I took the Standout Strengths Test Today

I took the Standout Strengths Test today (http://standout.tmbc.com/gui/somMain).  I was introduced to it by Janine Gilmour at our recent Workplace Fairness Luncheon.  My top two strengths, according to the test, are Creator and Connector.  So the greatest value I bring to the team is my “gift for knowing the special formula to release unexpected synergies between people, teams and ideas.” I begin by asking “What do I understand?” and I am not good at snap decision.  Yes. I can agree with that.  And yes, it is true that though I often present like this outgoing extrovert, in fact I need time on my own to think and re-energize.  The strengths test confirmed that.

Paper Bark - Carole Grogloth, Molokai Hawaii

We learned from Janine that these strengths are hard-wired.  The big question is, how do you leverage your own strengths?  Janine was very frank about her own experience leveraging her strengths and how she got there.  She shared examples of the mistakes she has made learning the hard way and the challenges she has faced, and that won the group over.  It takes courage and conviction to meet your challenges head on and to master them.  It takes even more courage often to talk about those mistakes in a public forum.

In her presentation, Janine revealed the holy half-dozen intrinsic motivations: mastery, autonomy, feedback, self-determination, affiliation and recognition.  I recognize these and I call them the heavy hitters because when people are in conflict, it is often one of these that is missing (along with, inevitably, trust).

Daniel Pink talks about these too in his book Drive.  Now this is a book worth exploring if you haven’t already.  Pink reminds us that after we are earning enough to make a living, we won’t be motivated by more money, we need autonomy, mastery and purpose.   (Check out this animated video of his description here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc).

So how do you leverage your strengths?  You need to set great goals.  OK. Here is one I get caught up in because I am always evaluating feasibility and do-ability.  Maybe that isn’t necessary.  My friend Nancy’s great goal is “World peace one conversation at a time.”  I need to work on mine… Stay tuned.

You need to foster motivation (see above).

You need to overcome obstacles.  I was a sales rep once upon a time, and a significant part of sales training is overcoming obstacles.  I learned that to overcome, you actually need to acknowledge and listen.

You need to adopt a master mindset.  This is all about the positive possibilities in the future.  My standout strengths test indicates that I think in terms or possibilities – “ Wouldn’t it be great if?”  So that is a good start.

What do you need to work on?  I am going to think about my great goal and get back to you on that one and I would love to hear yours!  Comment below.

If you would like to learn more about the Standout 9 Strength Test, contact Janine Gilmour. www.touchstoneadvisoryservices.com.

Generational Diversity

Today we welcomed Amy Lister and Linda Lathrop to discuss Workplace Fairness and generational diversity. It was really nice to meet some new participants, including a healthy representation from the younger generation.

As we neared the end of the discussion, I had a revelation. I, in my late forties, can see in two directions: to my father who in his early 70s is returning to work as a consultant at his former employer, and to my daughter embarking on her first summer away from home working full time. Oddly too, my father is on the west coast, my daughter is on the east coast, and I am in the middle perhaps, in the prairie. Generational diversity binds us.

I asked Linda and Amy about the stories (complaints, perhaps?) we hear often of young workers “multi-tasking” with the music in one ear, the texting and the simultaneous work. I certainly see this in my own household, and I hear about it in the workplace. Our luncheon facilitators cautioned us about stereotypes and reminded us of the gifts. Linda and Amy, themselves representing generational diversity, are enthusiastic champions of the value of interactions and working with differing generations.

We can use our mediator skills: be open, be curious, and listen for understanding. Hold people capable, and the rewards are multiple. You will gain a fresh perspective and perhaps as Amy and Linda did, a friend for life.

Employee Retention and Workplace Fairness

The Conference Board of Canada predicts a labour shortage of nearly one million employees by the year 2020. Though not all agree whether there is a serious impending labour shortage in Alberta, many companies are increasingly concerned about how they will continue to attract and retain employees as the bulge of Baby Boomers enter their retiring years. How your organization handles conflict could be a major factor in your quest to seek out and retain quality new hires.  There are tools available which can help you assess the cost of conflict within your organization, and ensure you make good decisions about how to improve your conflict resolution systems.

The American Institute of Stress cites reports that occupational pressures and fears are “far and away the leading source of stress for American adults and that these have steadily increased over the past few decades.” http://www.stress.org/occupational-stress-part-1/ .  The cost to organizations and individuals adds up to hundreds of billions of dollars annually.  And the number one cause of stress in the workplace? Poor interpersonal interactions are a major contributor, and the resulting indirect damages are hard to measure.

Assessing the cost of conflict must be considered from several different angles, reviewing both the indirect costs and the direct costs.  Direct costs may include such measurable items as:

  • Litigation
  • Sick and stress leaves
  • Sabotage, theft and damage
  • Hiring as employees leave
  • Restructuring

Indirect costs may reflect on your company’s reputation. Do you have hidden hiring costs because prospective employees are turning down opportunities based on a poor reputation? In his book Workplaces that Work, Blaine Donais describes indirect costs to conflict, and provides a tool for measuring all costs. The indirect costs include:

  • Manager time
  • HR time
  • Employee time
  • Productivity costs
  • Reputation costs

Presenteeism may be difficult to measure and may not even be apparent.  According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (Ontario), http://wmhp.cmhaontario.ca/workplace-mental-health-core-concepts-issues/issues-in-the-workplace-that-affect-employee-mental-health/presenteeism  presenteeism may cost employers up to 7.5 times greater than absenteeism in productivity loss. Formally presenteeism is described as the phenomena when employees go to work with ill health, experience lack of concentration or focus, and suffer from productivity loss. Their presence in the workplace may lead to interpersonal conflict and increased stress which affects others’ productivity as well.

These underground or indirect impacts on productivity may have a huge cost that is directly measurable against your bottom line. Costs are evident when managers spend increasing time resolving conflict with their employees; an employee shows a measurable drop in productivity; there is an increasing number of sick days or the water fountain gossip time becomes longer and longer. The hidden cost is to your reputation: your reputation as conflict-incompetent may affect your ability to attract and retain new hires.

How conflict-competent are you?  The battle cry of the disgruntled employee centres on the concept of fairness.

“It is unfair, why does he get more overtime hours than I do?”
“It’s unfair, she is always late, and you’re not doing anything about it.“

The perception of fairness is a measure of conflict competence within an organization.  And yes, fairness can be measured.  Blaine Donais (www.workplacefairness.ca) has developed a Fairness Cost Analysis tool which can be used to put a price tag on conflict. This tool is one way you can put a price on low employee engagement and build a sound business case for taking steps to improve.

Consider the systems you have in place for addressing conflict within your organization. For example: are employees free to approach managers outside the chain of command through a formalized open door policy? If so, do managers receive adequate training in resolving disputes? Do employees know about the policy? Were employees involved with the development of the policy, and are they included in ongoing evaluations?

Another example of an aspect of your conflict resolution system is managerial decision making. Do you have firm and transparent policies in place for addressing such common concerns as tardiness, and sick days? Are these policies administered consistently through all departments and at all levels of your organization?

Your conflict resolution system may include conflict coaching, training, peer mediation and an ombuds office as well.

With your options for resolving conflict in mind (your “conflict management system”) how would you rank your organization on the following questions on a scale of 1-5:

  • How accessible is the system to every employee in the workplace?
  • How well does the system protect the legal rights of the participants?
  • Has there been appropriate stakeholder consultation throughout development, implementation, and monitoring of the system?
  • How cost effective is it?
  • How well does the system encourage individuals to resolve their own conflicts?
  • Do you have adequate facilities and services to support it?
  • How well does the system improve itself through self-evaluation and system change?

Likely these questions will provoke some thought for you about your current approaches to conflicts and how effective they are.  Now take things one step further and imagine ranking your organization against those in a comparable market sector and industry.  How do you rank?

Imagine the possibilities. Your fairness ranking becomes a topic for discussion in the most compelling job interviews, and you are able to attract and retain employees because you know, and you can prove, that you treat them fairly, and have the systems in place to address conflict when it comes up. You can make a sound business case for investing in effective conflict management practices.

Marjorie Munroe, C.Med., W.F.A. is a consultant, mediator and trainer with the PULSE Institute and the Co-Director of the Alberta branch of the Workplace Fairness Institute.