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. 

How to Attract Top Talent at Your Company

7 Ways an InSPIRED Culture Keeps the Best People

Lack of direction, definition, and subsequent re-work exhausts the team, leads to missed deadlines, and lowers productivity. 

About $1 million is wasted every twenty seconds due to poorly executed business strategies. You might as well light your revenue on fire, because poor execution will send whatever you earn up in smoke. 

When you hamper productivity, blow through finances, and destroy relationships—even unintentionally, you create the unholy trinity of culture gone wild. 

In the end, when you fail to execute, you’re not only hurting the bottom line, but also betraying the trust of your people. Who puts faith in someone who can’t be trusted to complete the plan? When trust leaves, commitment isn’t far behind. 

If you promise an inspirational culture but don’t deliver execution, inspiration turns to exasperation, especially for the top talent you need to stay engaged on your team. Remember, talent always has a choice. 

The best people want to get things done, not stagger in and out like zombies. 

On the other hand, a team that drips Inspired Culture can plan to catch—and keep—top talent that keeps them on the rise. 

You Can’t Afford to Miss This

If you’ve had the privilege of working in an InSPIRED culture, you’ve already experienced some of its benefits. But you may not have realized how deeply this kind of culture can impact the entire organization. 

In my years of working with companies and helping them build InSPIRED cultures, here are some of the benefits I’ve discovered. 

InSPIRED culture…

  • Attracts the top talent. Talent always has a choice. Especially in today’s highly mobile work environment, the best people can go anywhere to work for anyone. So why would they choose you? A healthy culture produces all the intangible quality-of-life benefits that top talent demands. Even if they may be able to make more money elsewhere, they’re more likely to join a team where they like the leader, are treated fairly, and feel connected to a sense of purpose.
  • Maximizes top talent. A healthy culture is a pro-growth culture that seeks to empower everyone on the team to deliver his or her best in the areas of their greatest strengths. If you think it’s too much trouble to maximize your current talent, try not doing it. You’ll soon be left with only the employees who lack both the skills needed at present and the ambition to grow in the future. Not good. 
  • Retains top talent. According to the Qualtrics Global Employee Pulse 2017 study, “employees with a high confidence level in their company’s senior leadership are five times as likely to remain with their employer for more than two years compared to employees with no confidence.” It’s that simple. If your people believe in you as a leader, they’ll stay. If not, they’re five times as likely to leave.
  • Increases productivity. When your employees are engaged, you’ll get more done with fewer people because you won’t be carrying the weight of disengaged employees. At the end of the day, a healthy culture grows the bottom line (and possibly, your own performance bonus).
  • Frees you to focus on the future. It’s amazing how proactive you can be about tomorrow when you’re not having to put out fires today.

Is Your Team INspired or Exasperated?

What are the marks of inspired culture? 

1. INtentional. An InSPIRED culture begins to form when you get intentional. Some companies and leaders try to succeed without ever understanding why. But how can you replicate what you don’t understand?. Excellence is never an accident.

2. Service. More than ever, service matters. An InSPIRED culture serves both external and internal customers. How people experience your team or organization over time becomes their expectation. Their expectation of you becomes your brand. 

Is your brand one that serves others well, or is it a self-serving brand? Do you even know? 

3. Passion. What fires you up? What passions fuel your best performance? Inspiration may influence you, but passion moves you and motivates the people you lead. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what your product or service is—if you’re in leadership, you’re in the people business. And people run on passion.

4. Integration. Everything is connected in your organization. But how well do all the parts and pieces work together? The gears and sprockets that make up the inner workings will determine whether you produce inspired results or the clock expires on your results. 

If you’ve ever found yourself thinking, “It really shouldn’t be this hard,” then you know the pain of disintegration. 

5. Real. As much as business leaders focus on hard data like production numbers and the bottom line, real people touch everything and determine long-term success. Everyone is wired for greatness, but not everyone is wired for greatness in the same areas. 

Consequently, the best leaders develop a team of people who lead where they’re strong and team where they’re weak. To do that, you must first get to know the people you lead in a real way. 

6. Execution. Why do you need to inspire? Results. And to get results, your team has to execute. If you don’t actually get things done with an accountability cadence, all your work becomes merely a relational exercise. 

The reason you need to be intentional, service-focused, passionate, integrated, and real is so you can execute with excellence to achieve optimal results.

7. Develop. Once you achieve excellence, the question becomes: can you sustain it tomorrow, next week, and next year? The best leaders know they can’t stand still—they must continue to develop. So how do you and your team do that? By choosing to get better every day. Leaders must choose to develop continually. 

Top Talent Always Has a Choice

If you promise an inspirational culture but don’t deliver execution, inspiration turns to exasperation, especially for the top talent you need to stay engaged on your team. 

Remember, talent always has a choice. The best people want to get things done, not stagger in and out like zombies. 

BUT—Imagine for a moment that in your particular sphere of influence you create a thriving culture where people are happy to come to work.

They love their jobs and are proud of the work they do. They push each other to greatness and, as a result, they execute with excellence. People are real with each other, because they are living with authenticity. 

They follow their passions, because you’ve put them in the right seat on the bus. 

They serve one another because they know a rising tide lifts all boats. And they aren’t stagnant, because you’ve created a plan to help them develop and grow. 

Do you think a team like that would get noticed in your organization? You bet.

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.

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.

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.

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? 

The Real Reason No One Listens When You Speak

3 Steps to Communicate Powerfully with Your Team

People have been figuring out ways to communicate with each other since they first set foot on the earth—from cave drawings and hieroglyphics to modern day emojis. 😎

We’ve become masters of getting our ideas across. Without dialogue, our teams disintegrate. But communication requires more than the transmission of information.

On a boat flying across the bay, crew members must become efficient and effective at relaying information. Wasting time and energy, or worse, risking miscommunication, just won’t do.

In your business, what are your critical communication points? Do you speak to employees or team members in person or via video calls? Will a team member text you with a question, call you, email you, or wait until you come asking? How does your behavior influence how willing teammates are to communicate with you?

Every interaction is a potential miscommunication unless you are intentional about integrating.  

The Communication Checklist

As you re-envision what you want successful communication to look like on your team, take these three steps:

1. Identify

It’s also important to identify the key people with whom you need to communicate the most—and help leaders on your team do the same with their key personnel. Everyone needs a leader who will hear him or her. As a leader, you must take responsibility for communication as far as it is within your control.

2. Adapt

Integrated communication depends on doing it in ways others understand and appreciate. Does one member love to contact you directly? Give them a chance to do so.

Are they independent and work on their own until checked upon? Be sure to check in on them at regular intervals.

It’s impossible—and not necessary—to get everyone to speak the same language. Do your best to integrate with the people you lead and speak to them using their preferred style.

3. Ask

When I’m working with turnarounds or start-ups, I like doing critical communication in morning huddles. These are short team meetings designed to communicate critical information, focus the team, and get back at it.

To make sure you are communicating effectively, consider these questions:

  • What are the critical components I need to communicate?
  • What does my team need to know?
  • Whom should I tell first?
  • Are there any critical communication points being missed?
  • Is my communication one-way or two-way?
  • Is the message I’m trying to deliver the message that’s being received?

People Who Listen are People Who Feel Heard

All communication is not created equal. Many leaders technically say all the right information—but they’re still not communicating. They’re just transmitting. Because if you are talking and nobody is listening, you aren’t communicating.

In the military, when somebody has given an order, the soldiers respond back with a term called “Hooah!” It stands for H.U.A. Heard. Understood. Acknowledged. Effective communication asks for an echo check from the team, a confirmation that not only have they heard, but they understand what to do, acknowledge their role, and are moving to action.

Don’t mistake leadership monologues for company dialogue. Communication means not only that transmission has occurred, but also that recipients have received the information—and they know what to do with it.

As a leader start the communication evaluation with yourself. Perform a communication audit. Ask your team members to rate your communication skills, and take what they say to heart.

Then perform a listening audit. Work to listen to your team members and use their best input.

When people feel truly heard, they rise to the occasion every time. When you start listening to them, they’ll start listening to you.