Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Responsibility and Accountability--The Key to Personal and Professional Development

In a seminar last week, as well as with a in discussion with a friend this week, I was asked what someone can do when they have a difficult workplace relationship with someone, and that person is not open to change or growth.    This is a difficult situation, because, at least for me, I cannot control the actions of others (my children remind me of this lesson every day).  

How I responded to this question was that for any transformation process to take place in any aspect of my work life or personal life, the first step is for me to take responsibility for situation and realize my contribution to the state of affairs.  If I am not willing to acknowledge this, I am likely to continue stuck in the situation.   This applies whether I am talking about a difficult relationship, the state of my career, my work life balance (or lack of it) , etc.

Once I have taken responsibility, then I am able to think proactively about solutions that I had never considered before.  What if I try approaching this person in an entirely different way, or take new steps for professional development with respect to my career? These options may not have appeared to be available to me prior to me having this mindset.  The other key is to make certain that the strategies that I put into place are sufficiently challenging so that they will alter the current situation, ideally for the better.

Finally, I need to take accountability for the results I produce.   The steps I take may be productive, neutral or counterproductive, but only through accountability can I take the information and improve upon it as a learning experience.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Resolving Conflict--lessons from my sons

I was raised as an only child, so did not get the lessons in conflict resolution growing up that most people experience with their siblings.   But I have now been witness to it (and sometimes brought in as a facilitator) with my 8 year old and 6 year old sons.  There are a few key lessons that I have learned carry over into resolving workplace conflict:

  1. The Best incentive is a larger goal that is more important than whatever is in dispute--I find that if I can bear leaving them alone to battle it out for a bit, they always seem to come to a more permanent resolution to the conflict than if I intervene.   They realize that they are really stuck with each other as playmates for the long term, and that they can spend the time fighting, or enjoying themselves.   Finding that objectives for employees that is more important than whatever differences they may have is always a great motivator.
  2. Understanding that people move at different paces--I have one son who will get over a conflict quickly, while the other will definitely brood and remember whatever the issue was for a couple of days.   Getting to know the paces of your employees or colleagues will serve well in the conflict resolution process.   With deadlines and projects, sometimes there may not be the luxury of letting someone resolve things at their usual pace, but at least an awareness of it will prepare you for what you are in for!
  3. Realize that it will happen again--Any long term relationship (parent/child, spouse/spouse, co-worker to co-worker, etc.) is bound for conflict....and it will happen again.  That is part of the personal growth process.  The key is that ideally once something is resolved, future conflicts are not about the same thing...that is indicator that it was never truly resolved the first time.
Those are some small but relevant tips about conflict resolution that a 3rd grader and first grader have taught me.