“Are we there yet?”

Posted by Dewitt Bauer on September 25, 2014

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For those who have taken the dreaded family car trip on summer vacation, you know what it’s like – kids are fighting in the back seat for a variety of reasons, One person thinks the car should take one route with stops at places they find interesting while others in the car think another route is better and don’t want to stop at all – they just want to get to the end destination! Traffic pops up in unexpected places causing delays and playing havoc with the planned trip schedules. Tolls, higher than expected gas rates and tourist stops along the highway all cut into the carefully planned budget.

Have you ever thought how similar a summer car trip is to managing a business? In fact, the following tips and strategies can be used in both scenarios!

How do we handle conflicts that arise in the backseat or in business?

The conflicts that arise from kids in the back seat while on a car trip can be annoying, disruptive and even dangerous, if the driver’s attention is pulled away from the road.

In the business world – conflicts that arise can result in the loss of productivity, stifling of creativity, and the creation of barriers to cooperation and collaboration.

In both cases, you have the drama queens/kings that when confronted about wrongdoing and/or lack of performance are quick to point the finger in another direction. They are adept at using emotional tirades which often include crocodile tears, blameshifting, little lies, half truths and other trite manipulations to get away with total lack of substance.

The problems escalate when leadership (drivers) don’t recognize it and /or does nothing about it. Real leaders don’t play favorites, don’t get involved in drama, and they certainly don’t tolerate manipulative, self-serving behavior.

The root of most conflict is either born out of poor communication or the inability to control one’s emotions. Clear, concise, accurate, and timely communication of information will help to ease both the number and severity of conflicts. The avoidance of letting emotions drive decisions will also minimize conflicts. Have you ever witnessed an employee throw a fit of rage and draw theline in the sand in the heat of the moment? If you have, what you really watched was a person indulging their emotions rather than protecting their future.

1.Define Acceptable Behavior: You know what they say about assuming…Just having a definition for what constitutes acceptable behavior is a positive step in avoiding conflict.

Creating a framework for decision making, using a published delegation of authority statement, encouraging sound business practices in collaboration, team building, leadership development, and talent management will all help avoid conflicts. Having clearly defined job descriptions so that people know what’s expected of them, and a well- articulated chain of command to allow for effective communication will also help avoid conflicts. Clearly and publicly make it known what will and won’t be tolerated.

2. Hit Conflict Head-on: While you can’t always prevent conflicts, one secret to conflict resolution is in fact conflict prevention where possible. By actually seeking out areas of potential conflict and proactively intervening in a just and decisive fashion you will likely prevent certain conflicts from ever arising.

3. Understanding the WIIFM Factor: Understanding the other professionals WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) position is critical.

The way to avoid conflict is to help those around you achieve their objectives. If you approach conflict from the perspective of taking the action that will help others best achieve their goals you will find few obstacles will stand in your way with regard to resolving conflict.

4. The Importance Factor:Pick your battles and avoid conflict for the sake of conflict.

5. View Conflict as Opportunity: Hidden within virtually every conflict is the potential for a tremendous teaching/learning opportunity.

Divergent positions addressed properly can stimulate innovation and learning in ways like minds can’t even imagine. Smart leaders look for the upside in all differing opinions.

However, when all else fails and positional gaps cannot be closed, resolve the issue not by playing favorites, but by doing the right thing.

What to do when your car or a Strategic Plan takes a Detour

Just like the summer car trip when we are either forced to detour because of road construction or we missed the turn because of not paying attention or being distracted, many business owners and managers may find themselves dealing with detours in their strategic plans.

Many businesses last winter faced a long, hard winter which affected productivity. Those businesses are now forced to deal with a change in strategy to achieve their original goals.

There are many obstacles that affect business. Some are external, like the harsh winter just described above. Some are internal, like employee conflicts that make getting work done very hard. When obstacles appear, you are forced to take your eye off the road and deal with the challenge of the moment. You’ll likely take a detour that costs you time and money.

But problems occur when the obstacle is ignored. You have a better chance of dealing with the issue if it is acknowledged. The important difference though is to acknowledge the obstacle, not fixate on it.

The most effective method of dealing with obstacles is to shift your focus from the obstacle to the outcome you want to see. Often we become so consumed by the obstacle that it is difficult to articulate what it is we really want – our ideal outcome.

You can choose your focus. Catch yourself when dwelling on a problem. For example, you can obsess over the dysfunction of a team, OR you can commit to creating a high performing team.

Identify the outcome you really want. Be specific. Be quantitative. Once you commit to what you really want, you increase the probability of achieving it.

In many cases, you can trace the issue back to leadership. Whether you have a challenge related to client service, financial issues or employees, there is likely something that leaders are doing, or NOT doing, that affects the situation.

Obstacles hold clues. They may point to areas of your own performance that need strengthening. They may point to the need for you to brighten the vision so that people move toward it more easily. Use obstacles as a wakeup call to focus more deliberately on outcomes. When you do, you’ll find a variety of ways to achieve results.

Instead of thinking “I have so much to do this week” … ask: What are the three most important outcomes I want to achieve this week?”

As a leader, strengthen your outcome thinking, and help your team do the same.

How to Plan for a Successful Road Trip or Business

Every great road trip starts with everyone in the vehicle wanting to get to the same destination and being on board with how to go about getting there.  It can make the difference between an enjoyable experience and a daunting one when things don’t go exactly as planned.

Planning for business success also starts with everyone being focused on the same end goal. The key benefit of business planning is that it allows you to create a focus for the direction of your business and provides targets that will help your business grow.

The main aim of your annual business plan is to set out the strategy and action plan for your business. This should include a clear financial picture of where you stand – and expect to stand – over the coming year. According to the Guide for Budgeting and Business Planning by Infoentrepreneurs.com, an annual business plan should include:

    • an outline of changes that you want to make to your business
    • potential changes to your market, customers and competition
    • your objectives and goals for the year
    • your key performance indicators
    • any issues or problems
    • any operational changes
    • information about your management and people

Business planning is most effective when it’s an ongoing process. This allows you to act quickly where necessary, rather than simply reacting to events after they’ve happened. So regular reviews should occur and typically will include the following:

1)      A review of  your current performance against last year/current year targets

2)     ID current opportunities and threats

3)     Analysis of successes and failures during the previous year

4)     Look at key objectives for the coming year and change/re-establish your longer-term planning.

5)     Identify and refine your resources and build a budget

6)     Define the new financial year’s profit-and-loss and balance-sheet targets

7)     Conclude the plan.

8)    Review it regularly – for example, on a monthly basis – by monitoring performance, reviewing progress and achieving objectives.

9)     Go back to #1

The summer car trip can be a disaster or it can be an enjoyable adventure that is carefully planned with everyone knowing what to expect, realistic goals and built-in flexibility for unexpected occurrences.  A business can also struggle or it can be a well- planned endeavor with everyone working together towards the same goals with back up plans and contingencies to help it achieve success!

Mike Myatt; “5 Keys of Dealing with Workplace Conflict”, Forbes.com February, 2012

Gayle Lantz; “Are You Outcome Oriented?”  WorkMatters.com, 2014

“Budgeting and Business Planning” Info Entrepreneurs.org; 2014

 

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