- Conflict Resolution
When people or groups are in conflict, productive work can grind to a halt. And the friction affects everyone around, maybe even the entire enterprise. Decisions can't be made and, worse, people can be afraid to speak up for fear of walking into or setting off the conflict. So creativity suffers, too.
But a conflict is also a symptom. I work to help you identify what the underlying issue is that is "sponsoring" the conflict. Whereas the traditional techniques of conflict resolution is to talk to the parties to the argument, my more holistic approach is to talk to elements of the entire system or group. The perspective of others can shed important light on the issues involved. By doing so we can get at the root of the problem, not just the symptom, and help the organization or group move forward. Usually the conflict dissipates quickly when the underlying dynamics are identified and addressed.
Recently I appeared on the Business Insights show on the Bizperity Network. You can view the segment on conflict resolution in organizations here (scroll down and click on the bar that says "Conflict Resolution in Large Organizations").
When a group comes together to create a new enterprise, it is important to get things right at the start. This is the time to set productive group norms, identify any potential obstacles to group functioning, and learn how to overcome them as they arise in the future. I can help start-up groups get off on the right foot by advising the group and its individual members, based on my observations and expertise. Doing this can make the start-up more attractive to potential investors - they will have greater confidence that the group will be successful.
Likewise, investors and venture capitalists can call upon me to evaluate and advise them about groups they are considering supporting. I provide both appraisals of the viability of the group and its members, as well as helpful suggestions to start-up groups that are already funded, to help insure that the investment will be profitable.
- Morale | Turnover | Burnout
Work is hard. But it doesn't have to be THAT hard! It doesn't have to be painful. Ask people who leave their jobs why they are exiting, or ask victims of burnout what is stressing them out, and the most common reasons have to do with the people with whom they work. Or office politics. Or a persistent conflict. It's usually not the work that is stressful, it's the work environment. And when the work is stressful, it can be made more bearable by a better work environment.
An overly stressed work group is very expensive. People do not work well when they are burned out. And turnover costs a lot: new people have to be trained and brought up to speed, during which time they are not productive (and those training them are distracted from their main jobs). Recruiting and training costs run close to the annual salary of the position (see this turnover cost worksheet at the U.S. Department of Labor). Every time someone leaves, morale and productivity suffers for everyone else. Burnout and work stress also has a major impact on people's health and medical status, leading to higher medical expenses for the individual and the company providing health insurance.
I work with management teams and executives to help identify why people are leaving or suffering. And then help them to address the underlying issues. Turnover is always a symptom of some organizational dysfunction, and that same dynamic is affecting your bottom line in other ways, too. Getting at the root of the problem is always the most cost-effective way to solve it.
- Strategic Planning
Many strategic planning efforts are hamstrung from the outset because they only tap the expertise of a sliver of an organization: people at the top. People at every level of your organization have important perspectives and good ideas, borne of their unique experience and position in your business. Even further, other stakeholders also have important data to provide, including customers, vendors, and regulators. You don't want to miss out on their input, which could spell the difference between success and lackluster performance in the future. And including them in the process virtually insures widespread buy-in to whatever plan emerges, making implementation much easier.
But including many stakeholders in a strategic planning process takes careful preparation, a flexible mechanism for integrating many opinions, and well-trained advisors for the leadership. I can help to create a retreat or Future Search event, or other format designed to tap the many layers of expertise available in your organization. (Please see also the Tools/Techniques page of this website for more information on Future Search.)
- Change | Transition Management
In today's fluid business climate, change is a fact of life. Organizations that cannot adapt will be left behind. Mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs, re-engineered processes, organizational culture improvement, layoffs and other major upheavals all have a human dimension that needs to be taken into account. Your people will have a variety of reactions, ranging from out and out resistance, to subtle sabotage or a desire to abandon ship by resigning, all the way to enthusiastic support and involvement.
Whereas an organization can make a change, people need time and structure to metabolize and adapt to it - they need a transitional period. I can help you to design and implement a transition that respects and even capitalizes on peoples' reactions. Many well thought-out changes founder on the rocks of transition. The history of business is full of failed mergers, acquisitions, and change efforts. Don't let that happen to your organization.
- Leadership Issues
Many people advance in their careers to leadership positions with little training or preparation. Just because you are a good engineer, or lawyer, or salesman, or whatever, doesn't mean you'll be a good leader. It is helpful to have an advisor to help you navigate the organizational issues and group dynamics that leaders face. This is especially true if you have been elevated from the group you'll now have to supervise, or if you are newly hired from the outside. Each of these situations presents you with different complications.
I can provide both individualized training and consultation to you in your role as leader, as well as work with your team or group to establish productive norms and processes for working together into the future.
- Succession Planning
Passing the reigns on to a new person, or new group of leaders can be a risky period for any organization. The waters are filled with hidden hazards, such as competition (with disgruntled losers), a confusing transition period (when no one is sure who is really in charge), difficulty for the outgoing boss to let go of control (setting up destructive competition between the old and new boss), and reluctance for subordinates to shift loyalties to the new boss and his or her newfangled ways (including potential for undermining the new boss). These are, to some degree normal parts of succession, and you need to be ready to deal with them.
I can help by assisting with planning for the transfer of authority, preparing the organization for the impending changes, and working with groups and individuals to insure a smoother transition. An outsider who is neutral in regards to the inevitable competition and reactions can be invaluable in keeping the organization on track through the succession shoals.
- Family Businesses
While family businesses drive the American economy (80-90% of all North American businesses are family owned), they also present unique challenges. The interlocking and overlapping of family, ownership, and operations relationships are complicated, and often get in the way of success. Succession issues are particularly potent in family businesses, as sibling rivalry and other family dynamics combine with generic succession issues to super-charge the emotional atmosphere.
As a psychologist, I am uniquely qualified to help untangle the web of family and business relationships in family enterprises. My expertise in working with families provides added value in my role as management advisor.