Understanding differences – 5 simple words that can lead to conflict resolution

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I leap out of my seat involuntarily while clamping my teeth together only slightly less hard than I’m pressing my lips together because I’m afraid what I’ll say if I open my mouth. My throat feels like it’s narrower than a pin though, so I’m not sure I could speak.  My breathing is shallow & fast.  I fear my face is fiery red.

 

Conflict.  It leaves a long trail.  Even though decades have passed, I still remember how I felt when I was having a meeting with my (insert various descriptive invectives) colleague & boss.  My colleague, who was anything but collegial, had just let loose with a whopper of a lie about me.

 

Are you facing some conflict or uneasy, unnamed tension at work & feel like you wish you had some better tools for managing those conversations?   Conflict often gives us what a friend of mine calls ‘sick pit’ – that awful feeling in your stomach that makes you want to run & hide under the covers. Read on for 5 simple words that can help you stay strong & lead you towards conflict resolution (plus a much better feeling in your stomach).

 

5 words that can lead to conflict resolution

Conflict – love it or hate it – it’s inevitable.

 

I often use these 5 words to help me wade through differences. For example when I’m working with a client trying to understand what type of training they’re wanting or with a participant in a workshop, these simple words open a world of understanding & tend to build bridges instead of walls.

 

The 5 words are simply ‘can you help me understand ______?’

 

Here are some examples:

  • can you help me understand how you see the situation?
  • can you help me understand how you think we got to this place?
  • can you help me understand what role you think I’ve played in the conflict?
  • can you help me understand how you’d like to move forward?
  • can you help me understand what a successful resolution would look like for you?

 

It’s effective because it doesn’t place blame & it comes from a true sense of curiosity.  Enquiring minds want to know.

 

Next time you find yourself in a situation where things feel awkward, uncomfortable or you’re trying to get past a roadblock try it.  And let me know how it goes.

 

Stay tuned for some conflict resolution scripts from the Harvard Business Review

Need a bit more help?  Stay tuned for next week’s blog post which will introduce you to some helpful scripts for conflict resolution – straight out of the Harvard Business Review Virtual Collaboration book.

 

And remember, the next time conflict rears it’s head take a deep breath & try one of the scripts from the section above —> ‘can you help me understand _______?

 

Then listen.  Really listen.

 

And keep breathing.

 

How does conflict make you feel?

I invite you to send me three words that describe how you feel about conflict.  Simply click on this link to submit your three words.  Feel free to share the link if you’ like.  I’ll turn the responses into a spiffy piece of art in an upcoming post.  (And don’t worry, it’s all anonymous.)

 

 

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What needs birthing by you? What needs midwifing?

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‘There are some types of victories that need to be midwifed, good things come from very far’ says Peninah, in response to a recent post of mine.  Another reader Vera, recently wrote me about being intrigued with the magic & miracle of birth.

Voila a theme plus an idea for a blog post.

Birthing.  Midwifing.

Birthing

Late last year I organized a small group of creative, entrepreneurial colleagues & friends for an in-person planning day which was virtually led by the ever-helpful Lara Wellman.  It was a great way to reflect on the year that had just passed & to plan for what each of us wanted to create & birth in the year to come.

I was, & continue to be, inspired & energized to plan a year that is tailor-made for me.  From genesis to fully formed – thinking about the seeds I wanted to plant & the projects I wanted to grow.

Birthing’s super power partner –> midwifing

A midwife is someone who ‘assists (a woman) during childbirth.’  To midwife also means to ‘bring into being.’

I used the services of a midwife for my second pregnancy.  Some 15 years after my son’s birth I still remember how important those visits with her were, especially as shortly before my son’s birth, both my beloved Nana & my dad passed away.  I vividly remember the feel of the soft red velvet covered couch where I could lay my large, pregnant body as she coached, supported, listened & focused on me having a safe, healthy birth.

There are parallels with creating & birthing.  New ideas, projects, areas of focus, learning etc. can easily get mislaid, off track or plain forgotten about if they’re not midwifed throughout the year.

It’s one thing to figure out what you’d like to have unfurl this year, it’s another thing to stay focused & make that happen.

 

Enter tools to help you midwife your project, idea etc.

After the planning day, I realized I was going to need some support tracking my priorities & my progress if they were going to be born & flourish.

So I started playing around with creating some simple, customized tracking tools.  At least that’s what I’d started to call them.  Now, thanks to Peninah, I think of them more as midwifery tools.

Tools to help me continue to grow & develop my business &  myself.

 

Tell me what you’re birthing &/or midwifing & I’ll send you some tools to help you

I’d love to hear what challenges you face with midwifing (bringing into being) your ideas & projects.  What comes easily?  What’s challenging? Do you use any tools for midwifing / tracking your progress?  If so which ones?

Comment in the section below or send me an email (laragan ‘at’ rpsinc.ca) & I’ll send you the daily & weekly midwifery tools I’ve designed.

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You & your supervisor … meh, yeah or wah?

I’ve used the blob tree (pictured above) for years.  It’s a great tool to get feedback & initiate dialogue in a creative way.  It’s critters (or blobs) represent all types of feelings & are jumping off points for stories.

Last week I responded to reader Miriam’s comment (below) with a 2 part statement to help you resolve conflict (yep, it can be that easy)

At work I sometimes find it hard to talk to my supervisor especially when I feel like what he will say really is unnecessary and could easily have been shared via email. I don’t know whether I lack the patience or what, because in the end I might not even listen to what he is saying, which could be important.

Which got me thinking ….

What’s your relationship like with your supervisor?

I work with a lot of teams & have plenty of interesting dynamics.  Some teams are led by fabulous supervisors – who are wonderful leaders that support & bring the best out of their staff.   Others – not so much.

What’s your relationship like with your supervisor?  Is it meh, yeah or wah?  Is it supportive, easy, open?  Or frustrating, unclear, disruptive?  Or better or worse?

Here’s a fun, fast way to think about your relationship with your supervisor via the blob tree (yep, that’s really a thing)

Simply click on this link to draw an arrow on the ‘blob tree’.   After you click on the link, place an arrow pointing to the blob character that best represents your relationship with your supervisor.

And don’t worry, it’s anonymous.

Added bonus: you get to see what other’s think of their relationship with their supervisor.

Thanks for playing.  I’m curious to see what you’ll say.

P.S. Interested in using the blob tree yourself?  Make sure you purchase a copy from their site & then you’re free to use it.

P.P.S. I’ve given myself a challenge to think of creative ways to use technology to engage you.  I’d love to hear how using the arrows in the blob activity went – too hard?  Too easy?  Totally understandable?  Confusing?  Do tell.

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A 2 part statement to help you resolve conflict (yep, it can be that easy)

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Conflict can be wrenching (pun intended).

When we’re in conflict we tend to do more of whatever’s not working.  We can get into an endless cycle of repetition saying the same thing over & over, the ‘he said – she said’ saga.  Can you relate?

We’re not exactly wired for conflict resolution

To make matters worse our brains aren’t exactly wired automatically for effective conflict resolution.  When we feel threatened, overwhelmed, scared, angry etc. our bodies are focused more on fight, flee or freeze than on staying calm & responding with our poise & dignity intact.

Which leads me to Mariam O., who wrote me about a sticky communication issue. 

Thanks for the continuous updates.

At work I sometimes find it hard to talk to my supervisor especially when I feel like what he will say really is unnecessary and could easily have been shared via email. I don’t know whether I lack the patience or what, because in the end I might not even listen to what he is saying, which could be important.

There are no cookie cutter solutions, however …

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think every conflict can be resolved by the same techniques, far from it.  However I do think having a few openers that can begin dialogue are a handy thing to have in your hip pocket.

Openers have two parts:

  1. A well placed statement of the issue,
  2. A well-framed question

When you put the two together it can do wonders to ease tension.   So ditch the wrenches for the openers.

Yes it can sometimes be that easy.

In Mariam’s case that could look like this:

  1. Statement of the issue: I feel like we may have some differences in what means of communication we prefer using (email, face to face meetings etc).
  2. Well-framed question: What are your thoughts on that?

Over to you.  Find a time this week to practice this technique.  How did it go?  I’d love to hear.

And stay tuned.  In upcoming posts I’ll share a fun tool that demonstrates your relationship with your supervisor, plus I’ll give you some simple, short scripts for understanding differences.

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A simple, easy tool to help your blender brain (& your emotional hygiene)

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Blender brain.  It’s what I call the state of having so many things whirring through my mind that it’s hard to focus or move forward.

Can you relate?

Last post I wrote about the intriguing concept of emotional hygiene – a concept coined by Guy Winch – which is being mindful of our psychological health and adopting brief daily habits to monitor and address psychological wounds when we sustain them.

This week I’m offering up a simple, free tool to help you with your own emotional hygiene.  A tool to stop the whirring, whizzing state of your brain for a few moments.

 

M.F.M. – Mini-for-me (& you)

Years ago, with the intention of meditating a few minutes a day, I created an M.F.M. – a ‘Mini-for-me’ – a tool that helps me press pause & simply reflect.  Why mini-for-me?  Because I wanted something easy to do for myself that would help me relax.

Each day has a different theme for how I want to feel / what I want to reflect on.

(Don’t worry, no master origami skills needed – you can get yours up & running in just a few minutes.  All you need is: a sheet of cardboard, scissors, & if you want to make your own themes, felts or markers.)

Instructions for your own emotional hygiene M.F.M. tool

Want to try it? Want a copy?

Here’s your detailed instructions to achieve a few moments of custom-made peace & well being:

  • If you want to use mine download my ‘Mini-for-me’ & print onto an 8 1/2 x 11 or A4 sheet of cardboard.  If you want to create your own simply start with a blank sheet of cardboard.
  • Fold according to the instructions here (essentially fold it lengthwise into 4 equal sections).
  • Overlap two of the sections so you have a triangle.  Here’s what it looks like from the side when it’s folded (see below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Make a cut between each day of the week, up to the first fold line (see below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • For each day of the week simply tuck the flap behind the word you’ve written (or my word if you’re using mine).  Here it is from the front – notice how Thursday’s flap is back so you can see the word I intend to think on today …. serene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Tip: if you are using regular paper instead of cardstock or if you use your mini-for-me a lot, it may need a little support.  I simply put paper clips (yes in the shape of rock, paper & scissors) on the edges of mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Now go forth & Mini-for-me.  Each day simply change which word is facing out.

Enjoy some peace of mind.  Literally.  And let me know how it goes.

 

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Emotional hygiene – we pay more attention to our teeth than we do our minds (Guy Winch)

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I was listening to the NPR Ted Radio hour podcast recently when something Guy Winch said struck a chord.

 

Emotional hygiene.   My noggin’ perked up, as I’ve been known to suffer from what I call blender-brain-itis (I can have a hard time shutting the whirring, churning of ideas, to-do’s etc. off).

 

We’re not talking feather dusters for your brain.

Say what?   Hang in there with me. I don’t know about you but when I think of hygiene I don’t necessarily think of my psychological health.

 

So I dug a little deeper.  Guy says:

In much the same way that dental hygiene involves brushing our teeth and flossing every day… emotional hygiene refers to being mindful of our psychological health and adopting brief daily habits to monitor and address psychological wounds when we sustain them.

He goes on to say that currently, our general neglect of our emotional hygiene is profound. How is it we spend more time each day taking care of our teeth than our minds? We brush and floss but what daily activity do we do to maintain our psychological health?

Connect emotional hygiene with your values

It got me thinking that when my emotional hygiene is good, I’m following my values – which include the humour, diversity, social responsibility & creativity/innovation.

For example I feel fabulous when I’m designing new ways to teach something (creativity/innovation), I’ve created a safe place for participants to have a great time learning (humour) & I’m opening my mind to new ways of thinking (diversity).

What about you?  How do you take care of your emotional hygiene?  Take moment to leave a comment below.

P.S. Next week I’ll include a nifty little tool that will help you focus & improve your emotional hygiene.  Promise.

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Team assets? A simple tool to find them

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Teams that can at first glance look like a hot mess, inevitably have strengths if you look close enough.  Upon second & third look, interesting stories start to emerge.

 

I encourage all teams to look for their assets or strengths (as well as their challenges).  Every team has them, even the team that I once worked with that regularly yelled at each other & banged the tables when they talked.

 

Here’s an easy way to do that (find your team’s assets that is, not bang tables).

 

Before your next staff meeting ask your colleagues to give you three pieces of information about themselves that their colleagues don’t know AND they’re okay with sharing.  Be very, very clear that you’ll be sharing the information, as you don’t want any nasty surprises down the road with sharing something that wasn’t intended to be public.

 

Then simply read out some of the information & see if others can guess who you’re describing.

 

I love watching people’s faces as they discover new things about their team members.  It always leads to much storytelling later on.

 

You can do this all at once (read 1 piece of information from each person on your team) or spread it out over several meetings & simply read one piece of information at a time.  Your choice.

 

How does this relate to assets?  Knowing each other & hearing each other’s stories is a huge asset for a team.

 

So give it a try & let me know how it went in the comments below.  What did you learn about your colleagues?  I’d love to hear.

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Your team building results are in- check out the most common pitfalls for teams

We all need a little help from our team mates, as the video above so charmingly displays.  Yet high functioning teams, that work well together, & know & understand each other well, while critical to success in the workplace, are rare.

 

While Forbes says team building is ‘the most important investment you’ll make,’ by the time a client calls me in to design & deliver a team building event, I usually hear horror stories about previous team building events.

 

Hint: doing a company golf game just because the boss loves to gold isn’t team building.

Team building survey

Spoiler alert – I’m about to talk about a survey about teams I did a few weeks back with you.  If you didn’t get a chance to fill in the 1 question survey & want to before you see the results simply go here & then continue reading.

 

A few weeks ago I asked you what your needs & assets were when it comes to teams.  Here’s what you had to say.

Team building needs & assets survey

Team building needs

Trust.  Communication.  Conflict resolution.  Those are the 3 things I see most often that teams need to work on.  It makes sense – how can a team work well together if they don’t trust each other, can’t communicate & can’t resolve conflict.

 

As a learning & development professional I’ve worked with some 20,000 participants in & from more than 80 countries.  I utterly adore being invited into organizations to peek under the hood- to see what’s revving the engines & what’s causing traffic jams so to speak, then designing workshops accordingly, including on team building.

 

Is your interest piqued?  Check out this link that has a downloadable overview of my ‘Working Better Together’ team building workshops.

 

Next week I’ll share a simple tool for how to find & illuminate your teams’ assets or strengths.

 

In the meantime share some needs you’ve observed with teams you’ve been a part of or observed, in the comment section below.

 

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5 lessons from trekking with camels

A blast of pungent, loamy, putrid smell wafted by my nose.  Next came an odd, indescribable sounds of protest – a whine, guttural groan & deep, back of the throat rumbling wrapped into one.

Turning around I saw our beasts of burden for the first time – 3 camels that would accompany us on a trekking safari in Tanzania with 3 Maasai guides.  Another 2 camels & 5 more guides would meet us at our camp each night, with camping gear & food.

I had a lot of time to think as we ambled along the foothills of misty Mt. Meru, alternating between acacia studded, dry, scrubby brush & verdant, green, grassland shared by goats & cows, whose bells sounded the way long before we saw them.

Here are 5 lessons I learned from trekking with camels.

 

1. Pole Pole Pacing

Camel breath

Temperatures soared during the 42 km we trekked, as we alternated riding the camels & walking alongside them.  This trip was a big stretch for our family, for while we’re adventurous in other ways, extreme physical feats not so much.  When I started to lag, our guide Philipo would murmur ‘pole pole,’ which means slowly, slowly in Swahili (& rhymes not with toll, but mole, as in the Mexican sauce).

Easy does it is great advice.  As we ease into 2017 I wish you a good pace – fast enough to get stuff done & feel accomplished, balanced with slow enough to get you to this time next year in good health & with no burnout.

2. Find your fit

Camel train

Our lead camel was always the lead camel.  She doesn’t like to follow other camels.  And the other two were happy to let her lead.

Sounds like good self-awareness to me.

Aka know thyself. Find your best fit, for example, with:

  • your work environment: noisy, hustle & bustle with lots going on, quiet & serene or somewhere in between?
  • your work related technology: I so adore apps that help me be productive, like workflowy, fiverr & wunderlist
  • your creative space: I’m headed to a weekly art class this year & am searching for a zumba class that will fit me & let me get my groove

3. Reflection

Wait a moment tree

This is a ‘wait a moment’ tree. It’s softly rounded, innocuous looking leaves are deceptive, for if you get too close it continuously catches on your clothing & hangs you up.

I loved our guide Isiah’s wise perspective as he patiently & slowly untangled things.  There was no rush, no fuss.

Time flowed more slowly.

It was a delicious break & I was constantly delighted at the places my mind took me when I let it wander.

I encourage you to find your own ‘wait a moment’ tree – places that let you slow down & reflect.

4. Take a second look

Can you see the animal in this video we shot while on safari?  My oldest kid is an outdoor enthusiast & since the time he could walk, he’s been pointing out things to me that I’d never have seen otherwise.  This trip was no exception.

Many times he saw things I’d have walked right past.  Like the critter below.

As you head into 2017 find people & experiences that literally & figuratively open your eyes.

5. Collaboration & symbiosis

Whistling thorn bush

This wicked looking spiky plant is a whistling thorn bush, aptly named as when the wind blows through them an eery, haunting, whistling sound results. Giraffes love to eat them as they’re able to bypass the thorns.  The sneaky plants have a hidden ally to protect them though.  Inside the large bulbous pods live ants, which eat the inner, sweet tasting fruit.  When the plant is being attacked / eaten, the ants rush out & bite the attacker.

Quid pro quo.  You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

For 2017 seek out interesting opportunities to collaborate – where each of you can benefit.

So there you have it, 5 lessons from the back of a camel: pole pole pacing, find your fit, the importance of reflection, taking a second look & seeking out collaboration.

Now that I’m back home in Nairobi, I’m looking forward to putting them into practice.

I’d love to hear about how these lessons resonate (or don’t) with you.  Pick one lesson & leave a comment about it below.

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I don’t wish you a fabulous 2017

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We’ve become so used to superlatives. At the best they’re empty & meaningless & at worst they set a ridiculously high bar.

 

So with that in mind, I don’t wish you the most amazing year yet.

 

I don’t wish that 2017 is better than all others for you.

 

I don’t wish you an awesome new year nor an incredible 2017.

 

Instead I do wish for you peace of mind, most of the time. I hope that you greet the days to come with a certainty that you (& your thighs, lips & hips) are loved without question. And when that certainty deserts you, which it may from time to time, I wish that you have someone to hold & reassure you.

 

I wish for you a space & place to do what has meaning to you & brings meaning to others.

 

I wish that 2017 brings you opportunities to learn – about the things that make you grin & the things that make you groan. I wish that, for you, 2017 is a year for learning about beauty, delight & mystery. And I wish it’s a year for learning how to counter the hardness, the awkwardness & ugliness that can sometimes blot out the beauty & goodness.

 

I wish you adventures- adrenaline pumping, mind expanding, horizon growing, ah ha provoking, curiousity seeking, adventure sating experiences.

 

I wish that when tough times visit you, that you have a safe harbour, to regain your bearings, to rest & repair your sails.

 

And I wish that when tough times visit others around you, that you have the strength not to recoil, but the courage to walk with tenderness towards those who are suffering & to simply be with them & be a witness.

 

I wish for your physical health – to able to rise & greet the day with all or most of your bits working, your cells dividing & repairing & your heart pumping.

 

I wish for your mental health – that the voice in your head is a trusted ally & if when/ it’s not, that you seek support for there’s absolutely no shame in that, in fact it’s the one of the bravest things you can do.

 

I wish for your heart & your hands to make art – no matter the form – whether a painting, baking a beautiful cookie, writing a poem, or making people laugh.

 

I wish you enough –

  • enough money to meet your basic needs & then some
  • enough time to create meaningful adventures balanced with pockets of peaceful reflection
  • enough ability to do the things you’d like
  • enough patience to simply be you

 

I wish for you friends & family (whether or not they’re biologically related) to build you up, to love you up.  And I wish you courage – including the courage to let people go from your life if they don’t build you up & are intent on tearing you down.

 

I wish you a steady diet – of giggles, chuckles & belly laughs.

 

I wish that you receive the power of human touch- a hand to hold, someone to rub your back, a face to caress, or a cheek to kiss.

 

I wish that 2017 is a year that you dance with diversity- that you spend time both with those much older & much younger than you, time with those who carry a different passport than you & those who hold different political views.

 

I wish you hope- that when times are dark & despair is near, even if only in a small corner of your heart- that the flicker of hope & belief that tomorrow will come sustains you.

 

Most of all I wish for you that you share your bright light, your unique gifts & your contributions to this big, messy, chaotic complex beautiful world.

 

What do you wish for yourself?  Let me know in the comment section below.  In the meantime, while you read this, I’ll be on a camel trekking safari in Tanzania.  More about that in an upcoming post.

 

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