Crucial Topic: Getting to the Root Cause

I promised more about problem solving.  Here’s another way to go about identifying and solving a problem:  Listen carefully to the complaints of each party and ask the question, “And what about that makes it a problem?” Or, “How is that a problem for you?”  In short, try to get at the root cause.

Here’s a fictitious example.  Sherry, an administrative assistant is having a conflict with Barry, a purchasing officer.  Each person has come to you complaining about the other person’s behavior.  Each has been described as thoughtless, mean-spirited, and generally not very nice.

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Topic: Problem Solving

Once you have managed to turn the conflict into a problem that both parties can work on solving, you have come a long way.  The next task is to equip the players with methods of problem solving that will enable them to reach some potential solutions.

There are many approaches to problem solving.  I find that there is an abundance of problem solving techniques at  This website has numerous ways to frame the issue, identify the problems and explore potential solutions.

For this article, I will recommend oneof my favorite ways of engaging in problem solving.  The technique is Appreciative Inquiry.

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Conflict Management: The Miracle Question. An Important Topic

Today my focus is on “What to do next?”  You’ve centered yourself and you have learned a lot about what is upsetting the person who has come to you.  What now?

I suggest that your next task is to determine the next best move to make.  I’m all in favor of finding out even more.  Before I do that, I think a good final question for your complainer is what has been called the Miracle Question.  The miracle question goes something like this:  If everything were finally resolved, what would have been done to completely satisfy you?  What would you have done?, what would I have done?, what would the third party have done?

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Conflict Management

Last week I brought up the hot topic of managing conflict.  Truly this is a hot topic and one that a lot of companies, teams, and leaders would rather avoid that deal with.

Lesson One had to do with the first thing we must do:  practice good self-management.  Today we take on Lesson Two:  Learn everything you can.

Most people want the process of resolving conflict to be painless.  And, it may not be, unless of course, people are self-managing well enough to not take things personally.

Have you ever been caught unawares suddenly by someone’s intense feeling?  Were you totally caught off guard and surprised that such strong emotion was coming at you like an oncoming train?  When that has happened to me, I gasped!  I gasped so hard that it seemed like I couldn’t catch my breath!

A number of thoughts and feelings cascaded like I was caught in an avalanche: “How dare they…!  Who do they think they are…? Why now…?  Why me…?”  These thoughts along with feelings of anger, confusion, trepidation, etc. were all a part of my reaction.

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Conflict: A Topic That Stands Out in the Workplace

Is conflict a hot topic?  You bet it is!  Every time I am with a work group and ask, “What is the first thing that comes to mind when I mention the word ‘conflict’?”

Here is a list of the terms that come up – almost universally:  Irritating, annoying, anger, frustration, oh no- not again, I already have too much on my plate, etc.  All of the terms that come up are negative.

So why is it such a hot topic?  People don’t seem to know what to do about it!  It is painful and sometimes frightening to deal with conflict.

Yet, conflict in the workplace unchecked results in lost productivity, low morale, high turnover, and sometimes grievances and punitive consequences.

So doesn’t it make sense to get prepared for conflict, and know what steps to take to minimize the negative consequences of unresolved conflict?  Of course it does.  And it’s not as difficult as you might imagine.

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Preventing and Responding to Conflicts in the Workplace

No matter how careful you are when hiring, workplace conflicts are likely to occur. Such conflicts, if unresolved, can cause damage to any enterprise.

So, what is the small business owner to do? Avoid conflict? Smooth over disputes? Or, prepare for conflict and know what to do when and if happens. Being prepared is both proactive and productive.

Here are 5 ways to prepare for, and even prevent damaging conflict from occurring. In all these steps it is critical to be respectful, courteous, and above all, clear.

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Artful Dialogue: Creative Communication at Home and Work

 A new Workshop presented by:

Dr. Russell Sanders, Psy.D.

This training addresses the difficult times in relationships when we feel like we are a deer caught in the headlights — feeling frozen and not knowing what to do in the midst of an unproductive conversation.  Knowing how to spot these unproductive moments and having options enables us to move in more constructive directions in the conversation.  Participants will explore the meaning of artful dialogue and how to use some of the concepts  from the martial arts of judo and aikido in using artful dialogue in creative communication.

These principles inlcude:

  • The importance of self control;
  • The ability to center oneself for maximum efficiency;
  • Taking initiative to understand another’s mindset; and
  • The principle of gentleness — the practice of maintaining a natural, relaxed posture with a clear focused mind
  • Developing the flexibility in the face of difficult conversations is the key to creating constructive outcomes.

Participants will learn:

•    Use communication to gain insight and understanding of others.

•    To develop choices and options: Why persuasion works better than coercion.

•    How to recognize and deflect verbal aggression when it occurs.

Who should attend:  Employees, lead workers, and supervisors



At a major hospital system in Colorado, a week ago, I was privileged to be with a
group of new supervisors who were enrolled in my course, Stepping up to Supervision
The participants were from a cross section of hospital departments including supervisors, managers, and directors.  The eagerness of the participants to learn in the classroom always impresses me.  They dive right in to the subject matter.  You can tell from their questions, responses, and the active discussions that they are applying what they are learning.  The big issues they raised were very interesting.

From peer to supervisor:

Making the adjustment from peer to leader is often a big challenge. The way to overcome that challenge is to navigate the transition with knowledge, understanding, patience, and a clear sense of purpose.  A leader with those four tools will be able to communicate and reinforce what we call the 4 P’s:  Purpose, Picture, Plan, and Part.

Purpose:  relates to the mission and goals of the work.

Picture:  connects to what we will see when we are successful.

Plan:  lays out the steps to take to reach those goals.

Part:  refers to the part that the individual employees will play in the performance of the work.

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Today’s leadership

Our problem today is not infrastructure, but how we treat our people.