Archive for the ‘Conflict Resolution’ Category

Four sides to every story: Prepare to manage a conflict more constructively

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Recently  two of my yoga friends relayed to me a coffee conversation with a visiting yoga guru. It was interesting to see them describe a conversation with two viewpoints that were so different you would have thought they were different events. Neither could accept the other’s view of it. One talked about  the person as self-centred and uninterested in anyone else.  The other said the guru was very caring and so willing to share her knowledge with other people. Each was amazed that the other could possibly see the same conversation so differently.  I remembered a previous boss saying: ‘There are always at least four sides to every conflict’

It is very useful to access this awareness of different views, when we are emotionally involved in a conflict.   NLP provides a handy technique,   Perceptual Positions, to use as you prepare for a difficult conversation.  Using this tool, you shift you physically around the different viewpoints in a conflict and gets you to talk about the conflict from each positions’ point of view. It sounds a bit 80’s, but physically shifting certainly helps us see the different viewpoints.

Recently I’ve been re-visiting Byron Katie’s fascinating work, called, prosaically,  The Work.  She calls this shift to an alternate perception, ‘turnaround’.  Seeing it in action is very productive, confronting and yet often soothingly hilarious!  The idea is that you make a statement you believe, for example: ‘She was condescending to me’. Then you explore turning it around in various ways: ‘I was condescending to me’,  ‘She wasn’t condescending to me’, ‘I was condescending to her’ .  Then just see what happens to your approach.


Need some excellent advice on bullying?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

On a recent flight I overheard a powerful conversation: Guy in his late forties quite quickly got into a deep conversation with a young teenage boy.  Eventually it came out that the kid was being bullied.  The man shared with him that he had the same experience when he was at school and how tough it was. The two sat in empathetic silence for a bit.  The man talked about  some ways he thinks he could have handled it looking back.  He pointed out that it would end. He also suggested that there’s choice about what to do with that experience in your life  – you can use it for positive or negative purposes. The relief I sensed in the young boy’s voice when he received this compassionate response was proof of the positive choice the guy had chosen.

Despite much greater awareness of the drastic damage created by bullying, there’s certainly still a lot of it about in the workplace, as well as the playground. The ramifications are immense, for the perpetrators as well as the victims. While we assume that bullying at work is from a manager towards a staff member.  Presumably that is the usual direction, but there’s also a surprising amount of bullying of managers by very aggressive staff.

Vital Smarts have a recent post titled: Three’s a Crowd, containing excellent advice on how to intervene when your child is being bullied. There are also very relevant comments on that post (37 at last count!) that add some more valuable ideas. This advice could be applied in adult situations as well as in the playground.

How much do we really want to change

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

I attended some Rotary leadership training yesterday and experienced a very powerful exercise relating to the difficulty of personal change.  In the photo it looks like a strange seance. Maybe it was!  It was so hard to do, I wondered if there were some some supernatural forces at work.      


  • You can see in the photo a long piece of dowel, flat on one side.
  • Each pair had to poke out their index fingers, shot gun style.  Then they had to align them with the opposite person’s index fingers, one inside the other.  The dowel was placed on top.
  • The rule: Everyone’s index fingers must have the dowel resting on them all the time.
  •  The task: Lower the dowel as a team. (Talk about easy!)
I took the photo while I was watching this other team fail completely at the task.  ‘Heavens’, I thought.  ‘What a bunch of klutzes!’
But when it came to my turn, we could not get that dowel to lower!
On the one hand the group knew we had to lower it, so we tried bending our knees. Unfortunately, each individual team member knew they had to keep their index fingers touching the dowel, so each of us must have lightly pressed up on the dowel to achieve that. That darn piece of dowel kept going up and up and up, no matter how hard we tried to lower it.
‘Leadership’, I thought. ‘Okay, on a count of three, we will all bend our knees and lower it that way! One, two, three, bend!’… Darn thing went up.
After multiple tries, the best we managed was that one end lurched way down and the other lifted way up!
Don’t you think change is like that? We  know we need to alter some habit, but we keep sliding back into touching the easy emotional dowel of our old behaviour.
We might be told that our team behaviour has to change and we know that.  But each one of us isn’t truly committed to that because we just relax back into our usual ways.  In umpteen small lapses the change becomes more and more remote.

How to stop pressing back up into past ways of doing things?  There are some good personal tips here at: 12 Tips for Creating Lasting Change and an interesting piece on reducing resistance to change  among your employees at: Change Management Coach

I still can’t believe how hard that exercise was!


Is old fashioned courtesy all that's needed?

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

I often remember the basics that my grandmother was so keen on. Those old fashioned things called ‘manners’.

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They are well ingrained into my fundamental practices.

Some of the ‘rules’ are now very out of date for example a male walking on the outside of a female (I think it as to stop her gown getting splattered by mud from on coming carriages) . However some are well worth thinking about and probably putting into practice.

Many of us have changed the way we work.We are now in shared open plan spaces often ‘hot bedding’. The old idea of owning our office space where we can scatter our personal belongings is fast disappearing. Now we need to be mindful of others that are sharing office space.

For introverts the interruptions can be very irritating.For extroverts it is a welcome change.For those who love a clear desk policy having to clear a space to work is infuriating.

The conversations you have on the phone are not for sharing…if you need to have a conversation take yourself to another area where you can’t be heard.

I guess the secret of working in close proximity is to be conscious of others and be aware it’s not the big things that drive people nuts but the little things that cause havoc with working relationships.

No man is an island .We all need to work together and maybe all it takes is courtesy.

Sensible starting point when you suspect bullying

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

A complaint of bullying is a majorstep down a very formal path. It puts people in polarised corners regardless of the cialis pills validity or seriousness of the complaint.  Relationships are more damaged because of this. Some people put off making a complaint because of fear of  the repercussions.  Some managers are very badly damaged by accusations of bullying, even when an investigation discovers that the complaint is unfair.

Hayden Olsen, from Workplaces Against Violence in Employment, suggests an informal process as a starting point.  This is a mediated approach that aims for resolution of the problem, rather than retribution.  Whilst a formal process inevitably has to look back to see what happened. An informal process enables an organisation to look forwards and asks what needs to change for a better future?

Some organisations use this approach as a starting point. Consciously applying it could shift the process into something much more open and constructive for all parties.

Can you transform your thinking from negative to positive?

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Two of my friends walked the glorious  Lake Waikaremoana together with a small group recently. This last weekend I asked each of them separately how the trip had gone.  

The results were fascinating: Person One had a WONDERFUL time – loved the lake, the bush, the length of the walk, the view from Panikiri Bluff and so on.

I reported this to Person Two who,  in tones of total disbelief, said: ‘Didn’t she tell you all the negatives? It rained, someone didn’t have the right sort of jacket, people argued, someone was worryingly unfit, people snored..’ you can imagine the rest!

Whilst there is interesting evidence that negativity isn’t always negative, I know who I’d rather have been in Waikaremoana with!

Do you feel that you are a bit negative?  The starting point is to realise that you can choose to change your view of  the world.  There’s the famous ‘Feeding the wolf‘ story that is so true. Life Hack has a very simple post of  Nine Ways to be More Positive.  Follow that advice and you can certainly shift your perception to something a lot pleasanter to live with!




Gratitude for healthier Christmas

Monday, December 17th, 2012
Christmas Down Under squashes together a huge number of unrealistic expectations – wonderful Christmas Day, perfect extended family relationships,  family who scooped the pool at various prize givings, superb summer holiday and so on.
We are desperately rushing around trying to meet those expectations, yet the probably the best thing we can do is to just be grateful.
The connection between gratitude and all manner of health benefits is quite marked. Gratitude causes sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, better recovery from major surgery and so  on.  This New York Times  article is about Thanksgiving, but it quotes some of the research. So to manage Christmas, get on with being grateful.
Many of us like to use the Christmas break to look back over the past year.  Without getting madly introspective, figuring out what you are grateful for can be very positive.  Many people find writing a daily gratitude journal is a very quick and constructive exercise. For more ideas, the Changeblog has some useful exercises on gratitude
If you have had a rough year, remember that our biggest gratitudes often arise from difficult experiences.  At our local brain injury Christmas party on the weekend, one of the clients said he was grateful for his brain injury.  The consequent fatigue had forced him to slow down and just live more in the moment.
 To put a Christmas context on gratitude:  I’ve often thought that the elderly relative who irritated me the most on Christmas Day is the member of the older generation that I now remember the most! It’s not fair, but I promise you it is so. Be grateful even for them!

Keeping connected during change – A Christmas message

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

We have just had our annual Christmas get-together.

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  Our friends and neighbours  join us to catch up with us and with each other. Often it’s a chance to renew old connections and check in on the year just gone.  Over a year there have always been changes, mostly positive; but this year a few of our friends have faced redundancy.

Restructuring and redundancy are now a regular part of our lives.  Some of you will have been affected, either as managers of change, or as people strongly affected by it.

Whatever your role, there will be emotion involved. For managers, telling people they are redundant is difficult and  a series of these conversations can leave managers feeling isolated and unpopular.

Being on the other end can be even harder.  The sense of loss and dis-empowerment can be huge for people.  A feeling of unfairness and fear can loom large.

What can we do about these difficult emotions?  The best answer is, of course, the simplest – connect with others. It helps to reduce the effects of the emotional upheaval, by talking it through with your support people – your co workers, your family and your friends.


Seeing change as an opportunity may be difficult when the news is still raw, but as CS Lewis said:  ‘Getting over painful experiences is much like crossing monkey bars.  At some point you have to let go to move along.’  ‘Take time to reflect.  Then when that the new role comes along, once again take your time to settle in. There are more tips in this interesting article.

If you are the manager of people who have undergone a lot of change,  remember your new team will take time to regroup and feel confident abut the path ahead. There are some tips to help at this site

We are fast approaching  Christmas. It is traditionally a time for family and friends and the opportunity to take your time and value the moment. Cherish what is really important in your life.   ‘Change always comes bearing gifts’  said Price Pritchett. Sometimes it’s hard to even see the gift let alone unwrap it.