Guidelines for Managing Conflict Successfully

Six key guidelines to manage conflict effectively

When dealing with a conflict you want to manage it effectively.  Conflicts are difficult to resolve as resolutions are rarely reached which everyone is happy with.  A conflict that is well-managed provides the basis for an approach that everyone will accept, commit to and action. Remember, you want to achieve the best outcomes possible whilst preserving and building on your existing relationships.

There are six things to do:

  • Focus on the position, not the person – you want to focus on what the underlying problem is.  Often the other person is not just being difficult, but has real and valid reasons for their position.  Focus on their position and reasons, don’t focus on the person – it makes the disagreement personal and adversarial, and brings people’s emotions into play.
  • Seek first to understand before you are understood – focus on where the other person is coming from. Try to understand their thoughts, feelings and position.  Once you have understood this, and have checked that your understanding is correct, then you are better positioned to explain your position and to do so from their context,
  • Relationships are your first priority – you need to build mutual understanding and trust.  A good relationship is a necessary precursor for a good outcome. If you lack this then you will not achieve a good relationship or a good outcome.
  • Listen – you need to listen actively  to what the other person is saying, checking for understanding, clarifying where necessary, and ensuring that what is said is what was heard, and that what was heard was what was meant.
  • Jointly establish the objective – what do you both want to achieve from the conflict? Doing this will allow you to scope out the extent of your conversation, to determine what factors are important and relevant, to help prioritize your goals, and to focus and align your efforts.
  • Develop and explore options together – either or both of your preferred choices may not be suitable, or can be improved upon.  Creating new options opens up the conversation and stimulates your collective thinking in finding a ‘best-fit’ alternative on which to agree.

By following these rules, you contentious discussions can be kept positive and constructive, and antagonism and dislike which can exacerbate the conflict can be prevented.

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Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How to Use Frames to Control Conversations

Frames are a powerful tool that allows you to define how a situation, event or occurrence can be viewed.  If you set the frame, you control the conversation; if you control the conversation, you can control the relationship; and if you control the relationship, you control the business opportunity.

A framework in the same way as the frame around a picture.  A good picture frame draws you into the picture so you can focus on it, and enhances the picture, without being apparent itself.

  1. Provides focus – so you are able to focus your clients, via your use and control of language, on what you see to be as the pith of the matter
  2. Reduces mental clutter – make it easier to identify what you need to focus on
  3. Helps to gain agreement
  4. Accelerates movement and progress
  5. Provides control

Inside of the frame is what is important, what is outside is what is not important as shown in the picture below.

Framing

Framing a Situation

For example, you may be behind budget by $20m.  You could frame this in a couple of different ways, and how you frame it will affect and determine how you perceive and act on this.

  • Frame 1 – As a Problem: We have a target of $200m for the year and we are currently behind by $20m. We should have made $150m by this point in the year, but we have only made $130m. This means that we now have to make $70m before the year end.  We need to work harder to get more deals in.
  • Frame 2 – As an Opportunity: We are working hard and well in a difficult market. We are $20m shy of where we currently want to be and need to make $70m by the year-end.  How can we leverage what we have already done?  How can we work with other areas to help them and us accelerate the time it takes to do deals and increase the average deal size?

You can see in the second frame provides a positive, optimistic and creative context from which to drive the conversation and generate innovative ideas and actions. This helps to inspire and motivate people.  The first frame is negative, pessimistic and looks at doing more of the same (which isn’t working well as they are behind budget). This is more judgmental and is likely to lower morale.

Think how you can frame things to engage and include others in what you are trying to do and to share this technique with your people, in turn, A powerful frame can help to shape the perception, interpretation and how people engage with the situation, occurrence or event.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

What to Do Before You Start Making Decisions

What you need to do before you start the decision-making process

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Decisions Before You DecideWe make decisions every day; small ones, big ones, unusual ones, specific or general and those which have become a force of habit.  We get so involved in the decision itself that we become blind to the key dimensions that surround it. So what are they, why are they important and how can we use them to help us make better and more effective decisions?

The Four Key Dimensions

There are four key dimensions which need to be considered when making a decision.  This includes:

  1. Composition: Who should be involved in the decision-making process?  You need to make sure you have the right people, with the right information, who can contribute and develop the necessary decision.4 Dimensions of Decision-Making
  2. Context: In what type of environment does the decision take place?  Is it an open environment that fosters open, constructive dialogue?  Or a closed environment in which personal interests supersedes those of the group?
  3. Communication: What are the “means of dialogue” among the participants?  Does it involve considerable direct discussion with those with relevant knowledge and expertise, or is it ‘filtered’ through reports from senior people in the hierarchy?  Are there face-to-face meetings or is it via phone, email, reports etcetera?
  4. Control: How will the leader control the process and the content of the decision?
  • Control of the Process how do you want to shape the way that the deliberations are undertaken and followed;
  • Control of the Content how much do you want to control the outcome of the decision

This last factor- Control – is the hardest, and has the greatest impact on the decision.

A Balanced Approach

A balance between control of the process and control of the content is required.  Too little or too much control of the process and/or the content will result in sub-optimal decisions.  Some of the impacts of low or high levels of control on the process or content are shown below.

Impact of the Level of Control of Content & Process in Decision-Making

 Decisions and Control

So how can we achieve a balance in controlling both the process and content of a decision?  There are three steps:

 3 Steps for a Balanced Approach

1.      Be Clear on the Decision

Are you clear on what the decision is that you are making is?   For example, you are looking at how to improve your retention of key customers.  This is not a decision; this is a problem that needs to be solved.  Be careful not to confuse decisions with problems.

2.      Know What Objectives & Outcomes You Want to Achieve

Have a clear understanding of where you want to be as a result of the decision you have made.  Knowing this will help you understand what expertise and information you need, from whom you need to get it, and the people who should be involved.

3.      Have Checks & Counter-Balances

You will find that you and others involved in the decision-making process will fall into common decision-making traps or errors of judgement.  Understanding them, and how to avoid them will provide you with the means to check your collective thoughts, ideas and insights and reduce the likelihood of your decision being subverted.

Use this as a checklist – make sure you address the four dimensions: Composition, Context, Communication and Control – and build the means for better decisions.  Will you share this with your colleagues and those who participate in your decision-making processes?

It’s your decision.

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