In my last post, I wrote about handling conflicts in the office, the kind when different points of view come up. So I was happily surprised when a press release came through this morning from Mariposa Leadership that offers some great hints that can help soften some of the rough terrain we travel when arguing with our colleagues and/or bosses. Susan Bethanis, Ed.D., the founder/CEO of Mariposa Leadership and author of Leadership Chronicles of a Corporate Sage, reminds us that in today’s “fast and furious” (See? It does get furious sometimes; I wasn’t kidding!) we’re faced with some “challenging side effects.”
According to Bethanis, “Increased stress levels, overwhelm, and constant multi-tasking often brings out the worst in people. Managing the wide variety of situations and personalities that exist can be a very daunting task.” So what do you do as a leader to make sure your staff doesn’t implode? Bethanis says it’s a leader’s responsibility to “properly access and navigate everyday conflict without fanning the flames.” Of course a leader has to know when to step in. In some cases, it won’t always seem so obvious when it’s appropriate to impose yourself on a conflict that employees haven’t yet brought to your attention. Still, it is a manager’s job to maintain an awareness of what’s going on. You have to take your group’s collective temperature each day to determine if anything is awry. You never want to ask yourself, “How did that happen? How did I miss that? It was right in front of me.”
So is it possible to get to the root of a problem quickly? Not always, but if you follow certain strategies, ones that you may need to modify to work well with your management style and your company, you will be in a better position to bring out the best in your people. Here are some suggestions from Bethanis (with my commentary of course…):
- Be Proactive – It’s easy to overlook petty squabbles and irritants in favor of maintaining short-term peace. But these may be smoke signals flagging a deeper, more complex issue. Leslie’s addition: make sure you’ve done your research first before diving into what could be a rather thorny situation; and be certain to speak with both sides.
- Read between the Lines – Much of leadership is about asking the right questions. Listen to what’s being said, but pay special attention to what’s left unspoken. Often the real issue at hand is hiding just beneath the surface. Leslie’s addition: Reading between the lines can take time, so be patient.
- Don’t Fuel the Fire – If you find your own temper flaring, step back, take a deep breath, and give yourself a chance to respond from a position of clarity. It’s better to put the situation on “temporary hold” than to jump in when you’re fired up. Leslie’s addition: don’t be too hard on yourself; you are, after all, human, but then so are your employees. That, too, is something to remember.
- Leadership today is all about bringing out the best in people – even when faced with the worst. Conflict, challenging personalities, and tough situations in the workplace are inevitable. How you choose to handle these issues will ultimately define your businesses survival or demise. Leslie’s addition: Try to incorporate a real sense of caring as you work toward bringing the best out in people. Also, make sure you can point to specific examples of an employee’s skills and talents; if you’re too general in your praise, you might be accused of being insincere and shallow.