Monday, June 28, 2010

Conflict Can Be Good...

Process issues, roles and responsibilities, organizational direction, external pressures and interpersonal problems all create conflict. While each area may call for different strategies to identify and address the root cause of these conflicts, there are four best practices talent leaders can use to guide effective resolution in the workplace.

Process Conflict: Process conflict commonly arises when two departments, teams or groups interact on a process. They may view the process differently, disagree on how it should be accomplished or point fingers rather than communicating effectively when problems arise. For example, at a global manufacturer of heavy lifting equipment, three shifts were involved in the production of a machine, which often suffered from poor quality or low production rates. No standard process existed to build the machine, and each shift believed its approach was best. If one shift ended before the product was completed, the next group would either send the machine through without completing it - which resulted in poor quality - or take it apart and rebuild it - which slowed production. To identify the root cause of process conflict, examine the process controls in place and how employees interact with them. Get teams or individuals to collaborate to define the process more effectively and establish communication channels to address problems.

Role Conflict: Conflict surrounding roles and responsibilities is especially common during or immediately following organizational change, particularly restructurings. People may be unclear on who is responsible for which decisions and outputs. For example, after an international strategic business consulting firm restructured its managerial staff, an individual who formerly managed two key customer segments was unwilling to relinquish all the responsibility to the new manager. He continued to question staff and issue orders while his replacement was trying to set a new direction. With two managers giving input, employees were stuck in the middle, which created conflict among them as well as between the managers. To identify the root cause of a role conflict, each party needs to examine his or her responsibilities as well as the other person's. One or both may need to change their perception, and then they will need to collaborate to clarify who will handle what.

Directional Conflict: Directional conflict arises when organizations are forced to rethink their strategies and focus on shorter-term activities, as many did during the recent economic downturn. Employees may not know how to prioritize long-term versus short-term needs, or one department may work tactically while another remains strategic. For example, a regional insurance brokerage, representing several prominent insurance providers, was developing a succession plan and selected several managers to be groomed as next-generation leaders. This action resulted in directional conflict because the managers were unclear whether to focus on meeting their short-term goals or on the longer term succession efforts. To identify the root cause of directional conflict, individual employees should ask themselves: What do I believe our direction is or should be? Is that aligned with what others are saying? What are senior managers saying? Answering these questions will enable individuals to change their own direction if necessary and help others change theirs.

External Conflict: External conflict arises when pressures from customers or other stakeholders impact internal decisions. Recent economic challenges compelled organizations to adjust and adapt, for example, by lowering prices while providing enhanced customer service. Sales or customer service personnel advocating for customers' needs may have come into conflict with operations trying to meet internal goals. For example, a health care software company was pushing to bring a new product to market. Sales and customer service employees continued to bring customer input to the programming group, which did its best to incorporate the ideas into the product. As the requests continued to come in, it extended the development process beyond the planned release date. When management finally decided to release the product without further enhancements, additional conflict arose because customers now complained that their input was not incorporated. To identify the root cause of external conflict, ask if anyone internally has the control to resolve the problem. It may be possible to create a can-do list, which may answer questions such as: What can we do to address the external demand? The solution might involve collaboration among several departments to adjust to the external pressures more effectively.

Interpersonal Conflict: Although poor chemistry between individuals can exist, most interpersonal conflict tends to grow from the other four sources of conflict. For instance, when two managers attempt to direct the same department or when employees see external circumstances differently, interpersonal conflict builds. However, at times, genuine interpersonal conflict may exist. For instance, a national business services firm hired a new vice president whom the divisional personnel disliked because they felt he was not as open and direct as his predecessor. This created conflict between the leader and the team, which affected performance. To find the root cause of interpersonal conflict, look for a particular bias or prejudice. Can negative emotions be overcome? An open, direct conversation is always the best way to bring issues out in the open and begin working on a resolution.

There are four key steps to reduce and manage conflict.

1. Align on shared values and direction. Without a sense of commonality of vision and direction, underlying frustration, fear and conflict will fester despite attempts at resolution. Ask questions such as: Are we on the same page? Are we pursuing the same direction?

2. Take personal ownership. No one wants to be wrong. Once people stop assigning blame and responsibility to others, resolution becomes easier.

3. Deal with facts first, emotions second. Identify the problem and root cause of the conflict, and find a way to resolve the issue. With a resolution in place, handle the emotional component. If emotional issues are left unresolved, people won't buy into the solution.

4. Build collaboration. Without this step, people will resume work without interacting. This will renew the conflict. Align groups and departments to prevent future problems. Building trust is at the core of conflict resolution. Lack of trust is also a common reason why conflicts arise in the first place. With mutual trust, problems tend to be resolved quickly without escalating into conflict.

To rebuild lost trust, follow these steps:

1. Set the ego aside. Learn to say: It's not about me; it's about getting the best result. How can I interact with this individual at a human level to resolve the conflict?

2. Review the situation honestly. Ask: What assumptions do I bring to the table, and are those the real facts or just temporary feelings? Is there really an issue, or am I reading too much into the situation? When people are feeling low, tired or emotionally drained, conflicts arise more quickly.

3. Meet with the other party. Candidly explain the situation and how it creates a challenge or conflict. Ask for the other person's perspective. What was he or she trying to accomplish and why? Listen intently to gather information without refuting each statement directly.

4. Reach a decision. Determine whether trust has been broken and needs to be rebuilt or whether there was a simple misunderstanding that can be quickly clarified and resolved.

5. If trust has been broken, begin rebuilding it immediately.

Clearly articulate and share information on why the actions that broke trust were taken. Listen to the other person's perspective and articulate your own based on facts, not personalities. Don't tell the other person what to think, what the problem is and how to fix it. Listen and arrive at a resolution together.

6. Reach an agreement. Once both parties have articulated their perspectives, agree on how to move forward to build trust.

7. Honor agreements. Both parties have to hold up their end of the bargain. Do exactly what was promised or trust will fall to an even lower level. Continue to demonstrate trustworthiness day by day, activity by activity.

People tend to rely on status and position to handle conflicts. Both create mindsets that discourage people from taking personal responsibility for conflicts. However, while people may be unaccustomed to taking ownership of conflict and are uncomfortable about seeking out an opposing party directly, these steps are essential to resolve conflict and build trust.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Trust and Interaction Lead to Speed

How often have you been in a meeting with people where you know that a decision must be made quickly? People at the table have a conversation and a decision is seemingly made; however, when it comes to the execution of that decision, often there is a lack of buy-in and commitment. People rehash conversations and need to go back to get more information. While the need for speed drove the initial decision-making process, something in the discussion was missing. There was an ingredient that did not allow for speed.


More and more organizations are making decisions quickly. Given the challenges of today's marketplace, they have to. So the question becomes, how do individuals and teams operate at the speed that they need? In order to achieve the speed that is needed, there are two conditions that must be met first: trust and interaction.


Trust is critical to operating at the speed needed and still having individuals and teams do their best work. Having a foundation of trust between and among people, functions and groups is crucial. You have to trust that your partners and peers will do what they say they are going to do and follow through on what they have committed to. You have to trust others' motivations and information to be able to move ahead with decisions that need to be made.


The fundamental way to get that trust is through interaction. This means slowing down to speed up and taking the time to really know each other and understand what is important to each other. It is critical that we each know what the other person needs to do his or her best work and what is important to him or her when building a partnership. In order for that to happen, you need to know that your partners know who you are; will listen to you; and will respect you, and they need to know the same about you. Your partners need to feel included and feel safe to say what they need to say to you. It's a foundational building block to generating that trust that leads to enabling speed.


Sometimes organizations or teams try to go directly to speed and miss what is foundational. However, in order to be successful, the underlying foundations of interaction and trust are necessary. You can't skip steps and expect the same results. Without trust through interaction, the team will be wasting time and resources. Trying to go fast without the foundation often means team members have to do things over or they make mistakes because they were afraid to speak up. They might not feel safe to question or challenge what was being said or to present another point of view. Almost every team can go faster and meet the need for speed, but only when built on the foundations of trust and interaction.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"What is competency?”

Definition of a "Competency"

A competency is an underlying characteristic of an individual that is causally related to criterion-referenced effective and/or superior performance in a job or situation.

Underlying characteristics means the competency is a fairly deep and enduring part of a person's personality and can predict behavior in a wide variety of situations and job tasks.

Causally related means that a competency causes or predicts behavior and performance.

Criterion-referenced means that the competency actually predicts who does something well or poorly, as measured on specific criterion or standard.

There are five elements of competency.

  1. Motives-The things a person consistently thinks about or wants and that which causes action. Motives "drive, direct, or select" behavior towards certain actions or goals and away from others.
  2. Traits-Physical characteristics and consistent responses to situations or information.
  3. Self-Concept- A person's attitudes, values, or self-image.
  4. Skill-The ability to perform a certain physical or mental task.  
  5. Knowledge-Information a person has in specific content area.

Types of Competencies in General

  1. Individual competencies - your personal attributes: Flexibility, decisiveness, tenacity, independence, risk taking, personal integrity
  2. Managerial competencies - taking charge of other people: Leadership, empowerment, strategic planning, corporate sensitivity, project management, management control
  3. Analytical competencies - the elements of decision making: Innovation, analytical skills, numerical problem solving, problem solving, practical learning, detail consciousness
  4. Interpersonal competencies - dealing with other people: Communication, impact, persuasiveness, personal awareness, teamwork, openness
  5. Motivational competencies - the things that drive you: Resilience, energy, motivation, achievement orientation, initiative, and quality focus

10 Rules for Listening !!!

Rule #1: Stop Talking!

You can't multi-task speaking and listening. If you're talking, you're not listening. This rule also applies to the talking inside your head. If you're thinking intently about what you want to say, you're not listening to what is being said.
Rule #2: Create a Space

Create a physical space. Focus on reacting and responding to the speaker. Create, too, a space in your mind for what the speaker has to say. Create a space between your thoughts. Think of listening as a form of meditation. Quieten your mind and focus your attention on listening.

Rule #3: Hold Your Judgments

How often we have passionately expressed a gut reaction only to turn around and regret what we said after hearing more of the facts? Allow for a thoughtful pause before reacting, a space in which to ask yourself, "Do I have the whole story?"

Rule #4: Don't Be a Label Reader

People are unique. We tend to create labels like Liberal, Dead Head, Wise Guy, and think we know what's inside. Suddenly, we believe we know everything about someone, but they are not really all alike.
Rule #5: Open Your Mind

While we may not consciously feel the need to be right, we tend to have certain ideas about reality and feel groundless when they're threatened. Groundless now and then isn't a bad thing. Without it we can't break new ground or find common ground; it's okay to be unsure.

Rule #6: Focus

When someone is speaking, focus. If you're paying attention, you'll likely be showing signs of focus – such as making eye contact – without thinking about it at all. Below are some of the ways we show we're listening. Maintain eye contact. In the US, not making eye contact has the connotation of someone untrustworthy. But realize, too, that steady eye contact in some cultures is considered impolite or aggressive. Give non-verbal clues. Nod, lean towards the speaker, take on the general demeanor of someone who is interested. Encourage the speaker to go on. Especially over the phone, hearing no response feels like no one is listening.Don't be a verbal trespasser. A verbal trespasser is one who interrupts or finishes the speaker's sentences. Ask open questions. Open questions encourage the speaker. They elicit a more detailed response than closed questions. "What" and "Why" are usually helpful starts to open questions. Summarize. Summarizing is often helpful, especially if you have had a misunderstanding, are unsure of expectations, or have just reached an agreement. Ensure that everyone is coming away with the same idea.
Rule #7: Visualize

Visualization is a technique that can enhance listening: a picture is worth a thousand words. One way to use visualization is to visualize what you are being told. Some people are more visual than others. If visualization is more a chore than a help, you may not be a visual person. But anything new takes some adjustment and might take a few tries before feeling natural.

Rule #8: Remember Names

The first step in remembering names is deciding that they are important to remember. Listen when you're told about someone prior to introductions. Repeat the names when you are introduced. Make associations to remember names.

Rule #9: Question

Going into a listening situation with questions in your mind will help you remember and, often, put information into the framework of your existing knowledge. Listen to body language and be quick to clarify assumptions if you are unsure or are getting a negative message. Observe. Listen. Ask.

Rule #10: Be Aware

We must be aware of the speaker, aware of verbal and non-verbal cues, and aware of our own listening strengths and challenges. Bonus Rule: Know When To Break the Rules If it's hard to start a conversation and something mindless that engages a connection can bring you together, go for it!

5 + 5 = 5

5+ 5 = 5


By John Di Lemme


I know your thinking... 'Okay, John, 5+5 does not equal 5.'  So, please let me explain.


Let's start with a question. How many times have you heard that you need to have a "long term" goal and be focused for the entire length of that "long term?" In this message, I am going to focus on a 5 year goal and explain how you will know if you are truly on track to achieve your 5 year goal in life.  In the equation, the answer 5 is your five-year goal and the 5+5 is the underlying secret to attaining that goal. 


As I speak with numerous people on a daily basis, I hear their frustration about their goals that they‚ve set and the lack of progress that they have made.  As I say, "A mountain is built one pebble at a time and climbed one step at a time." 


The first "5" in the equation represents the 5 people that you call our friends, associates, etc.  I suggest that you make a list of the 5 people that you associate with on a regular basis, and then take a good look at it to see if they either have goals similar to yours or are progressing towards the achievement of a goal similar to your 5-year goal. A major key to unlock the secret to your future is to be 110% conscious of the fact that you will ultimately become who you associate with. For example, if you have dreams of becoming healthy and wealthy and your associates are overweight smokers that complain about working one-minute overtime, then I can predict the odds of you being healthy and wealthy is slim to none.


Millions of people never attain their dreams, because their "friends" serve as "cement shoes" as they walk towards their goals in life.  As I set my goals, I surround myself with people who are on the same path in life that I am on. If you truly internalize this same mindset, then you can achieve your goals in life. 


The second "5" in the equation is to take a personal inventory of the last 5 books that you have read or cassettes that you have listened to.  Just for fun, the next time one of your friends complains about something... ask them what were the last 5 books that they have read or cassettes they have listened to. You will get one of two answers:  I do not remember or I do not have the time to read.  Your last 5 books that you read will determine where your focus or direction is in life. The average person reads 1 book a year after high school, which is the #1 reason why 95% of people are "dead broke at age 65." Even the greatest computer in the world needs to be programmed in order to perform its functions. 


We are all designed for greatness, but we need to be conscious of our associations and what we are reading or listening to on a daily basis will decide the level of greatness that we all reach. Decide today to focus on your 5 year goal and realize that your 5 friends and the 5 books/tapes that you listen to will determine if you hit your goal or not. Success is simple, but not easy because it takes the ability to grow, stretch, search and learn to enjoy everyday as you progress towards your 5-year goal. 

5 + 5 = 5... give it a try and let me know if it works for you. 

I can actually predict your results: 5 + 5 = your dream.

A Short Course In Human Relations !!!

A Short Course In Human Relations


The six most important words:

I admit I made a mistake

The five most important words:

You did a good job

The four most important words:

What is your opinion?

The three most important words:

If you please…

The two most important words:

Thank you

The one most important word:


The least important word:



Identifying High Performers

Here are five of the top characteristics to consider when identifying high performers:
a) Gets results;
b) Influences others;
c) Displays leadership;
d) Seeks continuous learning; and
e) Demonstrates functional competency.
1. Gets Results
A history of delivering quality results across a period of time, different business conditions or complex situations is a good indicator of the potential to deliver future results. The current results are important as they are relevant to the current responsibility and business situation.
However, there are other aspects to consider. The individual's role in delivering the results is critical. It is possible to take over a well run business and post record results on the coattails of the previous business owner.
As a matter of fact it is common, as high-performers are often promoted based on their performance. Therefore, consistency of performance is a more valid indicator of an individual's ability to drive a business.
In addition, the consistency of performance over time is more predictive of future performance. This is particularly important when recruiting as a new employer is interested in what they can do in the future rather than what they did in the past.
2. Influence Others
High performing organizations are collaborative by nature. Even the most talented individual contributor needs to be able to communicate with others and build relationships or partnerships throughout the organization.
Moreover, this characteristic is increasingly important as workforces globalize. Demonstrated ability to communicate with internal and external groups is a skill set that high performers possess. More important is the higher-level ability to influence others.
High performing employees have cross-functional relationships and can communicate clearly and concisely to a wide audience of peers and subordinates in the organization. They typically make persuasive presentations and arguments for their ideas and as a result make a larger impact on the organization.
3. Displays Leadership
Following the rules is an important aspect of success, but leading people and developing leaders is critical to the future of an organization, particularly in times of transition or challenges to the business. Most people can follow, but not everyone can lead.
High performers typically balance the need to follow and execute with the ability to lead people and projects. Typically, organizations recognize high performers by giving them responsibility for key projects or business sectors. Their performance creates opportunity for growth and their ability to guide teams through complex situations helps build other leaders.
Therefore, the wake behind a high performer is not just results, but also other leaders within the organization and an increasing scope of responsibility.
4. Seeks Continuous Learning
A personal commitment to learning is paramount to performance. Even the best training and development program cannot improve the performance of an individual who is not committed to taking responsibility for his or her own development.
High-performing individuals seek out learning, formal or informal to hone their skills and stay on top of the latest trends and industry ideas. A simple question of how an individual stays on top of changes in the industry gives valuable insight as to their desire to be the best. Without the desire to learn, knowledge, skills and ability atrophy.
Most high performers are inquisitive and interested in innovation. Their careers demonstrate an ability to learn complex information and apply it to their role. The Internet and distance learning has become an important augmentation to corporate development.
If there isn't a commitment to learn, the level of performance will deteriorate and a high level of performance will not be maintained.
5. Demonstrate Functional Competency
Experienced individuals bring specific knowledge, skills and abilities to the table. A high level of technical competency is critical to the success of all positions; however, high performers typically have well-developed skills specific to their role and have a greater ability to apply those skills to achieve quality outcomes.
Poor performers may not be incompetent; however, their ability to apply their skills consistently or across varying situations is limited in comparison.
As important as functional competency is to overall performance, without proficiency in the other four characteristics -- the ability to get results, influence others, lead people and continuously learn -- an individual's contribution will be limited.
Identifying high performers is essential to every organization as these individuals are the backbone of the business, driving results and helping build the future of the organization.