For Managers: Using Security not Threats to Lead a Successful Team

As a Manager, have you ever scolded a subordinate and seen little to no change in that individual or a worse, only a spiral of more negative behavior patterns? The hard and stern approach may work for some however it certainly doesn’t work as a blanket approach for all. Have you ever considered using a more positive and alternative approach?

Below we have compiled 5 tips to resolve issues and conflict in a more nurturing way that perhaps some individuals in your team will respond to in a better way:

1. Replace culpability with curiosity

If team members sense that you’re trying to blame them for something, you become their saber-toothed tiger. Research shows that blame and criticism reliably escalate conflict, leading to defensiveness and eventually to disengagement. The alternative to blame is curiosity. If you believe you already know what the other person is thinking, then you’re not ready to have a conversation. Instead, adopt a learning mindset, knowing you don’t have all the facts.

2. Speak human to human

Underlying every teams who-did-what confrontation are universal needs such as respect, competence, social status, and autonomy. Recognising these deeper needs naturally elicits trust and promotes positive language and behaviors. Remember that even in the most contentious negotiations, the other party is just like them and aims to walk away happy.

A common reflection HR exercise asks you to consider the following points:

  • This person has beliefs, perspectives, and opinions, just like me.
  • This person has hopes, anxieties, and vulnerabilities, just like me.
  • This person has friends, family, and perhaps children who love them, just like me.
  • This person wants to feel respected, appreciated, and competent, just like me.
  • This person wishes for peace, joy, and happiness, just like me.

3. Approach conflict as a team, not a challenger

Of course it goes without saying that most individuals hate losing even more than we love winning. A perceived loss triggers attempts to reestablish fairness through competition, criticism, or disengagement, which is a form of workplace-learned helplessness. Know that true success is a win-win outcome for all involved, so when conflicts arise, triggering a fight-or-flight reaction can be avoided simply by asking, “How could we achieve a mutually desirable outcome?”

4. Anticipate reactions & design counter-moves

Being thoughtful in advance about how your audience will react to your messaging helps ensure your content will be heard, versus your audience hearing an attack on their identity or ego.

Skillfully confront difficult conversations head-on by preparing for likely reactions. For example, you may need to gather concrete evidence to counter defensiveness when discussing hot-button issues. By asking yourself “If I position my opinion in this manner, what are the potential objections, and how would I respond to those counterarguments?” You can see the discussion from a third-party perspective and expose weaknesses in your own positions and encourages a rethink of the original argument.

The best way to see a third party counter opinion is by asking yourself:

  • What are my main points?
  • What are three ways my listeners are likely to respond?
  • How will I respond to these scenarios?

5. Ask for feedback after relaying criticism

Asking for feedback on how you delivered your message disarms your opponent, illuminates blind spots in communication skills, and models shortcomings, which increases trust in leaders.

Try to close difficult conversations with these questions:

  • What worked and what didn’t work in my delivery?
  • How did it feel to hear this message?
  • How could I have presented it more effectively?

Asking for feedback after relaying to a team member harsh feedback. That way a punch in the stomach starts to sound intriguing: presented with reasonable evidence that makes a curious person want to hear more. You were also eager to discuss the challenges I had, which led to solutions.

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