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Just Saying “Sorry” Doesn’t Cut It

September 24th, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, we’ve heard multiple “I’m sorry” statements from public figures who have been accused of bad behavior. Most of them sound pretty much the same. “I’m sorry for how I’ve hurt my family, my friends, my (fill in the blanks)…

Let’s get real.  Just saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t cut it.  Apology not accepted.

While you can’t go back and undo whatever the offense or error was, a few robo-words in response to it do not in any way compensate, nor do they make the offended party feel any better. You need to take ownership, acknowledge the impact of your error or offense, and assure the other person that it won’t happen again.  In other words, you need to be sincere about it. Saying “sorry” and being sorry are not the same things.

This applies to all errors or infractions, not just the big and public ones.

Imagine this scenario.  You’re on a project team with four other people.  The target project completion date is looming, and your deliverable is key to hitting that target. You’ve had a hellish couple of weeks. Family issues, and “fires” in your day-to-day responsibilities have put you behind. You didn’t alert anyone, because you were so sure you’d be able to catch up.  The day of reckoning – the status meeting – has arrived. How do you convey “mea culpa” to your team?

"I’m really sorry, folks. Between family issues and fighting fires there was just no way I could get it finished. I know it puts us behind, but it just couldn’t be helped."

Or…

"I realize that my slipping this deadline has put our hitting the target date in peril. I should have given you a heads up early last week when I first recognized I might not make it. I didn’t, and I know that was irresponsible. Here’s what I’m going to do to get us back on track, and how I’ll prevent things like this in the future…"

As a member of the project team, which would convey more sincerity to you?

I’m on a mission to encourage more kindness and courtesy in people’s day-to-day lives. Promoting sincere apologies is part of that.  We’ve seen multiple examples of insincere apologies from politicians and other public figures. Enough already.

Let’s move the tide in a different direction by: 1) taking ownership; 2) acknowledging the impact; and 3) assuring the injured party that it won’t happen again.

Till next time,

Karen

 

conflict resolution, Kindness, Learning, Life, Relationships

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Team Conflict: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

November 20th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

TeamConflict-1

Conflict on teams is inevitable. Yet when managed effectively, it can actually be a good thing. New ideas are born; relationships are deepened through the airing and resolution of differences; teams grow stronger. When you are a leader in the midst of conflict, however, and attempting to deal with it while juggling everything else, it can be a bit overwhelming.

Here are 5 tips for managing team conflict effectively.

Be self-aware. Understanding your leadership strengths and how you react under stress is essential to handling conflict in a constructive manner. Often our positive traits can be perceived as negative when we are overextended. For example, if you tend to set the bar high for yourself and others, this may be perceived as an unreasonable demand for perfection by a team that is struggling with workload or other internal issues. If your strength is leading through people, when stressed you may spend too much time trying to make sure everyone is happy rather than focusing on the collective team goals.
Know your team. The best teams bring diverse personalities, skills and experience to the table. Recognizing the value each individual’s skills and traits contribute to the team and how they complement (and potentially conflict with) each other will help you lay the groundwork for effective conflict resolution. Build team awareness and appreciation of different styles, and provide opportunities for productive interactions and mutual understanding.
Make the time to just listen. When a deadline is looming, and the team can’t seem to get past a conflict barrier, you may be tempted, as the leader, to force an end to the issue and just push your position through. Don’t. Make time to listen to all sides so you can get to the core of the issue and help the team develop a solution.
Harness the power of diverse thinking. Create an environment that encourages open communication and fresh ideas and approaches. Reach out to those who are less vocal to ensure that their ideas get added to the mix. When everyone feels heard and appreciated, “conflicts” become productive discussions.
Chart the way forward. Embrace the “lessons learned” from the bumps on the journey, refocus on the goals and move forward.

Want to learn more about your leadership style and the styles of your team for more effective conflict resolution? Contact me at kcolligan@PeopleThink.biz.

Till next time,

Karen

Communication, conflict resolution, Leadership, Teams

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Just Because We Don’t Agree, Doesn’t Mean You’re Wrong

September 1st, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

PerspectiveFINAL-1-300x260

There’s a cartoon about perception that I use in one of my leadership development workshops. It has two men standing at opposite ends of a number – one at the top, and one at the bottom. One man points to the number says “six.” The other man points to the number and says, “nine.” Who’s right?

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Think about the last time you had a heated discussion with someone. (Given our current political climate, this shouldn’t be much of a stretch. Hence the reason I’m covering this topic!) Did you stay firmly rooted on your side “of the number,” or did you pause to walk around to the other side to try to look at it a bit differently? It’s hard, I know. We each live in a world of beliefs we’ve developed based on what we’ve observed, learned and experienced over our lifetime. Yet it’s worth the effort.

In his book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Peter Senge talks about the Ladder of Inference, which describes the thinking process we go through – usually subconsciously - to get from a fact to a decision or action. Visualize a ladder. Starting with reality and facts at the bottom of the ladder and then moving upward, we:
• Select from the facts based on our beliefs and prior experience
• Interpret what they mean
• Apply our existing assumptions, sometimes without validating them
• Draw conclusions based on how we interpreted the facts and our assumptions
• Develop beliefs based on our conclusions
• Take actions and form opinions that seem “right’ because they are based on what we believe

When we do this on a regular basis, we become so stuck in our thinking that we find it nearly impossible to consider a new, different or more collaborative way of looking at things.

I’d like to suggest that in the interest of more effective dialogues, better relationships and enhanced personal wellness, we all make the effort to get unstuck. All too often conversations are shut down because opinions vary, and no one wants to risk their stance by probing for a deeper understanding of someone else’s.

Here’s what you can do. Stop. Look. Listen.

Stop. Before you go scrambling up your perception ladder, stop for a minute to evaluate your thought process. Do you have all the facts? Is their source reliable? Are you making assumptions about the facts – or the other person – without validating them?

Look. Look for opportunities to learn about views different from your own. Observe different approaches to doing things. Even simple things, like making coffee, writing a report, conducting a meeting, painting a room. Being open to diverse opinions and approaches helps us understand that different is not necessarily wrong.

Listen. Turn down the heat when opinions differ by expressing an interest in why the other person believes as they do. Ask the question and then really listen to the answer. Be open to looking at the issue slightly differently once you’ve heard the reasoning behind their point of view.

The experience may change your opinion, or not. Or it may strengthen and validate it. Either way, you will have learned something.

“What you see depends not only on what you look at, but where you look from.” – James Deacon

Communication, conflict resolution, Life, wellness

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Start the Conversation and Unleash the Possibilities

February 22nd, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place.”

Most of us are familiar with the techniques that help with effective communication – active listening, not interrupting, clarifying questions, paraphrasing, withholding judgment, etc. These all contribute (when you remember to use them) to effective communication, defined as when the sender and receiver of information interpret that information in the same way.

I think, however, that in today’s environment we’re really struggling with that last part. Too often conversations turn into interpreting information “my way” instead of listening to the other person and trying to find common ground. And some conversations, especially if they’re about current events, can’t even get started. I have a friend who cannot even broach the subject of current events with one of her family members because they are on opposite poles of the political spectrum. He just shuts her down. I’ve heard other similar examples. Some have completely ended relationships.

Is this really the way we want to live? In this Year of Possibilities, how about the possibility that we might learn something from listening and trying to understand someone else’s point of view. Why do they think that? What are their hopes and fears? What are the outcomes they’d like to see? I think we might find that what we want is similar, but the approach may be different. If we can’t listen or if we aren’t allowed to speak, how do we find out what we have in common so we can move forward in a more civilized way?

There was an article in the Huffington Post recently that I think expressed this really well. The author, a professor at Oregon State University, grew up in a conservative, working class family, but became more progressive over the years. She writes directly to people in communities like the one she grew up in and asks, “are you willing to have the conversation? Is it more important to you to win than to do good? Or can we build coalitions? Put the needs and rights of all others above ideologies?”

Just think how much more we will learn from listening and being curious rather than from telling and needing to be right. Just think of the possibilities…

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” – Dalai Lama

Till next time,

Karen

Communication, conflict resolution, Relationships

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Don’t Avoid that Difficult Conversation

October 17th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

If you’ve got a difficult conversation brewing and you keep putting it off, you are not alone.  According to a survey conducted by VitalSmarts, who studies this sort of thing, 70% of employees are currently facing (and avoiding) a difficult conversation with their boss, coworker or direct report.  Topics of these conversations range from performance issues to bad behavior to conflicting ideas to communication issues to “I’m leaving” notices. What I find really stunning is that 25% of survey respondents said they have put off having a difficult conversation for more than a year.  Really? Well, my friends, unlike wine, bad news and difficult conversations do NOT improve with age. So stop stalling and just Plan, Prepare and Proceed.

Plan. The longer you wait the harder the conversation will be. You may think that the issue will eventually go away – and it may – but a similar issue is likely to arise at some point and you will regret not dealing effectively with the first one.  Decide whom you need to talk to and get some time on the calendar with them. Schedule a meeting place that is private and without distractions, and schedule it at a “lower-stress” time of day.

Prepare. Think about the following:  What is your goal with the conversation? What are the facts of the situation you want to discuss? What has been the impact? What questions can you ask to gain their perspective? Spend some time thinking about how the other person communicates and what they might need from you to be receptive. Do they need a lot of facts and details, or are they more of a “bottom line” communicator? Consider this in your approach. Focus on structuring your conversation so you start by creating a safe environment and then work toward a mutual solution.

Proceed. As Stephen Covey would say, “begin with the end in mind.” Clarify why you are having the conversation and establish a mutual purpose. You may find that they’ve anticipated this conversation and are relieved it’s finally happening. Maintain respect throughout. Ask for their perspective and find points where you can agree. If things get heated, take a break and then go back to your intent and desire for a mutually acceptable outcome.  There may not be one, and you need to be prepared for that. You may just need to agree to disagree. But by initiating the conversation, being clear about your intent, the facts, and your desire for a positive outcome, you will at least be opening the door for a more positive outcome in the future.

Certainly beats letting all that stuff fester. And the next difficult conversation may not be quite so difficult.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Till next time,

Karen

Communication, conflict resolution, Life, Relationships

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Avoiding that Difficult Conversation? Don’t!

August 11th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

If you’ve got a difficult conversation brewing and you keep putting it off, you are not alone.  According to a survey conducted by VitalSmarts, who studies this sort of thing, 70% of employees are currently facing (and avoiding) a difficult conversation with their boss, coworker or direct report.  Topics of these conversations range from performance issues to bad behavior to conflicting ideas to communication issues to “I’m leaving” notices. What I find really stunning is that 25% of survey respondents said they have put off having a difficult conversation for more than a year.  Really? Well, my friends, unlike wine, bad news and difficult conversations do NOT improve with age. So stop stalling and just Plan, Prepare and Proceed.

Plan. The longer you wait the harder the conversation will be. You may think that the issue will eventually go away – and it may – but a similar issue is likely to arise at some point and you will regret not dealing effectively with the first one.  Decide whom you need to talk to and get some time on the calendar with them. Schedule a meeting place that is private and without distractions, and schedule it at a “lower-stress” time of day.

Prepare. Think about the following:  What is your goal with the conversation? What are the facts of the situation you want to discuss? What has been the impact? What questions can you ask to gain their perspective? Spend some time thinking about how the other person communicates and what they might need from you to be receptive. Do they need a lot of facts and details, or are they more of a “bottom line” communicator? Consider this in your approach. Focus on structuring your conversation so you start by creating a safe environment and then work toward a mutual solution.

Proceed. As Stephen Covey would say, “begin with the end in mind.” Clarify why you are having the conversation and establish a mutual purpose. You may find that they’ve anticipated this conversation and are relieved it’s finally happening. Maintain respect throughout. Ask for their perspective and find points where you can agree. If things get heated, take a break and then go back to your intent and desire for a mutually acceptable outcome.  There may not be one, and you need to be prepared for that. You may just need to agree to disagree. But by initiating the conversation, being clear about your intent, the facts, and your desire for a positive outcome, you will at least be opening the door for a more positive outcome in the future.

Certainly beats letting all stuff fester. And the next difficult conversation may not be quite so difficult.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Till next time,

Karen

Communication, conflict resolution

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