Good Question: What is the most effective approach to resolving conflict between two employees on a team

Q:

“In my department, I have a manager and her direct report who are really at odds with each other on a project. People have dropped by my office to tell me that their frustration with each other is really causing challenges during larger project review meetings. What is the best way to approach and resolve this issue?


 

OUR EXPERT: 

Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.

 

A:

There are many ways that leaders address this issue—unfortunately, they often don’t lead to the best result. Here are a few common approaches that leaders take, and their pitfalls:

Speak to the manager and delegate getting the issue resolved. The challenge with this approach is that it does not address what leadership issues the manager may have. Sometimes, the manager may lack the skills to effectively engage the employee. Delegating the issue to a manager without the ability to properly address the issue can lead to high turnover and the loss of some great talent before the gap in the manager’s skills surfaces as the cause.

Decide that the manager needs training. Many times, when a conflict arises, leaders quickly resort to communications or leadership training. Training creates many great benefits, but it often uses generalizations, which may not help that manager become more effective at resolving a very specific type of employee issue.

Speak with numerous team members to gather information about the current issues, and then create a plan to resolve them. This approach can require hours of a leader’s time, taking them away from numerous other important and more strategic activities. It also creates a culture in which a disagreement gets put under a microscopic lens and can be overanalyzed if not careful.

Defer the issue to human resources. Bringing in your counterparts in human resources can definitely help to resolve employee issues. The caveat: if leaders regularly delegate issue resolution to another department without feeling fully engaged or accountable to improve the situation, the efforts made may only result in a short-term improvement.

What’s an effective approach that generates a positive outcome?

Teaching leaders to facilitate a single yet powerful conversation between two individuals in conflict. It is a priceless skill, and when leaders are involved in the conversation they grow further insight into the people, management, and business issues that exist within their team. In addition, this approach saves hours of time in individual conversations and encourages a culture in which people address and resolve challenges head-on.

 

Follow these four simple steps to lead a conversation that resolves conflict between two individuals:

 

STEP 1: State the reason for the conversation.

It’s important to highlight that the end goal of the meeting is to create a more harmonious working relationship between the two individuals. Many times, individuals feel the purpose of the meeting is to find out who is at fault for the conflict. Finding fault is far less productive and brings out the more defensive feelings in each individual.

 

STEP 2: Ask each individual to take ten minutes and explain their thoughts around the conflict.

It’s very important that there are no interruptions, and that the other party listens with curiosity and not reaction. This step is critical!

 

STEP 3: Ask each party how they feel they could work together more harmoniously in the future.

Instead of having them focus on past conversations that were tense and unproductive, encourage both parties to talk through how future situations could be more effective. Encourage discussion around how things could be different than they are today as opposed to focusing on finding faults.

 

STEP 4: Create agreements.

Ask each party to agree to a future behaviour change. Many times, once two people have talked through a conflict, they assume that the other person will change in the future. This simply sets the stage for more conflict. If each party can highlight and take ownership of what they can contribute to improving the situation, many times both individuals will feel more collaborative in their future work together.

 

As leaders, how we resolve conflict between individuals is one of the most important things we do to influence the culture of our teams.

 

 

To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented women professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at claperriere@womenofinlfuence.ca.

 

How Julie Mitchell built two businesses — and is tapping into technology to run them better

As the founder and head of both Parcel Design (a brand strategy and communications firm) and Torq Ride (indoor cycling studios), Julie Mitchell isn’t just a serial entrepreneur — she’s a concurrent one. As both businesses expand, she’s looking for ways technology can be used to boost productivity and communication. Here’s how she’s getting it done.

 

by Shelley White

 


 

Julie Mitchell is a woman with a lot going on. 

As the owner of two successful Toronto businesses, Julie always has a very full calendar, and that’s just the way she likes it. From running her businesses and managing renovations to doing fitness challenges and planning social events, Julie says she wants every day to have purpose and value.

“I just know that I feel better about myself and my life if I am really purposeful and very productive,” she says. “I’m a very driven person and I like having multiple projects. I drive my husband crazy with that, but I’ve been like that my whole life. The more I have to do, the more productive I am.”

Julie founded her first business, Parcel Design, 15 years ago. As the award-winning brand strategy and communications firm grew, so did Julie’s ambitions. In 2016, she launched another business, borne out of her love of Spinning (indoor cycling). The aim was to create a “next level” studio experience that didn’t exist in Toronto at the time. Now, Torq Ride has two locations located in Toronto’s east end and an ever-expanding client base of spin fans. 

“Torq was an opportunity for me to apply everything that I’d learned over a decade of running another business, to have the chance to start again and build it from scratch,” Julie says. 

There have been challenges along the way. A recent issue involving renovations and a landlord resulted in the company taking a large financial hit.

“That was a real test of my own personal resilience,” she says. “Anyone can organically build a brand, but for something that requires a lot of initial capital, it can be quite risky.”

Julie says another goal for Torq has been to create a self-managed business where trainers and other staff could flourish in an environment focused on professionalism, career development and leadership — something uncommon in the fitness industry.  

It was this desire to improve her businesses’ internal processes and systems that spurred Julie to get involved in Cisco’s Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle (WEC). She first found out about WEC through her Account Manager at BDC, Canada’s bank for entrepreneurs. While discussing opportunities for her business, the banker suggested she might get a lot out of Cisco’s Circle of Innovation program — a program supported by BDC. 

 

“I just know that I feel better about myself and my life if I am really purposeful and very productive.” 

 

The Circle of Innovation pairs up women-led businesses with university students enrolled in technology-based programs. With support from Cisco, the students intern with the businesses for 16 weeks over the summer, helping them tackle tech challenges and projects. 

“It seemed like something that was worth exploring, particularly because you’re able to work with someone who has a very specific skill set,” Julie says of the program. 

While both Torq and Parcel were quite dependent on technology, Julie says she didn’t feel they were using it to their advantage. She was interested in developing a “living” version of what normally would be called an employee handbook. The idea was to improve the team’s productivity and communications by giving them instant access to an intranet, or “wiki,” that would house all of the company’s policies, processes, templates and brand standards. 

“This tool gives everyone access to everything in one place, whether they’re working remotely or not. And nothing ever becomes dated,” she says. 

Through Cisco’s Circle of Innovation, Julie and her team were paired with Sahaj Singh, a student of electrical engineering and management at McMaster University. All summer, he’s been helping them make the “wiki” a reality. 

“Because he’s an engineer, he understands technology, and he’s been both researching it and working with us to develop it,” Julie says. 

The Circle of Innovation program has been a positive experience, she says, and one she would recommend to other business owners.  

“It’s very flexible. You have the option of bringing the person into work in your studio or they can work remotely, and there’s been really great support from Cisco as well,” she says. “We’ve really enjoyed having an intern, but also developing the relationship with the team at Cisco.”

Beyond developing their new wiki, Julie says she hopes to expand her empire further with a third Torq studio. She just needs to find the right location. 

“I think I have a very clear view of what has made Torq successful and a big part of it is clarity around what the neighbourhood needs,” she says. “I think you have to be very cautious as you’re expanding to make sure that you’re not just guessing.”

And while serving the Torq customer is crucial, creating a positive experience for staff is just as important, she says. 

“I just want to be very focused on building the brand and continuing to create lots of unique opportunities for the people on the team.” 

 

The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle — a program led by Cisco in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) — addresses some of the obstacles women-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy and fill in your knowledge gaps, or try the BDC digital maturity assessment tool to find out in less than 5 minutes where your business stands compared to your peers, and how you can improve.

Meet Nikki Csek: CEO and co-founder of Csek Creative and NowMedia

Nikki Csek, CEO and co-founder of Csek Creative and NowMedia, is passionate about people. She has cultivated and encouraged a community of diverse people, with various expertise, that has enabled her to thrive in business. She is the current president of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, and has served on boards for many local businesses and not for profit boards while serving her community. For over 20 years she has worked alongside businesses to understand their challenges and provide solutions that make a difference. We caught up with her ahead of her moderating our spotlight event in Kelowna on October 21st — Following Your Passion: How to Turn a Personal Dream Into a Multi-Million Dollar Business.

 


 

 

My first job ever was… working in my mom’s small-town restaurant in North Dakota at the age of 11. I believe it built the foundation for my work ethic and my need to put the customer first.

I decided to be an entrepreneur … when I realized my work ethic was not usual and my passion for putting the customer first made it hard to work in a very tight corporate structure. I wanted more control over the outcomes of the day and the relationships with customers. 

My proudest accomplishment is… I have many accomplishments in my journey so far that I am very proud of. Certainly, my family jumps to mind right away. We have raised three children that are good humans all the while building a company from scratch. Being recognized by the business community is always nice, but I believe my proudest moment is yet to come. Similar to a painter, it is their next masterpiece that is the best one. 

My boldest move to date was… each day brings an opportunity for a bold move. I can not say which was the boldest, but maybe it was the day I told the bank that I was not coming back from maternity leave, that I wanted control over my path. Maybe it was the day I decided to plan a leadership conference with eight keynote speakers, including two former prime ministers of Canada, a Dragon, a former NBA player,  a New York Times bestselling author and two leading Canadian women all within a 120-day runway. I am not afraid to do bold courageous things. 

I surprise people when I tell them… I can swear like a trucker, love to drive my motorcycle, I’m a self-taught pool shark, love the band Tool, can’t wait to see the next theatre production and I’m allergic to “small” thinking and the philosophy that something is not possible. I can and will do anything I set my mind to. 

My best advice to people starting out in business is… believe in your vision, be honest with yourself, recognize that being an entrepreneur is hard work, and there will be really tough days. If possible, find someone you can lean on in the tough days, whether that be family, spouse or friend; sounding boards are there to help you when you stumble and just don’t want to get back up. But most importantly don’t deceive yourself. It is all about hard work.

 

“Failure is okay, you just need to get up, wipe your knee off and keep pushing forward.”

 

My best advice from a mentor was… that I can never get fired if I am the best at the job. I was the best chambermaid, the best server, the best administrator, the best account manager and so on. No matter the job I always strived to be the best and do my best to ensure I did not disappoint my mentor (my mom).

I would tell my 20-year old self… to be brave and seek out as many mentors as possible. Read books, volunteer, sit on boards, say yes to speaking engagements, say no to things that do not align with my passion, and never be afraid to ask for help.

My biggest setback was… Tough question, as I don’t see setbacks, I see challenges and opportunities.  Each day is an opportunity and I can’t wait to meet it. If there are setbacks, I prefer to see them as learning opportunities. I only make a particular mistake once, learn from it, adjust and carry on.

The best thing about being an entrepreneur is… having the ability to create my own destiny. To decide whether we should pursue a new line of business and to actually see it exceed far beyond expected projections.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… read even more. I would consume more information to always be striving for better, for the pursuit of excellence.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I am a rebel against rules. I don’t like to do things the way you are supposed to. I like to upset the apple cart every chance I get.

The one thing I wish I knew when starting Csek Creative is… that it is a journey that has ups and downs and that is okay. The downs make the ups so much more worth it. Failure is okay, you just need to get up, wipe your knee off and keep pushing forward.

I stay inspired by… knowing that we are making a positive difference in all that we do. We are going where no one has gone. We are creating something that will leave a dent in the universe.

The future excites me because… it is our chance to create the legacy we envision. We will change our sector because we are not beholden to any set of rules and are willing to take calculated risks where we see opportunity.

My next step is…to be even more comfortable about being who I am, to reach out and connect more, build more opportunities for women, and extend our reach from the Okanagan into more of Canada.

 

Hear the rest of her incredible story at Following Your Passion: How to Turn a Personal Dream Into a Multi-Million Dollar Business. Join us on October 21st, along with BDC, to tap into the trade secrets and compelling journeys of three award-winning entrepreneurs who left secure corporate careers and turned hobbies and interests into a profitable businesses. Find out how they did it and how you can too. Tickets are available here.

Three tips for getting clarity in your career when life gets murky after children

Becoming a working mom can sometimes feel overwhelming. Jennifer Hargreaves, an entrepreneurial mom who is the Founder and CEO of tellent — an online community and resource for professional women to pursue flexible work opportunities — offers three tips to get clarity in the chaos.

 

 

By Jennifer Hargreaves

 


 

No one can prepare you for becoming a working mother, or a mother for that matter. Even if you have done the research, made a plan and feel certain that you will know exactly how work, life, and motherhood will play out. 

Adjusting to new priories, shifting values and personal identity can be exhausting and confusing. Some of us can pivot easily and adapt quickly; seeing clearly and stepping boldly into the next step, the next role, the next challenge in our lives. For the rest of us, we can lose the me somewhere along the way, becoming so intertwined with our children, our work, and our partners that there is no me left. This impacts our energy levels, our career choices and growth, and our personal happiness. 

How many of us have craved time alone, to feel like ourselves again, to think our own thoughts, feel our own feelings, and make decisions because it is what we want to do and not because it is what we should be doing? 

Here are three tips to help you sort through the noise and get clear on what this next stage of your career and life can look like. 

 

1. Start. Right now. Seriously. Get a new journal and commit to getting clear.

What excuse just popped up in your head? It is so easy to come up with a rationale — not only to avoid starting a task, but also to justify why we can’t have what it is that we really want and deserve. Our excuses are born out of fear and our own self-limiting beliefs and lead to procrastination and inertia. 

I want you to challenge your excuses to get different results. Here are two simple exercises to combat procrastination and get you moving towards setting clear goals: 

Take responsibility. If you think you don’t have the time, make the time. We are brilliant human beings with infinite problem-solving potential! If your day is packed and you need five minutes, you have the ability to find it.

 

“Take perfection out of the equation and start showing up however you can.”

 

If you can’t find the time, you are choosing to prioritize other things over a task you don’t actually want to do — not because you don’t want clarity but more likely because your subconscious mind is sabotaging your actions.  

Owning and recognizing your role in this process will give you a feeling of more control. Tell yourself, I can do this if I want to do this. 

Make it easy. Break tasks down into simple actions. Take perfection out of the equation and start showing up however you can. For example, get out your journal and a pen and sit down. You have to establish this habit before you can improve it. Sit down enough times with your pen and journal and you’ll start writing. 

 

2. Identify what you want, not what you believe you can have.

This is way easier said than done for all of the reasons listed above. What we want can feel like it comes with conditions. We can have whatever we want in the world — keeping in mind that we also have to pay the bills, look after the kids, are approaching 40, don’t have any experience, have the wrong experience… But what if we ditched the circumstance and conditions? 

In order to do this exercise, you will need to relax and get quiet. Picture a baby and start by asking the question: what is this baby’s potential? What can she be, do or have? Put yourself in her shoes and ask yourself the same question. What can you do, be or have? 

Watch out for the onslaught of ideas and reasons that will flood your mind on why that can’t be done or how you are going to do it. There is no growth beyond the beliefs that you hold, so for this exercise, we have to think beyond our beliefs. 

Keep your journal handy and start to develop a vision of your future self — one with infinite potential. Think about: 

  • where she lives – describe her house, the décor, who lives there.  
  • what she looks like – visualize how she looks and her demeanour now that she has succeeded in meeting all of her goals.  
  • what she does – describe the kind of work she does, who she spends her free time with, what gives her the most satisfaction and joy. 

Find some time every day for the next seven days to connect with and visualize your future self. Close your eyes and imagine what it is like to live that life like it is happening right now. Create a list of all of your wants. Include your personal and professional wants. Remember that time, cost, education or responsibilities have no role to play in this exercise. 

 

3. Ask an expert. (You). 

Find a mentor. Not just any mentor — your internal mentor. Success looks different for all of us. External mentors play an important role in our professional development, but they cannot tell you how to get to your customized future state. The one that holds your individual hopes, dreams and values. 

The best person to be able to guide you to that future is you. In amongst the pressures to work, not work, breastfeed, home school, do it all, do nothing… ask your future self for clarity on what needs to happen now to become her in 20 years? 

Throughout the process, it’s also important to remind yourself that you are not alone. A lack of clarity on career and life direction after having children is the number one challenge that the over 3,000 professional women in our tellent community face. 

 

“The best person to be able to guide you to that future is you. In amongst the pressures to work, not work, breastfeed, home school, do it all, do nothing… ask your future self for clarity on what needs to happen now to become her in 20 years?” 

 

We field so many mixed messages about what we should be, do, or have as women, and especially as mothers, that it is easy to forget who we are and what we really want. These messages start when we are young and are often compounded by institutionalized workplace bias at mid-career levels. There is no doubt that work needs to work better for women, but we cannot wait for organizations to change for us as individuals. Start today in clarifying your goals with this exercise and start building the future career and life that you really want. 

 

Jennifer Hargreaves is the Founder of tellent, and a champion and advocate for women in the workplace. In 2015, she set out to change the way that work works for women. The tellent community has grown to over 3,000 women in the greater Toronto Hamilton area. What started as an idea to provide access to flexible job listings has grown into a movement, creating more opportunities for full and equal participation of women in the economy.