Saturday, November 13, 2010

Getting Rid of the “A” Team

Here's a encore guest post by Sylvia Lafair:

This is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for; time to say “good bye” to all the annoying, arrogant, argumentative, abrasive, attacking, autocratic, aloof, and aggressive folks you work with who make your life annoying, alarming, and apocalyptic.

Don’t spend another day wondering if you can have a more creative, cooperative, and collaborative work world.

You can!

Getting rid of this type of “A Team” can be done in five easy steps. Well, five steps anyway. The easy part depends on how much elbow grease you are willing to put into the process. Becoming Conflict Competent is a major part of leadership development, yet it gets limited attention. Its sibling, conflict resolution is the process that gets most of the attention. However, resolving conflict has to be done again and again and again and, well you get the picture.

Conflict competence means you are so super self-aware it would take a bulldozer to push your buttons. It means you have the capacity to see other sides of every situation and can make an unbiased decision that is in the best interests of everyone involved. It means you can withstand criticism and stay steady when the going gets rough. It means you can stay in the anxiety of the “ugly middle” of upsets without rushing to solve the problem just to get it out of the way. It means having the ability to listen to others and ask great open-ended questions.

Use the following five step action plan and the “A Team” will transform into an “A TEAM” that is alive, audacious, accountable, agreeable, accepting, and amazing.

The Step- Down Process:

1. COOL DOWN:
Take time to let your own emotions settle down. Use one of the following techniques before you talk with any of the parties in the conflict. Breathe! All the martial arts use breath for success. Think down two inches from your navel. This is your core. Put your hand there to feel the space and push your hand just a bit to help keep your mind focused there. Now, start breathing into this area. I promise; it works. Takes some practice, yet once you get the hang of it you will begin to feel calmer as you proceed to think about the “A- -“ on the team who is making life difficult.

2. SLOW DOWN:
This is where you have to face your own fears and anxieties. The premise of “Don’t Bring It to Work” is that when stress hits the hot button we are all prone to revert to patterns of behavior we learned as children to alleviate our fears and protect us. While we don’t want to bring the patterns from our families to work, we do! Sorry for this news, yet if you give it some thought you will see the validity and realize that when the stress is high you, your boss, or your colleagues will begin to behave like babies. So, slow down and begin to explore all the options you can find for solving the present problem.

3. PLAY DOWN:
Begin to look at the gap between your intentions and that of the others in the conflict situation and how you are all impacting each other. This is where the old, outmoded patterns start to interlock, like a puzzle. Here is where the pattern takes on a life of its own, unless you take charge. Get to know your triggers when someone upsets you. Own them, acknowledge them, and embrace them. If you don’t own the drama king/queen in you, or the avoider, martyr, rebel, etc. please know the pattern will own you!

4. SIT DOWN:
Now it is time to create the safe space for you and the other/s to talk. They may not have the background and knowledge of conflict competence that is where your skill and tenacity come in. Set the standards for listening without interruption. Set the standards for telling the truth without blame, judgment, or attack. Make sure there is enough time to go through the range of dialogue that needs to happen. Nothing is worse than finally getting to the heart of the issues and time is up. You can make the space safe for truth telling only if there is a quiet, setting with no interruptions.

5. TOUCHDOWN:
Great, you have earned the points, the cheering from the crowd. What happened? You were instrumental in keeping the process moving in a forward direction, helping to hold people accountable, helping untie the “Knots” as in “am not, should not, will not, not good enough and not like me”. This is what separates those who can get to consensus in conflict resolution from those who can become positive teachers about how to approach conflict and not just get consensus this one time, how to shape conflict discussions from here forward.

Give this a shot. It may seem paradoxical at first, having to step down to step up. Once we all learn to use our bodies and minds to discipline our emotions, once we learn to look back at the patterns from family, culture and crisis that have formed us, we are all in a more secure position to tackle conflict and that is sure what the world needs now.

Sylvia Lafair, PhD, is an international business leadership expert and President of CEO – Creative Energy Options, Inc., a global consulting company focused on optimizing workplace relationships.
Her award winning book “Don’t Bring It to Work” (Jossey Bass) has been ranked in the top of Amazon’s Best Selling Workplace books. She has been featured in Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time, CIO Magazine, New York Times, many radio, and TV programs.