Showcase

Change Management – making butterflies…

Identified a fresh approach that increased a firm’s productivity by 20% and persuaded the company to take action. This involved developing a new Workforce Management and Information system, and providing training and coaching to team leaders. By implementing change in this way, benefits were secured for 17 sites company-wide.

Mediation – how to avoid conflict 

Or how to stop a fortress mentality developing and retain the potential for future relationships in the workplace

Mediation can save firms time and money – and cut through quickly to a problem on the spot. All this without having recourse to senior management or formal procedures.

Our case study below shows how this works.

ABC Insurance’s IT development department comprises a group of managers (four, who, in turn, represent 10 managers) and a group of IT developers (seven managers representing 90 people). Their story illustrates just how effective mediation can be.

The mediator drew on psychological expertise about how people change – through dealing with the interaction of emotional feelings and rational thoughts – as well as conflict management techniques.

When troubles comes knocking many people adopt a fortress mentality, but this often makes conflict worse

When troubles comes knocking many people adopt a fortress mentality, but this often makes conflict worse

What was the problem?

The challenge was to agree a laptop specification to enable out-of-hours work with overseas colleagues. Discussions had been underway for several months. These had been hostile, distrustful and destructive. The mediator first met both sides separately and noted that each had built a fortress. No one was listening.

A mediation meeting was arranged.

During this each group outlined their point of view. This immediately led to the developers walking out. The mediator provided separate rooms for a cooling down period. The parties then agreed to come back.

This is not unusual at the beginning of mediation. Research indicates that the early stages of conflict discussion can involve contentious behaviour. 1 However, this can also clear the air – it did here. The mediator’s “Let me see where we are” summary was then agreed upon.

The mediator then moved on to “Let’s take our time and come back to the issues, and both groups will get a chance to…” and then turned to the first issue. This was: “Let’s see how we go and have a talk about communication first of all.”

Musing like this can often soften questions during mediation. For example: “I’m just wondering, developers, is there an example you can use to help us understand a bit more?”

At this point, the groups began to talk to each other directly. They moved into joint problem solving, aimed at co-creating a solution. This required concessions from both sides.

Reflection: what both groups learnt

Lead manager: “The mediation felt like a cathartic experience. I was surprised. We were able to forgive and move on. Forgetting will take a bit longer.

“Looking back we panicked about costs and stopped listening. It felt very personal. I even found myself saying to other management colleagues that ‘someone will die before this is finished’. I realise now that the conflict reduced my personal effectiveness just when I needed it most.”

Lead developer: “We got so angry. I guess this got magnified between us all. We got to the point where we had no interest the manager’s concerns. No wonder we needed help.”

Post-script: The developers’ specification was modified slightly and then implemented successfully. Relationships, while not cosy, remain in good enough condition so working together continues smoothly. As a result, after mediation, the managers and developers agreed to pilot the requested specifications. This allowed for identification of some problem areas, such as using two screens and the question of broadband quality. This, in turn, simplified the specifications and reduced general costs, as well as implementation costs.

What the commissioning manager said

“Marjorie took a very measured and considered approach. She wasn’t thrown by hostile behaviour, personal verbal attacks, difficult questions or contravention of the ground rules. It was evident that she was experienced in dealing with problems in the workplace. Things have certainly calmed down now. Everyone is working together productivity now.”

What the mediator (Marjorie Raymond) said

“Mediation is not a silver bullet or a miracle-producing wonder. It takes experience and confidence to work with conflict. The learning points raised by both groups were good to hear.”

TOP TIP: “Everyone involved in a conflict must consider the interests of the other side and recognise that both will need to make concessions to reach a workable solution.”

1 Carnevale, P.J. and Pruitt, D.G (1992) Negotiation and mediation, Annual Review of Psychology, vol.43

Reach us at 07779 345 499, m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

Marjorie Raymond

E: m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

We have experience in developing senior managers and their teams – both on an individual and team level – so they can develop practical approaches that encourage positive, constructive behaviour. This, in turn, will lead to the development of positive beliefs and values. We are ready work with you to help you get the best out of your people.

Here are some examples of approaches that can be used and tailored to your individual needs:

Developing Understanding…

Used an innovative story-board approach to explain an organisational vision. By outlining the vision in detail, using humour to reduce anxiety and tension, staff could see how immediate improvements in operational capability and capacity could be achieved. This translated into dedicated support for each marketing campaign within the company’s annual marketing programme. The result: sales profit targets were exceeded.

Growing and developing people; creating committed teams…

Brought together a brand-new team, leveraging members’ diverse organisational and professional talents to deliver process expertise to the client.

As a result of this training and coaching programme, the team came to be recognised internally as process experts. With support and encouragement, team members grew. Together they developed a ‘We can do it’ attitude while on their change journey.

Dealing with conflict…

Fixed a failing multi-disciplinary, multi-location programme by diagnosing inter-team prejudices. This was achieved using a series of one-to-one and team-based dialogues to develop a mutual understanding of the team’s strengths as well as to help people connect better.

Special time with stakeholders and team members was set aside, within project forums, to discuss and resolve concerns and to address challenges. This resulted in an agreed action plan. This, in turn, mobilised people and inspired greater participation, helping to deliver an annual company saving of £2 million.

Improving organisational agility…

Re-shaped a company’s disorganised implementation plan. The firm was on the verge of missing a critical deadline but, by persuading the project sponsor and team to change their delivery approach and sequence of actions, this was avoided.

By developing clarity of purpose, identifying options and recommending a win-win outcome for the project, the company enjoyed on-time success.

Coaching: a powerful way to develop people                                    

Coaching helped Jessica to take a step back and consider what ‘walking in the shoes of others felt like’

Coaching helped Emma to take a step back and consider what ‘walking in the shoes of others felt like’

Emma, a newly minted graduate, was writing and producing her first professional play for an arts festival. It was proving a challenge – there were an awful lot of ‘firsts’. Coaching helped Emma deal with these

Coaching psychology looks forward; it avoids raking over the past. It helps people figure out what works for them. This is particularly helpful when they feel stuck in a career or role, or in a work relationship. It is a powerful way to develop people (Lee, 2003 1). It is personal – and motivating – for both individuals and teams. Selecting the best framework for each person leads to successful coaching. At MWR Consulting, we use a number of approaches and techniques, depending on what suits best. The number of sessions required also varies – from one to several.

Our case study person, Emma, whose story is told below, illustrates one approach – solution-focused coaching (Grant, 2006 2). This approach has an advantage – in the hands of an experienced coach – in that it can be conducted at a fast conversational pace. At the same time, a successful collaborative and motivating relationship is built. With Emma, the coach drew on psychological expertise about how people change (through dealing with the interaction of emotional feelings and rational thoughts), as well as specific knowledge of the context Emma was operating in, to ask the right questions. Knowing (the coach) that Emma was a quick thinker meant the dialogue needed to be fast. Other people might prefer a slower pace.

The first step was to unpack Emma’s most useful emotional responses and shine a light on them. This reduced anxiety and tension, and made the coaching process more engaging and motivating. It led to Emma being able to design an action plan, and decide what steps she would take, even as we conversed. In this way, Emma came to see the situation with fresh eyes, and was able to identify – and later deploy – her strengths, with some adjustments to her behaviour. Here is Emma’s story, to show you how staying focused on a solution can help and stretch individuals to be the very best they can be.

Playing to different audiences

Emma had just finished her degree and was both writing a play and producing it in a commercial setting for the first time. There was a lot for her to do. She was not only writing the play but was organising sponsorship, booking rehearsal space, employing actors, designing the set and advertising the event, and meeting and briefing the media. In addition, she was managing people for the first time. She found this wasn’t always straightforward – and she had no training or experience to fall back on. Emma was discontented with how things were going. She recognised the situation could be better and had some ideas about this herself.

Emma identified her challenges as follows:

  • Getting people with poor time management skills to deliver on time
  • Setting priorities and establishing a plan that was proportional to what needed to happen
  • Becoming comfortable with uncertainty
  • Mastering  delegation
  • Keeping relationships in good shape while under pressure

 What Emma learnt

So, what did Emma get out of her coaching session? She knew she had a number of strengths (Linley, Willars and Biswas-Diener, 2010 3) but she felt her team wasn’t working well. As the dialogue developed, she realised that under pressure to deliver she was over-using some team members. Coaching helped Emma to take a step back and consider what ‘walking in the shoes of others felt like’.

Her coach then used of predominantly ‘how would you’ questions to prepare her future interactions. For instance, one problem was an issue with other people’s work styles – namely, how to adapt to and collaborate with people was a puzzle in some cases. This proved to be about having the confidence to nurture people while under considerable personal pressure to keep relationships intact. However, deepening relationships is one of Emma’s strengths.

POST SCRIPT: Emma’s play made a profit and got great media reviews.

Emma says…

 What does Emma say about the coaching experience?

“At first there were quite a lot of questions that involved finding out what was happening. Although I was happy to explain, I really didn’t want to drag up the past. However, Marjorie seemed to manage to avoid this. And, even when I did touch on some things that had happened, we didn’t get bogged down in them. Also, not once was I ever told what to do. However, Marjorie was careful to check that I knew how to approach things, such as how best to give feedback. What was really great for me was walking away feeling motivated – and with a plan I knew I could put into action. I was amazed how quickly we did it all. Best of all, I was able to undertake the actions discussed, or was able to adapt them to our ever-changing circumstances.”

 References

1 Lee, G. (2003) Leadership Coaching: From personal insight to organisational performance, CIPD, London

2 Grant, A. M (2006) Solution-focussed coaching, in Excellence in Coaching: the industry guide, Passmore, J. (ed) (2006) Excellence in Coaching, Kogan Page, London

3 Linley, A., Willars, J. and Biswas-Diener, R. (2010) The Strengths Book, CAPP Press, Coventry

 

……..more coming soon