Often what we think is the problem, is not the real problem. Does this make sense?
I’ll put it another way. Have you ever slammed a door in anger? For the 99 per cent of us whose answer is ‘Yes’, a follow-up question. “Did slamming the door fix the problem?”
When I was about 14, Mum asked me, “What’s wrong sweetheart?” I replied angrily “Everyone is giving me the shits?” She said lovingly, “Oh sweetheart; everyone can’t be wrong.” Whack! She was telling me that those on my list weren’t the actual source of my frustrations.”
When we experience workplace frustrations, we tend to blame others (co-workers, bosses, suppliers, staff) and not the actual source of the conflict.
The actual source will be and should be considered in this order:
What do you want to fix/improve/achieve?
When taking on a new client we conduct an in-depth needs/aspirations analysis. Part of that analysis is asking management and staff, “What would you like our help to fix, improve or achieve?” Here are some typical responses.
To help our clients address these issues we review and improve their business structures and resources before blaming anyone’s competency or commitment.
How to achieve a behavioural change
A a few years ago, we worked with a major fuel company aiming to increase sales and margins. The client asked us to design a sales training course. In effect they were telling us that their under achievement in sales and margin was due to their competency.
We didn’t provide sales training, because the problem was not competency based.
We restructured their quote template (resource), turning it into a proposal template. The salespeople could only complete their new proposal once the client answered specific questions that did not relate to price.
The questions were:
I’m just going to have to tell him again!
But what if we have the right structures and resource and there are still problems? Good question. The, “I’m just going to have to tell him again!” comment came from a very experienced manager. It related to a staff member not completing his machinery pre-startup checklist despite having the resources and understanding the process.
We asked the staff member to explain what he should do prior to starting up any machinery. Instead of us telling him, he told us. He knew exactly what he should do.
We then asked, “What do you think the outcome will be if you do not follow agreed standards/expectations?” He said, “I’ll be out of a job?” He nailed it. We said “Yes. Is that what you want?” And he said “No”. His commitment improved!
Slam the right door in the right order
All the frustrations that are within our control or influence to fix will be due to one of the four root causes listed above. Start with the structures first, then resources, then competencies and lastly, commitment.
Another of my key mum/son conversations went something like this:
Mum: “Neville, the second saddest day of my life was when you moved out of home.”
Me: “Ahh…what was the saddest day of your life, Mum?”
Mum: “When you moved back.” And then she showed me the door.
Sometimes we are left with no other alternative but the door.
1. Conduct an annual business review
In your team, you and your colleagues would all agree that there are gaps between what they are actually doing and what they feel that the team should be doing in the areas of:
2. Develop a business improvement plan
Meet with your team to develop solutions. Reducing the gaps – conflict – will be dependent on improving your team’s:
3. Assign improvement solutions to each team member
Assign ‘new’ roles and responsibilities to each team member. If necessary, adjust team members’ position description and document any changes in their performance review template.
4. Conduct monthly review and improvement meetings.
Provide monthly feedback to the team on the its progress in achieving KPI’s, to celebrate success to challenge and to reinforce. Ensure that each team member reports on their areas of responsibility. Include in each team members report “What I’m struggling with is…” this ensures that conflict is tabled and dealt with each month, and “Who I’d like to thank for making my job easier is…” This helps develop cooperative and supportive relationships and those who aren’t being ‘thanked’ will start to feel some healthy peer group pressure.
5. Conduct staff performance reviews
You want to ensure that each staff member has aligned their behaviours to their new structures, resources, competencies and commitments as outlined in the team’s business improvement plan.
6. Regular maintenance chats
Conduct regular maintenance chats with team members to see how they’re going and to find out if they need any extra support. Encourage them to bring up any concerns, frustrations, ideas and successes at your team’s monthly meetings.
Conducting regular maintenance chats with staff provides an opportunity for you to deal with the conflict issues before they take hold.
I remember a particular maintenance chat I had with a client’s staff member; it went something like this;
Me: “Sam, how much of an effort are you putting in here, give me a percentage out of 100.”
Sam: “Ah…I don’t know.”
Me: “Sam, have a guess.” No one guesses wrong.
Sam: “Oh, I’d say around 70%” Good guess.
Me: ‘Sam is the boss paying you 100% of your wage or only 70% of it?”
Sam: ‘That’s’ not fair.”
Me: “Glad you agree, Sam. Where do you want to make the adjustment?”
7. Up skill your team in conflict resolution
Often, we don’t deal with conflict because we don’t have the words or process to ensure that we don’t make the situation worse. Improving your team’s competencies in conflict resolution would be more valuable to your business than sending them to a sales and margin improvement training course. (Unless it’s one of our courses).
So, to summarise
Small problem. Small fix. Small cost. Big problem. Big fix. Big cost.
Bad pushes out good. Those in your team who put in more do so because they care more. The last thing you want is to have those who care more think “Why should I bother, if they don’t care why should I?”
If you’d like to know what your gaps are free of cost and obligation, go to our services page to complete our Business Audit. And remember; eyebrows up when dealing with conflict!