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Workplace conflict – more please?

Workplace conflict – more please?

by Abigail Hunt on February 12, 2018

Conflict: the context

Stupefyingly difficult people cross and re-cross our path – the ridiculous boss, the toxic colleague, the impossible line report…

We also work with a much larger group of talented people who simply think, communicate and behave in a way that is very different to our own.

Workplace conflict and related tension are inevitable given the potent mix of our different personality types, backgrounds and strengths. Many of us suppress and so magnify a lot of our feelings because we:

  • fear conflict
  • don’t think it is acceptable to speak up
  • don’t trust ourselves or the other person to manage conflict well
  • feel trapped and powerless to change anything

How many difficult colleagues have you worked with?

More than 3? Less than 10? How many conversations did you have with these people about the issues, the resulting personal and commercial impact, your differences, new insights and possible solutions?

Few people relish workplace conflict

However, if we don’t tackle this important issue what is the impact on us as individuals, leaders and team members?

Are we also missing out on the competitive advantage and cultural benefits of encouraging differences, a more questioning approach and more constructive, if sometimes difficult, conversations? How many valuable new ideas and insights go un-shared in favour of mid-ground/status-quo thinking to avoid “rocking the boat”?
read more…

Abigail Hunt

Abigail Hunt

Abigail Hunt helps leaders to have courageous conversations. An Innovation Consultant and Executive Coach, she is an associate at Mackie Consulting and a member of Bridge Collaboration and Møller PSF Group.

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Is real change possible if we can’t forgive?

Is real change possible if we can’t forgive?

by Moyra Mackie on January 18, 2017

Recently a coaching client told me:

“I’m really trying to be more collaborative but I can see it in their eyes; they don’t trust me.  They remember the old me – how can things get better if we can’t get beyond this?”

This is not the first client who has found it hard to change because others still remember the past

Which brings to mind my favourite Tony Robbins quote:

“Everybody’s got a past.  The past does not equal the future unless you live there.”

It strikes me that any kind of change – whether inside you, within teams or even between whole nations – involves the ability to let go of the past.  I think change requires forgiveness.

What I learnt about forgiveness by going home

It was April 1989 and I had been looking out of the airplane window, ever since we crossed the Zambezi River from Zambia into Zimbabwe.  It was autumn and the bush below was losing its summer green, revealing small settlements, the occasional herd of elephant and long, straight gunmetal grey roads breaking up the red earth stretching all the way to the horizon.

As the plane bounced down onto the runway, I realised that I had been away for half my life.

But I felt that I was coming home 

Walking across the tarmac I wondered what lay ahead. I was a white woman with a British passport – I potentially represented colonial white privilege.

Was the past another country?

read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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That’s what vulnerability feels like according to Brené Brown.  She also says:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness….The intention and outcome of vulnerability is trust, intimacy and connection.”

The problem is we all have our naked in public memories

This is mine:

When I was at junior school I loved to spend school break times on the climbing frames in the playground.  I grew up in Zimbabwe and my memories are that climbing trees and building forts were equal opportunities activities – we weren’t locked in a pink ghetto back then.

However, being a girl did present some challenges.  This was the seventies and school uniform was a very short blue and white checked dress.  The answer was that we all also wore school issue matching “knickers” to preserve our dignity, if not our sense of style.  This allowed me to indulge my eight year old passion for hanging upside down or swinging round and round on high parallel bars.

Except one day, as I flung my legs over the bar and let myself fall upside down, I realised something felt different. read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Senior executives have never been so well rewarded.  In the UK it now takes the average CEO only three days to “earn” what the average employee takes home in a year.  On top of this, lottery-sized exit packages and gold-plated pensions give those at the top unprecedented material security.

And yet… Not everything feels secure

According to The Economist, the average life expectancy of public companies shrank from 65 years in the 1920s, to less than ten in the 1990s. Public scrutiny is increasing and innovation is a source of both creativity and disruption. Whilst a golden parachute might break the fall, life in the C-suite is becoming ever more precarious. In just ten years the average CEO tenure has fallen from 8.1 to 6.3 years and is getting shorter all the time.

In an uncertain climate, good leadership matters more than ever

McKinsey has published numerous papers linking organisational health with profitability, innovation and shareholder return.  So every year the spend on leadership and management development training and change and culture consultancy increases.

And yet…  Lack of good leadership is costly

Dissatisfaction with the results of all this training and development is on the rise.  Employee engagement numbers remain stubbornly low and, depending on the survey you read, between 50 and 60% of staff would fire their managers if they could. According to Deloitte Shift Index American companies are 75% LESS productive than in 1965.

What should leadership achieve?

Erik de Haan in his book The Leadership Shadow summarises decades of research:

“Leadership is the function devoted to harnessing the organisation’s effectiveness”

This speaks to the fact that everyone in an organisation has a leadership role in order to harness that effectiveness.

However, many studies point to the crucial role of senior management teams:

“The prize for building effective top teams is clear: they develop better strategies, perform more consistently, and increase the confidence of stakeholders.  They get positive results and make the work itself  a more positive experience both for the team’s members and for the people they lead”   – McKinsey,  “Teamwork at the Top”

read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Beth had signed up for coaching because she was leading a transformation project fraught with politics and big egos.  Despite her experience and the faith that had been placed in her, she was concerned that she would “drop some of these moving pieces.”

Like a lot of my clients she was afraid she might fail

Today that fear seemed close to the surface. When I asked her what she would like to think through in our session, she seemed startled.

“Well,” she said. “I guess I just want to talk it out loud…if that doesn’t seem too self-indulgent?”

The value of just talking to someone who is really listening without judgement is often a way clients begin to make sense of their jumble of thoughts and feelings.

But clients also bring their inner critics with them

I could hear her inner critic loud and clear.

“Self-indulgent?”

Beth told me that she felt that she should just get on with it.  She was a master of planning; used to this stage…..etc….etc.  And then she was off into the detail of the project.

She really did need to talk this one through.

And it was helpful for me to listen less to the deep content of what she was saying and more to the emotions that lay beneath the words. A pattern began to emerge:

“If I don’t….”

read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Close encounters with elephant:  A lesson in leadership

Close encounters with elephant: A lesson in leadership

by Moyra Mackie on September 20, 2014

“The role of a great guide is to get clients as close to the animals without fear.”

Said the man on the right of this picture as he described Nic Polenakis, (centre above) a Zimbabwe guide selected by National Geographic Traveler as one of the “10 Great Tour Guides Who Can Transform Your Trip”.

Watching Nic in action certainly transformed my trip, giving a demonstration of leadership in action

Zimbabwe guides hold Professional Guides Licences, one of the most difficult, extensive and well-respected qualifications of its type in Africa.  Qualifying takes 4-5 years, including 2 years’ apprenticeship with another pro guide and a 2 day written exam.  The pass rate is around 5%.

I confess that in the moment that we came across that bull elephant standing between us and our tented room, the only thing that mattered was how Nic handled the tension – ours and the elephant’s.

Leadership is about how you show up

I had only met Nic an hour before, but I trusted him implicitly.  His rigorous training and extensive experience gave him the courage to handle our fear. He easily modelled the way he needed us to respond. read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Coaching encourages courageous conversations

Coaching encourages courageous conversations

by Moyra Mackie on May 10, 2014

What kind of coach do you aspire to be?

What kind of coach are you?

How can you close the gap between the ideal and the reality?

 

So began an exercise on the last day of my second workshop in year 2 of my Masters in Coaching program.

The tutors took advantage of a suddenly sunny break in the weather and suggested we worked in pairs whilst we walked around the grounds at Ashridge.

This is what I felt – and only half articulated – as my answer to those questions.

Companies are human

For me, organisations are not sets of reporting lines or processes or hierarchies, but groups of people who need to talk to each other.

The quality of those conversations will dictate how motivated, innovative, productive and profitable that organisation is.

“Organisations are interpersonal places and so necessarily arouse those more complex emotional constellations that shadow all interpersonal relations: love and hate, envy and gratitude, shame and guilt, contempt and pride…the emotional choreography each of us weaves, consciously or unconsciously” – David Armstrong, Emotions in Organisations

Trust is the key

I believe the secret to efficient organisations lies in reducing FEAR and increasing TRUST;  in improved leadership and open, constructive conversations.
read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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View from the (l)edge

View from the (l)edge

by Moyra Mackie on October 18, 2013

One bright Sunday this June when I stepped briefly onto the glass platform in The Shard, 244m (800ft) above south London, it hit me that the older I get, the more afraid of heights I become.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about fear this week

Fear can be immobilising. It can stop us from having tough but necessary conversations and from taking necessary decisions and risks.

Effective leaders confront fear every day; in having challenging conversations, in making decisions and taking risks. Which is why leadership can be so hard and so lonely.

Leadership requires stepping onto the ledge

One of the roles of a coach is to work with leaders to help them manage their anxiety, to model a way of reflecting, talking and listening that they can take back with them to form more effective habits of responding and communicating with those around them.

Coaches work with leaders to step out of their comfort zone

Mary Beth O’Neill puts this most eloquently in Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart, when she says that all coaches need to develop a “signature presence”. This takes both professional training and years of practice. Ideally this practice should be both inside and outside the coaching room.

“Having signature presence is critical for coaches. Presence means bringing your self when you coach: your values, passion, creativity, emotion and discerning judgment to any given moment with a client. Presence means developing and sustaining your tolerance for a host of situations many people actively avoid; ambiguity, daunting challenges, the anxiety or disapproval of others, and your own personal sources of stress.”

And the last few weeks have certainly provided me with plenty of practice of all of the above  

Not in the coaching room, but in my attempts to bring a little bit of the coaching room into other people’s every day routine. read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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What lies beneath: Why we avoid difficult conversations

What lies beneath: Why we avoid difficult conversations

by Moyra Mackie on September 20, 2013

Recently I was coaching a client – let’s call him Joe – who told me he was seriously considering leaving his company.

When I asked him why, Joe didn’t mention anything about the merits of his company’s competitors.

What he did talk about was his boss

“I don’t get any feedback.  I’m told no news is good news but I don’t know what I’m doing right and I don’t think I can learn and grow if I don’t know exactly where and how to improve or challenge myself.”

So I asked him what he could do to change this situation

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Lessons from the sun lounger

Lessons from the sun lounger

by Moyra Mackie on September 6, 2013

How do you feel asking other people for help?

What happens if you’re struggling to find your way and GPS or a plain old-fashioned map fails you? Do you hesitate to ask for guidance?

Or perhaps you’re not physically lost, but you feel out of your depth or overwhelmed? Do you reach out and ask for help or continue to struggle?

To the eternal embarrassment of my teenage sons I have no problem asking strangers for directions, no matter where I am in the world.

I’m afraid of asking for help in other ways

read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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