a strong ship, crewed by forty-three talented Royal Navy seamen. He had charted a clear course and mission. 

But even in the harsh industry of 18th century sailing, Bligh had a tough reputation. 

Historical accounts tell us his crewmen described him as a stern, overbearing, and critical leader—frequently successful in achieving objectives, but harsh with punishment. 

He was focused, but either not self-aware or, more likely, he just didn’t care. 

The consequences would go down in infamy. 

Bligh could have succeeded in accomplishing the mission IF he had been an InSPIRED leader—if he understood how to manage relationships with his crew.

crew-only-ship-sign

Leadership Passion – Leadership Awareness = Mutiny!

In 1787, Bligh and his crew, along with Bligh’s comrade and leading lieutenant, Fletcher Christian, set sail from England on a ten-month journey. They were bound for Tahiti and its famous breadfruit harvests. 

They reached the island, but instead of purchasing, loading, and leaving with his precious cargo right away, Bligh allowed his men to stick around for five months without any direction or discipline. Bligh refused to understand and manage his people in ways that led to success for the whole team. 

Bligh never took his eyes off his prize—making it to the West Indies to resell the breadfruit and make a pile of cash.

His devotion to the mission, however, blinded him to wise execution. 

Rather than respect his people, he crippled them.

When he piled his men back on board The Bounty after months of rest and socialization with the Tahitian women, he expected instant results without instituting any processes. 

British historian Richard Hough notes Bligh “failed to anticipate how his company would react to the severity and austerity of life at sea … after five dissolute, hedonistic months at Tahiti.”

The problems began immediately. His men grumbled. They complained to Lieutenant Christian about leader Bligh’s strict discipline and exhausting expectations. 

Bligh had a people problem—he didn’t have trust from his crew. 

But at the core, Bligh failed managing his crew’s expectations. 

He had permitted his men to get cozy doing nothing and now had a group of men who resisted his hard-nosed efforts to get them working again. 

Bligh responded to the crew’s resistance with an even harsher crackdown. 

So only three weeks into their journey home, The Bounty’s frustrated crew, including Bligh’s comrade Fletcher Christian, slipped into their captain’s cabin, tied him up at cutlass-point—and set him adrift in the Southern Pacific. 

Pain Points of the Unaware 

Bligh’s story has become legendary through various retellings of the infamous “Mutiny on the Bounty.” 

While you probably haven’t set your boss adrift on the open sea, or been marooned by your employees, you’ve likely been tempted to do so. 

Has your boss (or have YOU) ever… 

  • Failed to manage expectations?
  • Given orders without laying out roles, processes, and goals?
  • Changed course without communicating with the crew? 
  • Gaslighted community concerns and complaints? 
  • Ignored the gap between leadership teaching style and team learning style?

Lack of awareness—of self, of team, and of direction—will always lead here one way or another. 

It comes down to a management of trust.  

When a leader fails to lead people well, the team can’t trust that their next order will lead to success. Missions will fall apart. Even talented teammates, like Bligh’s crew, will rebel. 

Through another series of adventures, Bligh eventually made his way back home. Unfortunately, he didn’t learn his lesson. His unwise and demanding leadership style led to three more mutinies.

Practical Steps for Awareness

How would others describe you and your leadership style? 

It’s an intriguing question because it causes you to pause and reconsider everything you think you know about yourself and your interaction with others. 

It means you have to think not only about what you intend by your words and actions, but how your words will be received, perceived, and experienced. 

This simple practice of awareness is a leadership key that has kept teams afloat through even the hardest storms. How to begin? Be ready to look, listen, and learn. 

  • Look at your team, your leaders, and your clients. How do they interact? What frustrates them? Where do they excel? How does the environment affect morale, productivity, creativity, etc.?
  • Listen to your team, your leaders, your clients. Conversations between team members will reveal the unsolved, chronic mistakes long before mutiny breaks out. If you’re stuck in the echo chamber of your own goals and expectations, you’ll miss these crucial moments.  
  • Learn from your team, your leaders, and your clients. The best leaders are self-aware of their own fallibility—and the room they have to grow. They look for new ideas daily to challenge their perspectives, encourage team flow, and keep the organization from stagnation.

How Will They Tell Your Story?

Everything—from how you carry yourself when you step into a room, how you listen when someone is talking, make eye contact, react to feedback, say your favorite leadership mantras, encourage or discourage—creates an experience that either inspires or exasperates. 

Unfortunately, most people lack self-awareness. They prefer to remain blissfully ignorant and blame everyone else for any problems they create.

They fail to realize how their words, actions, attitudes, and personality impact performance and relationships with the people they interact with on a daily basis. 

These leaders may know their strengths, but they overuse them to their own detriment. 

That’s not good enough if you aspire to be an InSPIRED leader.

Leadership legacies are written by you—BUT are preserved and passed down through the followers you leave behind.  

It’s too late for Captain Bligh to change his story. 

What will YOU do with yours?