Project Management | Merit Career Development Blog

Why Active Listening Makes You Better at Your Job

Why Active Listening Makes You Better at Your JobWhether you’ve considered this or not, effective listening is a skill, and an extremely important one at that.

Did you know that…
  • Listening has been cited as a critical employment skill more frequently than any other skill?
  • Co-workers and customers evaluate our communication abilities based, in part, on how well they think we listen?
  • Listening skills are considered a good predictor of who receives promotions and other similar awards?

When it comes to managing projects, poor communications can result in increased project scope, the loss of multimillion dollar sales, and costly lawsuits. Since effective communication is grounded in the ability to listen effectively, perfecting this skill is well worth the effort.

When people interact in business and in their personal life, they interpret and infer meaning from a combination of verbal and non-verbal cues, as well as life experiences. Often the objective in communications is to enlarge the listener’s knowledge, perspective, and sensitivity that impact their beliefs. The listening skills of both parties are critical for this to be successful.

Academic research has identified two types of opposite styles of communications styles: Transmission-Centered Communications and Meaning-Centered Communications. Although people lean towards one style over the other, most people use both techniques depending upon the situation.

Transmission-Centered ListeningThose who rely mostly on transmission-centered communications, send a message to receivers without assuring that the meaning is understood. Whereas those who are typically meaning-centered communicators spend the extra time and take the extra effort to determine the receiver’s level of understanding of the intended message.

Meaning-Centered CommunicationA meaning-centered view acknowledges that both parties during an interaction are simultaneously senders and receivers of the messages. They likely use multiple channels including nonverbal, paralinguistic (i.e., specific gestures, sounds, and intonations that occur alongside language), and contextual cues that contribute to the meaning associated with communication. Everything in a communication event is open to interpretation by those involved in the creation of meaning.

Meaning-Centered Communication

Transmission and meaning-centered communication are not opposing perspectives at the ends of a single continuum, but reflect different assumptions about the purpose and goals of communication. A transmission-orientation focuses on sending messages in order to influence a receiver; a meaning-centered orientation focuses on the shared meaning that paves the way for relationships.

A meaning-centered communication orientation describes an individual’s propensity to approach communication from the transactional, constructivist perspective — meaning is created during the exchange.

A transmission-centered communication orientation describes a person’s preference to approach communication from a more literal perspective focused on sending messages.

In particular, some people frequently communicate from a constructivist understanding, whereas other people more often communicate as if they can transmit knowledge to others. A meaning-centric communicator realizes that 100% understanding between people is improbable, and approaches each interaction accordingly. People engage in communication in a way that reflects their perspective on the communication process.

What is your communication orientation? To find out, take Merit Career Development's FREE Listening Skills Assessment. This assessment takes less than an hour. Upon completing, you will receive an explanatory report along with tips and techniques that you can use to become a more meaning-centered communicator. Greater success in the workplace awaits you.

PMPs: This assessment qualifies for one PDU and you will receive a certificate.

When the Test Stakes are High, Practice is Key

When the Test Stakes are High, Practice is Key Remember the morning you took the SAT? Or GMAT? Or LSAT? Like many professionals, you probably have vivid memories of worrying about these tests, not to mention pouring over test prep books and attending expensive courses to maximize your scores. After all, the results would play a major role in your future direction and career.

Even now that you are in the professional world, the testing doesn’t necessarily end. Many professions, including project management, offer test-based professional certifications where success has profound and positive professional consequences in the form of career advancement, higher salary and the respect of your peers.

However, as enticing as those benefits can be, professional exams, preparing for and passing a test - like the one necessary to earn the Project Management Professional (PMP®) designation awarded by the Project Management Institute - is difficult. Moreover, as a working professional, test preparation not only has to be effective, it also needs to be time efficient. Few professionals have time for weeks- or months-long preparation classes.

Practice, Practice, Practice


The good news is that research suggests that this kind of time commitment is not necessary to maximize results. A simpler approach to test preparation can be highly effective for many people. The research indicates that the key to maximizing test scores is becoming familiar with the test format and the types of questions being asked by taking practice tests. This practice testing helps you get used to the thinking and problem solving you will need to pass the formal test.

For example, a team of German researchers found that students taking both "high-stakes" and "low-stakes" tests (based on how much of a personal investment the students had in the outcome of the test) performed substantially better when they took practice tests. Similarly, another study of school-age children found that just three hours of practice testing had a statistically significant impact on final test results.

If you are pursuing the PMP designation, for example, Merit Career Development’s Project Management Assessment offers such a practice test. The assessment consists of 50 multiple-choice questions of varying difficulty that takes about an hour to complete and tests your knowledge of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) practices and terms.

Merit’s PMI examination simulator, X-AM PMP®/CAPM®, helps prepare certification candidates in an easy and efficient way. Candidates become accustomed to the kinds of questions asked during the examination while practicing with the X-AM PMP®/CAPM®, which includes over a thousand questions with feedback on each one.

To Coach or Not?


Less clear is the impact of coaching on test performance. Some research suggests that coaching, while not essential, can also help prepare you and help improve your scores when coupled with practice test taking. However, one study of 500 SAT test takers who had participated in formal coaching programs found little difference in the scores of those who received this coaching and those who did not.

The core argument for practice testing is that these assessments help you understand what to expect before you take the actual exam. When you know what to expect, taking the exam becomes much less daunting. That, in turn, helps you build confidence in your ability to do well on the test. Research has shown that practice tests alone can help improve both test-taking capability and test-taking confidence.

Moreover, in a sort of virtuous cycle in which positive action leads to more positive action, as your greater familiarity with the test breeds confidence, it also makes you more motivated to take the test. And let’s face it, when a professional certification test costs several hundred dollars, building this confidence is an essential part of the test preparation. You will be more committed to taking the test and feel much more comfortable paying for it, if you are confident that you will pass.

Interested in learning more? Click here to view Merit’s Project Management Assessment and the PMI® prep simulator, X-AM PMP®/CAPM®.

PMI, PMP, CAPM and PMBOK are registered trademarks of the Project Managemet Institute, Inc.

Use the Iron Triangle to Frame Your Pitch to Upper Management

Framing information and using the Iron Triangle - time, cost and scope - can be instrumental in gaining support from senior executives for your projects.Framing information and using the Iron Triangle – time, cost and scope – can be instrumental in gaining support from senior executives for your projects.

In their 2002 book, “Selling Project Management to Senior Executives: Framing The Moves That Matter,” authors Janice Thomas, Ph.D., Connie Delisle, Ph.D., and Kam Jugdev, Ph.D., highlight the challenges that project managers face when trying to sell a plan to senior management. The primary issue lies in communicating the benefits of the assignment and approaching the situation with the right frame.

“Framing” is the perspective we bring to decision-making based on past experiences. In her renowned book on the subject, “The Power of Framing: Creating the Language of Leadership,” Gail Fairhurst, Ph.D., says that when we are communicating through frames, we are shaping the reality of a situation.

But framing can have a negative effect when it’s not used with careful thought, so it’s important to choose the proper frame when promoting a project to upper management. By presenting the vital information in a concrete and practical way, project managers can use the Iron Triangle of time, cost and scope to prove to executives how the company will improve its bottom line.

Breaking Through Their Barriers


From CEOs to CFOs, top-level executives are concerned with maintaining profitability. Therefore, they are often wary of using valuable resources like time and workflow in projects that have a potential for failure. When it comes to pitching assignments to them, executives need to understand the positive outcomes that project management will provide the business.

In their book, Thomas, Delisle and Jugdev explain that project management is becoming increasingly important to organizations that are looking to grow within their sectors. Project managers have to present the main components of the project in the right context while managing the realistic expectations of their executives.

The steps of persuasion


When framing a project management pitch for senior leadership, persuasion is an effective tool. In “The Necessary Art of Persuasion,” author Jay Conger, D.B.A., senior research scientist at the University of Southern California’s Center for Effective Organizations, underscored the efficacy of persuasion and discussed four distinct steps that project managers should use for framing discussions with upper management:

  1. Establish credibility
  2. Identify common ground and use it to frame goals
  3. Reinforce position with language and evidence
  4. Connect emotionally.
Successful project leaders position the assignment as a solution to corporate problems. They use executive-level language and concepts that resonate with upper management and present their information using the Iron Triangle focusing on time, cost and scope of the project. Senior executives want business results that can be achieved at lower expense to the company, and by presenting evidence in the right light, managers can ensure that their leaders support their efforts.

Minimizing Communication Breakdowns in Project Management

Business Team Coaching Prevent communication breakdowns from derailing or delaying project management efforts. To do this, focus on the three specific areas that are responsible for the majority of miscommunications in project management.

Successful project management cannot be achieved when team members do not understand or retain material being presented. Project managers face their greatest challenges when dealing with poorly defined requirements and communication. When critical information gets misconstrued during the course of an assignment, significant errors can occur. If found too late, these can result in diminishing productivity, wasting resources and very expensive mistakes that are difficult to correct.

To ensure that project management requirements are met in the initiation and development phases, effective communication techniques are needed.

Managers may face three distinct types of problems during the course of a project: offsets in experience, English as a second language environments and varying employee backgrounds.

1. Experience Offset


Communication difficulties can arise when the project’s participants have varying levels and types of experience relevant to the business world. Entry-level employees may experience challenges when working alongside senior leadership executives and high-ranking associates. And vice versa.

“Communication is more than just the transmission of messages, words and ideas; it embodies the creation of meaning between individuals,” says John Juzbasich, CEO of Merit Career Development. “To do that we rely upon our experience to create and construct meaning from the words we hear.”

Often, new employees and veterans engage in conversations that appear beneficial and productive initially, but they may walk away with different understandings of what transpired.

What to do. Leaders should assess - and address - this risk upfront during the planning stage of the project. Finding ways to cross-train team members ensures that information is being delivered adequately and concisely throughout the assignment.

2. ESL environments


Every project management team can encounter English-skill level discrepancies, especially within companies working in a global environment. When employees are unable to understand one another at a basic level, communication becomes futile.

What to do. Rather than attempt to navigate vocal challenges, leaders should utilize chat technologies that allow for translations. This can facilitate ESL environments and prevent any breakdowns in communications that might interfere with the success of the project.

3. Varying backgrounds


Some of the biggest communication problems arise when team members are trained in different areas of the business. This happens frequently when cross-functional teams are tasked with company-wide initiatives and represent IT, HR, Finance and Customer Relations, for example. Employees within these different niches may struggle to communicate, since they may have language or jargon that is unique to their work.

Project managers have to be sure that nothing gets lost in translation between disparate functions. They must seek to understand the meaning of the communications presented by each team member and develop effective language skills that will be understood and relevant to all.

What to do. Kick-off the team initiatives on the right foot by providing insight into the objectives, backgrounds and contributions made by each area represented. Visuals may help clarify this important step in the communication process.

Other Important Tips to Assure Better Communications


Through techniques such as open-ended and clarifying questions, restatement, reflecting and paraphrasing the project manager’s instructions, team members can develop a clear understanding of the message and project requirements.

The end-users should be the focal point of the message, not the sender. The manager should be looking at the big picture in addition to the minute details. Too many project leaders put communication at the bottom of their priorities, which can lead to short messages that are difficult to interpret.

Merit Career Development provides a range of project management workshops that are managed by experts to yield the greatest results possible. Each one delves into its specific topics with in-depth tools and techniques to ensure that communication flows freely between participants. Every workshop can also be customized to meet the training needs of companies and tailored to specific environments. Review a course list or contact Merit to speak with a professional today.

Risk Management in the Biotech and Pharmaceutical Industry

Risk Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry The biotech and pharmaceutical industries are no stranger to risk - organizing clinical trials for medications that may never reach the open market due to inefficiency can place a significant financial burden on companies. When it comes to managing them, identifying procedures can be essential to avoiding or minimizing the financial impact of risks.

The Economist Intelligence Unit conducted a survey of senior management executives in the pharmaceuticals and life sciences industry regarding risk in their respective companies. The 65 responses were combined with those of an earlier survey of 353 executives in a wider range of other industries. It mainly focused on North America, with 65 percent of respondents hailing from the region, but also included international areas such as Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America.

Management is C-Level
According to its findings, the EIU reported that the ultimate responsibility of risk management was falling on CEOs, CFOs, CROs and general counsel. The survey found that the senior executives could be doing a better job of defining the company's interest in risk, ensuring that information gets to the appropriate people for assessment.

Most Time Spent on Compliance
Following controls and monitoring, compliance takes up most of their time with risk management. However, this leaves managers and executives with less freedom to watch for emerging threats that could create financial hardships. As a result, companies are failing to spread risk awareness throughout their organizations.

Mismatch Between Barriers, Risk Processes
The results showed that two-thirds of respondents had no intention of recruiting a chief risk officer, with less than one-third saying their organization has one on staff already. While breaking down the risk management silo may have been beneficial, the lack of awareness diminishes an organization's ability to understand new risks.

The Benefit of Third-Party Training
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, quality systems are becoming integral to the pharmaceutical industry. In turn, risk management is a valuable component of an effective quality system.

The biotech and pharmaceutical industries can greatly benefit from outsourcing their risk management training to third-party experts. Merit Career Development offers courses specific in project risk management for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. For more information, click here.

The EIU study underscores the advantages that extra training can bring to risk management in the pharmaceutical industry. With a healthy roster of subject matter experts, Merit can help executives not only manage current threads but also look ahead to potential emerging risks.

The Blended Project Plan

Why Using Just One Methodology Isn't Always the Answer


Blended Blue AbstractAs projects become more sophisticated in nature and content, a host of project management methodologies have been developed to address the needs of managing these complex projects. From the early years of CPM/PERT to the current complex computer-based project management systems, we are still mired in a high percentage of failed projects. Twenty years ago, the failure rate of IT projects was 87%. Today, despite an increase in project management knowledge and methodologies, the failure rate has only dropped to 82% (Standish Group, 2009).

While project management tools and methodologies have improved vastly, the tools do not support the speed of business change. Ironically, this fast-paced and changing environment is driven by the hyperbolic increase in technology.

Despite the hundreds of project methodologies and tools available – and many home-grown methodologies developed by independent PM organizations (PMI®, IPMA, et al) – the success rate remains low. To combat this low success rate, we create even more specific and directed project management processes.

For example, on change control and requirements, for companies that adhere to and enforce a strict requirements and change control process, there has been no appreciable change in the success rate. New methodologies such as Agile serve to further complicate the landscape. All of these methodologies have proven successful in limited and controlled environments; however, when pressed into a general and expanded business world, we continue with this abysmal failure rate.

We don’t need another new methodology
We need a more adaptive approach whereby the project is planned and managed according to the project directives and the needs of the business. The Blended Project Plan approach allows project managers to adapt various project management techniques to different components of the project. We can “chunk” the project to “match” a suitable project management methodology.

For example, at a recent client site we had three distinct groups present during our introduction to Agile. One group thought that it might work but preferred their current process. The second group completely supported the approach, and the third group stated that not only would Agile not help them but neither would their current process. The first group was responsible for building the hardware, the second group developed the software, and the third was responsible for the contractual implementation of the system. So we developed a Blended Project Plan under one project manager where the hardware development was managed with a traditional waterfall approach, the software development used Agile, and the field deployment team used a contract-based methodology.

The Project Management Officer implements and enforces PM standards based on a well-intended corporate policy; however, the strict adherence to these standards often stifles the project with unneeded, distracting, and cumbersome practices that unintentionally do not provide added value to the project plan. Adapting various project methodologies to specific “chunks” of the project provides for more flexibility and added value.

A parody that can be used to help explain this is the old Risk Management adage of known/knowns, known/unknowns, and unknown/knowns. This can be expanded to:

  • We know the requirements, and the approach to complete the task is known and standard.
  • The requirements are known; however, the process is dependent on project constraints.
  • The project requirements are not well-defined or fully understood, but once they are detailed we know how to implement

Broadly, this can be fitted to the standard project management process simplistically consisting of:
  • Standard Waterfall - sequential processing of project tasks
  • Compressed/Accelerated - overlapping of project tasks
  • Agile - spiral development

The project components can be better managed with the Blended Project Plan approach. The chunking of the plan allows the application of different measurements and controls that are in tune with the development process. The process to develop software is not the same as the process to implement hardware; however, we try to manage them using the same process. A Blended Project Plan eliminates the “one size fits all” mentality when trying to manage projects. The standard waterfall methodology contributes to understanding the critical path and the overlapped tasks impact project costs. The use of a spiral development methodology helps to control user requirements.

The roles and responsibilities change for the PMO, the project manager, and the business partner; however, the Blended Project Plan provides a greater degree of flexibility to ensure the successful completion of the project.

Merit Career Development provides project management training to fit your needs. From the fundamentals to PMP exam preparation, we can help you improve your project management skills. Whether it’s self-paced online learning, instructor-led virtual or classroom training, or exciting simulations, Merit provides quality, innovative and interactive professional education.

Learn more about Merit's project management curriculum here.

3 Reasons Why a PM Credential is Essential

PM CredentialsWhether you're yearning to get a real job or a better one, the struggle to make your résumé stand out from the competition can be a demoralizing impediment to landing the right position. Portraying your skills and value to a company in a unique way without a long job history can seem nearly impossible. However, developing your skills in project management can make you a sought-after asset ton any organization. Becoming a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® is a relatively and inexpensive way to unlock better jobs and significantly higher salaries in almost any industry. This certification will build skills to effectively manage a project from planning and projections to execution through completion.

For those who hold a CAPM certification, earning the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification will allow you to further distinguish yourself and display your mastery of the subject. This leading certification carries a significant increase in annual salary.

1. Vast Job Opportunities

Glassdoor.com, a leading job listings and information website, has over 300,000 active listings for project management positions nationwide. Project management skills and knowledge are also applicable outside the borders of the US. Skills in project management benefit practically every facet of every industry. From IT, to banking and finance, sales, medical services, human resources, and research positions; project managers are in extremely high demand. Developing your skills in project management will grant you increased access to any industry that interests you.

2. High Perceived Value

A survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit saw the majority of international executives identifying project management as "the single most important skill for their current and future success." The US News and World Report has also ranked project management in the top three of most desired skills sought by employers. The demand for these skills means that a recognizable project management certification will distinguish your résumé from the competition in a way that a typical 4-year college degree cannot. No matter the industry, a CAPM or PMP certification will identify you as a necessary leader and team player who is focused on the efficient completion of assignments.

3. Greater Salary Potential

Glassdoor's salary tracker also shows average Project Manager salaries range from $26,000 to over $100,000 with multiple postings in excess of $200,000 annually. Simply obtaining your CAPM or PMP certification will increase your real and perceived values and have a direct effect on your income.

CAPM vs PMP

  CAPM PMP
Who Should Apply Entry-level employees or those with little project management experience For CAPMs or experienced Project Management Professionals
Experience Required No experience required Minimum 4,500 hours of project management experience and 35 hours of Project Management education
Certification Maintenance Retest after 5 years Achieve 60 PDUs every 3 years to maintain a current knowledge of project management issues and strategies
Benefits
  • Access to multiple industries and lucrative employment
  • Salary increases and résumé distinction
  • Introduction to the field of Project Management
  • Résumé distinction through proof of subject mastery
  • 12.5% increase in salary vs those in equivalent position without PMP certification
  • Maintaining a current and multi-industry knowledge of Project Management

The CAPM examination can further facilitate your achievement of the more prestigious and financially rewarding PMP certification.

According to the Project Management Institute, which awards the CAPM and PMP certifications, they both focus on:
  • The skills to initiate a project
  • Project preparation and planning proficiency
  • Executing, monitoring, controlling and completing a project
  • Estimating activity costs
  • Planning for quality at every stage
  • Performing quality assurance
  • Hiring, leading and managing a project team
  • Foreseeing and planning for the unexpected

For more information on the PMI or the CAPM/PMP certifications, visit www.PMI.org.

CAPM and PMP Test Prep

Successful CAPM and PMP candidates typically use multiple study aids to prepare themselves for the exam. Although many business schools are incorporating CAPM and PMP test preparation into their classes, standalone assistance is also available. For more information on the CAPM or PMP certifications and effective test preparation, please view our project management courses or contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com

PMP and CAPM are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

Learning Through Play Enhances Employee Engagement

Chess BoardThrough gaming and play, employees can experience positive emotions that enhance their learning retention rates.

Regardless of age or experiences, we all play games in some way or another. But games aren't just about play; they educate. From smartphone puzzle-oriented hits like Candy Crush Saga to games of "peekaboo", in which infants learn object permanence, games and learning have gone hand-in-hand for thousands of years. So what happens when you take learning through play and apply it to online training courses?

Beyond Childhood Games

According to many historians, the adoption of a "game" called Kriegsspiel by the Prussian officer corps was instrumental in Prussia beating France in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Derived form the German word meaning "war play", Kriegsspiel was designed as a training system for Prussian military officers in 1812. War and simulation have a much older history thourgh: Chess, one of the oldest games still in existence, was used throughout the Middle Ages and the Reniassance to teach noblemen war strategies. Battle tactics were part of their jobs, and the most efficient training was often through play. The famous back-and-forth nature of a "Socratic" dialogue has parallels in tennis, fencing and other sparring games.

Today, thanks to the technological advancements in smartphones and other mobile devices, almost everyone has become a "gamer". The term might carry a stigma with business professionals, but used as part of an effective training regimen, games can make a huge impact on employee retention and performance.

Empowering Employees Through Play

Game designer and author Jane McGonigal has found that play can create a sense of hope and empowerment. According to her research, gaming produces and heightens positive emotions when individuals are participating and feel engaged. Emotions are one of the most effective tools training instructors can leverage. The late Jim Spaulding, technical instructor at Merit Career Development, believed that evoking emotions from students is essential to improving learning retention and employee engagement.

According to a recent Gallup poll, the 87 percent of workers who currently feel disengaged at their jobs could potentially cost companies trillions of dollars in lost productivity. Play might be the key to changing these attitudes and re-engaging employees.

McGonigal feels that gaming can create behavioral changes that lead to better performances from employees. Her research found that two areas of the brain "light up" when a person is actively engaged in gaming: the caudate and the thalamus, the goal-oriented rewards center of the brain, and the hippocampus, where learning and memory reside. These two parts of the brain are the lynch pins of retention, marrying motivation and memorization through emotional response and other stimuli.

Employees can only improve their skills if they're engaged and attentive during training. By designing courses where learning happens through play - rather than drilling information through presentations - senior leaders can ensure that their associates are gleaning the most meaningful lessons possible through training.

Review a course list or contact Merit today for more information

2018 Merit Course Catalog is Here!

After 20 years in the training business, you know you can count on Merit Career Development for fresh and relevant content, engaging program activities, and proven-effective delivery methods that best help training “stick.” We assure you that our programs will have immediate application to your workplace, producing an immediate ROI. It’s a modest investment for a smashing return!

New courses in response to marketplace demand include:
  • Project Leadership
  • Communicating using DISC
  • Project Change Management
  • Negotiating and Influencing
  • Problem Solving with Root Cause Analysis
  • Identifying and Managing Risks
  • Preventing Harassment in the Workplace
  • Agile Project Management


  • New and aspiring leaders will benefit from our Handling Employee Performance Problems and Termination, Business Communications and Team Performance (which is also offered for experienced managers.) Visit a complete list of courses or download the catalog here. Our annual training needs survey (again) demonstrated the highest interest in courses that increase proficiency in leadership, strategy and management – even among Project Managers. We have a robust selection of these courses from Fundamentals of Leadership to advanced topics, such as 360-Degree Leadership.

    Our AccreditationsOur project management courses have been updated to align with the 6th edition of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) guide. Every course description in the catalog includes a listing of the number of credits by organization. See inset for example of accreditations per course.

    Need help bringing training to your organization?

    Thousands of studies have been conducted that validate the connection between investing in employee training and development and the increase in loyalty, morale, and retention. Lower turnover reduces costs and prevents unanticipated gaps in performance. Most important, high morale and a loyal staff translates into more satisfied customers and a better bottom line. And after all, aren’t satisfied customers what keeps your organization in the black?!

    Our facilitators are expert at tailoring course(s) to the needs and experience levels of your staff. Find out how, by contacting Jim Wynne, for a no obligation discussion at jwynne@meritcd.com or 610-225-0449.

    FREE Tips

    Check out our LinkedIn Friday Facts. These nuggets are excerpts from our courses that people enjoy sharing with their friends and colleagues. It will be worth your time.

    Workplace Conflict: The Good, the Bad & the Useful, Part 2

    Workplace ConflictPreviously, we wrote about how resolving conflict often has the side benefit of building a cooperative bond — even loyalty — between the factions. As each side gains a deeper understanding of the others’ viewpoints, respect builds and morale improves. Cooperative, low stress interactions, create a fertile environment for productive brainstorming, ultimately boosting the health of your organization.

    Being respectful to others, being open to hearing their perspective, and taking the time to understand their objective are very important, but you’ll need more knowledge in your toolkit to dispel conflict when the conflict gets tough. So, let’s dig deeper today.

    How can you demonstrate that you are being respectful and open and trying to understand the other’s perspective?

    Here are the top 5 proven techniques you can add to your toolkit:

    1. Ask questions about the other person’s recommendations or point of view in a sincere, non-judgmental manner. Drill down to make sure you totally understand all of their objectives, concerns, and potential obstacles that you may both face.
    2. Replay or paraphrase their points back to show your understanding, and ask for confirmation that you “got it.”
    3. Make sure your body language is open and consistent with your words. If they’re not, people instinctively believe your non-verbal message over the spoken word.
    4. Even if you don’t agree, be sure to acknowledge that you hear and understand the other person’s points.
    5. It wouldn’t hurt (and yes, it could really help) to verbalize some of your “opponents” points that you think are good, smart and, or useful. A sincere compliment, or statement of approval and recognition will go a long way towards resolving conflict.

    Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode InstrumentIn Part 3 of this series, we’ll examine the five conflict styles that help people understand their own responses as well as diffuse conflict with others. Specifically, we’ll look at the five conflict styles that Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann identified and can be assessed in the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), a globally accepted, widely used diagnostic assessment for resolving conflict.

    Understanding the subtleties of conflict and personality styles goes a long way towards elevating an organization’s harmony and effectiveness. At Merit, we frequently facilitate multiple Conflict Management training sessions for our clients where we adjust the level of detail to group (i.e., customer service reps, new managers, and the senior team.) For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call 610-225-0449.