All posts by GR8SPKR1

Teamwork By Design, Not default!


Communication & Collaboration for Business Excellence- how to save time, money and keep employees happy.

Salesforce reported in a recent study of more than 1400 corporate executives, employees and educators that 86% of the participants believed that lack of collaboration was responsible for failures in the workplace.

Now more than ever, collaboration and teamwork are vital skills for a company’s sustainability and success. Adding to the complexity of collaboration is the fact that many teams work remotely and limited (if any) ability to build relationships face to face yet the necessity to collaborate is on the rise. Harvard Business Review reported that the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has increased dramatically, by 50% or more.

What does it take to help teams work better together? In the hundreds of workplace training and team building processes I have facilitated, I found that there were five critical components:
5 Elements of building a team by design not default:

1. Connection
2. Collaboration
3. Compassion
4. Communication
5. Conflict Resolution

Teams that spend time building and strengthening connections, will have higher degrees of trust and accountability. That connection will help employees work through communication challenges and issues in a way that places importance on maintaining the relationship.

Collaboration can be enhanced when people understand their working styles, and how to work better together with people whose style differs from their own.

Hal Stacks states that there are four working styles: Driver, Expressive, Amiable and Analytical. Each of these styles is important and necessary on a team and while you have a predominant style, I have seen collaboration be enhanced immensely when people learn how to be all four styles and show up more the like the style you are communicating with.

Compassion and kindness are vital, yet frequently overlooked, virtues in the workplace. Teams that have compassion typically value working in a respectful workplace culture. Instead of blame, they inquire.

The skills of communication and conflict resolution go hand in hand. Trying to resolve conflict without effective communication will generally result in more oppositional viewpoints, frustration and an issue that remains unsolved.

As you move forward in building your team, take time to build upon the 5 C’s (above). Your team will thank you and the proof will be in the results!

How To Build Your Team So There is Less Conflict, More Productivity and Happier People

While workplace conflict and communication problems at work are part of being a team, there are some ways to build your team so there is more accountability and better results.

Healthy teams work through workplace conflict effectively, collaborate with ease and put in time and energy to build trusting and respectful workplace relationships.

“How do you build a team that works better together?” is a common question I am asked when I speak at leadership, human resources, and business events. Building your dream team goes well beyond hiring right. In fact, it starts before the hiring decision.

Start with having clarity around the job description, how this role fits into the bigger picture of the business, and, the outcomes this employee will need to achieve. Next is an effective hiring process with behavioural descriptive questions, and, perhaps a project or problem to solve. Ensure you have the questions prepared , interviewing for your dream team is NOT a time to “wing it.”

Once you have hired, the work really begins. Ensure you review the job description with the new team member, as well as his/her contract (and of course both are signed). Team building will help you onboard the new team member into the culture of the organization and to build trust and relationships with fellow team members.

Understand each person’s strengths. Help team members identify where their unique skills and strengths support the bigger picture, the goals and the vision. The vision and goals need to be communicated often.
Role clarity is very important, not only so team members understand their roles, but also the roles of their colleagues. Identify and manage issues and challenges early on, the situation will rarely improve without intervention. The cost (time, energy, stress, and wasted time) of not addressing issues will grow quickly.

Celebrate wins, accomplishments and goals achieved, and recognize the contributions that team members make. This will go a long way in reducing conflict, and increasing the degree of workplace happiness.

Communicating Boomers & Gen X: How to avoid workplace conflict

Conflict at work is not something to be avoided, it is something to be well managed. It takes effective communication, a willingness to address the issues, and the ability to clarify (and be aware of) the assumptions that turn a respectful dialogue into workplace confrontation.
What makes communication across the generations so challenging? Why does conflict emerge in diverse workplaces? Is there a way to avoid conflict all together? Why can’t people just play nice in the sandbox together?
These are some of the common questions about workplace relationships that I receive when I speak in businesses, organizations, non-profits and conferences on the topic of communication and conflict resolution. Let’s break these down one at a time.
What makes communication across the generations so challenging? People in general have different learning styles, communication styles and personalities, and all of these difference impact how people communicate and work together. When in communication with people whose style is different from your own, there is often a series of assumptions that get made (because you think that others think just like you). Additionally, one’s experience and comfort with difference communication modalities often shapes how they communicate. Continue reading Communicating Boomers & Gen X: How to avoid workplace conflict

Workplace Collaboration Made Easy Just By Being CLEAR!

In business, you’ve likely heard the common phrase “less is more” and “bigger is not always better.”  This is so true when it comes to communicating your message internally, to your team, and to customers and clients.  In sales, confusion generally results in overwhelm and a “no,” and this pretty much rings true in how confusion lands in a team. When employees are not clear on the vision or purpose, goals and expectations you can pretty much guarantee the result will be disengagement or resistance.

There is good news!

When you communicate clearly, you create opportunities for your team to see where they/their skills fit into the plan, they understand the details of what is expected, and, they are more likely to engage or even become champions for what it is you are wanting to achieve.  You can build a foundation for success simply by being clear.

Getting CLEAR involves :

Communicating your project/expectations in a way that is focussed, easy to understand, builds interest and helps the team see where they fit in.

Leaving fluff and unnecessary information out of the dialogue

Engaging the person early. Don’t make the conversation and monologue, and find a point of interest that will help people embrace the information.

Asking questions to get the person or team engaged in the conversation and Avoid acronyms and terms that are not general knowledge or are trigger words/terms

Repeating and reminding the team of the most important details in a different way as you close the conversation


When you are preparing to deliver important information to your team, that requires their commitment, support and engagement, it is important to work on scripting your “presentation.” Far too often people “wing it” and the result is ambiguous explanations that lead to assumptions or rumours.

Here are a few tips to communicate in a CLEAR way:

  1. Identify the 3 most important talking points about your message that need to come out right away.
  2. Keep the explanation to about 2-3 minutes.  People will zone out after that.  You don’t need to share all the details right off the bat, just a short description that peeks interest.
  3. Practice your explanation in the mirror at least 10 times (and refine and modify as you go).
  4. Video yourself (use your cell phone) practicing so you can critique and modify.
  5. Avoid acronyms and industry speak – these often decrease interest, or, ignite frustration if these acronyms and terms are “trigger” words.
  6. Make sure you have answered prepared for these questions (these are the questions that your team will ask you!

Who, what, where, when, why and how.  Remember… clarity is key!

Collaboration: Getting Back On Track When Things Go Sideways At Work


Working together, getting along at work and being an effective productive team takes collaboration (along with many other skills).  Collaboration can go sideways quickly, however putting things back together does not happen as fast.

There are a number of reasons that collaborations face challenges, such as:

– personality clashes and working style differences

– lack of agreement  on vision, purpose and reason for collaboration

– expectations that have not been voiced or clarified

– unchecked assumptions

– expectations that don’t get met

– miscommunication or missed communication

– conflict that has not been addressed


When teamwork breaks down and collaborations are challenged, leaders find themselves spending more time on:

– crisis management and rumour control

– projects that have become stalled

– fixing damaged relationships

– helping to restore trust

– managing increased stress 

Leaders will be well served to spend time and energy keeping collaborations and teams healthy, working well together and addressing issues (even if they seem small) as they arise.  Little issues become big issues when they are not addressed. Here are a few tips to help your team when collaboration needs help:

– communicate openly, clearly and often

– invite input

– provide feedback and be open to receiving it

– avoid assumptions

– address issues early on

– provide opportunities for the team to engage in projects together

These actions go a long way in building trust, improving collaborating and creating a better workplace for all.

Dealing with Resistance in Workplace Conflict Resolution

Conflict in the workplace can be a challenge for leaders, managers and human resource professionals who are called in to help employees resolve difference and work together better.   It is common to see individuals that are reluctant to address the conflict and resist assistance and conflict coaching support.

Here are a few ways to engage resistant individuals in resolving conflict at work:

  1. Ask questions! There is a tendency to ask leading or closed ended questions which will never help you understand where the resistance is coming from.  Ask questions like “what is making you reluctant to address this conflict?” or “what is the best outcome that could result from resolving these issues?” or “what impact is NOT having the conflict resolved having on you, your team, and your family?”
  2. Provide conflict coaching or skills training to help the employee build confidence, skills and comfort to effectively resolve the situation and to ensure preparedness for the conflict resolution conversation.
  3. Access the support of an external conflict resolution expert to work with the employees prior to commencing a conflict resolution process.

Here’s what doesn’t work:

  1. Avoiding the conflict or believing that “they’re adults… they’ll work it out.” This assumption is generally wrong and the situation doesn’t get worked through… it just gets worse.
  2. Providing subtle threats or ultimatums to try and elicit their participation.
  3. Transferring the person to another shift or team. The problem still remains unresolved and there is a good chance that there is a great deal of emotion built up related to the issue.  Transferring simply adds to the emotion, deepens distrust and makes for other problems to be solved.



When Workplace Conflict Gets Ugly

It doesn’t take much for conflict to get ugly and turn personal.

Conflict in the workplace happens. Resolving conflict at work can be tough at the best of times but there are some things that help, and some actions to avoid.

Bringing up the past, unresolved issues, blame, accusations, sarcasm, and “verbal jabs” are all examples of the behaviours that can turn a conversation into a confrontation. It is in this moment when it doesn’t feel like you have a choice, that you must actually exercise careful choice around how you respond which includes your verbal, emotional and nonverbal response. These really are those “moment of truth” times. A subtle sigh or eyeball can increase the intensity of the conflict in seconds.

Conflict resolution requires that we be:
– Present,
– Focused,
– Willing to hear a perspective that different from our own, and,
– Interested in resolving the issue

While we cannot control how other people respond or react in stressful times, what we can control is how we respond or react to the behavior or what is being said. After having facilitated the resolution of hundreds of highly charged and complex conflicts, when I was a mediator, I found that one of the most difficult choices is to resist the urge to “push back” and to being drawn into the other person’s reaction or drama.

The next time you are in a disagreement, difficult conversation or resolving a conflict, practice what I call the three second rule. Simply count to three in your head before verbally or non-verbally reacting. This simple process could be the most powerful tool in maintaining your dignity, presence and reputation.Maya Angelou said something to the effect of “people will remember not what you said, but how you made them feel.” Words may fade as time goes on, however, the impact of a conversation can stay with someone (and you) for a long time.

Make sure the impact is the type of impact you want to leave.

When Conflict is Avoided in the Workplace

When Conflict is Avoided in the Workplace

One of the most common phrases I hear when facilitating Conflict Resolution in the Workplace presentations is “I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to hurt her/his feelings.”

So many times important conversations are avoided because of the fear of upsetting the other person, making things worse, or, hurting someone’s feelings.  A high level of sensitivity and compassion is such a valuable quality in the workplace, however, when it results in feedback and conflict resolution being avoided, the result is usually damaged relationships/trust and a conflict that continues to grow. There is a great quote by Judge Esty “conflict is not like wine. It does not get better with age.”  This is so true, in fact, in most situations conflict that is avoided becomes more difficult to resolve the longer the avoidance goes on.

It is important to remember that conversations about conflict do not need to be awful, hurt people’s feelings or make situations worse.  When addressed with compassion, clarity and congruence, conflict can be addressed in a respectful way that is focussed on solutions and moving forward.

Here are a few tips to help in these situations

1) Think in advance about the messages/feeling/perspectives that you need to share with the other person.  Practice saying these statements in a respectful non-judgemental manner.

2) Remove any assumptions you may be making about  the other  person.

3) Focus on understanding not blame.

4) Ask a lot of questions.

5) Be honest.

6) If something you say doesn’t land well, ask  for permission to do a “do-over” and restate your perspectives in a way that is more compassionate.

When Conflict Escalates Emotions at Work


When Conflict Escalates Emotions at Work


Not everyone deals with conflict the same way.  Some people avoid workplace conflict at all costs, others tackle it head on almost becoming aggressive, some accommodate to make the conflict go away, and, others tend to collaborate and find mutually satisfactory solutions. Regardless of the style of conflict management people take on, emotions are often one element of conflict.  After mediating hundreds of complex workplace situations (in a former career) I quickly learned that for many, fear turns into anger.

Continue reading When Conflict Escalates Emotions at Work