ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Diamond's to You: November 2010 Newsletter

Newsletter – November 2010

Hi and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.
It’s been another crazy month and so here it is Thanksgiving weekend and I am just getting around to writing November’s newsletter. Here in Silicon Valley it is cold and crisp. It actually feels like winter. I’ve been wearing coats I haven’t had the opportunity to wear locally in a long time. Of course, they have been worn in New York and San Francisco. My friend and videographer, Carlos Raphael Cruz (also from New York!) has been putting excerpts of my speeches on both You-Tube and my Facebook account. He is in the process of adding some others and will also post them on my social network sites.

My new Facebook fan page is: ArLyne Diamond, Diamond Associates.

My new You-Tube is: ArLyneDiamond Hope you can find them and view the videos Carlos is in the process of uploading.

Mediation/Conflict Resolution
I recently heard a horror story from a woman who went to her HR representative seeking help with a conflict she was having with her new upper management manager. Instead of HR bringing the two people together to resolve their mis-understandings and mis-communication, the HR rep. went to the executive and told him what the young woman reported. Of course this made things worse for the young woman employee. I’m going to use this example in detail during the next Alternative Dispute Resolution/Conflict Resolution training I offer my clients. It’s an example of the wrong way to do things. Mediation is often misunderstood, so let me give a brief academic lesson here.

Alternative Dispute Resolution includes Arbitration, Conciliation, and Mediation.

Arbitration is the process similar to that of a Judge trial, only more informal. The arbitrator hears both sides of the issue, accepts and reviews evidence, and reaches a decision. This can be binding or non-binding, depending on the prior agreement of the parties. Years ago I was al fee arbitrator for the Santa Clara County Bar Association and an Arbitrator for the Santa Clara County Better Business Bureau. I sometimes arbitrate conflicts for clients as well. I prefer mediation.

Mediation is the process of bringing the parties together and helping them talk about their issues and resolve them themselves. The mediator does not make the decision, she facilitates the process. Really good mediators allow the emotional content of the disagreement to emerge, knowing that the emotional air must be cleared before rationality sets in to lead to healthy resolution.

In mediation, you want the parties to be able to work together in the future. My mediation experience began when I was working with divorcing parents fighting over custody and visitation of their children. You can just imagine the emotions at work. I love to mediate. I’m not at all afraid of the anger, crying, and other emotional reactions of my clients. After all, I was a therapist for many years.

Conciliation is the process of being the go-between between the disputing parties. It is having the parties in separate rooms and acting as translator between them. Although it is sometimes helpful to have a few minutes alone with the different protagonists in mediation, I frankly don’t believe conciliation to be the best approach when dealing with a few people. It might be good when large organizations, such as management v. unions are involved. I still prefer mediation.

I recently was the victim of a poorly trained mediator who, instead of mediating, was afraid that the two parties (me and the Property Manager of my HOA) were going to express strong feelings. Instead of allowing us to continue talking (which was all we were doing) this mediator’s own fears of confrontation led him to separate us and talk for us back and forth. Although the outcome was still in my favor, it wasn’t nearly as good as it might have been had we been allowed to talk the issues through ourselves. All too often I’ve seen poorly trained mediators rush decisions through in a self-protective manner. It’s as though they want a win at all costs and at a minimum of time or stress. This does not lead to good resolutions, but to quick ones. Good resolutions leave both sides of the issue feeling they had created something they could both live with and go back to being good neighbors, good friends, parents of children, or work colleagues.

My vote: Always hire someone who really knows what they are doing.

Conflict Resolution in the Workplace
To continue with my theme – there is often conflict in the workplace. Sometimes it is merely mis-communication, other times there are stylistic or value differences that rub different people the wrong way. My experience with management is that most often they don’t really know how to deal effectively with conflict and so either ignore it, hoping it will go away, or they try to play Solomon (Judge and Jury) to resolve it themselves with limited information.

The process of gathering information is often contaminated by the belief that the person accused of wrongdoing is guilty and the bias is in favor of gathering only that information which would support a finding of guilt. This happens all too often. It is so easy to believe the person issuing the first complaint. Evidence that would disprove the allegations are often described in investigative reports as “denies” or “lies”.

I’ve seen people lose their jobs primarily due to a “rush to judgment” accompanied by a biased investigation. Perceptions differ. What is reported to you might not be exactly what happened. It is only by creating a totally neutral process that you can sometimes find out the facts. Conducting these investigations takes skill and often an outsider to the process.

Too, if the allegations are of silly, teasing, or fairly mild behavior or misunderstandings, instead of conducting an investigation you might consider having expert mediation – bringing the parties together to work out their differences. Quite often, with the proper help, a simple explanation and apology is all that’s needed.

Employment Law Compliance Training
I recently spoke with one of the senior executives of a company consisting of slightly less than 50 employees. She told me that they didn’t need compliance training because of their size. Although she might be correct in terms of the exact letter of the law, she certainly is missing out about the spirit of the law – and her firm’s potential liability.

Whether large or small, it really helps to have your managers (and probably your employees as well) trained and re-trained in understanding the law as it pertains to:
· Hiring and Firing
· Sanctions and Documentation
· Harassment and Discrimination
· Safety and Drug Free Environment
· Americans with Disability (ADA) Requirements.

I’m always surprised when conducting the training to discover some of the mis-perceptions executives have about their responsibility and liability.

Creativity and Innovation
Some companies encourage creativity and innovation, and others discourage it. The buzz words change – today’s include phrases like “disruptive” and “chaos”, but the concepts are the same. In order to create something new, you have to (pardon the cliché) “think outside the box”, “shift the paradigm.” This is best accomplished by having teams consist of people from different backgrounds and disciplines, rather than a group of homogeneous folk.

Years ago, Thomas Kuhn wrote, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” and talked about the fact that many – most – new developments come from those outside the discipline suggesting an approach that those within the discipline would consider going against reality (as they know it – and as it is defined by their profession.) Sometimes it is necessary to employ games and tools to get people to un-freeze and think about new ways.

I teach many of these tools in the classes I teach in the MBA program at DeVry/Keller University. My friend Ed Ipser, Jr. is developing a software product/service that will incorporate some of these tools from the world of “Quality” and “Team Building” that we who conduct these types of workshops can add to our own tool-kit of ideas. Whether we use computerized tools, the games from the Quality movement, or any other techniques – the most important ingredient to encourage creativity and innovation in the workplace is the climate and values of the company itself. It’s not merely about toys and and massages and great food.

All of these can reduce workplace dissatisfiers – but they don’t free people to experiment, to offer suggestions that go against the norm, or to disagree with those in power. That must be the message from the top down - and must be followed by every level of management throughout the organization. How do you accomplish that? Not only by having it as part of your company values, but by making sure there is on-going and repeated training to all levels of management, making sure they are living the values you mandate.

A Testimonial

I want to share with you one letter received from the Co-Founder, Vice-President and General Manager of GDA Technologies, Inc. This was received a few years ago, and having had lunch with its author, Gopa Periyadan last week, I thought about it and chose to share it with you as we come to the end of this year.

“As a highly specialized Electronic Design Services (EDS) company, we recruit some of the most intelligent and highly educated engineers and technicians from all over the world. In spite of their education, which in many cases includes MBA’s we have difficulty promoting these men and women into positions of management when we identify that they lacked some of the essential “soft skills” required for such enhanced responsibilities.

“Having experienced the quality of her work personally during the three years he attended the CEO Leadership Roundtable she led, our CEO, A.G. Karunakaran brought Dr. ArLyne Diamond into our company to work with all levels of our management team.

“ArLyne Diamond, Ph.D. is a Management and Professional Development Consultant, with a background in both business and psychology. She brings experience, wisdom and practicality in addition to her educational and theoretical background. Her style is direct, friendly, and warm, making it very easy for those she is working with to relate to her, try new techniques under her tutelage, and ask for her help and advice.

“Briefly, Dr. Diamond teaches what is now known as “soft skills.” In other words, she teaches people how to get the best out of themselves and others in the workplace. Her counseling goes far beyond simply teaching communication skills. “… we intend to continue to use her services in a variety of areas. [And, they have]… she worked both individually and in groups with several levels of our managers and potential managers. She guided them how to manage people, projects, processes and programs. “Included in her highly interactive workshops were topics that dealt with diversity, working in a global economy, communication skills, presentation, image, managing meetings, working with your boss, motivating and holding people accountable, persuasion as a tool of project management, styles of learning, management types, and dozens of other topics.

“The feedback from all our employees was outstanding. They liked her personally, respected her work, and wanted to have her return to offer additional workshops. Many of our managers came to her for personal professional development.

“ArLyne gives much more of herself than most consultants. She shows sensitivity, loyalty and concern for the organization she serves. She met with our CEO and members of our senior executive staff as she felt it necessary to help us understand some of the concerns and needs of our staff. She helped us with other projects we had that were outside the scope of our contract with her and behaved at all times as though she herself were a significant and long term member of our senior staff.

“Dr. Diamond is capable of consulting at every level of an organization and across many dimensions. She is experienced in Strategic Planning, Organizational Development, Dealing in a Global Economy, Sales and Customer Relations and Service, Management Training and all aspects of Human Resources, including Interviewing, Performance Appraisals, Sanctions, Motivation, Diversity, Discrimination, Safety, Drug Free Workplace, and Sexual Harassment.

“It is always a great pleasure and privilege for me to be associated with Dr. Diamond. I am positive that your organization will also benefit great improvements with her contributions.”

Signed by: Gopa Periyadan, Co-founder, Vice President & GM SSBU, GDA Technologies, Inc.

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