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Leadership

Team Conflict: Is It Always a Bad Thing?

When we hear “conflict”, we think “trouble”. When we hear “conflict”, we think “dysfunctional team”, where communication doesn’t work, and people have personal issues. Or when we hear “conflict”, we think that leader doesn’t know how to lead his/her team successfully. Is that really true? Why are we so scared of a conflict? What is the worst thing that can happen when there is a conflict in the team? What kind of experiences we have with the conflict that make us think and behave in a certain way when one appears? Why do we avoid conflict? The real question should be: why do we avoid doing things in overall? In the area of conflicts, it’s extremely visible: we avoid it, because we burned ourselves once or twice. Based on that we make this strategy to not get involved in any kind of “risky” situation: so, we sit quiet and just focus on living through another day. Is it really the best option we can get? When a lack of conflict is dysfunctional, not the other way around? One of the biggest experts of team development and leadership, Patrick Lencioni, years ago wrote a book “5 Disfunctions of a Team”. It is a really short story (doesn’t even look like a personal/professional development book), yet it’s very powerful. And there is one part that stopped me when I first read it: Lencioni says that one of the dysfunctions of a team is a fear of conflict. What? (On the chart on the left-hand side there are definitions of all disfunctions and on the right-hand side there are solutions, that answer the questions: what is the best thing we can do here for our teams?) If we stick to our old believe that a conflict is something negative and destructive – that it ruins the trust and good atmosphere in the team, how is it possible that it’s actually the other way around? When we avoid conflict, not speaking up and be open about what do we really think, feel, or observe in the workplace, there is a huge risk of not being as effective and efficient as possible. It’s also short sided: if we are not sharing it now, it’s going to backfire in the future. So, at the end of the day, it will bring worse result than we imagine now. What’s even worse, people probably will talk behind other colleagues’ or leader’s backs, and not saying anything out loud. We can imagine that it will bring even worse outcomes, like really ruining the atmosphere, creating space for psychological games and in a consequence: lack of trust. The fear of conflict can be one of the biggest barriers that will stop people from growth, thrive and being the best versions of themselves in a workplace. What can we do to change this mindset? How can we use conflict that nourishes our team? The key thing to understand is that a certain kind conflict is something that we can use. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, it really depends on what we are dealing with. There are 2 categories of conflicts, I call them functional and dysfunctional. What can we do with the dysfunctional conflicts? First and foremost: we need to map and name correctly which conflict is the real one in the situation we are dealing with. Without that, even the most beautiful strategy is not going to work, because we are going to answer to the wrong need. We’ll get frustrated and use all our energy badly. Focus on investigating will bring the best results, since then the solutions will be to the point: it’s more than certain that it’s worth investing time in this process. The bottom line The conflict is a huge, hairy, and scary thing that we often have very strong convictions about. We avoid it, by staying low, don’t speak up to not get into any confrontation. We do it because we don’t want to get hurt, expose ourselves to bad emotions, stress or feeling that we do not belong. Perfectly natural, there is nothing to be ashamed of. When we make a mindset shift: from fixed (focused on avoiding conflict) to a growth one, where we take into consideration that the conflict can be good for us, nourishing and interesting, we can gain more than we think. With remembering about having a good intention, being in OK-OK zone and with a goal of creating something extraordinary as a consequence of a passionate discussion, we can achieve the outcome that won’t be possible to achieve on our own. It puts old, good conflict in a completely new light. I believe it’s worth trying if it fits.

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Leadership

TEAMING: Why No One Teaches How to Be a Good Team Member?

Did you ever noticed that we teach leaders in countless growth programs, workshops, or mentoring processes how to be a great leader, and we almost never teach employees how to be great team members? To follow the TEAMING idea? Why is that? Is it more important to have qualified leaders than people who know how to work well together? We know it’s not true. A part of successful leadership is to have a team that has an ability to cooperate effectively, ideally to like and understand each other as people. During my post-grad studies in Transition Management area, one of the lecturers brought to the class a book named “Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in Knowledge Economy” by Amy C. Edmondson. And while having a conversation about the teaming, people, communication and how it creates great (or not so great) organizations, I’ve started to wonder how all those dots are connected. How one thing influences the other and makes success or failure at the end of the day? How to think about TEAMING: is it even the real thing? What is TEAMING? TEAMING is a mindset. Based on Amy’s book, TEAMING is more about “being” with others in a certain way than “doing” things. Of course, the behavior is an important part of the whole idea, so we can tell that “behaving” is “doing”. But it’s not the point. The point is that TEAMING covers the way of working, behaving, making decisions in work environment where we don’t have a luxury of a stable team structures. Where individuals, teams, departments, and projects need to work together somehow, while the circumstances change all the time. So, TEAMING brings to the table collaboration based on an eagerness to learn, be better every day and communicate as well as possible, despite the constant change that never ends. And it never will, let’s be honest about it. Do we ever think about the qualities of a good team member? We for sure can list very quickly the qualities of a good manager within 30 seconds. But how about team members? Recently, I did this exercise with one group of leaders that I facilitated the workshop for. I asked them to give 2-3 things that they believe are qualities of a great team member. The results came up like this. So, as we can see, there are a lot of things connected with taking responsibility and do the job, but mostly there are things connected to “being” with others. A person who shares knowledge, taking care of other team members, listen, be brave, mentor others etc. Not many “transactional” elements are there as we can see. Interesting, isn’t’ it?   How to lead a TEAMING process? As leaders, we have a lot of influence (more that we think we have) on how the work environment looks like for our people. Pretty often we don’t use this power because we don’t believe that it would work, we don’t know how to do it, or we are afraid that we’ll get different outcome from what we aim for by certain actions. We don’t believe that we can actually change something. Leading in TEAMING means using the mindset that will allow people to be a better team member. It consists of three things: A leader is responsible for creating a workspace for people to thrive. It’s all we need to do. Why don’t we teach people how to be great team members? It’s not very intuitive to start from teaching people about being a good team member. Definitively more classical way is to teach leaders how to be great and lead others successfully. But that way, we put all responsibility on the leader’s shoulders. I’m not saying that leader don’t need to grow, have certain set of skills, behaviors or mindset. But when we think about improving the ability of being a great team member, we divide the responsibility into all people that making a team: manager AND team members. Both parties need to participate in the process of team creation: it influences the level of engagement, being in control and a part of something more than just my own scope. Why don’t we do it more often? Maybe because it requires a mindset and approach shift, a creation of a new one to cover the different perspective. And it can be difficult, sometimes going far away into the stretch zone and recreate the growth options we have for people in the organization. What do we need to make that shift? Wouldn’t it be more efficient, nice, and engaging to have more than one people who takes care of different team building elements? Imagine that we all are taking part in building the environment where people are highly motivated, performing very well, create space to give different ideas and have sparing partners to discuss them? Where we learn from each other, share knowledge and the best ways of working? Sounds pretty cool to me. And for you?

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Leadership

Leading With Agility: 3 Ways to Do It Well

Agility, being Agile, using Agile tools. For the last couple of years those words or phrases became viral: there are so many training sessions, certification programs, workshops and growth paths connected with this. Thinking in an agile way or leading with agility appeared in the job descriptions, since it looks like a leadership skill that is necessary in these crazy, fast pacing time where things are changing all the time. And yes, it is a quality that can be extremely useful, because the change was, is and will be with us no matter what, regardless of the period of history we live in at the certain moment. But I’ve seen many times that this subject was copied and pasted from the project management books (literally 1:1) and not really tailored to the context of managerial work. There are many common points of working as leader with the team and while being a project manager, but there are also many differences that need to be taken into consideration. To have useful tools, that can be implemented successfully, without frustration that it doesn’t work, or is not applicable at all to the certain circumstances. So today, we are going to go deeper into the subject and see how to lead teams with agility in 3 areas by using what is the best in agile into the reality of a manager. 1. Reshape your mindset (from fixed to growth) Leadership agility is a set of competencies, abilities and attitudes. But the most important thing of all this is mindset. Mindset combines all the thoughts, convictions, beliefs and abilities we have, and it creates the way we look at the world. These are the glasses that we put on to see and interpret what is happening around us. A leader that has a fixed mindset sees the world of restraints, sometimes without a perspective for it to improve. This person operates daily based on thinking about the change as a threat, something that can rob him/her from what they’ve work on so hard for years. They see new things as challenges to the status quo that are in their comfort zone, often by using the sentence: “it always worked, why to bother changing it?”. A leader with a growth mindset at the other hand has an open-minded perspective, she/he thinks holistically, looking for opportunities and space to learn every day. Every mistake is a chance to learn, be better next time and have a constant possibility to try different approaches, ideas, making their workspace a better environment for their people. When you have a fixed mindset as a leader, you will probably never go to the agility leadership space. Agile means adaptive, changing regarding the circumstances, tailoring the approach, response or reaction adequately to the current situation. To modify the way of leading people and business as needed. People with fixed mindset are not that flexible, they are not going to be able to do it. If you want to be an agile leader, you need to make a shift in your mindset. Move from fear to courage. From ended version to the iterative one, with a constant possibility to improve and adapt. Why it is important? Because if you have a fixed mindset, your people will have it too. They won’t grow exponentially; they are not going to be high-performing teams with an ability to achieve anything they want. They’ll stay in their comfort, safe space where it’s cozy and warm. But there is no chance to thrive in the comfort zone. 2. Look for opportunities to learn all the time Once the right mindset it there, the next steps on the journey are possible to implement. Leading with agility requires learning all the time: trying to find the best options, to improve the ways the team works, operates, solve problems or makes decisions. For a leader that works with people in that way, it’s crucial to seek for opportunities to grow every day. As mentioned in one of the previous articles: “If you didn’t fail today, it means that you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough. Be better tomorrow”. If you make a mistake, ask yourself: “What have I done well? What could I do better next time?”. Being an agile leader means using the right tools. Use retrospective with yourself on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. Invest 3 minutes of your time each day to see what went really great, and what could have been better. It’s not a lot of time: every person can manage to do it. The key here is to prioritize it, to know what kind of advantage it brings to your table. That’s how we learn: remember 70/20/10 rule. 70% of the learning comes from day-to-day tasks, experiences, projects and many different situations we face. 20% is mentoring, feedback, observing others. And 10% is formal (or less formal) education, workshops, studies etc. Use your 70% daily, the best way you can possibly do it. Be mindful about what you do with your time, how you talk to your people, how you solve problems or create space of others to solve it by themselves. How you pass the responsibility to others, how you strengthen your team to be in charge of what they do. How you delegate tasks 100%, without being a nano manager, but with a trust in employees: that they’ll do their best to cover it, in the best quality they can. Talk to other people that you find experts in your field. Share knowledge, ways of working or experience you gathered all along the way, be curious about their experiences and learnings too. Follow them on social media, read or listen to the books, get inspired, try what they’ve done to see if it can work in some way in your case. Life the life-long learning value: this is the key to lead with agility. 3. Be adaptive, react and let people do the same Agility means adaptability. Reacting to changes, making the best of them.

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Leadership

5 Types of Challenge That Each Leader Can Face

Being a leader is a difficult job. If you are a leader and nobody never said that to you, that means the very first offer to cover a leadership position you’ve got was not prepared very well. When we take a manager’s or leader’s job, most of us don’t know what kind of tasks and types of challenge are there, waiting to welcome us on this new journey. Many leaders on the first stages of this career path are frustrated, shocked, angry, sometimes sad. Basically it’s the whole Kübler-Ross grieving curve: we experience all of those emotions that we feel while grieving or going through any other change (positive or negative) in our life. That’s mostly because we are not prepared properly to what we are going to face in real life. It’s not only a fancy position name, more money, prestige, power or a better parking spot. What’s more important: the whole palette of people’s needs, emotions, reactions, personality types, communication styles and needs, talents, struggles and many, many more. Today we are going to cover 5 of the most common types of challenge that you can face as a leader and we’ll try to give you some answers in terms of what you can do to either overcome it, or to deal with every challenge in the best possible way. 1. Lack of motivation / engagement When do you know that your employee has a low level of internal motivation? What kind of behaviors are telling you that a certain person is not engaged? Usually you can see a decrease in efficiency and effectiveness, lower mood, an easiness to get into distress, higher possibility to get frustrated, irritated or just tired more frequently than in the past. You can observe that the employee doesn’t care about other people, sometimes saying not very flattering things about their or other teams, or even the whole organization. You can also tell that this person is never happy: whatever you do, they always find something that is not perfect enough for them. Sounds familiar? Those behaviors are one of the hardest things to deal with, since no one wants energy vampires to be in their lives, not to mention those people who can directly influence their work effects. And it’s super easy to go into this rabbit hole with your employee: to support them, to show them that you care and at the end of the day, just sit in the corner and whine with them. But after a while we just don’t want to create any more new solutions if an employee is not eager to change their way of working or behaving. Pretty often managers are not familiar with the real reasons why their employees are not motivated or engaged as they “should”. They don’t dig deeper into the subject, don’t ask questions and are not curious about the answer. They assume that it’s about money or a burnout connected with being in one work place for too long. And in 80% of the cases it’s not true. What you can do as a manager is to get to know what is the real reason of being in this state of mind. Maybe it’s something personal, troubles at home or with their health? Maybe it’s lack of growth opportunities, learning, challenge or mentoring and not a money thing? Maybe it’s about the mismatch of the position that this person has at the moment with their talents, skills and plans for the future? The possibilities are endless, but we need to get to the truth to act accordingly. If you don’t have the real reason, you can’t tailor the solution with an employee to respond to it in a good way. So it becomes a challenge that you can’t overcome. 2. Weak communication / not answering the questions I guess most of us had more than one situation in our life when you ask a question and don’t get the response we aimed for (or there is no response at all). For example, you ask your employee what can you do to support their career development. And you get the response “I don’t know” or “nothing”. Or when you see that your significant other has a bad mood and you ask “what is it?” and they say “nothing”, when it’s clearly something going on. Weak communication can mean something different for each of us: sometimes it’s a complete lack of communication (i.e. a person doesn’t speak or answer a question), sometimes a person is not clear, or not responding directly. In other cases people can be triggered somehow and respond goes from the emotional side of themselves, i.e. from anger or sadness: not necessarily adequately to the situation. For some people a problem itself is the way people communicate, because it’s really far from how they talk with others. What can manager do to improve this area? PCM can be a good start: it will give you a lot of answers to the questions about why people react in a certain way in the communication-related situation (so let’s face it: 90% of the professional cases we face every day). When you have information about the way you communicate and how your people communicate it’s easier to understand, analyze and improve the way every side communicates in each situation. The second thing can be checking the needs (hungers): does your employee has any frustrations in this area? Maybe they are a high structure need and there is a mess in the organization? It can be a source of this lack of communication (if I don’t have my structure, I’m not taking with others until I have what I need). You can take a look on this space and act on it to reduce the frustration: it can be a game-changer for you and for your employees. 3. Personal / professional development aversion Did you ever experience a situation with an employee when you started to ask questions about their growth or

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Leadership

How to Manage a Team in a Constant Change?

When we are managers, or we want to become ones in the nearest future, we often realize in a certain moment that there are so many things we need to cover in this role. Being Hiring Manager and recruit new people to the team. Onboard new hires. Organize and conduct team meetings (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly), 1:1 meetings with every person in a team (weekly, monthly, quarterly), summary meetings (monthly, quarterly). Taking care of the team development (on individual and on team level), answering their questions that never end (especially during the time of change). Solving problems, conflicts and other issues that appear on a daily basis. And at the same time, we need to deliver business, by covering endless tasks, participating in other meetings, learning all the time how to be a good manager. And we need to do all of those things in an environment that changes all the time. The history of the world shows us that there are periods of time where things were more constant, but most of the time we are a part of some kind of transformation, transition, a constant change. And for a manager, this lack of stability and uncertainty is one of the hardest elements of the work environment that influences our plans, actions and decisions that we make every day. Because how to build a strong, high-performing team, full of engaged people that will deliver results no matter what happens? How to do it when we already know that the change we face will never stop? That we need to operate in the circumstances that are mostly unpredictable? Let’s dig deeper into this subject today. Why the change never ends? Interesting thing about the change is that we are so afraid of it, most of the time we resist it, because we think that we are going to loose something when the change will come. Or we are angry that somebody will change something and we are will need to adjust, AGAIN, and it makes us feel like that. But at the end of the day, when we get used to the new reality, we are quite happy about it – sometimes even that much that we don’t want to come back to the previous scenario. Example? Remote work. When the pandemic came, a lot of people needed to change the way they were working from being at the office, to being at home (of course if the type of the work allowed it). It was dramatic in many cases: living in 2-room apartment, with 2 kids, working partner and a dog. Or living and being alone all the time what brought more depression that anytime before. Weak internet access, lack of technological equipment or abilities to work or learn remotely. Many people were whining that they can’t focus or they never finish working, because their computer is always turned on. And now? Mostly it is a wave of huge rage when organizations have started to decide that employees should come back to the office, mostly in a hybrid mode. And in many cases it is a no-go, people refuse openly and start looking for another job that will allow them to work remotely 100%. Crazy, huh? The change never ends because the world develops itself all the time: it is the nature of it. There is a saying that if you don’t grow, you go backwards. That’s true when we think about the individuals, teams, organizations and the whole world. And it happens because we want to be better, smarter, we learn and we automate things. We want to do things smarter, using less time and more technology if possible to achieve better results. To not learn one thing or a skill for 20 years, but to spend couple of hours and learn from people that have already done the life work in a certain area. Changes making us feel in a certain way, no matter if they are positive or negative. In most cases we can’t control it, but what we can do is to make proper decisions to use those changes the best possible way. What is the most important for people? In the world of a constant change, managers need to have a proper strategy and tactics to work with it no matter what kind of circumstances comes. It is too frustrating and too exhausting to make a decision how to operate in the situation of change differently every single time. That’s why it’s helpful to have a framework that you can use every time and you adapt it however the situation requires you to act. What is the most important for people in any situation of a change that the organization can face? How to come back to OK-OK position to lead the change successfully? Sometimes you as a manager don’t fully agree with the changes or decisions that are being made in the organization. And that’s ok – it’s not physically possible to agree with everything. All of us have unique set of values, things that are important for us or those that we don’t accept. But the leadership function has its own rules that we need to follow: we accepted it once we agreed to have this position. Some of us are not aware of it from the very beginning, but it’s crucial to understand it to be a successful manager. As a manager you are a part of the organization and you are responsible for its success or failure. On a business level, but mostly on a people level. It means that you are the voice of the company that your people hear in the clearest way. And the way you communicate is often the first thing they hear, so they learn from it the most. When you don’t agree or have a very strong personal opinion about a change that is happening in the organization, it is a high risk that you won’t be in OK-OK position that will allow you

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Leadership

5 Things That Managers Can Do So Their People Don’t Quit

Great resignation. Employee market. Huge employee gap. The lowest unemployment rate in years. We see and hear all of that, now maybe even more than ever. Labor market shifts on its own, as well as many organizations needs to rethink how they operate on a daily basis. Regarding their cost and organizational structure, strategy, focus, goals and leadership condition. And while some of them deal with necessary lay-offs, some have quite the opposite challenge: their (mostly) the best employees quit and take another job externally. Taking into consideration few different studies, approximately 40% of employees think about or act towards a job change. It’s a huge number of people in the organization that for some reasons started to lose or lost their engagement in a current place. What is in top 5 reasons employees quit their jobs? Poor management is in top 10 as well, don’t worry. Covid time changed the order a little bit, point 4 and 5 are connected directly to the situation during and post pandemic. More about that further in the article. So taking all that into consideration – what you can do as a manager so your people don’t quit? Here are 5 things I believe are the most valuable for you and for your people, regardless of the branch, sector, size of the company or space that you work in. 1. Use TRS (Total Reward Statement) before they quit Nobody teaches managers how to talk about money. We talk about feedback, goal setting, delegating tasks, strategy, team building etc., but when we think about money issues, discussing raises, levels of bonuses we get uncomfortable. It’s connected to two main things. 1. Money is a taboo in a certain culture/country – it’s rude to talk about it openly. 2. We don’t know how to talk about money, especially when we know that there is no space to offer a raise or any additional bonus, so we procrastinate the conversation. So I say it’s about the time that we start talking about money as openly as about any other aspect of work. And you as a manager can learn how to lead a conversation around it, it’s a competence like any other one. Total Reward Statement (TRS) is a tool that you can use to talk about money-related subjects with your employees. Most of the time we don’t count everything that employer gives us, we only see the amount of money that appears on our bank account once a month. And in most of the cases it’s so much more than that. By using that you can show your employee what (on a monthly/quarterly or yearly basis) is the total investment in them that organization makes. What else can we show in TRS, besides of a basic salary? When you make a sum of everything that a certain employee uses (approximately, it’s not about counting every single dollar that organization spend on one person), the conversation around money might starts to look differently. Our employees often don’t see the bigger picture and don’t understand the scale of money that is invested in them. Of course if the organization pays under the market, it’s another story – the question is if you as a manager has any influence to address the pay gap in your team. If yes – do it, as soon as possible to minimize the risk of your people quit in the nearest future. If no – think what other elements in TRS you can use to fill it somehow until the times are better.  2. Co-create career path with your employee The second one on the list of arguments why people quit is a lack of development opportunities. I hear it a lot. Sometimes this reason is true, but in many cases it’s just an excuse or a lack of knowledge. The first question I ask every single time when somebody comes to me and tells that there are no opportunities for them to grow in this company is: “what did you already try?”. This question appears as such a strong one that sometimes people don’t know how to answer. They start with: “I tried everything!”. So we talk about what this “everything” means to them. Very often it appears that they didn’t do anything in particular, 80% of the cases didn’t even have a quality conversation with their manager about it! It’s insane. They didn’t start it and their manager didn’t start it either. Nobody says anything, counting on that the other side WILL GUESS what is at need at the moment. Bs, it’s not going to happen. So if you are a manager – it’s your job to trigger the conversation about development of your employee. Of course I advise to have a co-creation partnership during the process, not following the idea that you are going to make a plan that your employee will follow. It’s not that engaging when we compare it to actually working together. Quick question: when was the last time you talked with your employee(s) about their professional/personal development? Answer honestly, no one’s judging you. First step of every growth is self-awareness. Plan the space to talk about it, on a regular basis. Ask your employee how often do they need to talk about it, make check points. Don’t guess, don’t assume. Ask questions, listen and be adaptive. Share responsibilities – don’t take everything on your back. The owner of personal development is an employee, always. When they decide to leave the organization, their growth goes with them. It doesn’t belong to you, or the firm. It’s important to say it out loud, to cut the unhealthy and unrealistic expectations. Be honest and transparent about what is possible and what not (at the moment), avoid being cruel though (some managers like to use the “tough love” tool). Our intention is not to scare a person away form taking the responsibility. Our goal should be to encourage them, show them the way, guide them, give feedback on

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