Posted by: Rael Kalley | May 6, 2017

404. Develop Explorers.

To my readers: On Wednesday, May 10, 2017 my two weekly blogs will be moving to strategicpathways.net/blog/ and will no longer be available through the present email subscriptions. Please visit strategicpathways.net/blog/ and subscribe in order to keep receiving my blogs.

Please note: My apologies, we have had several unexpected glitches with this transition and many readers have experienced difficulty in subscribe to the new site. 

Please be patient, the issues will all be resolved shortly.

Thank you.  

 

Last week we began exploring the performance concept of Explorers in the workplace -folks who come to work each day energized and excited at the prospect of being part of something worthwhile and meaningful.

And we included Discretionary Effort – the essential secret sauce needed by all companies that desire greatness as their destiny – in the discussion.

Companies need Explorers to ignite enthusiasm and blaze pathways to new heights. Explorers are also the practitioners of Discretionary Effort.

Discretionary Effort is created by design – it doesn’t just happen – and experience has led me to believe that the probability of expansive discretionary effort, and therefore a correspondingly high proportion of Explorers are developed through a breeding ground that is comprised of the following:

Tier 1: A great manager and great work. If it is true that people don’t leave companies they leave managers, then it follows that people will stay at companies where they hold their managers in high esteem.

This means their managers have earned their respect, their liking and their approval which comprises at least 50% of employee’s desire and willingness to embrace discretionary effort.

The other half belongs to the degree in which employees find meaningfulness and fulfilment in their work.

The most recent studies on human motivation reveal meaningfulness and the self-satisfaction caused by fulfilment are more energizing and motivating than material rewards like cash or other material awards.

In other words, if you are the type of manager who understands that your job – and your behaviour – is to create an environment in which people feel welcomed, valued, respected and appreciated, you are contributing mightily to the likelihood of Discretionary Effort becoming a cultural norm within your group or department.

If, in addition, you do everything in your power to enable your direct reports to view what they do as being meaningful and to provide them with a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment, then almost certainly you will reap the benefits that Discretionary Effort brings and your direct reports will come to work each day because they truly want to and not because they really need to.

Probability of developing Explorers and encouraging Discretionary Effort? Extremely high. 

Tier 2: A great manager with not so great work: It has long been said that great managers bring out the best in their people and that it is extremely difficult for an employee to consistently deliver superlative performance when under the supervision of a poor manager.

If your management skills and your commitment to employee excellence are at their peak and yet the work is generally rather uninspiring, your style, and the degree to which your employees like, trust and respect you will play a huge role in nudging them to become Explorers and to willingly go above and beyond the expected norms.

Probability of developing Explorers and encouraging Discretionary Effort? Strong. 

Tier 3: Poor manager with great work. Employees view their work responsibilities as being deeply meaningful and serving to fulfil their needs for personal growth and job satisfaction, however they view supervisors with disdain and distrust and work hard minimizing contact with management.

Probability of developing Explorers and encouraging Discretionary Effort? Slim.

Tier 4: Poor manager and poor work. Employees can’t decide whether they have less regard for the work or for the managers. Regardless of the final decision, they attain no satisfaction from either.

Probability of developing Explorers and encouraging Discretionary Effort?  Fat chance.

Clearly, if great managers and great work produce high numbers of Explorers, then training greatness into managers ought to become a top corporate priority?

Great managers can also promote great work by the messaging they deliver and the enthusiasm they portray.

If it is true, as the famed economist Milton Friedman once said, companies exist solely for the purpose of earning money for the owners, then it is incumbent upon executives to do everything in their power to produce great managers.

And one of the fastest and most effective ways of achieving this is by hiring great coaches.

Enough said.

Till we read again.

Posted by: Rael Kalley | April 29, 2017

403. Replace gold with platinum.

To my readers: On Wednesday, May 10, 2017 my two weekly blogs will be moving to strategicpathways.net/blog/ and will no longer be available through the present email subscriptions. Please visit strategicpathways.net/blog/ and subscribe in order to keep receiving my blogs.

Thank you.

Please tell me how I can create more Explorers??!!  This was the tag-line in an email I received from Andrea in response to last week’s blog.

If you remember, last week we talked about the three types of people who arrive for work each day: Prisoners who view work as serving a sentence and spend much of their time discussing their plight; Vacationers who are here to have a good time and will only do as much as is necessary to avoid drawing negative attention to themselves and Explorers who come to work each day energized and excited at the prospect of being part of something worthwhile and meaningful.

Andrea’s question is one that needs to be asked by executives at all companies.

What is so interesting to me is when I ask leaders which type of employees they would like to see arriving at work each day, they emphatically say Explorers. Yet few realize Explorers are created by design and not by default.

Grand organizations can never be built without fostering a culture that enables wide-ranging discretionary effort among employees.

Discretionary effort is defined as: being above and beyond performance delivered by employees with no expectation of reward or recognition, and without fear of reprisal for not doing so, and is performed purely because employees want to do so.

And discretionary effort is almost always the sole domain of the Explorer.

So how do we create more of them?

There is no precise model for producing Explorers, however we do know that all employees show up for work on their very first day as Explorers.

Over time those same Explorers who evolve into Vacationers and Prisoners do so because somehow the culture in which they find themselves causes their initial enthusiasm to slowly diminish.

Managers have long been taught to practice the Golden Rule in dealing with their staff. You know the one – “ treat others as you wish to be treated.

Sadly, but predictably, the Golden Rule has proven to be ineffective for it presupposes that we all want the same things, however experience has taught us how inaccurate and misdirected that presumption is.

The Platinum Rule has replaced the Golden Rule as it gets at the heart of the truth – treat others as they wish to be treated.

I have conducted hundreds of interviews with those who consistently demonstrate Discretionary Effort with the sole intention of learning what drives them to always go above and beyond.

Their answers have confirmed that discretionary effort is not the result of one thing, but of many.

And yet within all the many and diverse sources of Discretionary Effort lies a common theme – the Platinum Rule.

Person after person confirmed to me that the enthusiasm and passion that inspired them to regularly deliver above and beyond results was driven by the way in which they felt valued, appreciated, respected and encouraged to do work that is fulfilling to them.

And that can only come about when the Platinum Rule is practised as intended.

The Platinum Rule is part of a consciously and deliberately constructed culture that wise managers recognize as being nonnegotiable and essential if they truly aspire to attain stellar performance.

Now, imagine if you will, where your organization would be if your teams delivered discretionary effort in everything they do.

What I do every day in my role as a Habits Coach and Culture Consultant is share and help implement the proven formula necessary to design and instill a sustainable organizational culture that creates the very environment in which Discretionary Effort not only grows, but thrives.

Be sure to drop in next week when we discuss the four tiers of Discretionary Effort.

Till we read again.

To my readers: On Wednesday, May 10, 2017 my two weekly blogs will be moving to strategicpathways.net/blog/ and will no longer be available through the present email subscriptions. Please visit strategicpathways.net/blog/ and subscribe in order to keep receiving my blogs.

Thank you.

We have spent much time talking about the affect culture has on corporate identity and on the degree to which people and organizations go about their work.

I have long believed that people go to work either willingly or grudgingly.

Those who go willingly, do so because they genuinely want to be there, feel engaged and committed to the organization, find their work to be fulfilling and often find themselves feeling excited and challenged by what they are doing.

Those who come to work grudgingly tend to follow what I call The Maximum/Minimum Rule.

This rule states that the maximum productivity delivered by grudging employees is the minimum required to avoid drawing negative attention to themselves.

What is interesting to observe that both willing and grudging employees are the product of how they interpret, and feel impacted by, the culture in their workplace.

There are no disgruntled employees on day one of the new job. When a new employee reports to work on their first day they do so with an abundance of willingness.

And the culture in which they find themselves will determine whether they remain willing employees or whether, over time, they become grudging ones.

It has long been said that there are three types of people to report for work each day.

The first group are Explorers. Explorers are generally open minded folks who may not always agree with you but are more than willing to listen to what you have to say. They are adventurous and energetic and exude a high level of commitment and enthusiasm to the task at hand.

Each day is an adventure and they come to work with the excited expectation of completing as much as they can and enjoying every moment.

The second group are Vacationers. To them work is a pleasant escape from the tedium of life’s responsibilities. It is a place where they displace as little energy as possible, perhaps boost their social careers and are devoted followers of The Maximum/Minimum Rule.

The third group are Prisoners These folks conduct themselves as if they had appeared before a judge and had been sentenced to work in their present jobs.

They spend as much time as possible complaining and criticizing while doing their very best to recruit others to their cause. They can point out, with great precision, everything that is wrong with the organization and rarely are able to accept anything as being good.

They feel trapped, are disengaged and go about their business with all the enthusiasm of a wet blanket.

And just like grudging employees, there are no vacationers and prisoners on the first day of a new job.

Almost without exception, people arriving at work for the first time are filled with a mix of excitement and nervousness. They are generally eager to make a good impression and determined to be successful.

They are keen to learn, open to new ideas and excited about the new opportunity.

In other words, almost everyone arrives on day one as an Explorer.

And they become enmeshed in the prevailing culture. Culture – how we do things around here, what’s normal and acceptable around here – is the very foundation upon which all else is based.

Explorers remain Explorers when their interpretation of the culture supports and encourages them to do so. Vacationers become Vacationers and Prisoners become Prisoners over time – sometimes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years – when the culture does not support their expectations of what an Explorer sustaining workplace should be.

It has long been said that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Experience however has taught me that people, in fact, leave cultures, and cultures are the product of acceptable behaviours modelled and allowed by those in authority.

Preferred workplaces are those with preferred cultures. And culture comes about either by default or by design.

I have guided many companies in how to design, install and sustain cultures that develop and retain Explorers.

A company filled with Explorers is a company well on its way to greatness, and you can take that to the bank.

Till we read again.

Posted by: Rael Kalley | April 15, 2017

401. When cultures collide.

 

Much of our recent discussion time has been devoted to organizational culture.

We have talked about culture being the very foundation upon which all else is built and how, what we referred to as culture in organizations, we also know as habits in our personal lives.

The recent downturn in our provincial economy driven by the collapse in worldwide energy prices has brought about a high number of mergers and acquisitions within the industry.

These linkings of two or more companies have caused a high casualty list of lost jobs which have impacted tens of thousands of peoples lives and generated much talk and editorializing in the media.

And yet not much has been written of one of the toughest challenges facing those fortunate enough to retain their jobs when their companies merge with others – the stress and challenges of trying to integrate and unify what are often very different cultures.

We have long defined culture as this is how we do things around here, or this is what’s normal and acceptable around here. However, the reality is what’s normal in one organization is absolutely unacceptable in another and a merger can bring about near unbearable challenges for those trying to assimilate highly diverse organizations.

In the case of an acquisition, the presumption is that the culture of the acquiring organization will prevail much like a war in which the victors dictate the terms for all to follow.

While this may seem like a sound strategy, deeply ingrained and entrenched culture does not easily yield to new influence in most corporations. History is filled with many acquisitions delivering disappointing results, and, in fact, never realizing the hoped-for expectations,  principally because the focus is most usually on integrating systems, realizing efficiencies and streamlining strategies without much thought given to the inevitable sabotage that can arise when cultures collide.  Efficient systems may be a benefit of a stellar organizational culture, but should not be the leading indicator.

An equally challenging environment is often created within organizations when, with all good intention, the decision is made to change the culture within one group, department or division without including the rest of the organization.

My work life as a consultant has provided me with front row seating in both companies going through a merger or acquisition and organizations attempting divisional or departmental cultural change and rarely have I seen this reach a successful conclusion without a significant human toll.

One of the many challenges facing those charged with the responsibility of integrating conflicting cultures or changing existing ones is that these tasks are frequently assigned to those who lack both the seniority and authority to influence and sustain change.

These hapless folks are frequently left with the task of trying to explain to those willing to support and adopt cultural change why compliance is seemingly optional for those unwilling to do so.

Change generally does not move in an upwards direction. Successful change almost always flows downwards and requires following very specific guidelines and practices to be both accepted in the short-term and sustainable in the long-term.

Arguably the task of uniting two conflicting cultures is easier following a merger or acquisition than attempting to change culture within a department or division without first aligning with the organizational model.

There are many cases where this has been accomplished successfully and, unfortunately many more, where the attempts at cultural change are frustratingly abandoned.

Recent events aboard several United Airlines flights, and the abysmal early effort by the CEO to explain and justify indefensible behaviours, speaks to the power of culture within organizations. The actions and words of CEOs shine a powerful light on the organizational culture until and unless those at the very top of the house are willing to lead and champion cultural change, it is just wishful thinking on the part of those who strongly desire it.

I have spent years studying how cultures develop and evolve, the impact they have on performance and how best to introduce a new and sustainable culture with a high likelihood of success. And the critical common denominator is this: if you don’t get culture right it is very difficult to get anything else right.

Which organization is more likely to prosper: One which provides an environment where employees cant wait to get to work at the start of the day or one where employees can’t wait to leave at the end of the day?

Till we read again.

Posted by: Rael Kalley | April 8, 2017

400. Habits: we either choose them or they choose us.

In my day job as a Habits Coach,  experience has taught me that the pathway to success is easily achieved: honing the right skills over time, then repeatedly and consistently doing those things that bring about the best results.

In my second job as a consultant in the corporate world, experience has taught me that the pathway to success is defined by the culture organizations have designed by intentionally and consistently ensuring that the performance and behavioural requirements required to become, and remain successful, are the norms within their organizations.

Results in our both our personal lives and the corporate world are produced by doing the same things over and over. If this bears truth, then it is self-evident that changes can never be brought about by doing those the same things, and therefore new things must be decided upon and then repeated vigorously in order for change to occur and, indeed, to last.

The challenge I have witnessed repeatedly in both individual and corporate attempts to initiate change is always the same: the reluctance to relinquish the status quo.

The data on the human ability to implement and sustain long-term change are truly disheartening. We have become so habituated by our present behaviours that substituting new ones in their place is a long-term challenge few of us will live up to.

In other words, we have taught ourselves how to become comfortable within our own discomfort. The irony is as much as we wish for different results, we are extremely loath to give up the very behaviours that constantly bring us discomfort.

The difficulty in adopting new habits helps us understand why giving up the old ones is as challenging as it is.

The old saying that “old habits die hard” is just plain wrong. Old habits never die, they simply shrink and fade into the deep and dark recesses of our minds where they patiently wait for an opportunity to pounce and re-establish themselves as our behavioural norms.

Changing corporate culture requires an unwavering commitment from the CEO and all members of the executive team. Indeed, they must, at all times, be seen to be both championing and modelling the very behaviours they wish to see spread throughout their organization.

Deviation by even one member of the executive team can sabotage the efforts of all the others which is, I believe, how the myth that changing corporate culture is a lengthy and tedious process was born.

While culture cannot be changed overnight, a new culture can be established very quickly when certain essential guidelines are adopted.

The process may not be painless, but culture is the very foundation upon which all successful organizations are built.

As Peter Drucker said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” which is why it is as important as it is for management to get things right in their organizations, their first challenge is always to model the culture upon which all the “right things” will be built.

For the most part the words culture and habits are interchangeable. Both come about either by design or by default and, as many of us have learned, habits acquired by default seldom guide us to where we want to go.

Selecting and implementing habits and culture that we purposefully design ourselves by our always gives us the greatest opportunity for success.

Let’s get started now.

Till we read again.

Posted by: Rael Kalley | April 1, 2017

399. Service first, always!

The restaurant business is an extremely competitive one.

And there is no shortage of them.

Recently, on a whim, I decided to do a count of restaurants close by my office. In a three-block radius I counted more than 50 of them, some of which have been in business than more three decades.

And yet the data tells us that few industries have a failure rate higher than the restaurant industry. In fact, fewer than one in five restaurants remain in business for five years with the original owners at the helm.

So why is it that some restaurants seem able to stay in business for many years, surviving in tough times and prospering in good, while the majority either change hands repeatedly or simply fade away?

Certainly competitive pricing, consistently good food quality and satisfactory portion sizes play a role in the ongoing success of a restaurant but, I believe there is one other factor that plays a critical role in bringing people back, particularly in a type of restaurant where the food quality differs little from that of their competitors.

For many years Friday night’s have served as date night for my wife Gimalle and me. With rare exceptions, we end the work week by having dinner at a restaurant and our weekly choice of restaurant is usually predicated our desire at the time – “I feel like Chinese//Vietnamese/Indian/Korean/Italian/Greek/sushi/steak/seafood/buffet.”

Once that decision is made the choice of restaurant comes next. In twenty-one years we have visited many restaurants and have never allowed one bad experience to prevent us from going back again. Consistency is the hallmark of success in the restaurant business and all businesses have “bad days” from time to time.

And yet there is one other factor that plays a strong role in whether you become repeat customers at a restaurant.

My palate is not discerning enough to allow me to clearly distinguish similar dishes in different restaurants. For that reason, I do not have a favourite Chinese, Vietnamese or sushi restaurant as they all seem to have my favourite items on the menu.

However, there is one thing that makes our decision each Friday much easier. Once we select the type of meal we would like to have we invariably return to the ones where we have received the best and friendliest service.

And it is the service we have experienced during past visits – the commitment to quality and engagement practices of the staff – that play the greatest role in determining whether there will be a future visit.

Last night we returned to one of our favourites. We both were in the mood for a simple meal and once we had decided on what we wanted to eat, there was no discussion needed as to where we would go.

Our experience was a delightful one as the staff were friendly, attentive but not intrusive, and did all they could to ensure our experience was a good one.  However, you should know this was not always the case.  In fact, we stopped going to this restaurant because of the unfriendly demeanour of the staff.  While the service was efficient – order taken, food delivered to table, check plopped on table – the staff were all very unfriendly.  Dining at this restaurant always felt like a business transaction, not an enjoyable experience.

But something changed, and the last three times we dined at this restaurant, the server was friendly and even remembered what we ordered on the last two visits (did I mention we are both creatures of habit!).

Lesson for business owners: it costs you nothing to train your staff to be friendly with customers.  Which, if I may, includes removing the words, Not a problem”, when a customer say’s thank you for something.  Never take for granted that high quality service translates into high-quality customer experience which, in turn, drives repeat business.

We have all experienced poor customer service in our visits to different businesses or in our telephone interactions with certain companies.

An old maxim tells us that when we receive exceptional service we may share our experience with up to 10 friends and colleagues but, when we receive terrible service that number grows to more than 250.

I am a huge believer in the practice of under-promising and over-delivering. The cost of doing this is zero whereas the costs of poor service is the risk of lost customers who have friends they will share their experiences with.

The restaurant we visited last night has been in business for 10 years and if they continue to offer great service, I believe they will be business for many more.

Another perfect example of how our habits – our culture – will always either make us or break us.

Till we read again.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Rael Kalley | March 25, 2017

398. If it worked for IBM …

In 1993, IBM was a company teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. The once mighty technology giant had lost its way and, to many, its survival was in doubt.

In a last-ditch attempt to breathe life back into the moribund organization, the Board of Directors brought Lou Gerstner in as chairman and CEO.

Today he is widely credited as being the man who saved IBM.

He has often spoken of the role that culture plays in an organization. He said, “The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything. It took me to age fifty-five to figure that out. I always viewed culture as one of those things you talked about, like marketing and advertising. It was one of the tools that a manager had at his or her disposal when you think about an enterprise.

Culture is the foundation upon which organizations are built and getting the culture right is increasingly becoming the focus of enlightened CEOs and executives.

So, what is culture? Culture simply means this is how we do things around here. It defines what is acceptable and acknowledges what we repeatedly do.

For decades starched white shirts were the IBM cultural norm.

Culture exists not only in organizations but in our personal lives as well. For example, the cultural norm in some families may be to gather around the table and eat dinner each day together.  In other families, it is normal to eat dinner in the den while watching TV and in other families, dinner is something that is eaten in out of a Tupperware container on the way to soccer practice.

What we frequently refer to as habits in our home and personal lives is essentially culture in the workplace.

The more time I spend coaching clients in the corporate world, the more I am convinced that Lou Gerstner’s comment about culture being everything is bang on.

I have repeatedly witnessed months of intricate planning and brilliant strategies failing to produce the expected results for the simple reason that the prevailing organizational culture does not support the required behaviours necessary for the strategies to succeed.

I have also witnessed critical initiatives being openly sabotaged by a culture that was change-resistant and closed to new possibilities.

The undeniable truth about organizational culture is that it cannot be mandated, it can only be modelled. If those responsible for setting the culture in an organization do not epitomize every aspect of the culture, inevitably a series of separate cultures take form at different levels throughout the group potentially undermining the goals of the organization.

Culture is always either established by intent or by default. Trust me, you do not want to work in a culture of default. Intent is not only the better option, it should be the only option!

A recent news story about culture caught my attention. In my hometown of Calgary, our local police service has recently received much public criticism from whistleblowers who have come forward to report a culture of on-going bullying and harassment.

One of the local TV stations sought an opinion from an expert on this matter; what she said shocked me. She explained to the reporter that there is no quick solution to the problem facing the police service as “this culture has existed for many years and it will take many more years for it to change.”

My corporate work is almost exclusively centred around guiding clients to develop and implement new cultural norms within companies. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly culture changes when specific behaviours are both modelled and championed by those at the top of the house.

And the new culture remains only as long as those very people continue to model it.

If your organization appears to be floundering, staid or dormant, I can almost guarantee the solution will not be found by implementing a new business process and practice, but in evolving your existing culture.

Culture change is not for the faint of heart or those who are not prepared to do the work.   However, as IBM demonstrated it is not only doable, it is essential if you want your organization to survive and thrive.

And doesn’t every organization wants to survive and thrive?

Till we read again.

Posted by: Rael Kalley | March 18, 2017

397. Just pretend.

For a long time we have been told the idea of acting “as if” we have achieved the goals we desire is a sure way of propelling us to the results we want in an accelerated way.

Another way of putting this is to say that if we truly modelled the behaviours we would display if we had achieved our goals, we will reach them much faster.

Cory is a long-time client and he swears the idea of “faking it until you become it” has enabled him to completely re-sculpt all areas of his life in less than three years.

Cory was referred to me as a coaching client and when we first met he described himself as an “uninspired, frustrated, out of shape guy in a dead-end job.”

He further explained that he was seemingly unable to take charge of his life and to manage those things that were causing him the greatest stress and frustration.

He had tried repeatedly to quit smoking but was still going through a pack each day. At 33 he was 45 pounds heavier than he had been at 23 and while he strongly believed he needed to upgrade his education to further his career, he lacked the desire to “spend my evenings in a classroom when all I really want to do is lie on the couch and veg out.”

He had joined a gym two years prior and had not gone back after his third visit.

He was ready to change.

Several months went by and Cory appeared to be making some progress but he felt he was taking one step back for each two steps forward and was not sure if he wanted to continue working with me.

We spent some time talking about the notion of faking it until you make it and something caught fire inside Cory.

I remember watching him disappearing inside his own head as he sat across from me imagining how great his life would be once he achieved everything he had ever wanted and I saw facial expressions I had not seen before.

Cory adopted the idea of faking it until you become it into everything he did. He went back to the gym and every time he was there put himself in the mindset of having and enjoying the state of health, body and energy he had long wished for. He quickly discovered that by working out from that approach he was able to push himself further and faster than he ever had before.

He did the same with each meal he ate and the moment he started telling himself, and acting like, he was a non-smoker was the moment he became one.

He learned how to fill himself with enthusiasm and excitement at the thought of going to school after work. He has now completed an apprenticeship and is well on his way to the career of his dreams.

Cory is a self-described introvert who had always struggled to meet new people, make new friends and build new relationships.

He decided to embrace the same concept in meeting new people and has just celebrated the first anniversary of his relationship with his new girlfriend – his first since his marriage ended seven years ago.

Cory has found that every facet of his life has benefitted be faking it until he becomes it. His perspective has shifted to the point where he now, with certainty, will attempt things he never thought himself capable of before.

And as he proudly pointed out, he doesn’t have to fake it anymore. He is it.

And there is nothing fake about that.

Till we read again.

My wife Gimalle and I were out recently when she ran into a former colleague. They had not seen each other in more than 14 years and the conversation lasted around 20 minutes.

In that time her former colleague informed us of the direction life had taken her, the status of her last two jobs, her travel adventures and her relationship with her most recent and present husband.

At no time, not even for a nanosecond, did she ask Gimalle a single question about what the last 14 years have brought into her life.

She spent the entire 20 minutes talking about herself.

And we have noticed this to be a common trait among so many people we encounter. Their conversation always centres around themselves and we have often wondered if the reason for this is because they believe their lives to be of such fascinating interest to others or simply because they just do not know how to engage others in everyday conversation.

Many years ago, while attending a communication workshop in Vancouver, the speaker informed us that for many people their most favourite topic of discussion is themselves and that if you want to be regarded as a riveting conversationalist, the easiest way to achieve this is by asking people questions about themselves.

Gimalle and I have made it somewhat of a study to notice how many people we engage with whose primary topic of discussion is themselves and whether they engage others by asking questions about them.

And the conclusion we have reached, based purely on our observation, is that they are blissfully unaware the entire conversation is about themselves.

This is not to say that many people’s lives are not filled with captivating stories, it is just that they seem oblivious to the fact most of their conversations are in fact monologues, not dialogues.

And they run the risk, over time, of people purposely avoiding them so as to spend as little time as possible in their company.

If building relationships is important then we need to remember the basis of conversation is two or more people interacting.  Think of a tennis match and as a spectator you are watching the tennis ball going back and forth between the players .

There is a monumental difference between being interesting and being interested. One enables you to share your story with others while the other helps you build relationships.

In other words, if we want to be viewed as purveyors of good conversation, we should ensure the light does not always shine on us, and become skilled at redirecting it to others and listening carefully to what they tell us.

I can’t say I have mastered this skill but I am certainly better than I was thanks to the many gentle jabs I have experienced at the hands of Gimalle when she reminds me to turn the topic away from me.

My grade one teacher, Mrs. Markham, had a favourite saying: She constantly reminded us that there is a reason why we have two ears yet only one mouth.

Back then those sage words were far beyond my level of comprehension, but today, they make perfect sense.

General Schwarzkopf, the ultra-masculine US military legend believed, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Do you think he knew Mrs. Markham?

Till we read again.

Posted by: Rael Kalley | March 4, 2017

395. First, seek resolution.

How do you deal with conflict?

One of the truths about life, regardless of whether it is in our personal environments, workplace or elsewhere, is that conflict will occur. How you manage the conflict will determine whether it was a gift or not.

While few of us actively go out seeking conflict, and many of us endeavour to avoid it, the possibility of conflict showing up is ever present.

I was reminded of this several times in the past few weeks starting with an innocuous incident in a restaurant two weeks ago.

I was having lunch at a sushi restaurant with a friend when the person at the next table angrily summoned the server and told her the miso soup was not to his standard. His actual words were something to the effect, “This soup is cold. Don’t you people know what you doing? Is your chef an idiot? Take it away and kindly bring me a hot bowl of soup.”

His outburst was a simple illustration of how poorly many people deal with conflict.

When faced with conflict we are always presented with three – and only three – choices:

We can accept things the way they are.

We can escalate the matter.

We can exit the relationship.

Accepting things the way they are means just that, we are okay with the status quo. What it does mean is we are not bothered by it, it does not frustrate or annoy us nor will it have a negative impact on us.

What this doesn’t mean is that by remaining outwardly silent we are tearing ourselves apart on the inside.

Over the years I have worked within many organizations  and have met with many people who have chosen to simply “suck it up,” and say or do nothing about the issues that are producing conflict in their lives. Needless to say, their stress levels never take a day off.

The second method of dealing with conflict is to escalate it. This means to take it to a level where earnest attempts will be made at seeking resolution. The preferred way of doing this is to directly approach those who are the cause of the conflict and share your concerns with them.

In most workplaces where I have worked as an outside consultant, this has not been the norm. Instead, normal practice seems to be to talk to everyone other than the person who is the cause of the conflict.

In other words, the method is to talk about people behind the backs, criticize them harshly and somehow (naively) believe that by so doing, their behaviour will change.

It sure would be great if that was how life worked, but sadly, that definitely has not been my experience. Reality dictates that it takes a certain amount of courage to initiate an awkward conversation, and it is always the preferred method if we are serious about seeking resolution.

There are many ways of doing this and perhaps further blogs can be devoted to optimal ways of escalation.

But this blog is really to share the story of how not knowing how best to approach conflict situations can lead to irreversible choices, which possibly could have been avoided, had some additional options been acted upon before taking extreme actions.

I had a chance meeting with “Jane” while waiting for a friend at a local Starbucks. Jane had long worked for a company in which I have completed three projects over several years.  I certainly didn’t know her well but recall on a couple of occasions, engaging in a pleasant conversation in which she had described how much she enjoyed her job.

I had not seen her for a few years when she stopped by my table to say hello.

Jane told me she had quit her job six months earlier because she could no longer deal with a particular person who worked in her department.

This person had joined the company in a supervisory role and Jane reported to her. From the very first day they had, according to Jane, taken a strong dislike to each other which had steadily grown. Jane felt disrespected and unappreciated by her new boss and yet she was hesitant to go and meet with her and discuss how she felt.

Instead, over a one year period she allowed her feelings of distress to grow to the point where she became physically ill, and finally one day she calmly walked into her boss’s office, resigned and walked out.

By coincidence, I happen to know Jane’s former supervisor and called her later that day. I mentioned that I had run into one of her former employees and her response floored me.

She said, “I was so surprised when Jane quit. She was one of the best people I have working for me and I had no idea at all that she was so unhappy at work. I wish she had come to talk to me.”

Jane quit her job rather than engage in an awkward conversation. I’m not sure why she chose not to do so but I do know that her reluctance caused her to make a permanent decision and leave a job she really enjoyed.

There is a moral to the story.  While not all conflicts can be resolved, most can, and almost all situations can be improved when our cards are laid face up on the table with full disclosure made to all.

As a coach, I always encourage my clients to take this approach.  In fact we often spend time rehearsing until they are comfortable in the role they need to play during an awkward conversation.

Exiting a relationship is always an extreme measure and when accepting things the way they are is not an available option, it is always helpful to dig down deep and find the courage to face a difficult situation head-on and do everything possible to bring about peaceful and acceptable coexistence.

As a mediator, I have helped many achieve successful resolution which beat either of the other two options hands down every time.

We are born with some natural capacity, but effectively resolving conflict doesn’t appear to be one of them. If developing better relationships would enhance and bring you a more peaceful existence, let me help you get develop the skills to get there.

Till we read again.

Older Posts »

Categories