Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for August, 2009

Assuming good intentions can be tough, but may help

It still amazes me how the workplace provides such fertile ground for miscommunications, misunderstandings, and indirect conversations. One of the most unfortunate and damaging elements of poor communication between two people at work (or between organizations and their employees) is the baggage that builds up over time, which in turn, affects trust and the ability to have or accept effective exchanges moving forward.

Once someone feels that they’ve been misinterpreted or ignored, natural defenses rise against the other individual or organization. And that defense mechanism becomes a significant factor in the failing working relationship, which of course makes everyone part of the problem.

In my work, I often have the unique opportunity to hear all sides of a problem or conflict. With that in mind, I’m confident in saying that 9 times out of 10, even in the center of a conflict, people are not calculating or untrustworthy. They’re simply centered on their personal perspective of the problem and how it affects their own experience. Once someone is upset, they seldom are equipped to openly listen to the other side of the problem or more importantly accept how they may have a hand in it. And even with that, it’s generally not a matter of being untrustworthy or malicious, it’s a matter of being upset and reactively self-centered about the issue at hand. These aren’t helpful workplace behaviors but they’re definitely typical.

So here’s my tidbit today. In the best of circumstances, and more importantly in the midst of conflict—be it covert or overt—try entering a conversation assuming good intentions on the part of the other person or your organization. Although it may be tough, it’s one thing you can do to begin to move the relationship in a better direction.

Simple process improves team meetings

Are you charged with facilitating a team meeting where participants need to come together to problem-solve toward an interim or final solution? Follow this simple 4-step process to minimize unproductive discussions and help move the team to action.

Be sure to scribe output from each of the following components for all to see.

1) As a team, agree on the goal and objective for the meeting—not the long-term objective, just what you hope to accomplish during this 60/90 minutes. Remain flexible to adjust the meeting objectives as you move through the discussion. Keep it realistic.
2) Allow all participants to offer their perspectives of the current reality/issues. The good news? The team need not agree on the current reality.
3) Facilitate a true brainstorming session about what they might do as individuals and/or as a team to make the situation better or help the team succeed. —The more ideas the better.
4) As a group, agree on just 2-5 doable action items from the list of ideas. For the best results, all need to agree on next steps and actions—whether individual or collaborative—that are specifically assigned, with specific target and follow up dates.

Whether a team is coming together to troubleshoot, manage a project, launch a new initiative, or resolve conflict, this process is designed to generate results.