When Communication Causes Conflict: Understanding Styles

Conflict is a natural part of life. While many of us do not enjoy it, conflict can be healthy. Innovation expert David Burkus believes that a lack of conflict signals a lack of new ideas or a willingness to improve. When properly managed conflict can push us to higher levels of achievement.

The trick is facilitating healthy versus unhealthy conflict.

In his book, When Goliaths Clash: Managing Executive Conflict to Build a More Dynamic Organization, Howard Guttman teaches us about one common source of conflict – how we communicate. He cites research which shows that individuals naturally possess one of three communication styles – passive, assertive and aggressive. They can be mapped on a continuum as follows:

Communication Conflict 2

When we communicate with people who communicate with the same style as our own we usually do not experience conflict. As a Canadian, I believe that our nation generally has a passive communication style. In contrast, I recently observed a conversation by two Italians which sounded like a mild yelling match (it wasn’t!).

When we encounter people with who do not use our preferred communication style it can be a source of conflict. A former colleague and I used to have regular conflict. As I reflect on our communication styles, I believe that it was often a result of style differences. My style is somewhere between passive and assertive. Her style is aggressive. My communication breakthrough occurred one day when I began to speak loudly, brashly and interrupt her during a meeting. When I adopted her communication style she responded to me in positive ways I did not anticipate.

Adapting to this style was significantly outside of my comfort zone. However, when I understood and adapted, we were able to make progress.Here are three simple steps to help you minimize communication conflict:

  1. Understand your communication style. If you don’t know, ask other people for their input.
  2. Assess the communication style of the person you are conflicting with. Is it different than yours?
  3. Adapt. Develop a strategy for how you can adapt your style to that of the other person.

There are many sources of conflict and this model will not solve every problem you encounter. However, I believe that communication style conflict is one which is not often discussed. As you understand, assess and adapt, you will likely solve a few of those daily headaches caused by unhealthy conflict!


 

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a professor and consultant in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

References

David Burkus (2012). Managing Conflict Through Innovation.

Howard Guttman (2003) When Goliaths Clash. Mt. Arlington Business Press.

Image Credit

 

Leading Globally: How Humane is Your Country?

As the world has learned about the tragic earthquake in Nepal we see a tremendous outpouring of generosity and compassion. However, not all nations respond the same to humanitarian needs. This cultural difference can be partially explained by something called our humane orientation.

The GLOBE leadership study defines humane orientation as the degree to which individuals in organizations encourage individuals for being fair, altruistic, friendly, generous, caring and kind to others. The chart below illustrates some of the most common differences between countries with high or low humane orientation scores. At the bottom of this blog you will find a reference chart which provides specific results for the 62 countries in the GLOBE study.

Human Orientation Chart 2

The GLOBE research discovered that societies with high humane scores have citizens who experience economic, physical and psychological well-being. Conversely, countries with lower humane orientation are more economically developed, modern and urbanized. Furthermore, societies which exist in difficult conditions (physically or due to climate) have a higher humane orientation! Difficult conditions help facilitate cooperation and solidarity!

This study provides information about countries that most of us will never set foot on. However, globalization often brings these cultures to our own cities, neighborhoods and classrooms. Effective leaders must understand that we each carry bias about the ideal humane orientation. Furthermore, they learn how to identify and appropriately respond to these different views.

This blog is the final installment in a series on global leadership. You may enjoy reviewing some previous posts: Gender EqualityAssertivenessFuture Orientation, Power DistancePerformance Orientation and Individualism.


 

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a Human Orientation Chart 1professor and consultant in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Reference

House, R., Hanges, P.J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P.W., Gupta, V. (2004).Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

The Digital Natives are Eating My Norms!

Eight years ago we bought our first flat-screen television. About a month after this purchase my eight year old boldly told me that we needed another one downstairs. I regressed into classic father-mode and said, “Are you kidding me! When I was your age, I remember getting our first color TV”. He looked at me blankly and asked, “What color was it?”

I’m getting to the age where I’m starting to acknowledge that I’m different. I have children who don’t comprehend black-and-white television. Last night’s 16 year old American Idol performer sang a classic Bryan Adams song that she “had never heard before”. My daughter recently pointed out a nondescript young lady buying a hot dog at an Orange County fair and whispered, “she has over a million subscribers on her You-Tube channel.”

As Bob Dylan was crooned, “the times, they are a changing…”.

Much of this shift is rooted in the rapid technological change we have undergone in the past 30 years. The terms digital natives and digital immigrants are used to describe the mindsets differences such as the ones noted above. Digital natives are the generation of people Digital Immigrant Storyborn during or after the rise of digital technologies Conversely, digital immigrants are people born before the advent of digital technology (DeGraff). I am clearly an immigrant with native children who believe ubiquitous WiFi is a birthright!

As a result of our different histories, digital natives and immigrants have  different cultural norms. The environments they were raised in provide each with a different worldview. At times this causes us to clash. However, we can each benefit by learning from the advantages that each style brings.

Degraff outlines some helpful things that digital natives can teach digital immigrants:

  • To collaborate across boundaries, with a variety of people.
  • To make a place in life for values.
  • To build solutions that are horizontal.

In turn, digital immigrants can teach digital natives:

  • To achieve goals quickly.
  • To use focused resources in building things to scale.
  • To revitalize or repurpose existing institutions.

No matter which side of this spectrum you are on, you need to learn how to deal with others who think differently than you do. I believe that we can respond to these differences with one of the following strategies:

  1. We resist and pretend we don’t need to change.
  2. We duck ask the other person to change.
  3. We change.

Personally, I am a strong advocate of number 3 despite the fact that it means I have to pay attention to things like Nintendo, the Coachella festival and those quirky hipsters.

I recently read an educator who was speaking about the future of on-line learning. He noted, “I can hardly wait until we have on-line classes courses taught by millennials”. He understands that digital natives are going to transform our world in positive ways. Hopefully, both digital natives and immigrants will continue to transform the way we work. Are you willing to change?



Head ShotJeff Suderman is a thought leader and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

References

Chris Mark (Feb. 18, 2015). Design for Millennials.

Jeff DeGraff (June 16, 2014). Digital natives vs. digital immigrants.

 

Leading Globally: The Power Distance Effect

We have all felt power at work in our professional and personal relationships. Sometimes it draws us nearer to people and at times it pushes us away. At times it operates so naturally that we feel comfortable while at other times it makes us uncomfortable. There is a term for this – power distance.

By definition, power distance is the degree to which we expect and agree that power should be stratified and concentrated at higher levels. High power distance seeks more stratification while lower score minimize differences. This phenomenon is very present as we examine cultural norms. The caste system in India is a historic example of how power distance can dramatically define and affect relationships and societies.

The chart below illustrates some of the most common differences between countries with high or low power distance scores. At the bottom of this blog you will find a reference chart which provides specific results for the 62 countries in the GLOBE study.

Leading Globally - Power Distance

 

 

 

 

Power distance norms correlate directly to how we lead. Countries with low scores utilize Leading Globally - Power Distance3charismatic and participative leadership styles. Countries with high scores practice self-protective leadership. In addition, the GLOBE research reveals that traditionally, strong Catholic countries have a culture of strong power distance. High practices of power distance are also associated with higher levels of male domination in societies. To illustrate this point, I encourage you to look for countries which have female Presidents or Prime Minister’s. In most cases, you will find that they are nations with lower power distance scores.

This global measure provides us with helpful insights into how societies operate. Power distance is a quiet principle that affects our lives in significant ways. Effective leaders and organizations must learn to identify and adapt to variances in power distance norms as they work and relate to others.

This blog is part 6 of an 8 part series on global leadership. You may enjoy reviewing some previous posts: Gender EqualityAssertivenessFuture OrientationPerformance Orientation and Individualism.


 

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a professor and consultant who works inLeading Globally - Power Distance 2
the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Reference

House, R., Hanges, P.J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P.W., Gupta, V. (2004).Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Playoff Leadership

When sports teams make it to the playoffs they often speak of the need to play at a higher level. Players and coaches refer to it as “the next gear”, ” giving 110%” or “leaving it all on the table”. Successful teams learn how to squeeze out that extra effort when they need it the most.

Imagine if you worked that way. Or if your employees did. All the time!

This was the goal of Bob Hartley, coach of the Calgary Flames hockey club this season. Two years earlier the team traded their superstars and embarked on a rebuilding process in order to be a future playoff contender. But somehow they achieved this goal in year two of the rebuild. Many believe that their success can be attributed to how Hartley trained his team.

So how did he do it? He began with the end in mind! He told his team that he wanted them to think that the playoffs began when the puck dropped in the first game of the regular season. In other words, there were no optional games or a point where they had to learn to dig deep. Instead, he taught them to play that way all year long.

Hartley knows that playoffs are a best-of-seven series of games. So he broke the regular season into twelve seven game playoff segments. His teams’ goal was to win each of these seven-game series. It was a lofty goal for a team whose best line has players who are 20 and 21 years of age! Remarkably, the Flames used this system to win ten of twelve series (they tied one). This feat earned an inexperienced team their first playoff berth since 2009.

What can we learn as we apply this lesson to ourselves or our organizations?

  1. Vision big. If you have the talent, no matter how young, aim high. This team should not have made the playoffs. But their vision was big enough to provide the opportunity.
  2. Plan long. A plan was in place months before playoffs began. We must begin with the end in mind.
  3. Measure short. Large projects can be overwhelming. However, a series of seven game segments keeps it simple. Each small goal had measurables by which to define success or failure.
  4. Make it attainable. Hartley knew that a young team can’t undertake a goal they cannot understand. Large projects can be overwhelming. Therefore, he broke a big goal into several smaller goals. Clear and attainable goals and help create a ‘do it’ attitude.

Planning with the end in mind is not rocket science. However, sometimes it is the simple principles that work best. Just ask Bob Hartley.

Note: The Flames next seven game series, their first of the 2015 NHL playoffs, begins at 8:00 PST on Wednesday, April 15.


 

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a hockey nut, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Pobody’s Nerfect – Embracing Imperfection

“We didn’t design the new Wired [on-line magazine] to be perfect. We designed it to be perfected” (Scott Dadich). Wired magazine recently launched a new web site and this caveat was provided by their Editor in Chief as he introduced the launch. Behind some great writing is a great principle.

I love the simplicity of this concept. It may be a modern day variation of the golden rule (if you need a reminder, it is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you).

Here are a few simple examples of this attitude in action.

Customer Service: While dining at a trendy restaurant in San Diego, our medium burgers were served rare. They were dripping blood. When our harried waitress checked-in she immediately owned the problem and waived our bill before we requested it. For everything! Would I visit this establishment again? You bet!! Customer Service isn’t perfect but in can be perfected.

Employees: The old adage reminds us that ‘a rolling stone gather no moss’. I am hard on employees who gather moss because they were not willing to put in the effort to improve. However, grace abounded for those who rolled. Sometimes they rolled in the wrong direction, but they rolled! Employees are not perfect but they can be perfected.

Leaders: I love it when I hear leaders apologize. Not because I want to be the one who is right. Rather, it’s because an apology shows that they have enough humility to acknowledge that they are not infallible. Leaders are not perfect but they can be perfected.

Children: I am embarrassed to admit that when my kids behave poorly publicly, I am usually more concerned about how this affects my image than I am about their perfecting process. I’ll bet I’m not alone on this one. Good parents provide an environment that fosters growth which means mistakes will abound. Kids are not perfect but they can be perfected.

Marriage: A colleague once confessed, “our marriage was pretty lousy for the first 20 years. Then we stopped trying to change each other and it’s been great ever since”. What happens when we focus our efforts on changing ourselves instead of someone else? Marriage isn’t supposed to be perfect but it can be perfected.

You: Some people wear perfectionism like a badge of honor. To me, it’s a red flag. Conversely, others renege on any responsibility to do their best and this is no better (e.g. – the rolling stone principle). The happiest people I know realize they are far from perfect and thrive within the paradox of perfecting imperfection. You aren’t supposed to be perfect but you can be perfected.

To paraphrase Dadich, life isn’t designed to be perfect. But it is designed to be perfected. That’s a principle to live by!


 

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Scott Dadich (April 2015). Welcome to the next wave of Wired. Wired Magazine, p. 16.

The Three C’s of an Effective Hire

Many years ago I solicited the insight of my boss regarding a difficult choice for a hiring decision. However, instead of giving his input, he provided me with a principle by which he expected me to make the decision (for more on principle related decision making read Do You Adopt or Adapt?). He referred to it as the three-C’s of a hire:

  1. Competence: Does the individual have the ability to do the job? In some cases, this refers to competence which can be developed based on demonstrated abilities.
  2. Character: Does this person have character which aligns with organizational expectations and is ethically sound?
  3. Chemistry: Does this person have a demeanor and style which fits with you and the team they will be working in.

I have used this principle extensively. When making difficult decisions, I can usually isolate my hiring concerns to one of these three areas. This simple rubric has also helped me change how I interview. I believe that 80% of interview questions only focus on competence! Therefore, I have had to develop questions which help me understand chemistry and character. Here are two great examples of how this can be done. While interviewing for an organization in Southeast Asia, I was asked, “When is it OK to break the rules”. That is a great character question in a region where bribery is normal! When I was a finalist for another job, I was taken out to lunch with the team. After my reply to a comment brought the entire table to laughter, I know that they had a pretty good insight into team chemistry.

One of my students recently taught me a more sophisticated version of this concept (thanks Jeremy!).

  1. Person-job fit: does the individual fit this vocation?
  2. Person-supervisor fit: does the individual fit the supervisor they will report to?
  3. Person-group fit: does the individual fit with those they work with on a daily basis?
  4. Person-organization fit: does the individual fit the company?(Kristof-Brown)
  5. Person-culture fit: does the individual fit the culture of this organization? (O’Reilly)

A bad hire is costly! I believe that many poor choices are a result of inadequate consideration of the three C’s. Interviewing for character, competence and chemistry is one way to decrease the risk.


 

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

References:
Kristof-Brown, A. L., Zimmerman, R. D., & Johnson, E. C. (2005). Consequences of individuals’ fit at work: A meta-analysis of person-job, person-organization, person-group, and person-supervisor fit. Pesonnel Psychology(58), pp. 281-342.
O’Reilly III, C. A., Chatman, J., & Caldwell, D. F. (1991). People and organizational culture: A profile comparision approach to assessing person-organization fit. Academy of Mangement Journal, 34(3), pp. 487-516. doi:10.2307/256404

Chess Not Checkers: Book Review

Books which help leaders elevate their game are not unusual. However, Chess Not Checkers enters this busy arena promising new insights. So does it succeed?  The publisher of this book recently sent me the book for review so let’s see how it rates.

This is actually more of a short story and it is authored by Mark Miller, the Vice President of Leadership Development at Chick-fil-A. In this story you will find four leadership principles woven into the fictitious story of Blake, a newly appointed CEO at a floundering organization. Through weekly meetings with a mentor, the dialogue teaches us four principles of leadership which are all based on the metaphor of chess.

Mark-Miller1Miller’s metaphor purports that early on, businesses can play by the simple rules of checkers. However, at some point, they cross an invisible threshold where the rules change. These changes are akin to the complexity and strategy required in the game of chess which requires that we play at a new level. As such, effective leaders have to learn to play by new rules in order to thrive.

As business complexity increases, Miller outlines four principles which leaders must learn:

  1. You can’t wait until you need a leader to start developing one.
  2. A unified assault is always preferential over a fragmented one
  3. Win the hearts of your employees in order to engage them and leverage their skills.
  4. Excel at execution.

This book is reminiscent of classics such as Who Moved the Cheese (Spencer Johnson, 1998) and The Present (Spencer Johnson, 1984).  Those who enjoy an easy read on the plane or the beach during spring break will find this a great pick-up. Those who are looking for deep fresh content will find this to be merely an appetizer. Here is my rating:

  • The Good:  This book has accessible and usable information. However, it is also important information that you need to hear several times over your life!
  • The Bad: You’ve likely heard these ideas before.
  • Value: The shelf price of this hardcover book is $22.95. I’d be willing to pay $12.95 for 119 pages of content (that you will read from cover-to-cover in about 90 minutes).

This book was released on April 6, 2015.


 

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Procrastination: The Five Reasons We Do It!

Today we are going to examine the top 5 reasons we procrastinate:

  1. Problems with…
  2. Failure to…
  3. Concerns over…
  4. Difficulty…
  5. An inability to..

I apologize – I had good intentions to complete this blog on time but I am a bit behind!

Stay tuned…

[and have a great April Fools Day!]


 

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a procrastinator, amateur humorist and occasionally suffers writers block. Despite these downsides, he’s pretty darn good at helping organizations improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and Future-Readiness. He is anticipating an April 1 full of twists from his three kids.