Many of the best things about growing older are based around the friendships we accumulate along the way. Good friends we know we can rely upon. Who we can turn to at short notice. And who always make us feel happy, comfortable and warm. Losing an old friend like that is always a shock – even if, as in this case, it is merely a much loved old jacket.
Acres of hardcopy material and megabytes of softcopy content have been written about Greta Thunberg. This 16-year old Swedish girl started the Friday school strike phenomenon to protest against what she regards as government and corporate inaction to combat climate change. An article in the Sunday Times on August 18th suggested she is being manipulated by others taking advantage of her Asperger’s syndrome, see https://www.thetimes.co.uk/past-six-days/2019-08-18/news-review/greta-thunberg-and-the-plot-to-forge-a-climate-warrior-9blhz9mjv.
Putting that aside, however, what if Greta is right and our planet is standing Tom Daly-like on its tiptoes on the edge of a very high diving board and could all too easily plummet into some catastrophic climatic cauldron? As coaches, mentors, managers or leaders, are we providing destabilising counsel that cumulatively will increase the likelihood of that fall occurring? Or, are we exerting enough influence upon those we work with to cause them to start to think differently or, cliché warning, to think outside the box?
Have you ever heard or met “a Master in resolving conflicts”? No. Well, you might be one yourself.
We are all Master of something
Like in every other aspect in life we can become experts in any field, by doing something right for a long time, changing your wrongs into rights to a point where you can give advice, create awareness, provide recommendations, or even give instructions on subjects that we master.
When it comes to conflicts, especially in the working environment, a leader should not become a Master in resolving those conflicts but rather a Master in avoiding, stopping, reducing the possibilities for such conflicts to occur.
Now, please don’t get me wrong, they will always be conflicts but in the same way a leader is prepared to resolve them his concern should be creating a team environment where conflicts are less.
I had leaders who created conflicts and that is even worse. They say it allowed different ideas to be known and keeps team on their feet. In my opinion that could not be further away from the truth, such leaders are only creating several momentums that will unavoidable end up in good valuable members of the team to leave and restrain new eligible ones to join.
A serious disagreement or argument if not handled on time, can linger to the point that it blocks creativity, participation and obviously there goes teamwork through the window. For me the biggest and most important part of resolving any conflict is not in how good communicator you are as how great listener you are.
When you really listen others is when the magic starts. The conflict might not be generated by what is being said but by what is not being said and in that case, if you are not paying attention you will always face the same issue no matter how well you think you handled it.
Listening will also allow you to find the root cause and eliminate it once and for all making you a real Master in resolving conflicts.
Let’s start this month’s essay with a musical philosophy question.
In the 1960s, the Who sang “The kids are alright”. In 1998, The Offspring sang “The kids aren’t alright”. Which group had the more prescient song?
Over the years I have had the wonderful opportunity of facilitating brainstorming sessions. One of my favourite tools to use, is Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats Method. Our behaviour, not our words, is the reflection of who we are. Six Thinking Hats is a brilliant tool to structure in an objective way to include the input from the individuals participating in the session and can give insight into the reflection of their personalities. The method refers to six hats that when we “wear them” we are obligated to think in a specific way. The blue hat is the leader hat that will control the discussion and the ground rules (only the facilitator will wear this hat during the entire exercise), the white hat requires pure objectivity and data driven comments, the red hat is our emotions and how we feel about the exercise, the yellow hat is for positive thinking, the black hat is for negative thinking or challenges we encounter during the solution process and the green hat is for innovative thinking or often referred to as “out of the box thinking”.
What follows are a few social conclusions that I have found in this exercise that relates to the teams’ general behaviour.
Physician, heal thyself
I’m not sure about you but I’m better at giving advice than receiving it. My privilege as a trainer and performance coach is to be able to fall back on “do as I say, not as I do”. This is not something I’m particularly proud of and nor is it something I want to admit to those I work with. I console myself, professionally at least, with the fact that my diagnostic skills lie in helping others and not myself. It also can’t be very helpful for anyone with the unenviable task of being my coach.
Recently, however, I was offered some advice and in spite of my habit, I took it. Surprisingly, to me anyway, the shift in awareness it provoked has rippled through my whole life. My own coach is a mindfulness expert and while we don’t spend too much time on this topic she set me a related task. I was to take an everyday activity and be fully in it as I perform it, noticing the sensations provoked by the experience.
Now, I’m not good at doing what I’m told. I will find ingenious ways not to do the homework I’ve been set (the French “devoir” always seemed a much more appropriate name). But over the Christmas break I had little excuse not to do one of the two very simple requests made of me.
To you as a leader it’s Business Transformation. To people at the sharp end of the business it means Change. And many people don’t like the thought of forthcoming change – in fact they fear it, or put another way are change resistant. And many times when the change arrives they suffer a feeling of deep loss – like mourning. So what is the role of the Leadership Coach in a period of business transformation and change?
This week is a big week for me. We are moving house, have said goodbye to builders who have been preparing our new place and are expecting our second child in less than two weeks. All the things you’re told not to do together, we’re doing them.
This has led me to reflect on resilience and leadership. With a heavily pregnant wife much of the heavy lifting (literal and metaphoric) has fallen to me. At times I haven’t held up as robustly as I would like to think I would be able to.
Do you classify jobs by gender? What is your first reaction when you learn that the General Manager of a Regional Marine department is a female?
Leaders and followers training together
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve spent some time working with a regular client. They are an innovative and creative mid-sized company based over three countries.
While the training was very much focused on how they engage with their clients, one thing in particular struck me about what a great company they are. the range of people on the course.
The small group consisted of one person with “Executive” at the end of their job title, who had been in the organisation for ten months, as well as someone with “C” at the beginning of the theirs and who had been there for many years.
While the training wasn’t designed for a specific management level, I was surprised when I learned how senior that one participant was. The training itself was incredibly successful and the dynamics within the group open, free and courageous. The C-level employee told me how she had pushed to get on the course. She was trying to balance her desire to learn and improve while not taking a valuable place on a small and intensive learning experience really aimed at lower levels.