Productive Conflict

Creative solutions and conflict can make everything better across an organization:

A major vehicle maker’s products were famously hard to repair—for example, the wiring was arranged in a way that the engine had to be removed to replace the headlights. Costs skyrocketed. The remedy: The company forced the engineers to work in the service department where they had to confront angry technicians and angry customers, and understand the consequences of their engineering decisions.

Cooperation matters because it is a necessary condition for effective teamwork and it matters more as the business environment becomes more complex. There are ever-increasing competitive pressures, regulatory requirements, and customers and other stakeholders with increasing numbers of demands. Too often, organizations respond to this complexity by getting complicated rather than by creating the conditions for cooperation. They add management layers, dedicated functions, processes and “best practices”—all in an attempt to control their people but which have the effect of deterring cooperation and making the organization clumsy and slow to respond.

via The surprising secret of happier, more productive organizations: conflict – Quartz.

If you’re in leadership in a firm, consider what you can do to shake people out of their comfort zone and to promote constructive conflict during meetings.  People need to mix it up a little to make better decisions and keep on track.

Make Meetings Matter

At a friend’s recommendation I came across this article with some helpful, practical tips on how meetings can be improved:

if run correctly, meetings are anything but pointless brain-killing, time-sucking gatherings. In fact, they can actually increase productivity and communication despite the time they take.

via 4 Secrets to Super-Productive Meetings | EntreLeadership.

Meetings can be the most exciting part of your day or the most draining.  If you’re really interested in making meetings matter more (sorry about all the Ms) try Patrick Lencioni’s Death By Meeting.

Bad Habits Run Deep But They’re Breakable

Here’s a worthwhile article on breaking a toxic workplace for you today:

When we communicate the four levels of health in Christian organizations, toxic, critical moment, healthy and flourishing; the following are the characteristics we use to describe toxic.

  • Highly political
  • Stifled
  • Closed
  • Unclear direction
  • No trust
  • Fear
  • Autocratic leadership
  • Low staff engagement
  • Dishonesty

via Five Steps To Break A Toxic Workplace | BCWI’s Best.

Teamwork and Perspectives

I’ve had a bunch of conversations over the past few months around a particular issue:  interpreting the actions of others on a team.  We can make things worse by a lack of respect for differing ideas.  So here’s a guiding principle you should adopt:

Whenever you find someone doing something you think he or she shouldn’t:  before reacting or interacting on the topic figure out why that very thing that you find so obviously wrong was reasonable in the mind of the other.  People rarely, if  ever, do something they personally in the moment think isn’t reasonable.  You may be able to instruct in a different moment why it wasn’t all that reasonable, but you’ll find that it’s easier to have that teachable moment if you’re able to start from the point of “I understand why you thought that doing X in this situation was a good idea….”

People are complicated.  And very different from one another.  All too often we tend to think that when someone has a different approach to a topic it’s either:

  1. They haven’t thought it through very well (or weren’t smart enough to), or
  2. They have a different idea of what’s right and wrong then we do

In most cases, at least in a well-aligned organization or family, neither of those are true.

Quite frequently I’ve found myself judging the actions or thoughts of another based on how I would have handled a situation.  And it usually makes relationships awful going forward until those conceptions are put out on the table and dealt with.  And most of the time I’ve jumped to one of the conclusions above I’ve been wrong.  Certainly there are times when someone hasn’t thought through an issue well enough.  In leadership, though, my experience has been that even when that’s true, the other person thought they’d considered all the issues when they had missed some important things.

It’s also sometimes true that the other person has a different goal in mind or a different viewpoint of what’s right in a given situation.  But it’s also true that sometimes two people, with the same goal and the same grid of what’s right and what’s not, come to two completely different conclusions about how to handle a particular problem.

So how do you deal with that?  Read the indented section above again.

And now read this:

 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant

via Philippians 2 ESV – Bible Gateway.

“In humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Good teamwork, when humility is mixed in, means that we try to understand first, considering different viewpoints to be assumed as valid, then proven otherwise.  It makes a huge difference when trying to convince someone they’re wrong if they believe they’ve been heard out and actually listened to.  It makes an even bigger difference if you can start your correction with “I can see how you got to what you think about this.  Correct me if I heard you wrong, but you saw A and B, and then concluded C from that, and then D followed because of E, right.”    And assuming you’ve heard and understood, you can then say, “here’s where you went wrong.  E isn’t actually the case, and your conclusion of C, is better understood if you see it as F.  If you start from there, you’ll see how you get to G and H being true rather than C and D.”

It’s called respect.  Humility breeds respect.  And respect of the perspectives of others, even when they’re coming to wrong conclusions, makes for better teamwork.

There’s something else.  I’ve found, over the years, that even poor ideas, when voiced, can provide improvement on better ideas.

Proverbs 24:6b says “in the abundance of counselors there is victory.”  To have an abundance of counselors, the team must, together, respect one another’s viewpoints enough to listen and learn from one another.  Listening, learning, gaining perspective.  This is part of leadership and true teamwork.  And it comes through humility, which leads to respect.

Change how you react to disagreement, and you’ll find your team gelling better together in short order.  When your teammates see you respect them, they’ll have an easier time respecting you.

Progress!

As of today we are 35% through the EMBA program, based on class days (including the international trip of 12 days), and 39% through based on calendar days (293 days until December 6th, last day of classes).  It’s exciting to get this far (over 1/3 the way through) and the routine of classes and work has settled to be something resembling “normal.”  

This morning I had my February executive coaching session and, as usual, they asked about school.   It’s a nice place to be regarding school right now.  I turned in the last assignment for Finance class on Saturday, and I’m just starting the reading for the Marketing module which starts this weekend.  Stress is low, relief is high, and the end isn’t in sight, but there’s a glimmer out there that may just be the end of the tunnel.  

We talked about a couple of other items at coaching as well, one of which I was really looking forward to:  change management.  We have a module later in the program on it, but there’s so much going on at SMI right now that I wanted to at least scratch the surface of it with the coaches now.  They had a few good practices to hand me (which I will hand over to the rest of the leadership team this week) and some resources to turn to, as well as one big rock to avoid:  

Don’t confuse awareness of the need to change with acceptance of the change or desire to change. 

Yeah.  That’s a good thought for me.  Because for me, that’s all there is.  When I can see the need to change, I’m ready to change.  Very little inertia except convincing me it’s necessary.  But for a lot of people, maybe even half, just knowing that change is necessary doesn’t take away the fear or inertia or inspire a desire to pursue the change.  And I need to make sure I’m not being so pushy about change, personally, that it train-wrecks someone else.  Patience, conversation, communication, and ONLY THEN execution of the change.  Especially in a culture like we have at Samaritan.

Something to remember, and to work to change in myself.

So things are moving.  I”m doing well in class.  I’m learning more and more every day, and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead for school, work and family.  It’s going to be a good year.  

EVP2 (No Aliens or Predators)

So we finished up the first HR module the past weekend.  My brain still hurts thinking about it  almost a week later.  Not because there were any terribly hard concepts to understand, but because there was so much more that I learned than we could ever put into practice easily and quickly.

I wrote going into the weekend about the Employee Value Proposition (EVP).  During the class we talked more about it and spent some time preparing, and then presenting,  about each organization’s (or team’s) EVP.  It was fun to do ours since we’re in the middle of looking through Mission and Values.  And it was fun because I realized more than I had before after my presentation that Samaritan Ministries truly is a fantastic place to work.

We have great benefits for our staff:  A family friendly environment, a 3% SEP IRA contribution, a chiropractor visits twice each week and serves staff and families.  And we have fun at work and we serve as a part of an amazing mission in encouraging and facilitating God’s people caring for one another.

We expect some things in return as well.  We want our staff to be all in for what we do.  All of our staff are members of Samaritan, and have to believe in our core statement of faith.  We want everyone to not just attend, but be involved in a local church.  We want our staff to practice the community we encourage, both with each other in the building, and with their local church body.

Samaritan has been on the Best Christian Workplaces list 6 years running.  Our staff has a high level of engagement and every day we all get to come to work someplace that matters.  As we discussed our core values and compared them to well run organizations like Zappos or Quicken Loans, something continues to strike us:  You can’t separate our values and our culture from our product.  We practice what we preach, and we preach what we practice.  And that, in and of itself, makes going to work every day an amazing experience.  If you fit with our EVP, you should consider joining our family.

Oh, and if you didn’t get the joke in the title of the post, here you go:

Why?

We have a two day leadership off-site meeting today and tomorrow.  This one focuses on MVV:  Mission, Vision and Values, and will be fodder for a Vision Map that we’ll use to help communicate our vision and plans to the rest of the staff regularly.  I’m really looking forward to it, but can’t tell you much because we’re not done yet and nothing is public.

I can tell you that we’ll be watching this video today, and you should too: