By Cindy Barber
President, The Dash Group
While most people associate the word conflict with something negative, it is critical to be able to have conflict on a team and in an organization. The best ideas or solutions to a problem come from situations where people with different perspectives and ideas are able to voice their opinions, respectfully debate and work together to come to a solution.
Unfortunately, conflict can cause emotions to run high and before you know it, things can spin out of control and team members react rather than respond. We have all seen it and it can get ugly. Typically one of two things happen; either people get loud or passive aggressive or shut down completely. In either case, tension is high and results are low. So what can you do to have healthy conflict?
One thing we do with clients is to help them come up with what we call "Rules of Engagement". These are agreed upon rules that are posted on posters or poster-sized post-it notes in meetings to hold team members accountable for their behavior when conflict arises. These rules help temper emotions and allow for brilliant ideas and solutions to surface in meetings.
To come up with rules of engagement for a team, it is important to create this list in a meeting specifically for this task and not in the midst of a conflict crisis. We typically go around the room and ask each member of the team what they need to feel safe to voice their opinion in a conflict. Answers typically range from a guarantee of no retribution to no yelling to not calling out an individual in front of the group. The list always includes being respectful and making sure talk revolves around the "thing" and not any one person. Non-productive behavior like blaming is typically taken off the table.
When teams consistently adhere to their rules of engagement people are more likely to speak up, listen and consider other opinions. When that happens teams are actually brought closer by conflict and brilliant ideas are born.
By Cindy Barber
Have you ever looked at two companies who do the same (or very similar) things and wonder why one is successful and one isn’t? They both have solid products or services, great marketing, and there is a need for what they are selling but one company seems to always perform better. More than likely there is an organizational health issue involved. Basically, the company is sick. Like a person, an organization is healthy when it is free to function at its highest potential and is sustainable. The sicker they are, the less productive and profitable. Here are some key attributes of a healthy organization:
According to Patrick Lencioni in his book The Advantage, “Addressing organizational health provides a competitive advantage to companies because ultimately health becomes the multiplier of intelligence. The healthier an organization is, the more of its intelligence it is able to tap into and actually use. Most organizations only exploit a fraction of the knowledge, experience and intellectual capital available to them. The healthy ones tap into all of it. Addressing health helps companies to make smarter decisions, faster, without politics and confusion.”
When a person or a family is unhealthy, things get in the way of them operating as successfully as they could. In companies, we say they have an organizational drag – something(s) that pull in a counteractive direction to where the company is trying to move. It is common for the following to create an organizational drag:
It can be challenging to help executives understand that the cost of ignoring organizational health can be devastating. Many of the measures of the health of an organization such as trust, engagement, accountability, and culture are “soft skills”, mistakenly treated too often as unimportant skills. If soft skills are synonymous with people skills and people are driving your organization it is imperative that those skills be highly developed. Regardless of the market space, an organization will never be better than its people. And, unlike the economy, marketplace, competitor behavior, etc., it is the one critical area of business companies have control over.
Those that understand and make organizational health an integral part of their overall business strategy are able to maximize the potential of their company. It is encouraging to see more and more leaders moving in that direction. It is the vision of The Dash Group that one day organizational health will be given the priority that marketing, sales, R&D and other business objectives receive. It is the one investment you can count on to yield a high rate of return both now and for years to come.
 Lencioni, The Advantage, 3/13/12, Wiley
 McKenzie Quarterly, April 2014
Optimism as a Core Value.... Consider the Possibilities....
By Cindy Barber
Whatever you believe when facing an issue, you are probably right. If you look at a problem as an insurmountable hurdle, you will be more likely to stop short of solving it. If you look at the same problem as an opportunity with the possibility of a solution, you will begin to see options and will be much more likely to discover that solution.
Optimism, as a value, does not mean that you approach situations with a “rose-colored glasses” mentality. It means that you believe in possibility. A horrible mistake could possibly teach a company a huge lesson, save money or clients in the long run. A problem may have existed in an organization for years but what if assembling the right people to brainstorm together could possibly solve it? An employee doesn’t work well with some colleagues from another department and is constantly frustrated with them, causing conflict in every meeting they have. Could it be possible that with some cross training, that employee could gain a different perspective and become a team player?
It is amazing the power that possibility has. It is the birthplace of invention, aspiration and change. We owe the entire aviation industry to two brothers that were not formally educated and had no money. They looked at birds and considered the possibility that man could fly, an idea that was preposterous at the time. With less than $1,000 and the belief in possibility, they soared both figuratively and literally.
Through an optimistic filter, the possibilities are endless for the transformation of leaders, organizational change, and business growth. Considering possibility is how we integrate optimism, as a value, into daily work life. There are hundreds of potential hurdles we all face each day. Looking at them through the lens of possibility radically changes outcomes, organizations and lives.
"The Wright brother flew right through the smoke screen of impossibility." - Charles Kettering