Author: Oxana Gutu

When facing a conflict: advice from a coach

A team member rushes into your office, breathless and emotional. Words pour in. You try to respond. Another avalanche follows. You have 5 seconds to choose your conflict management strategy.

Here are few tips a coach shared with me, to invest in healthy relationships at work:

  • Focus on your breath. Breathe in. Breathe out.
  • Adopt a neutral posture. Watch your body language.
  • Postpone the discussion if you cannot manage the situation.
  • If you can manage the situation, then listen.
  • Say “I know”, if you know. Or “it is possible”, if you do not know.
  • Use the broke record technique – keep going with “I know”/”It’s possible” until the spirits calm down.
  • Adapt a neutral attitude: stick to facts, leave emotions out, focus on “Let’s find a solution”.
  • Use re-phrasing “Did I get it right that X and Y….?”
  • If the atmosphere is still hot, express feelings and allow the other person to do the same. Explain with calm the consequences on the person(s) concerned and the project: “Your late delivery of the product, made the test team anxious about them meeting the deadline set by the Board. They want to solve this, together with you”.
  • Do not accept victimisation and/or self-victimisation. Keep the dialogue at adult levels. Do not get into the game of people who live from conflict.
  • Find or agree to find a solution: (a) win-win, if possible; (b) compromise, as responsible adults; (c) agree to differ and come back latter; or (d) ask for help (management, Board, Human Resources, experts).
  • End on a positive note and make sure there are no hard feelings and unspoken messages as much as possible.

 

Training: here we come again

We learned from Harvard Business Review, that in 2018 U.S. companies spent roughly USD 90 Billion on learning and development. Some entire countries only aspire to reach that amount of GDP. According to the same source, the average American employee received training at a cost of around USD 1,000 per person. For a company of 50,000 employees, that’s an annual USD 50 million per year.

In development projects, capacity building and training are often an intrinsic part of the intervention. Question about the efficiency and effectiveness of the investment in training  are not new. Yet, the answers continue to come with delay or in part only. Tax- payers want to know what changes are brought by development money. What changed for victims of violence after police officers or social workers were trained in country X?

Back to the private sector, a survey in the U.S. among 1,500 executives found that one in five organisations do nothing to measure the impact of trainings.  Of those that do, only 13% calculate quantifiable results. I have yet to see similar data on development projects.

Measuring the impact of trainings is often seen as an extra activity, which is not part of the scope of the project. There are reasons for that. There are also good arguments for revisiting that view. Measuring the impact of the training will show where, when and what kind of training is needed in the context the project works in. This will maximise the effect and support the sustainability of the capacity building.

To measure the impact of trainings in projects, specific activities can be introduced at a number of levels at certain intervals. The Kirkpatrick model of training evaluation is a useful tool. According to this model, the training can be evaluated at four levels:

  1. reaction (post-training evaluation by participants);
  2. learning (knowledge and skills acquired at the training);
  3. behavior and job performance changes after the training;
  4. impact on the performance of the entity/organization.

For 1 and 2 pre and post-training questionnaires are appropriate. For 3 and 4, co-operation with the client’s organisation will be necessary. Some organisations have performance management systems, where recommendations for training and post-training follow-up on skills’ upgrade are included.

For further inspiration:

Data based on “You learn best when you learn less” by Laszlo Bock, 17 June 2019, Harvard Business Review.

“An investigation into the relationship between training evaluation and the transfer of training” by Alan M. Saks and Lisa A. Burke, in International Journal of Training and Development 16:2

Communication: revisited

A coach once explained the five attributes of communication in this way:

A. Consciousness communication: words have consequences; choose them wisely;

B. Free communication: people are free to express themselves; it would lead other wise to frustration and conflicts;

C. Expressive communication: the tone, the posture, the face expression are all part of communication;

D. Mutual communication: treat others as you’d like to be treated; use active listening;

E. Efficient communication: be clear, precise, use facts.

Before any communication:

  • inform yourself,
  • show recognition and
  • frame the relationship.

“Communication is my middle name” I often say at the first meeting with a new project team. It’s my pledge for a positive working environment, a pre-requisite for any project success. I am not always 100% on it but I am continuously committed. I also ask trusted team members to tell me when I am not.

I found the following tool useful for navigating the different communication styles and their consequences on relationships (credit Psychology Tools):

assertive comm