Phrases to Defuse Difficult Workplace Situations

Defuse conflict

Are you ever at a loss for words?

Do you approach a potentially volatile situation with trepidation because you don’t know what to say?

The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book by Barbara Mitchell and Cornelia Gamlem is for you.

It’s a handbook of sorts, a reference book, filled with clever phrases and questions all designed to help you in conflict situations.

After reading it, I decided to put it to use immediately. I read a few of the phrases before attending most of my meetings. What I found was that I was asking better questions and was a more focused listener.

I recently asked Barbara more about her work.

 

“Knowing when to fight is just as important as how.” –Terry Goodkind

 

Build Your Conflict Muscle

How do you best build the conflict muscle so that you don’t shy away from it?

Practice, practice, practice!  Many of us are uncomfortable with conflict to the point where we not just shy away from it—we run from it and give in rather than dealing with it. It takes courage and practice to have conflict muscle, but we also want people to know that not all conflict is “bad.”  Having differences of opinion can spur creativity and positive change in organizations and personal relationships.

 

Talk about the power of listening.

Most of us think we’re really good listeners, but what we really do is, while the other person is talking, we’re thinking about what we’re going to say when they stop speaking.  That’s not listening.  Listening is putting your own thoughts aside to focus on the words being said but also observing body language and facial expressions to really get what the person is saying.  Our ever-increasing virtual world makes listening even more difficult, so whenever possible, have difficult conversations face to face. But if you can’t be in the same place, use Facetime or Skype so least you can see each other. A good listener uses techniques like paraphrasing back what they heard to ensure both people are on the same wave length. Listening takes practice—just like any other communication form. We spend a lot time learning how to speak to be understood or how to write well but not much time learning how to listen.

 

“If I could solve all the problems myself, I would.” –Thomas Edison

 

Ask for Clarity

16 Ways Leaders Kill Trust

Cracked cement symbolizing broken trust between people or parties
This is a guest post by friend, executive and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor. Follow him on Twitter.

 

How to Kill Trust

Trust—so hard to gain, yet so easy to lose! Trust is an important part of any relationship, but it is the foundation for successful leadership. Without trust, leadership is simply hollow. There has been a lot written about the importance of trust and how to build trust with others. However, what many leaders do not realize is that trust is often undermined, or even lost, through simple behaviors. After paying so much attention to ways to gain trust, it is often lost inadvertently.

There are many ways that a leader can kill trust. Most are behaviors or actions and not overt statements. It is rare that a leader simply states, “I do not trust you” to someone. Yet, it is quite common that a leader will kill trust with one or more of the following behaviors.

 

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” –Warren Buffett

 

16 Trust-killing Behaviors to Avoid

 

Delegate tasks, not problems:  When delegating, provide a strict framework and task list while telling them exactly what needs to be done and how to do it. By not providing others with the opportunity to help solve a problem or shape an initiative, it sends a message that they are not trusted and do not have the confidence of the leader.

 

Leadership Tip: Delegate the problem and let the team shape the initiative.

 

Micromanage:  Constantly ask for updates, status and progress while dictating more about how to do the task. React strongly if there is any issue or problem. Second-guess any decisions or actions during the project. Constantly ask if they remembered to do something or if they are working on something. If something needs to be corrected, say, “I’ll take care of that” or have some else do it. By not demonstrating any confidence in a team member to complete an assignment, trust will be damaged.

 

“The ability to influence a leader is at the heart of feeling trusted.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Never ask their opinion:  Do not ask for input on an assignment; just dictate what to do. Discount what team members are saying, especially while they are talking. Require more justification with greater detail than expected of others – especially in public. Do not allow them to influence you. The ability to influence a leader is at the heart of feeling trusted. When influence is denied, trust is eroded.

 

Criticize in public:  Point out mistakes and/or belittle others in public. Constantly point out mistakes and never tell them what they are doing right. Bring up past mistakes often. Public criticism not only belittles the team member, but it makes the leader look small-minded. Others on the team will also begin to wonder if the leader can be trusted.

Reach: A Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

 

You may know him from his writing for the Harvard Business Review or from his features in The New York Times or The Economist. Andy Molinsky, PhD is a professor of psychology and organizational behavior at Brandeis University’s International Business School. He is the author of Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence.

Since I have long been interested in helping people push past what’s comfortable, I found his new book particularly intriguing. After reading it, I am sure that you will find his work as actionable as I have. I spoke with Andy recently about his new book.

 

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” -Neale Donald Walsch

 

5 Roadblocks that Keep You in Your Comfort Zone

What keeps people safely ensconced inside their comfort zones?

I’ve found five specific reasons, and I call them psychological roadblocks or barriers.  The first is the Authenticity Challenge:  It’s the idea that acting outside your comfort zone can feel fake, foreign, and false.  The second is the Competence Challenge:  In addition to feeling inauthentic, you can also feel like you don’t have the ability to be successful in a situation outside your comfort zone.  The third roadblock is what I call the Resentment Challenge: Even if people logically know that they need to change their behavior to be effective in a new situation, they may feel resentful or frustrated about having to stretch beyond where they’re comfortable. Roadblock #4 is the Likeability Challenge:  One of the greatest worries people feel when stretching outside their comfort zones is whether people will like this new version of themselves.  Finally, Roadblock #5 is the Morality Challenge:  In certain instances, people can have legitimate concerns about the morality of the behavior they’re about to perform.  Of course people don’t necessarily experience each of these roadblocks each time they attempt to act outside their comfort zones.  However, even one or two roadblocks can be enough to keep people fully ensconced within their comfort zones.

 

Do most people know which one is their challenge?

When we’re afraid of something, we often just feel “worried” or “fearful.” And not really knowing or understanding where the discomfort actually comes from just compounds the problem.  But what I find is that when people can apply this framework of psychological roadblocks to their lives, they have a much clearer way to make sense of their experience – and that gives them a sense of control over something that previously felt confusing or overwhelming.

 

“The best things in life are often waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone.” -Karen Salmansohn

 

Stop the Cycle of Avoidance 

The vicious cycle of avoidance is one we’ve all participated in or watched to varying degrees. What’s the best way to stop the cycle and get back on the right path?

So many of us encounter this trap:  We avoid something outside our comfort zone – and feel quite relieved.  But then the next time around, it’s just that much harder.  To stop the cycle, you have to have a deep sense of purpose that the “pain” is worth the “gain” – that whatever it is you’re contemplating outside your comfort zone will contribute to your career or personal development — or enable you to help others and make a difference.  And what’s critical is that this source of conviction is authentic and meaningful to you.  When you have conviction and motivation, you’ll have the power to say yes when every bone in your body is aching to say no.

 

How to Bring Out the Remarkable Leader Within

Grace Meets Grit

Recently, I asked a few people to share words that come immediately to mind when I ask about men and women in leadership positions:

  • Salary inequity
  • Unequal representation
  • Misunderstanding
  • Testosterone
  • Powerful when the best of both are valued
  • Need for a level playing field
  • Minefield
  • Different
  • Mars and Venus
  • Unfair

There are many misunderstandings when we talk about men and women in leadership.

 

Only 8% of executive positions are held by women.

 

Daina Middleton takes on the topic in her new book, Grace Meets Grit: How to Bring Out the Remarkable, Courageous Leader Within. In her book, she demonstrates the inherent value of both feminine and masculine leadership styles and how all of us can benefit from an understanding of the value of the different strengths of the sexes. Daina’s experience includes over three decades of business leadership experience in a male-dominated industry. She shares her firsthand observations and stories to help everyone become more effective at leading others. Daina is also an advocate for a more inclusive and practical approach to working together.

I had the opportunity to ask her more about her work.

 

Women CEOs lag men CEOs in terms of tenure by 2 years.

 

Why Gender Bias Training Falls Short

What’s wrong or missing from the ongoing discussion of gender in the workplace? Why is current gender bias training falling short?

The good news is the gender equality conversation is actually happening.  In fact, Google Trends indicates gender equality has actually increased over the past decade.  And the equality discussion certainly must continue because the pay parity gap remains large despite the focus on equality. However, a focus on equality is insufficient because equal literally means the same. While their contributions are equally valuable, men and women bring different behaviors to leadership and this is a very good thing. Women are often measured against male leadership behaviors – mostly because men are still largely in charge.  The result is unfortunate because there are many benefits to both the male “Grit” style of leadership as well as the more relationship “Grace” approach.  Obviously, I am over generalizing to make a point.  Most of us have both male and female qualities, and the best leaders strive to cultivate both within themselves as well as within their organizations.

 

“Inspiring leaders know that trust is vital to inspiration.” -Daina Middleton

 

We All Have Grace and Grit Within Us

Grace and grit. Would you give us a little background on each and how they fit into your model? Do you find that naming grace and grit causes a backlash at all in terms of stereotyping?

A person’s leadership style is based on his or her communications style.  Women tend to use communications to establish intimacy and build and maintain relationships. This is what I refer to as the Grace style of leadership. Men (the Grit style), on the other hand, tend to use communications to drive immediate, tangible outcomes, preserve status, and avoid failure.

The male leadership style is an exclusive club, even though it’s often not intentionally exclusive. And, while both women and men bring equal value to the workplace, equal does not mean they are the same. Many times, these differences cause misunderstandings in the workplace at best. At worst, I have actually seen a great leader lose her job because her boss, who was a man, thought she didn’t know how to make decisions because the way she approached decision-making was different from his own.  This is what first sent me down the path to beginning a new gender dialogue that allows us to have meaningful conversations about how women lead differently than men. Only then will we understand the value both bring to the workplace.

As I mentioned above, calling Grace the more relationship-focused female style and Grit the status-conscious, immediate action male style of leadership provides us with a non-confrontational approach to talk about our differences. Bias training is largely focused on helping men understand what it’s like to be a woman. Do you think men will remember this in the heat of a challenging business situation? Probably not. And in fact, all the research shows bias training has largely been ineffective in changing behaviors in the workplace for exactly this reason.  We all have both Grace and Grit within us.  I, for instance, have a more Grit style approach, which at times can be abrasive.  My team recently reminded me of this by asking if I had left Grace at home that day.  Their question prompted me to think about my behaviors and adapt them for the situation.  All great leaders have good awareness of their own style and the needs of others and have the ability to have productive dialogue around them.

 

ILM Survey: 1/2 of women doubted their job performance compared to less than 1/3 of men.

 

What’s the traditional leadership style in the workplace? How is this changing?

Creating a High-Trust Culture for High Performance

 

How to Increase Trust

 

Why is culture so difficult to change?

Why are so many employees disengaged?

What should a leader do when she arrives at a company that is struggling?

 

The founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies recently wrote a book, Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies to answer these and other questions. Paul J. Zak, PhD, is also a professor at Claremont Graduate University. He recently answered some of my questions about his extensive research into trust. His book is fascinating and contributes to the body of work on trust and organizational culture.

 

Survey of 200,000 employees: 71% of companies have mediocre to poor cultures.

 

Spot the Signs of a Low-Trust Culture

In one part of the book, you tell a story of walking into an office full of cobwebs, old furniture, and a struggling culture. What are some of the signs of a low-trust culture?

Distrust drains employees’ energy, so people move slow, think slow, and lack a passion for their jobs.  Organizations with low trust also have lower profits, so offices often look out-of-date, even while new employees show up as turnover tends to be high.  We have also shown that people take more sick days when they work at low-trust companies, so one sees empty desks.  All these factors are signs of a low-trust syndrome and a downward cycle of productivity, innovation, and profits.

 

“High-trust companies invest in employee health and productivity.” –Paul J. Zak

 

Why Healthy Cultures are Based on Trust

trust factorWhy is a healthy culture based on trust so vitally important to its success?

Companies are, first and foremost, people. As social creatures, we naturally form teams to accomplish goals together.  Extensive research shows that teams are more effective when they have a clear objective and when team members are trustworthy. Trust reduces the frictions that can arise in teams so getting things done takes less effort and as a result more and better work is done.  By measuring brain activity while people work, we’ve shown that people are more relaxed when they trust their colleagues. They innovate more and shed the stress from work faster than those in low-trust companies.  Creating a culture of trust provides powerful leverage on performance because it harnesses what our brains are designed to do: cooperate with others in teams.  And the neuroscience I’ve done shows how to create a culture of trust in a system so it has the maximum effect on brain and behavior.

 

Workers in high trust organizations are paid an average of $6,450 more.

 

I love the biological explanation of the Golden Rule. Explain the connection between oxytocin and trust.