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5 Steps to Manage Conflict

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.” Thomas Paine

There is no doubt, managing conflicts is a challenging task. On my journey as an entrepreneur I have had my share of conflicts. I think working in close proximity and under much pressure, tends to raise conflicts more frequently in entrepreneurial ventures. It is hence important to know how to handle them more effectively. Losing a team mate, a client or a supplier can spell the end for a young startup. Listed below are five steps to help manage conflicts in a systematic and structured manner, and thus reach a fair and faster consensus.

1. Facts: Before anything is discussed or negotiated, it is important that all relevant details are documented. This includes finding core reasons behind the conflict, the stage the conflict is at, and the affected parties. It is important to be objective when documenting these factors, and ensure that each one of the affected individuals is part of the process. To read more about the fact finding process please click here

2. Ground Rules: Developing a set of rules and structure can greatly facilitate conflict resolution. It is important to let all the participants know what is expected of them. It also helps to formalize the actual negotiation process with a set agenda, and a mediator if possible. Setting up such a structure helps the negotiation process run smoothly, with each participant well aware, before hand, about the discussion agenda. To read more about setting appropriate ground rules please click here.

3. Negotiations: The actual negotiation stage brings all the concerned parties together, to discuss their points of view in a structured manner. It is important to insist that each participant keep their mind open to different options, even if they do not agree with them. Keeping a close mind and remaining stubborn makes the process more challenging to manage. During this stage, notes need to be taken down regarding options discussed and differences and concerns that were voiced. To read more about the negotiation stage please click here.

4. Evaluation: After the negotiation stage, all the participants are called back at a later date to discuss the options discussed during the negotiation stage. At this time, it is important to establish a set of objective criterions, to ensure the options discussed are feasible, fair and take into account the larger picture. There are several strategies which can be used at this stage to rank or combine options, and to come up with a mutually agreeable option. To read more about the evaluation stage please click here.

5. Closure: The final stage of a conflict management process involves bringing closure to the argument. This is done by  formalizing whatever was discussed and decided into a written document, which clearly outlines everyone’s responsibilities and roles. It is important that a commitment is made to follow through on what was decided. Periodic meetings can be established to ensure that everything is moving as planned, with suggestions and feedback provided along the way. To read more about closure please click here.

I have followed this system in conflicts I have been involved in. However, given the variances in every conflict, one needs to improvise along the way. Managing conflicts is a challenging task, especially when they have been brewing under the surface for long periods of time. Reaching a formal agreement acceptable to all the concerned individuals is a major feat. It requires patience, an open mind and the willingness to be flexible. It is much easier to be stubborn and refuse to change a position, rather than be adaptable and sacrifice for a more congenial and brighter future. 

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Closure

“The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their configurations which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results.” Carl Gustav Jung

Closure is one of the most critical components of successful conflict resolution. Without it, there is always something unfinshed hanging in the air and this makes people uncomfortable. I am sure many of us have been involved in conflicts which have ended without the required closure. It is not a pleasant situation, and if you then have to continue working with the persons concerned, it can be most awkward. To avoid such situations and reach closure, there are a few things I work on ensuring. 

1. Written Plan: Ensure that everything that has been discussed and decided upon, is written down in a formal document. This document should outline levels of future responsibility, possible compensation agreements, changed working arrangements or any other directives that are to be carried out. Putting it all down on paper makes it tangible, and easy to take ownership of.

2. Commitment: It is important that once a mutually agreeable option has been accepted, tasks and roles allocated, everyone commits to whatever they were assigned. A personal commitment is as important as having faith in the abilities of others to carry out their parts. This is not a time to doubt the follow through abilities of others. At this time more than ever, it is necessary to begin and rebuild the trust which may have been lost in the process.

3. Periodic Checks: A system to routinely check the progress of what was decided and agreed upon is vital, to ensure everyone is keeping their end of the deal. Such checks help monitor team progress and provide valuable insight into the team or individuals working dynamics. Such meetings can be a sounding board for suggestions, complaints or feedback. 

Closure after a long drawn out conflict is a liberating and empowering feeling, and helps us face challenges with ease and confidence. It reminds us, that survival in this world, requires us to learn to be flexible and move forward. Being stubborn and refusing to see different sides of a conflict, renders us incapable of moving forward. 

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Evaluating Options

“There are three ways of dealing with difference: domination, compromise, and integration. By domination only one side gets what it wants; by compromise neither side gets what it wants; by integration we find a way by which both sides may get what they wish.” Mary Parker Follet

Once the negotiation stage has been cleared, all options presented and discussed need to be evaluated. During this stage, respective parties need to set their differences aside, and work towards reaching a consensus where both parties are satisfied with the outcome. This is by far one of the most challenging stages in the conflict management process. Much of the time such situations conclude in deadlocks, because one party may not be open to entertaining any option other than one which benefits them. Conflict resolution needs a certain level of sacrifice from each party to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. 

Some steps which can help reach a mutually beneficial agreement are:

1. Developing Criterions: Prior to starting this phase it is important to establish some base criterions. These include ensuring that all options discussed are feasible and fair. It is also equally important to identify a set of objective criterions which help each of the participants look at the larger picture. This helps set a tone which in turn helps the flow of the discussion and reaching a mutually beneficial agreement, faster. 

2. Ranking: To begin the process, rank the options discussed in the negotiation stage. This will help the participants decide jointly which options address the needs of the group and their own needs. This is a tricky exercise, as each participant would like to rank the options which benefit them the most, on top. To resolve this issue, each option should be graded against a set of objective criterions which are mutually agreed upon. This helps bring objectivity and fairness into the process.

3. Combining of Options: I have found that it is often possible to combine certain options, thereby creating a mutually acceptable option to both parties. Through this method we can bridge differences in opinions, which may limit parties to reach a mutually agreeable agreement. This takes some creativity,  at the same time, helps to think out of the box when resolving conflict. 

There needs to be much give and take at this stage. Sacrifices need to be made, at the same time it is important to remain objective and work towards a mutually beneficial agreement. During this stage one needs to be creative and think out of the box. A deadlock must be avoided at all costs, if a party becomes stubborn and refuses to change positions, we need to factor this dynamic in, and find alternatives which may be acceptable to them. 

 

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Tackling the Issue

“In a conflict, being willing to change allows you to move from a point of view to a viewing point — a higher, more expansive place, from which you can see both sides.” Thomas Crum

Proceeding with actual negotiations after laying down a comprehensive foundation for determining the facts and establishing ground rules, makes the exercise easier. With a set agenda, each party is fully aware of what will be discussed. The negotiation stage is a a critical one in conflict resolution. Without each party making the effort to bring the issue to the table, and discuss it candidly, very little progress is possible. Once the concerned individuals have made the effort to come together, and discuss the issue at hand, it is important to keep the discussion moving in a focused and objective matter. 

Key points to be kept in mind at the negotiation stage are:

1. Remaining Open: It is quite natural to close one’s mind to the other person’s point of view in a conflict. If such a stance is taken however, to reach a mutually agreeable decision will be a difficult and long process. Therefore, it is essential in such a situation, to not just remain open to the other party’s point of view, but the larger picture as well. 

2. Developing of Options: When a conflict is being negotiated, it is important that each side offers possible options to resolve the matter at hand.  I have been involved in conflict resolution, where the discussion revolves only around options which are not acceptable to either side. Therefore, being creative in the development of options is vital, as is abstaining from judging or criticizing them.

3. Notes: In the heat of discussions, we tend to lose track of what was said. This only complicates matter further. During the negotiation stage, it is hence vital, that notes about major agreements, disagreements, options and any other important piece of information are taken down, this will help in resolving the matter at hand.

These pointers are cornerstones to keep negotiations open and healthy. They may be very simple steps, but they have been extremely helpful to me when I have been involved in negotiating conflicts. In the end, it comes down to keeping things simple and straightforward. It is only when we complicate issues, with more details or people, do they become more of a challenge to resolve.

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Setting the Stage

“Instead of suppressing conflicts, specific channels could be created to make this conflict explicit, and specific methods could be set up by which the conflict is resolved.” Albert Low

Most times there is no formal process on how a conflict is supposed to be resolved. Although setting up stringent structures can be stifling in an organization, it can streamline processes and make them more efficient. My thinking has shifted over time, from a loosely managed structure to a more defined one. The reason for this fundamental shift is due to the fact that entrepreneurial teams often consist of very strong personalities. When individuals or groups with strong personalities entangle in a conflict, one can expect a fair share of fireworks. Tackling this with set structures in place, helps facilitate such situations, as also controlling the external impact of such conflicts. 

Listed below are a couple of primer steps to help set the stage before the actual negotiations begin:

1. Ground Rules: It is important to set strict guidelines, to keep the negotiation stage as civil as possible. T Controls on language, tone of voice and relevance to the discussions are essential. Usually, if uncontrolled, irrelevant examples are brought into arguments, making conflict resolving more challenging. Keeping strict focus on the issue at hand in a healthy environment is vital.

2. Agenda: Before affected individuals or groups are called in for negotiations, an agenda needs to be developed to ensure that all the key issues will be discussed. Through this, both individuals can be given adequate time to share their points of views. By formalizing the structure of negotiations, they become more effective and relevant to the issue at hand.

3. Organization: Adequate notice needs to be given to the concerned individuals about the time and venue of the negotiations. The location must be set in a neutral space, where neither side will feel vulnerable or uncomfortable. This is an important step to ensure a smooth and natural flow in the discussions. At the negotiations, minutes or notes must be taken of all discussions and possible conclusions.

4. Mediator: If the issue at hand has escalated to a higher intensity level, it may be necessary to bring in a mediator or facilitator for the negotiations. This will provide unbiased mediation to help keep the negotiations on track and provide objective analysis. Both individuals must agree on the negotiator  to ensure a comfort level.

By following the above steps, expectations may be set prior to the negotiations. The affected parties will have a clearer idea of what will be discussed and how the negotiations will be facilitated and managed on the day itself. It makes the entire negotiation process more efficient and transparent, which in turn can help resolve the conflict as soon as possible.

 

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Know the Facts

“At the root of every conflict is a commitment not honored, an idea not realized and an opportunity misunderstood.” Dr. J M Sampath

One of the fundamental reason for why conflicts are difficult to manage, is the disconnect between perceived reality and the facts. Unfortunately, during conflicts, emotions tend to takeover and incorrect decisions are often taken. It is hence essential, that when  confronted with a conflict, we analyze the current situation very carefully before proceeding. There are many advantages to taking this first step when managing conflict. Some key advantages are, it gives time to the affected individuals to look at the situation objectively, it allows a look at the bigger picture and reduces the probability of acting irrationally or impulsively. 

Some steps which need to be taken during a fact finding exercise are:

1. Identifying Core Reasons: Take a sheet of paper and write down what you believe are the core reasons behind the conflict, to help convert abstract thoughts into reality. It is a good idea to write down the emotions and feelings attached to the reasons, to fully grasp the extent of the conflict at hand. 

2. Identifying Conflict Stage: It is essential to establish the stage of the conflict. Has this been brewing for quite some time? Is it something which was instigated by a new addition to the team? Different levels of intensities require varying degrees of involvement from external sources.

3. Identifying Affected Parties: Clearly marking out individuals or teams affected by the conflict is an important step. The longer a conflict has been suppressed, the greater the extent of its impact. Therefore, it is advisable to deal with a conflict as soon as it arises.

The fact finding exercise provides valuable objective insight into resolving conflicts effectively. Most of the time we skip this stage, and either completely ignore the issue at hand, or jump straight into the disagreement without thinking through our position adequately. This can have a severely damaging impact on your team, organization and oneself. Establishing facts and our arguments prior to the negotiation stage can save time, make positions clearer and help minimize any bad blood which can arise.

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Handling Conflicts

“Conflict is the gadify of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention. It shocks us out of sheeplike passivity and sets us at noting and contriving.” John Dewey

All of us face conflict at one point of time or other. It does not matter how non-confrontational you may be, it is something that one needs to have the ability to handle. Everyone has different ways of handling conflict. It depends on the issue at hand, core values and beliefs, and one’s personal disposition. When all these factors come together, it becomes a complex issue which needs to be handled with sensitivity and care. Unfortunately, not many people are adept at handling such situations, and may shy away from them to maintain a status quo. This leads to a further amplification of the problem at hand, and could lead to additional issues and problems. 

Working at a start-up or a relatively young company with a decentralized structure, conflict is inevitable. Being of a non-confrontational nature myself, I used to avoid these uncomfortable situations, for a long time. After sometime, I began to see how my behavior was making conditions worse, and was affecting the rest of the team as well. That is when I began to pay greater attention to resolving these conflicts as soon as possible, to maintain a healthy environment in the workplace and to ensure that morale levels were kept high. It is imperative to keep the larger picture in mind when dealing with conflict,  to fully understand what is at stake.

Over the course of this week, I will go over a couple of key points of conflict resolution which I have learned over time, to deal with conflict in a much more efficient and effective manner. Due to the complex nature of conflicts, and depending on the intensity and number of people involved, these points will act as markers to help look at the matter objectively. At the same time, I would really like to hear from you regarding any specific conflicts that you may have experienced during your entrepreneurial journey. In the coming months I plan on adding a section for case studies, conflict resolution is always interesting. I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy the series.

 

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5 Steps to Understanding Psychometrics

“Only those who respect the personality of others can be of real use to them.” Albert Schweitzer

Psychometrics is a field of study concerned with the theory and technique of educational and psychological measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and personality traits. It is a complex science through which we are able to quantify preferences in an objective and precise manner. This tool has a wide range of applications ranging from team building to benchmarking the personality of a candidate against  particular organizational cultures and environments. It also has a host of benefits which can be realized at both  personal and organizational levels. Outlined below are five steps to make your understanding of the instrument simpler.

1. Fundamentals: At the core of psychometrics lies complex research which revolves around a few main concepts. Reliability, which measures the consistency of the instrument Validity, which measure the characteristics, which it claims to measure. Standardization, which sets up protocols for conducting the test. To learn more about the fundamental of psychometrics please click here.

2. Types of test: Psychometric tests fall into three main categories. The first category measures personality & values of the candidate, this encompasses behavior, drivers and feelings, to name a few. The second category measures aptitude & ability which provides a gauge for the cognitive ability of the candidate. The last category is used for development & guidance used in team building, counseling and personal development. To learn more about different types of test please click here.

3. Personal benefits: Psychometric tests can be great stepping stones to accelerate the process of learning more about yourself. They can be particularly useful in identifying areas of  strengths, personal drivers and your own personal work based preferences. When used correctly under the guidance of a trained consultant you will be able to realize the benefits of this tool more effectively. To learn more about how you could benefit from psychometrics please click here.

4. Organizational benefits: Psychometrics is being integrated increasingly into organizations worldwide. With the increasing level of competition, reliance on productivity and ever growing demands of shareholders, organizations have integrated psychometrics to place individuals accurately, build stronger teams, specifically aiming to reduce the rate of attrition, which is a major issue in the corporate world today. To learn more about how your organization can benefit from psychometrics please click here.

5. Ethics: Psychometrics involves a collection of personal and private information. This information must be used in a manner which builds trust with those taking part in these assessments. A high level of confidentiality needs to be maintained, equal opportunities should given to all and the data from the assessments must be used and shared with the consent of the candidate. To learn more about ethical conduct in the world of psychometrics please click here.

Psychometrics provides a powerful medium to harness individual energy and that of the organization . When highly reliable and valid assessments are used under the supervision of trained consultants, maximum benefit will be derived. The results and reports provided at the end of assessment, can only do as much as you want to do with them. They provide starting steps which need to be taken further to realize any substantial gains. If anyone has questions regarding this subject, I will be more than happy to answer them for you.

* Our organization conducts private and public workshops on “Integrating Psychometrics At Your Organization.” Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about this program at enquire(at)innovogs(dot)com

 

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Ethics and Testing

“Ethics is not definable, is not implementable, because it is not conscious; it involves not only our thinking, but also our feeling.” Valdemar W Setzer

Ethics and integrity formulate basic tenets for achieving a balanced, successful and happy life. Without them, we find ourselves on shaky grounds in life, akin to being without a moral compass to direct us. These principles also apply to the realm of testing, particularly to psychometric testing. This is due primarily to the fact that testing of candidates personality types and cognitive abilities involves sensitive information , in the wrong hands or if used with ill intent it can have extremely damaging implications. I have listed a few guidelines on ethical conduct and psychometrics below.

1. Confidentiality: When a candidate completes his/her test ,the reports of the test must be strictly viewed by authorized personnel only. These reports must not be shared with any third party without the consent of the candidate. Strict measures must be taken to control access to these reports and documents. Once a level of trust has been broken with a candidate salvaging the trust factor of this relationship is a difficult task and one which will severely impact the reputation of your organization.

2. Equal opportunity: At InnovoGS, it is our policy to work positively to reduce inequality with all current employees & potential employees, by ensuring that they are treated equitably, fairly, without discrimination and with dignity and respect, regardless of their age, gender, race, sexuality, disability, religion or belief. This helps in creating a level of trust and comfort with candidates, and eliminates any biases which could impact the assessments. 

3. Data usage: Large amounts of valuable data is collected when psychometric assessments are carried out. If you have a requirement to use this data for research purposes, you need to ensure that you take permission from the candidates on whether their data can be included anonymously as part of the research. It is absolutely essential that you take a transparent position when using psychometrics generated data to ensure the candidate that your intentions are clear.

Psychometrics is a very powerful tool which can be used both positively and negatively. It is the responsibility of the provider to ensure that they have integrated high levels of ethics and integrity into the evaluation process. Unfortunately psychometrics has multiple stigmas attached to it due to the fact that some providers have not been very transparent in their analysis, an aspect that continuously raises a level of suspicion. If you are looking into using psychometrics at your organization or planning on starting a business in this field, please ensure that ethics and integrity are tightly embedded into your corporate culture.

 

 

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Psychometrics and Organizations

“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined efforts of each individual.” Vince Lombardi

The world is becoming smaller and more competitive by the day. As high quality resources become scarcer, organizations are facing a multitude of performance and productivity related issues. In the last decade or so there has been an ever increasing focus on human resources (HR) function in organizations, primarily because people are finally being seen as an organization’s most valuable asset. Psychometrics provides organizations with comprehensive information regarding understanding this asset. Listed below are some ways psychometrics could benefit organizations.

1. Better placement: Using a wide variety of tests available in the market place, helps to identify positions which are more suited to particular individuals. At work, most of the time we adapt to the environment, culture and the sort of work we do. Sometimes we get lucky and actually enjoy what we do, other times the clock doesn’t move fast enough. Through psychometrics, HR could essentially become more adept in placing individuals with greater accuracy, increasing productivity, efficiency and employee morale.

2. Team building: Tests such as the MBTi provide HR the ability to understand team dynamics with a greater level of insight. These tests provide HR with the ability to gauge interpersonal styles of an individual, how they like to receive information, what factors affect their decision making and how they structure their lives. Using this data helps create teams who are better able to understand each other, work more effectively and most importantly, execute. 

3. Decreased retention: When individuals enjoy the type of work they do, enjoy the people they work with, a natural increase in productivity, efficiency and morale is a natural outcome. I have personally noticed that when individuals or teams reach such a stage, attrition levels fall. This results in massive cost savings for organizations and can actually convert into a strong competitive advantage in the world we live in today.

Listed above are some reasons why your organization should look into psychometrics. It is important to note that the benefits listed above are not solely derived from psychometrics, they can be achieved when senior management makes a commitment to making their HR function more strategic. Training development and coaching are integral parts of the mix, together with psychometrics they help you form a strong bond with your employee and lay the foundation for a strong organization.

 

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