Category Archives: leadership competencies

That makes no sense!!

conflict-management-techniques

“That’s crazy,” “I could never do it that way,” You’re wrong,” “No, listen to me!”

Are you hearing statements like these at work? When new ideas are introduced are you seeing battle lines drawn? How do you lead for the common good when it seems like your people have completely different goals in mind?

Well, not to ignore how hard it is but the place to start is with dialogue. Which means helping people actually listen to each other, even if they disagree with what the other person is saying. Your goal is to help people move from:

  • arguing
  • persuading or telling
  • focusing on differences
  • talking at each other

All of which lead to frustration, lack of trust and either/or thinking.

And move to:

  • listening
  • talking with each other
  • problem-solving
  • looking at options

That requires finding some sort of common or shared interests as a starting point for dialogue. Instead of focusing on the dangers of the other point of view and highlighting the positive of their own point of view, help people work on specific issues by looking deeper and identifying underlying values, goals, and concerns that both sides share.

We encourage the leaders we work with to ask these two straightforward questions to build trust and identify shared interests.

  1. What do we all want?
  2. We do we all fear or want to avoid?

It will take work to keep people from focusing on their initial points of view and look at the bigger picture, but facilitating this conversation will help you and your people find a common good you can all agree on, and that is a great starting point!

Todd Thorsgaard

Common good doesn’t mean we all agree

conflictLeading for the common good isn’t peaceful. Agreement isn’t the goal. Paraphrasing writer Walter Lippmann, “when we all think alike, no one thinks very much.” To work together for the common good a leader needs to be prepared for conflict and embrace conflict.

Liane Davey, author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and get Stuff Done, reminds us that for teams to be effective and work together they need to experience tension and disagreement, wrestle with it, push back, open up, share, listen and only then move forward. It’s not a quiet process and not what we often think of as good leadership. But think about the best teams you have worked on. Was it acceptable to have a different opinion? To raise a concern? Or to even get a little worked up about the problem you were addressing? I bet it was!

If you are willing to dive into the messiness of collaboration and conflict as a necessary element of moving towards a common good, Davey recently shared three ideas that leaders can use to help their teams embrace “productive conflict.”

  1. Define, discuss and understand the different roles and agendas of each person on the team. Take the time to ensure that everyone understands that each person has an  agenda based on their role and that each agenda is different. Not better or worse but different. And that it is normal for the different agendas to lead to conflict that is not personal but necessary to reach the best solution in the end. Make it OK to disagree based on their unique roles and responsibilities.
  2. Pay attention to style differences between team members. Use a tool or a facilitated discussion to clarify the different approaches team members use to learn, take in information, communicate, make decisions, or do tasks. Ensure that each style is described in a positive way and highlight the value that each style brings to the team. Finally, highlight how it is natural for conflict to arise due to style differences and that you expect people to leverage their styles to facilitate collaboration, even if it gets uncomfortable.
  3. Set ground rules on acceptable dissension. Have an open conversation and identify what behaviors lead to conflict that improves how the team functions and what behaviors actually destroy trust and teamwork. Describe what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and the process the team will use to hold each other accountable.

As nice as peace and calm can be, leadership is a lot messier and noisier – and that’s OK!

Todd Thorsgaard

Moving beyond brainstorming

This is our last post for the year. We’ll take a break and come back in January with a wrap-up on the Minnesota State leadership competencies.

Therefore, I’d like to propose an early New Year’s resolution – for myself and each of us as leaders. During the year I want to expand my toolbox and find new ways to help my work groups reach decisions.

When we’re leameetingding meetings and there are decisions to be made, it’s easy to default to the tools that are comfortable and familiar. That usually means brainstorming and group discussion. Using other techniques can add a spark of creativity, help people remain engaged, and generate better decisions.

Here are some easy alternates to brainstorming:

  • Six Thinking Hats – Assign each member to approach the decision from a particular viewpoint. Ask people to have fun and get into their roles, even if it’s outside of their usual comfort zone.
  • Interviewing – Ask each team member to talk to 1-2 stakeholders who are impacted by the decision. Share the results and identify common concerns and any new issues that came up.
  • Pair-pair-share – Ask everyone to pair up with a partner and spend three minutes discussing their views about the decision. Then group the pairs into teams of four and have them come up with a list of considerations to share with the whole group. You’d be surprised how much new information can be generated in 10 minutes!

We hope you all have chance to relax and renew over the winter break!

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

 

Too much on my mind!

too-many-tabsThe holidays are looming, errands must be run, deadlines are pressing, family is calling, the academic session is ending, end-of-year reports are due, and decisions must be made! In fact, author Noreerna Hertz, in her book Eyes Wide Open: How to make smart decisions in a confusing world, estimates that most of us make over 10,000 decisions a day! No wonder we make bad decisions sometimes.

I’m sure you are in the middle of chaos so I am posting a short but very practical post today sharing Hertz’s top 10 steps for making better decisions – even when under deluge.

  1. Acknowledge, accept and “come to grips” with reality – we are exposed to more information than our brains can process and we need to accept that and create strategies to deal with it. It isn’t going to change.
  2. See the forest and the trees – don’t stop looking for the complete picture. Our brains automatically screen out details.
  3. Don’t automatically accept the stated narrative – work to understand the hidden meanings or intentions in information shared by others. Don’t automatically reject it but dig a little deeper.
  4. Don’t be afraid to challenge “the experts” and the status quo – ask questions and seek out alternative points of view to ensure you accept what you are hearing.
  5. Listen and learn from those “who know” – include the ideas and information from those with hands-on experience.
  6. Use technology to connect with a wider circle of people – take advantage of crowd-sourcing, affinity groups, networks, and instant communication channels to develop a wider circle of peers and colleagues to provide insight, advice and counsel.
  7. But, confirm the identity, background, knowledge and expertise of your network – you are responsible for the information you gather.
  8. Embrace “math” – good decision-making requires basic understanding of probabilities, expectations and risk. You don’t have to be a stats nerd but you need to learn the basics.
  9. Monitor your emotional state – emotions affect decisions just like information does. Develop an awareness for how your emotional state influences your decision-making effectiveness and take action to make decisions at the appropriate time.
  10. Embrace dissent and encourage diversity – multiple perspectives can open up new ideas, expose additional details, add different information, and facilitate true dialogue.

Happy decision-making!

Todd

 

 

Take the High Road

Last week we talked about ways to show your support for an organizational decision, beyond just talking abouhigh-roadt it.  But what happens if it soon becomes apparent that it was the wrong decision?

A Google search of “incorrect decisions”, which is how I began brainstorming for this post, brings up multiple links: “America’s Biggest Foreign Policy Fiascos”, “Stupidest Business Decisions Ever Made”, and the more generic “10 of the Worst Decisions Ever Made”.  Poor decisions are everywhere, but it’s how they’re handled that often gets noticed the most.

Leaders who successfully weather these storms have some things in common:

Take responsibility:  Nobody likes to hear excuses.  Own up to the mistake, then describe how it will be fixed.

Don’t play the blame game: Throwing your employees under the bus by publicly blaming them, either indirectly or directly, isn’t generally well received.

Learn from it:  In retrospect, what could have been done to avoid this, and how can you keep it from happening again?

Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone handles them the same.  Taking the high road when things go wrong is almost always the correct route.

Cindy Schneider

Words AND Actions

walk-the-talk“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong….To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

You’ve done it: Shown courage, followed through, and made a decision that will impact your entire organization.  The next step is just as important: demonstrating to employees and stakeholders that you really meant it.

This is where Actions Speak Louder Than Words comes in handy.  It’s easy to tell people that a big change is coming.  And it’s often just as easy for those you’re telling to ignore it, hoping it will just go away.  That’s human nature – change is scary!  But actions aren’t quite as easy to ignore.

“I pay ZERO attention to what you say. But your actions have my undivided attention.”
― Sotero M. Lopez II

Are you launching a new process?  Give public kudos to a team which used it well.

Bringing in a new technology? Ask the early adopters in your organization to try it and share with others what they’ve learned.

Introducing new collaborations?  Find some early successes and brag about them.

Letting it be known by your actions that you support a decision creates powerful connections in people’s minds.

Cindy Schneider

Let someone else decide?

youdecideOne of the best decisions a leader can make is to decide to let others make decisions and to create a decision-maker culture. That is what Dennis Bakke recommends in his book, The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time.

As a leader, you are ultimately accountable for how decisions turn out. That can cause many people to hold tightly to their decision-making authority. Instead Bakke reminds us that sharing decision-making responsibility actually can lead to better decisions, more employee engagement, develops employees expertise and supports professional development. To help leaders identify the best person, or group, to make different decisions Bakke describes a formal “decision-maker process.” Use the following four elements to guide your selection:

  1. Proximity – how close to the situation is the person and can they also see the big picture?
  2. Perspective – can the person bring a different point of view or utilize multiple points of view?
  3. Experience – does the person have enough experience in the situation to be able to actually make a decision?
  4. Wisdom – will you and others trust their decision?

From my experience, when a leader asks me to make a decision it can feel overwhelming and I may feel like I need to prove my worth by making the decision all on my own! If your people react in the same way sharing decision-making can actually backfire. To help address this issue Bakke encourages leaders to coach their people on how to seek out and take advice when making a decision. He also defines good advice as coming from people who have:

  • Experience – they know or understand the situation.
  • Different positions in the organization – they can provide multiple and diverse perspectives.
  • Responsibility – they have an actual connection to the situation and the decision or outcome.
  • Ownership – they will back up their advice and the ultimate decision.

It can be scary to relinquish decision-making responsibility but it is a risk worth taking!

Todd Thorsgaard