Managing conflict in the workplace is a critical skill that managers need and having a process to follow is a key factor in developing that skill. Before getting into the process of conflict resolution within work teams, let’s get a little more insight into the issue from Tricia Cunningham, business advisor at LEAP management consultants. Here are her tips for the manager in resolving conflict within work teams.

First Tricia, what is meant by conflict resolution within work teams?
When we hear the word conflict many managers become fearful.  The word conjures images of difficult arguments or people entrenched in views.  The manager then becomes reticent to deal with the issue. Let’s put it into context; conflict is really about a disagreement that’s been allowed to escalate, where there’s a lack of focus on what the real issue is and now it has become more complex and often more personal. Disagreement within any team is healthy; it gets ideas out on the table, it challenges people’s way of thinking, and it pushes people to defend their ground or consider an alternative point of view. So disagreement is healthy.

When it escalates to the point of conflict it’s no longer healthy. So managers need to learn that whenever there is a disagreement its ok to allow it to come out. Have a discussion about it, see where it’s going but rein it in at the right time, before people become entrenched or the discussion becomes personal. It should come as a relief to the team members that when there is a disagreement it’s allowed to be discussed, and people are allowed to have different opinions and voice them, without being shut down.

How do you manage conflict?
If there is a disagreement between two employees, and one of them approaches the manager about it, the manager needs to handle the situation carefully. The first thing to do is make sure the two employees have discussed the issue and tried to resolve it themselves rather than the manager stepping in immediately. If the two employees have talked it through but can’t reach consensus then the manager does need to step in. This means organising a meeting between the two employees to hear both sides. At this point the manager is acting as intermediary between the two. As intermediary you need to be careful that the employees are using language that is not inflammatory and is non-judgemental.

Staying with intervention, what advice have you for managers in their role as intermediary?
The manager’s job is to keep things focused on the core issues and not get blindsided by personal issues. The process may take one, two or three meetings to get the employees to understand each other’s position, but at the end of the process the manager needs to make sure to track what actions were agreed. Tracking actions is vital so the conflict doesn’t raise its head again.

The manager needs to have a plan of action that the two individuals have agreed upon regarding what’s going to happen next, and it’s the manager who must ensure that plan is followed through. The plan could involve specific steps that they have to take to resolve the issue, or it could simply be that both parties agree to disagree but they also agree to respect each other. The manager needs to ensure that respect is observed in meetings, interactions or emails. In any kind of communication that respect must be demonstrated.

The Process for the Manager

  1. Check that both parties have made an effort to discuss and resolve the issue before intervention.
  2. Understand the real issue causing the conflict.
  3. Organise a meeting between both parties.
  4. As  manager/intermediary make it clear that inflammatory language is unacceptable and both sides need to respect each others right to speak. Ensure respect is maintained throughout proceedings.
  5. Maintain focus on the core issue at the heart of the conflict. Do not get side-tracked by irrelevant issues.
  6. Develop a conflict resolution plan outlining an agreed set of actions for both employees to follow.
  7. Track those actions to ensure they are being implemented in the workplace.
  8. Review the situation regularly to ensure the conflict has been resolved and both employees are working effectively together.

Tricia, what happens when two employees just cannot resolve their differences?
There are different approaches a manager can take. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument does a very good assessment of different styles of conflict resolution. Sometimes the manager’s approach can be about consensus. But if the issue is simply too big or the two individuals can’t reach agreement, then the manager takes a more competitive approach and drives through their agenda and says ‘this is what has to happen.’ So there are different styles you can use in different situations that you encounter. It’s about knowing which style is right for each situation.

Sometimes employees don’t get along and it will never work. The two have to figure out how to work together while respecting that they may not like each other. They don’t have to be friends and they don’t have to socialise, but they have to work effectively together and that’s what the manager’s job is; to try and help them figure out how they can work together effectively despite their differences.

Tricia Cunningham has designed many management training courses over the past 12 years, including programmes for new managers. Working across a variety of business sectors, she has gained many insights into the challenges that emerging managers face when trying to build high performance work teams. Here Tricia discusses motivation and how to motivate teams, a common problem for new managers.

Q. Tricia, what is the most common problem that new managers face?
The most common problem is motivating team members. Often managers complain that ‘I can’t motivate a person.’ They feel that everything is out of their hands in terms of the factors that motivate people. For example they think I can’t increase their pay, I can’t promote them up the career ladder, there are no promotions going. So managers feel like they have no leverage to motivate an individual.

In LEAP’s programmes we look at the real factors that motivate individuals. We try to get managers to look at each individual team member and determine what the manager can do to motivate that person. The factors that motivate an individual are usually within the control of the manager, but the manager doesn’t always see that. Factors such as having interesting work to do and playing to strengths are very powerful and need to be used to better effect by managers.

Managers need to find ways for employees to play to their strengths within the defined role. Another factor that’s within the manager’s control is employees feeling they are involved in things and understanding what’s going on in the organisation. When the employee understands that this is the direction we’re going in, this is what’s happening, this is why my role is important, they are more concerned about the business and its success. When managers start looking at it this way they start to see that actually there is something they can do about motivation. It isn’t always down to money or steps on a hierarchical ladder that needs to be climbed.

Q. How effective is this approach with new managers?
It’s very effective because you’re getting managers to see things differently, and that’s what a manager’s job is; to constantly look at a situation or problem from a different perspective and come up with a workable solution. They are at least beginning to think more constructively and positively.

Q. There are some tasks that people don’t want to do. Is it difficult to get an entire team motivated by playing to each of their strengths, and at the same time making sure that all tasks get done?
Of course. People are realistic. If 80 of my job is made up of tasks I really love doing and 20 are tasks I don’t like doing, then I’m probably very happy in my job. We try as much as possible to get employees to play to their strengths so they will enjoy what they’re doing, so the other tasks that they have to do, they don’t mind doing them as much. It’s when the balance is incorrect, where nobody gets to play to their strengths, where 80 of the job are things they don’t like, and only 20 are tasks they like, well then they start to hate their job.

It’s not about changing everyone’s role in the team. You don’t have the scope for that. It’s about the manager stepping back and figuring out what the person likes and what their strengths are, is there scope within the role, and within the organisation, to get them playing more to their strengths?

When the employee says ‘yeah this suits me better, I like this.’ Then they are motivated.

 

Tricia CunninghamEmployees are often chosen for a new management position based on performance in their current role. But individual skills in a current role are not always a good indicator of an employee’s ability to manage a team of people. Managing teams is a different ball game requiring a different mindset and tactics to match. With years of experience in delivering management training and development programmes, Tricia Cunningham discusses the critical issues that new management recruits need to consider from the start. Senior managers and managing directors should also consider these insights before choosing employees to fill management positions.

Tricia, in terms of effective management what are the things new management recruits need to know?
New managers generally begin with confidence – after all, they have been promoted because of their skills and what they have done to date. However, when you move into a management role, what served them well in getting to that point isn’t necessarily going to serve them well going forward. Things have to change.

First, the way they think about their role and get their heads around what it means to be a manager. So it’s no longer good enough to work really hard, and deliver on what you have been doing before. You have to get your team working effectively, and ensure everybody in the team is doing what they should be doing, delivering on what they should be delivering on, and you’re giving them the feedback to keep them motivated.

After that you then need to consider ‘what do I need to do to deliver on my new goals?’ Many new managers begin with working hard at what they are doing and feel their staff is dragging from them. They see them more as a burden rather than as a resource they can use to ensure the organisation is moving forward, and more targets are achieved. So the first mistake managers make is they don’t change their mind-set, they don’t think about what the role is and what’s required.

Secondly, because they haven’t changed the way they think about nature of the role, they continue to focus on delivering on just the tasks they had been doing all along, and just doing more of them.

What other factors affect new managers?
Often the challenge for many new managers is that they are managing people they have worked with before. So now a colleague has suddenly become somebody who is directly reporting to the new manager. And managing that relationship can be difficult for a new manager, understanding that things have shifted.

What can a new manager do in that situation?
You need to have a conversation with your employees and outline what it is that you, as a new manager, want to achieve. When we don’t make that space for that conversation we continue as we were until an issue arises. Then when an issue arises the new manager chooses to bury their head in the sand and pretend it isn’t there, they don’t address it properly, so they need to make that space.

It has to be a discussion around, ‘look this is the role, this is what I want, and this is how I see us working together as a team. And this is my role within the team.’ So that people understand the new context, and it is set out from the beginning that I am the new manager and you are my team. It becomes very difficult for emerging managers to establish themselves and their authority with the team if there hasn’t been some type of formal introduction.

Regarding these particular issues how can LEAP help new managers?
New managers need to feel confident in their role. To have confidence you have to have the knowledge and the skills to deliver. There’s no point in putting a new manager into that role if they are not given the knowledge and skills to deliver on it and execute the role effectively. The Emerging Managers programme provides a setting for them to learn new information and to understand how that information applies to their role. They get the knowledge they need, and they get the opportunity to see how that’s applied so they can build their skills further.

Equipped with knowledge and skills, you start to build your confidence, so new managers need a formal programme to help them develop. Just assuming the person understands what it means to be a manager is just setting the individual, and the organisation, up for failure. A good management development programme is one that addresses the core issue – people management skills – and does it in a practical way.

What’s the qualification at the end of that?
The Emerging Managers programme offers a  QQI Level 6 component certificate in Managing People. The certification is very practical and is based on the individual’s experience at work. It’s asking them to analyse and evaluate what they are currently doing in terms of managing people, and what insights they have learned about themselves. It’s through that process that they earn their certificate. It’s a great practical assessment and it reinforces best practices, and provides an opportunity for an individual to build their confidence.

What kind of feedback do you get from people about Emerging Managers?
We get great feedback, just look at some of the  testimonials we receive. To summarise the impact I would say its increased confidence in people’s ability to manage people, and early detection and addressing of issues with people. Participants also improve their communication skills across teams as managers become confident, and recognising the importance of communicating with team members, whether it’s in team meetings or providing feedback on a one-to-one basis. There is also evidence of greater confidence in their ability to manage the workload because practical tips, suggestions and tools are provided in terms of managing workloads.

Does Emerging Managers provide mentoring?
It depends on the programme and the agreement with the client. Some companies opt to do internal mentoring. We will sit with senior managers to identify who would make a good mentor. We run a mentoring workshop with them to help them understand what the role is, and they will mentor participants as they work their way through the programme. Or sometimes LEAP will be involved in the mentoring itself. Sometimes there’s no mentoring, just workshops that are delivered for them. Working with the client we help them determine the best option for their organisation and for their team.

 

 

What is management?

Managers need to do many things, but clarifying business objectives, and deciding key performance indicators (KPI) to measure against those objectives, is crucial to effective performance management. It may, or may not, come as a surprise to you that many businesses in Ireland don’t document either of these. A company’s vision has to be supported by a clear set of objectives. Managers need to know how and why they reached some objectives, but failed to reach others. Maureen Grealish, director at LEAP, spent eight years in a business advisory role dealing with these very issues. Here she shares some of her insights into why business objectives and KPI’s are inextricably linked to your bottom line.

Maureen, in your experience how many businesses have their objectives clearly defined?
Most businesses don’t have any objectives, because they don’t realise the importance of it. There is a phrase ‘what gets measured gets managed.’ Sometimes people are taken up with the enormity of their tasks and they don’t realise that by focusing on 5 or 6 key things they can have a lot more impact on their business. Objectives are the 5 or 6 key things that they need to address in a given time period. That time period could be 6 months or a year, whatever the right time frame is for that particular business. But without that reference point you find that people are fire-fighting a lot, or business becomes very reactive. When they have an objective in place they have a target, and it helps them act in a more disciplined way. It also helps them measure how they’re doing as they go along so they know if they are on the right course or not.

So there are businesses operating without any set of objectives in place?
Yes because they don’t have a strategy. We ask people ‘what’s your vision for the business?’ If that’s your vision what’s your strategy for getting there? The objectives need to be linked to the strategy. So your strategy might be for a 5 year period. So let’s take the first year as a time frame. In order to achieve the vision, and thereby the strategy, what do you need to have achieved in that first time frame. And then the next time frame, and then the next. So the objectives should be seen as a set of milestones towards achieving the vision. But many businesses don’t have a vision, don’t have a strategy and don’t have objectives.

If they don’t have a set of objectives, what are they actually doing on a daily basis?
It depends. This is one of the big issues in business. They are essentially managing what’s in front of them. Some are managing their current customers, others are managing their current work rate, or they’re managing current staff but they don’t have an eye on the future. They might have an idea of where they want to get to but they’re not actively managing towards it. They’re almost hoping it will happen without actually steering themselves towards it.

How are objectives measured in terms of Key Performance Indicators?
If you have five or six key objectives you will have a measure for each one that makes sense to that particular objective. You generally have two financial based objectives, so you’ll have two financial KPIs. So for turnover you’re measurement will be a sales report. For a profit objective the measure would be your monthly managed accounts, the actual profit or loss figure.

For non-financial objectives you need to come up with a measure that makes more sense to that objective. Once you have developed the objectives the next thing you do is develop the measures for each one. For a customer service type of objective you may look at doing customer surveys, or mystery shoppers or you might do some kind of audit, where you score for a particular performance, and monitor that over a period of time to see that the action you are taking is making an improvement. It’s about picking a method that will measure the effect of an objective.

Give an example of a poorly thought out objective.
A poorly thought out objective would be ‘I’d like to increase sales.’ It doesn’t have any reference to how much you want to increase sales by, where you’re starting from or the time period where you want it to increase. So a better objective, when you’re looking at sales, would be to increase sales by 10{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} by Dec 2014. What you’re trying to do is establish a measure that will hit every element of the SMART acronym – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. Until the objective can tick each one of those then you don’t have a good objective.

How can LEAP help managers and businesses with this critical issue?
We do it as part of an overall process. We need to see the wider context of what they’re trying to achieve in business. So we work with senior management initially to work out what the vision is for that business. Then they need to break that down into manageable chunks. So they may have a three year vision, but they need to focus on the first year. So in the first year what are the five or six key things they need to focus on in order to help them get closer to their vision?

What LEAP can do is help them with their vision. Agree on what the specific objectives are, and identify the measurements they will use. Help them agree on the timeline and implement the strategic plan. Help them monitor their performance, adjust their behaviour and achieve their vision.

Maureen Grealish is a partner and director at LEAP.

Uganda

Tricia CunninghamWe know that drought and arid land are not the only factors in third world poverty; poor management and a lack of leadership are also at the heart of it. Recently LEAP’s Tricia Cunningham returned from Uganda having spent some time working alongside Self Help Africa. The goal of this Non-Government Organisation (NGO) is long term sustainability for small farmers and to break the cycle of dependency on foreign aid. Despite its potential, Uganda’s natural resources have never been properly utilized and it is still considered a third world nation. Tricia decided to go to Uganda and see for herself the kind of challenges facing agricultural communities there.

Armed with her experience in developing and delivering leadership and management training programmes, this first phase of Tricia’s work was about assessing the requirements of the local farmers and the Self Help Africa team.  Over the coming months she will also visit Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, West Africa and Kenya.  Here, Tricia shares some of her observations about her Uganda trip.

Tricia: ‘Sometimes when working in business we close our eyes to best practices in other disciplines believing they are irrelevant.  We use such expressions as “they don’t understand how we do things here” cutting off the potential for innovative practices that could benefit our organisations.  Many NGOs understand the necessity of determining best practices to maximise limited budgets. At the same time they recognise the importance of development to maintain and enhance the services provided.

Self Help Africa

Self Help Africa is a progressive NGO that demonstrates leadership in its area of expertise as it applies innovative approaches to its work.  A recent trip to its offices in Uganda provided me with the opportunity to see first-hand how this NGO is implementing best practices to develop a robust organisation, how it is working towards a goal of long-term sustainability for smallholder farmers and how it is ensuring inertia and complacency are kept at bay.  Best practices applied include:

  • Determining a long-term goal -sustainable future for smallholder farmers- and ensuring it remains at the core of all activities and strategies
  •  Hiring local experts who understand the needs of their service users (customers)
  • Removing non-essential activities from local offices so they are free to do what they do best – support their service users
  • Providing organisation support centrally for multiple locations thus reducing costs
  • Availing of technology to drive their work, to support local country offices and to reduce costs
  • Collaborating with branches in other countries, sharing insights and addressing blockages to progress

Leadership and Management in Uganda

In a country like Uganda where allegations of corruption have exploded recently the importance of running a highly effective, efficient, transparent and innovative organisation has never been more necessary.  They understand that establishing a great organisation isn’t simply a desire, it’s a necessity.  It really can make the difference between life and death.’

LEAP

 

Developing Your Management SkillsThey say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. When managing people we seem to be a little insane. We do the same things over and over again with people and expect them to change.

We speak to people the same way, repeating ourselves in the belief that people “just don’t get it”. And yet things don’t change.  We tick the box of ‘Management Skills’ development by participating in management training courses so the conclusion we reach is that we’re doing things right, the employee is doing something wrong. Perhaps it’s time for us to stop and hit the pause button.

We need to begin with ourselves and look at what we’re doing and not doing so that we can break the behaviour cycle. If we come at the issue from a different perspective we can often come up with a different, better solution. Look at why you think the employee acted the way he/she did and the thought process behind the action. Discuss with the employee and together develop alternative approaches. Good communication solves many issues and results in solutions that work long term.

Tricia Cunningham

 

Unemployment can affect people in all sorts of ways. It isn’t just about a loss of income, it goes deeper than that. How we respond to it is crucial in terms of survival at any time, but particularly in times of low economic growth with all the feelings of anxiety that surround it. Unemployment is something that has to be managed like anything else in life. The process of managing it involves effort on the part of the individual and a support system that can respond to their efforts. Managing unemployment means doing things to maintain your health and your self esteem, so exercise and a healthy diet help a lot. But the crucial factor in managing unemployment is to be proactive in terms of getting back into employment. Personal contacts, social networks and recruitment agencies are various ways people can be proactive. Another way for people to do this is through internships.

Kathryn’s story

Kathryn’s life was very different not so long ago. This time last year she was unemployed and experiencing the various symptoms that accompany it – loss of confidence, frustration, disillusion. Kathryn, like a lot of people today, had plenty of experience under her belt, but finding herself jobless in a shrinking job market put her under a lot of stress and a sense of panic set in. Kathryn had 15 years marketing experience working with tech companies in London and Silicon Valley in the US, as well as Baltimore Technologies and O2 here at home. Unemployment was frustrating but Kathryn was proactive in her response, and so began a process of reaching out to find people and companies to which she could add value. Through a friend of hers, Kathryn heard about a 12 week programme called Begin Again. Facilitated by the Irish Centre for Business Excellence (ICBE), a non-profit organisation, the programme’s objectives were two- fold:

  1. Assist unemployed people with qualifications and skills to re-enter the work force.
  2. Enable host companies complete a project that adds value to their business.

Kathryn liked the basic objectives of Begin Again and decided to forward her CV. She went to the Begin Again website and completed the application process. The process, as it turns out, was pretty quick and Kathryn was called in the next day to meet up with one of the programme’s facilitators. Begin Again was about trying to find a ‘good fit’ between applicant and host company. To determine this good fit, the applicants were chosen based on CV content and an expression of interest. Positions were assigned and meetings with host companies began. The first two weeks with Begin Again involved basic training in planning and managing, communication and awareness, leadership and resilience. In the third week, the interns began job placements with companies looking for the skills matching those of the applicant. Kathryn’s placement began with Blue Moon Communications, a PR agency specialising in communications skills for individuals and companies seeking brand promotion.

The Trainer

Kathryn’s experience at Blue Moon had its pros and cons. On the one hand she felt like there was little by way of direction on the job, but on the other hand this forced her to use her own initiative. Or as Kathryn puts it, “I focused on achieving results by myself.” Which, in the rough and tumble world of PR, is probably a good thing. Week three also saw the introduction of a Trainer; for Kathryn this meant receiving guidance from Tricia Cunningham, co-founder of LEAP. Having spent time in America as a training professional, Tricia returned to Ireland to join Nortel Networks as a Training & Development Manager. After Nortel she co-founded LEAP as a leadership and management consultancy firm. Much of her time is spent with clients who are entering a new phase in their careers, that of management. A big part of this transition involves clients asking themselves, “What value can I bring to this new role?” There are similarities between her work with new managers and that of her mentoring role with interns on the Begin Again programme. Firstly, there is the issue of transition, something which many people can find daunting. Just as employees are being considered for management roles in their companies and must embrace this change, the unemployed are facing a tough transitional phase of their own. Supporting people through this transitional phase is part of the mentor’s work. Secondly, mentoring both management clients and interns is largely about building up their confidence to a level whereby they recognise their own worth, and start to believe in their own capabilities. Thirdly, Tricia focuses on setting goals and this is an aspect of unemployment that can often suffer due to the stress of being let go from a job. People lose focus and goals are not pursued; in some cases goals are never set in the first place.

For Kathryn, having a trainer who understood where she was coming from made all the difference. “Tricia was brilliant to work with. She focused on practical things and provided great support. She believed in me,” says Kathryn.  This was a crucial part of the recovery process for her because, as anyone who has experienced unemployment knows, one of the first things to suffer is your own confidence. You may have the skills and the qualifications, even high levels of experience, but when the number of job opportunities decreases and the competition for jobs increases, even experienced people can start to doubt themselves; its human nature I guess.

FBD and recovery

Kathryn’s journey took her from unemployment to Begin Again to an internship with Blue Moon. However, the struggle for employment didn’t end there. The internship ended in March 2011 and afterwards Kathryn spent another period of time unemployed, but the confidence she had gained from the Begin Again programme helped her through this. Then in September 2011 Kathryn got the break she was looking for. Irish company, FBD Insurance advertised a position for events and marketing. Kathryn applied and got the job and her new role has given her a whole new lease of life. FBD are an insurance firm with over 40 years experience and are one of Ireland’s largest insurers with over 500,000 customers. They have local offices nationwide. So did such a prestigious firm intimidate Kathryn? The short answer is no. Her very first assignment for FBD was the National Ploughing Championships (NPC), an event which drew over 150,000 people to Athy in Kildare. www.npa.ie/. The fact that Kathryn was able to handle an event with such huge scope as the NPC is not just a reflection of her own abilities and experience, but also a reflection of the confidence she gained from Tricia and Begin Again.

I asked Kathryn what advice she would give to others who find themselves unemployed. She had this to say: “I would encourage people to get involved in a programme like Begin Again. I would also recommend that people devise a plan for themselves. Start researching companies that you would like to work for, the more research the better. Try to learn as much as you can about them, do your homework, don’t go in blind into the interview. Be assertive and believe you can add value to the company. Believe that I can do this.” So how is life now compared to this time last year? “Much, much better,” she says. “I’m excited about things now.”  This story had a happy ending for Kathryn after a challenging year of unemployment. But this happy ending only came about because of her willingness to engage with an internship programme, something some qualified and experienced people won’t consider. This open minded approach is proof that creativity and tenacity are as much a part of the recovery process as upskilling.

Funding stops – why?

In Kathryn’s case the internship didn’t immediately lead to employment, but her time with Begin Again gave her a renewed sense of focus and confidence and that in itself can make the difference between short and long-term unemployment. No-one is suggesting that internships are a panacea for unemployment or a stagnated economy, but since June 2010 more than 720 people have participated in the Begin Again Programme. More than two thirds of the participants are now re-employed or have started their own businesses with advice and support from their trainers. The programme was funded by the Labour Market Activation Fund set up by the Department of Education and Skills. When you consider the results the Begin Again internship programme produced, it makes the decision to cease funding of it all the more bewildering. In June 2011 funding for the programme ceased, presumably due to the pressure of the current fiscal crisis our government faces. However, according to the Begin Again website they are continuing to seek funding and will re-launch if successful. The site also states that ‘unemployed people with transferable skills – and businesses interested in providing work placements – may continue to apply online.’

One would assume that the more interest expressed from both the unemployed and host companies, the more likely the Department of Education and Skills would be to re-launch the programme. It is in everyone’s interest to do so because the more people Begin Again can place back into the workforce on internships, the more people are likely to be hired on a full or part time basis as the previous round of funding already proved. This in turn will lead to people earning a wage and paying tax which is what the government needs to ease their fiscal problems. It also takes pressure of the social welfare system. So the intern wins by getting back their confidence and hopefully getting a job. The employers win because they get the ‘good fit’ they need to fill the role on a specific project their company is working on. The government wins by receiving more tax and paying out fewer benefits.   It’s a win-win-win situation for all considered so the decision to cease funding this initiative couldn’t have been made at a worse time. Now more than ever this country needs precisely these types of initiatives to help both the unemployed with skills and qualifications, and employers with project staff requirements, to connect with each other in a much more efficient and effective way. The cost of operating such a programme must surely outweigh the benefits for the Irish economy as a whole. And it can certainly help individuals like Kathryn to find a new direction.

 

Tricia CunninghamWe’ve lived in our skins for as many years as we’ve been on this earth and many of us walk around in the naive belief that we know ourselves intimately. We take for granted our actions and when they create a difficulty for us (when we annoy someone or disappoint them) we often swiftly move on, or perhaps simply blame the other party. We rarely sit back and scratch beneath the surface to understand why we behave the way we do, and yet others are impacted by our actions. When an issue exists, managers or leaders often encourage us to look to training to solve the problem – hey, there must be a management course out there to solve the issue? Instead isn’t it time we looked to understand ourselves better? Isn’t it time to take responsibility for ourselves and consider what behaviours serve us well and what behaviours need to be swept away? Where do we start?

Personality Types

Each of us has a personality type with a distinct motivation that drives our actions and responses. Understanding our type and that of our colleagues provides us with the opportunity to work more effectively together. The starting point is to recognise that not everybody responds to situations and individuals in the way we do or indeed are motivated in the same way as . We need to get to grips with this and not understand it at a superficial level. When we really “get this” we understand how others function in the world and therefore how we can relate best to them. This is what’s at the heart of successful communication, successful working relationships.

enneagram management testing tool

Psychometric Tools

Using psychometric tools such as the Enneagram shines a light on our behaviours and provides us with insights we can use to help us interact with others more effectively. It acts as a mechanism for understanding ourselves. This tool reminds us that, while unique, we share common traits with others. Understanding what drives us, what lies behind our behaviours, helps us to identify ways in which we can change those behaviours.

“When we use an objective psychometric tool we can often hear the findings more clearly.”

For example, when we recognise that we have a tendency to be defensive in the face of perceived criticism, then the next time someone provides us with critical feedback that insight into our behaviours creeps to the surface providing us with an opportunity to either continue being defensive or to pull ourselves back and be more open to what’s being said. Perhaps we’ve received such feedback either formally (annual appraisals) or informally but do we really hear it, do we really accept it? When we use an objective psychometric tool we can often hear the findings more clearly. We don’t allow ourselves to get caught up in another’s “agenda”, there is no agenda.

Re-framing Responses

Now if you add in an understanding of other people and what motivates them and we’ve potentially powerful insight into making relationships work.  Once we are aware of different personality types, we begin to see that our own style will not be equally effective with all types of people.  Now we can start to change how we manage our relationship with others.

“Surely this will help us create more effective work environments, better teamwork, less stressful interactions…”

Instead of expecting others to see things our way or to respond the way we want them to, we can come from a different perspective, we can reframe our responses, our reactions and thereby move them towards a more positive response. Surely this will help us create more effective work environments, better teamwork, less stressful interactions and overall better relationships with others. This is also a critical requirement if we have individuals reporting directly into us and is a key aid to management development. Using our insights into how we see others behave enables us to demonstrate effective leadership whether or not our title includes the word “leadership” and doesn’t every organisation want individuals to be effective leaders within the scope of their roles?

Tricia Cunningham

 

 

 

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