Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How are you perceived?

From time to time I conduct staff audits to determine the health of the staff and leadership of an organization. Some years ago a board hired me to figure out why the staff was experiencing conflict and a low level of morale. One of the findings was that the perceptions of the senior leader's management were fairly bad. They liked the individual personally but his leadership left a lot to be desired and caused a lot of issues.

When I shared this feedback with the senior leader, he said, "You won't tell the staff what you found will you?" After a moment to collect my astonishment I said, "Where do you think I got the information?" He then said, "What they said is not true of me." My response was, "It may well be that their perceptions are wrong but it is their reality, it is a common reality among the staff and if you are going to change their perceptions you really need to modify your leadership practices."

The board had done this leader a great favor in conducting staff interviews as he found out what most leaders never do - how they are perceived by those who work for them. Often such feedback comes as a surprise to us because we don't see ourselves the way others see us. At times, people attribute poor motives to us that we know not to be true. At other times staff is not aware of circumstances that lead us to certain decisions. But, perceptions - right or wrong - are the reality of how others see us and our leadership. So we are left with two versions of our leadership: What we believe it to be and what others perceive it to be. And sometimes these are worlds apart from one another.

Wise leaders want to know what the perceptions of their staff are. They want to know what they don't know. This requires them to find a few trusted individuals who are willing to share with them how they come across along with the positives and negatives of their leadership style - from a staff perspective.

But remember: No one will tell you these things unless you directly ask and provide a safe environment for them to share their perspectives. Here are some of the kinds of questions we can ask those who work for us.
  • Are there things I do that you wish I would do differently?
  • If you could change one thing about my leadership style, what would it be?
  • What are the strongest leadership qualities you believe that I have and what are the weakest?
  • Is there anything I do that irritates you? Or that you feel is not respectful?
You will be surprised what you may learn from these questions. They are worth asking because our perception of reality can be very different than the perception of others. And there are usually simple ways that we can change our behaviors to address the negative perceptions of others.

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."

Monday, November 26, 2018

Three ways that organizational conflict can be a help rather than a hinderance

Typically, we think of conflict as a negative event when it occurs. The truth, however, is that conflict is often a blessing in disguise and being aware of its potential up side can help us leverage it in productive ways. Consider these up sides of conflict.

One: Conflict is often an early warning system that the organizational system needs revamping
Organizations don't just grow, they change. Their environments change, their needs change and the organizational structure that worked at one time no longer works as it did. The reason is simple: What got you to here got you to here. It will not get you to there.

When the old way of doing things has run its course and is no longer working, conflict often occurs. There may be disagreements on strategy, tension between leaders or teams, frustration with work flow and substandard results. All of these, and other manifestations of conflict are warning you that it is time to relook at how you are doing things and what you are doing. In this case, conflict is warning you that things need to change! If you don't ignore the warning sign it can help you move forward. If you ignore it, the conflict will become worse.

Two, conflict may be telling you that greater clarity is needed
When there is not organizational clarity, leaders, teams or individuals step in and provide their own clarity. Inevitably this will result in conflict as competing ideas of who we are and what we are about collide with one another. In this case, the conflict is telling you that you need to clarify your clarity so that alignment is possible and everyone is working toward the same goals.

Ironically, the process of refining your clarity may bring greater conflict as ideas and people vie for their definition. This is good as it is in the clash of ideas that the best ideas are born. But until you come to agreement on who you are and what you are about you will never get alignment and without alignment you will never reach your organizational potential. In this case the conflict is telling you that you don't have adequate alignment and agreement.

Three: Conflict may be telling you that there are individuals who are not operating from a place of healthy EQ (Emotional Intelligence)
Healthy EQ is essential for healthy organizations. People who have unhealthy EQ can be defensive, closed to feedback, create conflict with those around them and are often responsible for relational issues with those around them. When there is a pattern of relational conflict around an individual you are probably dealing with an EQ issues that needs to be resolved.

It is easy to overlook these situations out of fear of conflict. Yet their behaviors are creating conflict already and disempowering those who are impacted by their relational issues. Not to deal with this is to sentence those in proximity to the effects of their behavior. 

When conflict pops up in your organization don't assume it is a bad thing. It is probably telling you something and understanding what it is saying can be valuable to your ongoing success. 

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Learning trumps blame in organizational conflict

We are wired, it seems, to assign blame when something has gone wrong, there is conflict in the workplace or groups are not getting along with one another. After all, someone is responsible and must take the blame!

Not so fast. I would ask two questions.

Question One: Are there alternative explanations for what has gone wrong or the conflict we are experiencing? In most cases the answer is yes. Conflict can arise from many organizational issues: unclear job descriptions and overlap of responsibilities; the wiring of the people involved; organizational systems that create conflict, attitudes of individuals or groups, practices of the organization and I could go on. 

Blame is easy and often wrong.

Too often, we immediately assign poor motives to those we are unhappy with. In most cases, motives are not the issue. We are also prone to demonize those we feel are responsible (in our minds) for the conflict. This is a dangerous practice as it simply divides further and reinforces our belief that we are right and others are wrong.

In most cases when there is organizational conflict, there are reasons for that conflict that lie in the structure of the organization, its processes or a lack of organizational clarity. Before we play the blame game -  which is inherently counter productive, ask yourself if there are alternate explanations for the conflict your are experiencing.

Question two: Are we more interested in assigning blame or in learning from the situation we find ourselves in? Blame is easy. It absolves us and points the finger at someone else. We don't need to do any hard analysis or work and it is not about us. In fact, blame is so easy that it prevents us from finding the real source of the conflict we are experiencing and therefor perpetuates the conflict.

We can blame or we can learn. Blame perpetuates the status quo while learning makes us better. I recommend a culture that practices autopsy without blame when something goes south. We want to know the source of the problem or failure but we want to learn from it, not assign blame to someone.

This kind of attitude creates a culture of nothing to prove, nothing to lose and nothing to hide. We are about getting better. Not protecting ourselves, not trying to prove anything or hide anything. It is a posture of humility rather than pride. Of learning rather than blame. 

In my consulting I have rarely encountered people who were bad people or who had bad motives. I have encountered people who needed to learn and develop, who were in the wrong seat for their wiring and have seen many organizational issues, all of which can create conflict. Sometimes hard things need to be said or done but with the right attitude we can learn, develop and appreciate one another. 

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."