Tag: Tricia Cunningham

A common misconception is that lean is only suitable for manufacturing but have a look at the article below and see how lean can be applied in the creative world and professional services.

Lean – first of all, what is it?

The core philosophy of lean is the elimination of waste. While it is easy to identify physical waste the greater challenge in most organisations is to identify the waste of time and resources. Most organisations are extremely busy, fire-fighting and pressure to meet deadlines are a way of life. Lean provides a structured approach and tried and trusted methodologies to eliminating wasted effort in organisations. It goes beyond the sloganeering of “work smarter not harder” and shows people how to analyse the true value of their work and eliminate non-value added activities.

A popular misconception is that lean is suited only for manufacturing. Not true. Lean applies in every organisation and every process. It is not a tactic or a cost reduction program, but a way of thinking and acting for an entire organisation.

The starting point of any lean programme is Value Stream Mapping. This involves the people working in the process stepping back and mapping the process to identify the value and non-value activities they regularly engage with. From here several techniques are employed to get to the root cause of the non-value add activities. The result is an increase in the effectiveness of the individuals or team performance.

Lean is not a stand-alone programme but supports the implementation of policies and procedures in a meaningful way. It is a change management programme and as such will require the engagement of employees fully. Therefore, it is important that a lean initiative is not seen as the “flavour of the month” or something that is imposed by senior management. Key to success will be introducing a lean programme in such a way that employees see the benefits of the programme and that it is fully supported by the leadership of the organisation. All successful lean initiatives recognise that people are the key to success and as such LEAP are well equipped to support the people development element of the programme.

Examples of Lean in practice.

  A Design Studio

A design studio in a printing company kept five fully committed designers very busy. When we analysed how many hours of their working week was billed to customers (Value add work) we discovered that they were 52 efficient. The remaining 48 of their time was non-value added work. This was the time spent answering queries from production, requesting further information from clients, clarifying issues with the sales teams etc.

The first thing we did was create an “Interruptions Board” We assigned one of the five designers to deal with all interruptions. Each of the five were assigned one day per week as their day to deal with interruptions. On their assigned day, they would deal with the call or visitor and place their query on the board under the name of designer the query was directed towards. That designer would then deal with the query when he/she was taking a break or at the end of the day. This allowed four designers to work uninterrupted every day.

Following on from this, the designers could look at the nature of the interruptions and through using lean techniques were able to establish the root cause of the interruptions. Working together with production, clients and sales team they developed systems to reduce the non-value added activities.  The increase in value added activity in the studio increased from 52 to 83 within months and they continue to uses the methodology for continuous improvement.

 Accountancy Practice

When you visit an accounts office the “work” is invisible, in other words you see lots of people sitting at computer terminals. It is impossible to determine how effective the operation is or how efficient each individual is. There is no doubt that everyone is “busy”.

By undertaking Value Stream Mapping, we were able to see that most of the work that came into the office had incomplete paperwork, forms missing, items not attached etc. This meant that when employees started a job they were not in position to complete it. This necessitated making a phone call or emailing a client to request the full information. The job was set aside until the information was made available. They then started another job and the same thing happened. This resulted in a huge amount of Work In Progress. There was confusion as to the status of individual jobs, clients not returning information, forgetting to chase up etc. This kept everyone busy.

When we demonstrated this by graphing the workflows we then set about doing a root cause analysis to develop systems and processes to prevent incomplete jobs entering the system. We also created a visual system that could measure the improved efficiency of the department. It resulted in much better management of peak times in the business such as year-end accounts. There was less stress for the staff and the necessity to work late in the evenings disappeared.

4 key questions every successful manager must be able to answer

Management effectiveness is ultimately about developing a strong team capable of delivering company objectives. There are two crucial components of a manager’s job – operational management and people management. In this article Tricia Cunningham outlines the people aspect of the role and what managers need to get right in order to be successful.

Tricia, what is management effectiveness in practice?
A great manager has two fey focuses. There is the technical or operational side of their role and there is the people side of their role. So for a great manager there are two components to the management role, with 4 elements within each component.

On the operational effectiveness side there are four key requirements:

Technical

1. Plan
2. Organise
3. Influence
4. Control

As Marcus Buckingham, prolific writer on best management practices points out, there are four key requirements on the people side that an effective manager needs to get right:

People

1. Select the right people for their team
2. Set and agree on expectations with the team members
3. Motivate the individual members
4. Develop people for long-term contribution to the organisation

Management effectiveness is about achieving results through optimum use of the resources available, the key resource being the people on the team. If you really want to be a great manager you need to pay attention to both the operational and the people aspects of the role. Our experience of working in the SME sector for nearly 20 years has highlighted the need for management to understand how to manage a team effectively. That’s the most challenging part of the role.

Our Management Effectiveness Programme doesn’t focus on the technical aspects of the role because that is very specific to each organisation, but the issues and challenges around managing people are common across all sectors and all industries. This is the area we zone in on and explore comprehensively with participants – building their confidence and competency in a range of management skills.

Here are 4 Key Questions for Managers in Managing People

1. Do you understand how to select the right talent for your team and for the organisation?

2. Do you know how to set expectations and measure results?
– do you regularly review expectations with feedback sessions with your employees?
– do you know how to measure performance effectively?
– how about annual performance appraisals with your team members?

3. How will you keep your team members motivated so that they want to keep coming in to work and continue to do the very best job they can?

4. Finally, when you have developed a great team, ask yourself how are you going to keep them in the organisation long-term? You need to keep them engaged and that requires further development. Have you a long-term development plan for your team?

 


Tricia Cunningham

 

 

 

 

Tricia Cunningham, senior partner at LEAP.
Click here for information about our management development programmes.

Contact us today to speak to a business advisor
Tel: 091 755736
E: info@leapleadership.ie

Interview with Des Kirby

It is imperative for anybody in an organisation, whether at a leadership level or employee level, to manage their responses to tense situations. There are times when an individual will feel annoyed, frustrated and stressed. Each of us will express that differently. The challenge for us as adults is to recognise our triggers – things that make us angry, frustrated and stressed. Finding effective approaches to handling those triggers will depend on the individual and the context in which they find themselves.

Here are 3 simple steps you can take to better manage your anger in the workplace.

1 Pause and walk away
Pause for a moment before responding in any situation. Very often we respond immediately but once the words are out we can’t retrieve them and we regret the words we said. So taking a moment to pause before responding is a critical skill. It’s difficult to do in the heat of the moment when employees are engaged in a task that’s causing problems, but the more you practice this response the better you get at it.

Pausing can be as simple as suggesting to the team that you take a break for an hour and return to the issue again with clearer heads. This gives everyone a chance to calm down and gather their thoughts. Or pausing could simply mean excusing yourself to use the bathroom. This gives all of you a few minutes to step away from the situation and break the negative cycle that was happening.

2 Acknowledge that emotion is affecting the situation
When we get stressed we often find ourselves in a cycle where we are responding by getting caught up more and more in the issues and becoming more and more stressed about it. The more stressed and frustrated and angry we get, the more we talk from the heart rather than the head.

If an individual is talking logically to me, talking from the head but I’m frustrated and angry, I’m going to respond by speaking from the heart. This often leads to difficulties in communication as these two approaches don’t speak well to each other. A simple acknowledgement of the person’s frustration or anger or irritation and a request to discuss how to address that emotion can lead to a more productive discssuion.

3 Return to the issue with a clear logical approach
Once the individuals involved have managed to lower the emotional intensity they you can have a more logically, structured and thoughtful conversation. When the person is thinking logically they are more open to hearing constructive ways to address the issue. This means that the person is now focusing on results. We have moved beyond expressing frustration and anger.

Does the same logic apply to email communication?

Definitely. You should never use email to express anger or frustration or any emotion because it’s hard for the person receiving the email to understand all the emotion behind it. It can end up as a table tennis match with both sides responding emotionally and comments are very easily misinterpreted which can escalate the situation.

 

If there are issues that have the potential to be emotionally charged they need to be addressed face to face or at least over the phone but certainly not by email.

So if your natural response is to get angry at something in an email then as a rule of anger management, a manager needs to pause and acknowledge their own anger and ask themselves, ‘why am I angry about this?’ At least when you acknowledge that the situation has triggered something in you, and you recognise what it is, then you can ask yourself ‘what can I do now to progress and resolve this?’

You can try to put forward some constructive solutions. Sometimes you will be able to do this quickly, other times you will need to walk away and take some time to think about it.

What should a manager do when two employees just cannot resolve their issues with each other?

Well of course a decision has to be made with regard to their suitability within the team and in their particular roles. You cannot have an atmosphere where two people don’t get along and hold the whole team back. Or if it’s a case that the manager and a team member cannot resolve their differences, then the business owner, or some other third party, may have to step in and figure out how to resolve the issue.

You cannot afford to ignore a situation where two people in the same team clearly don’t get on. If the issue persists it may even involve some kind of disciplinary action being taken to resolve matters. So in volatile situations remember the anger management steps to take:

1. Pause and walk away from the immediate situation

2. Acknowledge that your heart is speaking not the head – emotional not logical

3. Give yourself sufficient time to calm down. Postpone meetings till another day if necessary. Return to the issue again with a logical mind and offer practical solutions.

There are other small practical steps that individuals can take to manage anger

• Take physical exercise to reduce stress. It’s harder to be angry when you feel physically good
• Meditation can help control stress levels and promote clearer thinking
• Yoga helps to keep you mentally and psychically fit which aids clear logical thinking
• Eat a healthy diet and reduce sugar and caffeine intake
• Get adequate sleep

All these actions can help the individual manage themselves and their anger more effectively.

Case Study

Operations ManagementWe had a situation between two individuals in a company where one was involved in operations and the other was in purchasing. They had reached the unfortunate point of no longer talking to each other. Now clearly you could not run an organisation with these two key individuals not working together effectively. Everyone was impacted by the tension and expressions of frustration.

So LEAP worked with the larger team and in the process also worked with the two individuals. We used a psychometric testing tool to help them both understand each other and appreciate their differing perspectives. The insight they gained from using this tool allowed them to recognise that not everyone is the same and people need to work differently. They recognised that the way the other person was operating wasn’t deliberately negative or unhelpful it was simply that they viewed issues from a different perspective and worked differently to their colleague.

That freed the two individuals up to understand themselves better, each other better and find a way to resolve their differences. They eventually figured it out and continued working together and did so quite effectively. They wouldn’t necessarily be best friends, they wouldn’t socialise together but they did prove they could work effectively together and that was a good outcome for them and the company.

So often we see companies resolving these types of scenarios by separating the two people involved and placing them in different departments. But that’s only because nobody has invested any time in trying to understand the issues that are at the heart of the matter. Transferring people isn’t always the right option and sometimes it’s not an option at all. Helping people understand how to respond with the head as opposed to the heart can often be a better solution.

Key Takeaways
Anger management is something that has to be practiced. With time and experience managers can learn to respond positively to all kinds of difficult situations. The more the individual practices it, the better they become at responding with their heads and not with their hearts. Pausing and walking away from stressful situations can give people the necessary time and space to calm down and think logically as opposed to emotionally. Return to the issue with a clear and logical mind. The same method applies to email communication. Give yourself time before responding and never use email to express anger.

Recommendation
Try reading First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham. Subtitled ‘what the world’s greatest managers do differently.’ It’s worth reading for advice on management practices and disciplines that lead to better overall employee and manager satisfaction.

Interview by Des Kirby


Tricia Cunningham, senior partner at LEAP. Learn about our management development programme

Tricia Cunningham

 

 

 

 

Contact us to talk to a business advisor
T: 091 755736
E: info@leapleadership.ie

 

Now that the economy has started to take a turn in the right direction, the skills that employees currently have may not be the skills that will allow them to help an organisation grow and maximize opportunities that may lie ahead. For many organisations the focus over the last number of years has been doing what’s needed to get ahead, one step at a time.

But now that things are improving and opportunities are opening up, organisations will need to start thinking differently and will need to support employees as they develop new and necessary skills.

Professional development – does your team have the right skills?

Organisations need to start thinking about the goals they wish to achieve over the next eighteen months and map out the skills that will be required to deliver on those goals. Then they must assess their employees at every level against those requirements and goals.

This will help the organisation to determine the best way to develop the new set of required skills. The approaches identified may include formal training, or may involve partnering employees together to teach each other various skills. It could involve giving employees the opportunity to work on new projects. There are multiple approaches that can be taken to develop skills.

How you manage is critical to long-term success

Over the last number of years managers have had to focus strongly on working in a cost-cutting environment, with few resources available to them. This has meant that the focus has been on technical deliverables. In other words, delivering the specific product or service to the customer and ‘just getting it done.’

But as well as keeping the customer happy, managers also need to understand that how they interact and manage a team is vitally important and people skills are critical to that. It’s no longer good enough just to focus on the technical aspects of the job.

Managers need to be supported by the organisation in developing the key skills to manage people effectively. Learning from their experience isn’t sufficient; they need to understand best practices and determine how they can be applied in the organisation so that you are developing a strong, competent team who can work effectively together; a team who respect the manager, who can learn from the manager and can work with the manager.

How to retain your key employees

If the economy continues to grow, with the unemployment rate dropping from 14{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} in 2012 to a current level of 7.0{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} (September 2016), we can see that it is once again turning into an employee market. This means that organisations who fail to invest in employees run the risk of losing key employees.

Employees working in an organisation, generally speaking, value opportunities to develop and enhance their skills. Investing in them can have considerable payback in terms of commitment, loyalty and a desire to do more, deliver more and to help the organisation to grow.

So owners and team leaders need to consider employee development as an investment. They need to agree with participants about the skills that will be developed and how the organisation expects the individual to demonstrate those skills at work. This way organisations are in a position to grow and to retain key individuals that assisted that growth.

Setting expectations of employees

Development does not always mean an automatic expectation of promotion. It can also mean simply enhancing the basic skills employees already have, allowing them to get better at their current jobs. It’s about broadening their knowledge and skills, and being in a position to embrace opportunities should they arise in the future. That is development and that can often be very satisfying for an employee, even if there is no immediate offer of promotion.

When you work in the SME sector you know there are fewer opportunities to climb up the ladder compared to the larger corporate sector. By the same token, large corporations also need to be careful and make it clear that professional development is not always about promotion. Six people may put themselves forward for promotion but only one will get the job. What happens to the other five candidates? How do you manage them to ensure they don’t become disheartened? You need to make it clear to them that they are highly valuable to the organisation and the investment in their development is a reflection of that.

LEAP professional development programmes

LEAP recognises the need for strong leadership, management and employees in organisations. From our experience working with companies, we have put together professional development programmes that focus on developing the core skills of these three groups. Additionally, we look at operational effectiveness to ensure that not only are people working effectively but they are focusing on the right things and doing them right.

Tricia Cunningham, senior partner at LEAP.

Tricia Cunningham

 

Interview by Des Kirby
Check out our professional development programmes.


Contact us today to speak to a business advisor
T: 091 755736
E: info@leadership.ie

 

 

In 3 signs you have an effective team, Tricia Cunningham focuses on results, communication and conflict resolution. Here she outlines why these requirements are so important for managers, not just for the immediate impact on the bottom line but also for the long-term stability and profitability of the business.

1 The Team Achieve Positive Results

The most obvious sign of effective management, and the one most people are eager to see, is results. However, it’s not just the positive results themselves that needs to be achieved but the process needs to be positive. Results need to be achieved in a way that can be maintained long term. If the process of achieving the positive results is too stressful and intense employees will burn out or leave – not a desired outcome.

2 Team Members Communicate Effectively

The second sign of effective management is clear communication between each team member within the group and with management. Core to this communication is clarity of role and responsibilities. People need to know what others are doing and where there needs to be a handover. Effective communication allows team members to understand what is happening within the team, what is likely to happen next and where support is needed. The manager drives this activity assisting the team in finding the optimum communication approaches and ensuring they are adhered to.

3 The Team Resolve Issues Without Resorting to Blame

Thirdly, when an issue arises, effective teams are able to resolve it without it becoming personal or resorting to blaming each other and falling out over it. Managers guide team members to analyse and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or natural instinct. The focus becomes the issue and not the person. Language is monitored and labels are avoided.

No playing the blame game or finger pointing.

What if the team gets along well but their results are poor?
Every area of the business must have clearly identified targets they are expected to achieve and these targets need to be clearly communicated to all team members, tracked regularly and assessed for corrective action. If targets are not achieved, then something has to change. Managers may need to review targets to see how realistic they were in the first place; maybe they were never achievable based on the resources available.

However, if the targets have been properly assessed and found to be both valid and necessary but the team can’t reach them, then the team has to be held accountable. There needs to be a rigorous review of what prevented the team from succeeding. The manager needs to have that tough conversation with each team member who didn’t perform and with the collective team. Together they need to determine the corrective course of action and need to commit to sticking to that course of action. Once agreed, the manager needs to be rigorous in monitoring progress and address issues promptly.

By the same token, if the results are good in terms of the bottom line but morale within the team is poor, the manager must also address this issue. Fortunately, most team leaders and business owners understand that to sustain the business, you need a motivated workforce.

Low morale will eventually lead to poor results. Productivity will drop if morale is poor.

The other advantage of focusing on developing a strong, positive work culture is that it attracts stronger talent. A positive work environment is more likely to achieve positive results and attract positive, strong performers to the organisation. That’s a win for everyone.

 

Contact us today to speak to a business advisor
T: 091 755736
E: info@leapleadership.ie

A Personal Development Plan can prove to be a very useful tool for managers at every level of the organisation, whether you are just starting out or you’re a management veteran. Here Tricia Cunningham outlines what a personal development plan looks like, how it helps you as well as your boss and why measuring the plan is vital.

What is a Personal Development Plan?
A personal development plan is a document that captures agreed actions and areas of focus to help the individual with an existing role or a potential role and to be able to deliver on that role. The personal development plan generally speaking includes a number of areas of focus the person is going to take on board. Specific actions that they can take on board relate to those areas of focus.

For example, to attend a training programme or it might be to read up on some specific area of the business, or it could be to work in a different area of the business for a period of time. That may be one day a week continuously or for a temporary period of several weeks working in a particular area of the organisation. It outlines some action the individual will take that they need to develop to enhance their existing role or to grow into a new role.

Is the plan time-based?
There has to be time-frames associated with it otherwise it will drag on indefinitely. We know from studies and from experience that what gets measured gets managed. So if the time frames have deadlines included in them, people are more likely to feel accountable and therefore more likely to deliver on the plan.

What would a typical personal development plan look like for a manager?
Well for example, we have front line managers starting on our programmes and one of the key areas they would list in their personal development plan would be communication. So an action might be attending a training programme on developing communication skills. Or it may be simply watching a set of videos or TedTV clips on how to give constructive feedback effectively. Another step would be the individual, within a defined period of time, would provide some kind of feedback to each employee within their team, then assess the impact that it had and evaluate whether or not the individual handled the process effectively in terms of changes in behaviour.

In addition to communication skills, a frontline manager could also have some technical aspect to their role. For example, project management skills. So the individual may include completing a certified course in project management in their development plan, by a particular date. There may be an upcoming project that they will be working on where knowledge of project management tools will be required. They could be partnered with a mentor in the company who will work with them using those project management tools.

Essentially the personal development plan recognises the areas where the employee needs to improve or some new aspect of the job that they have never worked in before. So the plan may be written in order to address deficiencies in a particular area, or it may be used to develop the ambitions of the employee who wants to be in a stronger position to take on new opportunities within the organisation.

Personal Development Plan

What should be done with the Personal Development Plan once it’s written?
A personal development plan usually comes about as a result of an appraisal of an employee. So the senior manager and employee sit down and they talk about the areas of focus and then from that they write a development plan. They may get input from another area, for example HR, or it may be just between themselves. Or the manager may suggest to the employee that they come up with the development plan themselves and then review it together.

However once written, it’s vital there is always somebody driving this process. Ideally it should be the employee driving it but the employee must provide feedback to their manager to show that real progress is being made. Senior managers should also demonstrate interest by agreeing when they will review the plan – weekly or monthly – and discuss the progress that has been made. It cannot be left in a folder on your desktop as some aspirational document that just gets forgotten, that’s no good. Both sides must take responsibility for monitoring the document otherwise neither side gains from it, nor does the company.

 

When the New Year began many of us committed to being more organised and structured at work. We made great efforts to tidy our desks and eliminate the clutter we’d magically accumulated. We committed to using our calendars more effectively and to prioritising tasks and actions. This is all good and indeed necessary. Now it’s time to expand our focus and consider additional actions to assist us in becoming more effective and efficient.

The big complaint many have is the amount of time spent at meetings. Ask anyone about the greatest time wasters and invariably attending meetings will be mentioned. People get frustrated when they consider the time spent at meetings versus the results achieved. Too often they consider meetings exhaustive, repetitive and worst of all a waste of time! When you add up the cost of each person attending the meeting and the length of time of the meeting, what is the cost to your organisation? Can you say this is good value for money? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Take Action

To address this issue begin by looking at the meetings you have control over. Work to make these meetings as efficient and productive as possible. Consider the following:

1. Define the need for the meeting
Every meeting should have a clear purpose which is evident to all. Simply having the meeting because you’ve always had it is not good enough. Define the outcomes the meeting needs to achieve e.g. measure progress on the project versus what was planned and identify next steps.

2. Determine who should participate in the meeting
Everybody’s time is precious. Don’t include someone unless you can clearly articulate the reason why they should attend and the input you expect from the person.

3. Develop an agenda and distribute it to all involved with sufficient time for them to prepare for the meeting
An agenda needs to have structure. It is not a list of bullet points. An agenda should include a directive e.g. Agree the response to senior management on the new process for resolving customer issues. An agenda should also have the items prioritised and times assigned to each so attendees also know they key issues that will receive the greatest focus.

4. Anticipate how you will facilitate the meeting
The facilitator’s job to keep the meeting on track and ensure the issues identified are addressed. The key skill required is communication: the skill of actively listening, challenging contributions, drawing in reserved people and limiting others who are dominating. In advance consider how you will manage these different challenges and anticipate your responses to the dominant person or indeed the reserved individual.

5. Following your meeting evaluate effectiveness
Review the agenda and determine progress made in terms of achieving what you had identified. Ask others about the meeting: how was it helpful and how could it be improved? Be prepared to stop meetings if they are no longer required.

Of course when it comes to meetings in which you participate you need to consider how you can influence the facilitator to take on board your recommendations for managing the meeting more effectively. Also, query your participation on meetings. Be disciplined and consider your value to the organisation: would you be more valuable to your organisation by attending the meeting or focusing on other deliverables? Of course, when opting out of meetings you need to consider how you communicate that to the facilitator. Again, communication skills are critical.

Tricia CunninghamTricia Cunningham is the co-founder and senior partner at LEAP.

 

 

 

 

 

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 managers 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.

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.

 

Being a manager is both challenging and rewarding. Achieving results and seeing team members thrive as they settle into their roles is very satisfying. Great managers succeed in the role when they pay attention to the dynamics of team work. Great managers recognise that the technical aspect of the function needs attention. Results have to be achieved but the more challenging aspect of the role is managing people. When results are dropping, productivity nose-diving, co-operation vanishing and pressure is mounting from the leader, the role can be challenging and stressful.

In these situations the manager can experience a sense of loss of control. Natural instincts tend to push us towards pedalling harder in the hope the situation will be reversed. Actually the opposite action is required of the manager. This is the time to pause, step back and assess what is happening and why it is happening. Pausing is counter intuitive but necessary to gain control and in the process reduce stress. There is a direct correlation between control and stress levels. As we lose control we increase our stress levels. So obviously the key to reducing stress is taking control. How do managers tend to lose control?

Reacting in the moment

1. Do you find yourself constantly responding to requests and reacting to issues? Do you feel like you are always putting out fires? This type of behaviour becomes habitual and often we’re not aware of how we are feeding into it, encouraging it. It’s time to step back for a moment. Give yourself some space before reacting. Ask yourself “is this important and urgent” or is it “important but not urgent”? Of course your initial response will probably be it’s both important and urgent. However, when you dig at this question the answer is often that the issue is “important but not urgent”. If so, then take control. Figure out how and when you can work on the issue. In other words, plan.

Biting off more than you can chew

2. Break down tasks and activities to manageable sizes. Don’t be overly ambitious. Be realistic. You’ve a lot more control when managing small tasks or activities which means you’ll find the process of completing them less stressful. When the tasks or activities have been identified schedule them into your working day or week. In other words, plan.

Pushing out deadlines

3. With each deadline that is pushed out your sense of control and confidence in what you’re doing is eroded. Commit to deadlines and deliver to them. Be realistic about your deadlines and use your influencing skills when negotiating deadlines with others. People prefer when the deadline is longer than anticipated but it’s achieved rather than an ambitious deadline that constantly moves.

All of the above are small but necessary actions. As you implement these steps not only do you help yourself to manage your stress but you demonstrate best practices to key team members with the potential to be great managers.

Tricia Cunningham is co-founder and senior partner at LEAP.

Tricia Cunningham

 

People generally dislike or avoid conflict. It makes them uncomfortable so ignoring escalating issues is an approach adopted by many. However, when addressed early and effectively it can help clear tensions, address underlying issues and lead to innovation. So what are the signs of conflict and what causes conflict to escalate?

1. Dismissing Concerns

When employees raise an issue more than once it is clear the issue is of importance or the issue hasn’t been adequately addressed. Brushing the employee off with a comment such as “we discussed this already so let’s move on” is unsatisfactory. The person needs to fully understand the rationale behind the approach being taken and time needs to be given to discussing it. Once discussed and explored a statement closing the issue needs to be made e.g. “Now that we’ve explored this issue and understand what we have now agreed to do, we need to move to implementing our decision.”

2. Undermining Decisions

Teams need to agree the decision-making process and adhere to it. If an individual doesn’t adhere to the process then the decision is undermined and is more likely to result in conflict. Watch for signs that decisions are being undermined. Remind your team of the decision making process and the importance of sticking to that process.

3. Interpersonal Conflict

Requests for change in working habits or working teams is often an indication that an issue exists. Perhaps it’s nothing and the reasons behind the request are personal. Great. Now you can address it. However, it may be more. It may be that there is an issue between individuals within the team. If left unaddressed this will generally escalate and could possibly result in the individual claiming bullying exists. Keep the lines of communication open and make sure you regularly check in with employees that all is going well. Caught early there are many options available to you for addressing the issue. Left too long and your limited options may narrow to the least favoured one: litigation.

Tricia Cunningham is a partner and business advisor at LEAP.

 

  • 1
  • 2