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We Are Not Sweden

We Are Not Sweden

We see stories about ethical and integrity failures among the world’s largest companies more often than one might think. The number of cases is growing each year as is the drama surrounding the details once they are released. The U.S. reached a settlement with Sweden’s telecom giant Ericsson Telecom. 

The settlement was in two parts where damages in an amount just over $500 million were assessed against the telecom company for bribery, falsifying records, and other misdeeds prohibit by laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In addition, another $500 Million was extracted through “disgorgement”.

Assessing damages for wrongdoing is a well-established legal doctrine, and though the amount agreed as representative of the damages caused, is surprisingly large; it is hard to argue against given the length of time the unethical practices existed.

Forcing the company to cough up an equal amount as punishment raises legal questions that I will leave to those more qualified to talk about. What I can say is that a line can easily be crossed between what is necessary to correct the misdeeds of individuals and companies and extortion. As the details of this settlement become more widely known, the astonishing Billion dollar settlement may be justified.

Yet, I cannot but conclude that you do one or the other. One either can make the case for damages consistent with the laws that were broken, or you are able to determine the specific amounts illegally gained and by force of law demand the individual or company return those ill-gotten gains.

It is all too easy to forget that just as companies can behave in an unethical manner, so can those acting as an agent of the government. Is disgorgement on top of damages unethical? It is a question that needs discussion.

These dramatic events are easy to see and follow once they become known. What is much more difficult to see is the impact of unethical conduct by government bureaucrats in the issuing of regulations. Many times small business owners are the ones that suffer the most from regulations, and often they don’t learn about these pending consequences in time to mitigate the adverse impacts. 

I recently read a report in The Wall Street Journal’s about something called the Ultimate Beneficial Ownership (UBO) Registry, and a movement in Congress to make participation compulsory. Apparently, when I created my LLC through the State of Texas and filled out all of the necessary forms, that is no longer enough. Unbeknownst to me, this is an ongoing debate that’s been around for a while, driven by the fact that bad guys create shell companies to hide what they are doing.

On its face, the idea of identifying who benefits from the operations of a shady company is a good thing. Law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and elsewhere have a pressing need more tools to ferret out corruption. 

What sounds good in theory or in a carefully worded press release by some mid-level staffer in a government agency is one thing, drilling down into the details in something else. When you do drill down, you find the burden for making this process work will fall on the owners of the companies required to input their data into the registry and maintain its accuracy, and they will suffer legal consequences if they don’t.

So, the small business owner now may have to contend with a database that law-abiding business owners must participate in and provide information already available to law enforcement; where they must bear the costs of maintenance and no assurance of privacy can be offered or guaranteed. 

Should this useless exercise come to pass, it will not drive anyone out of business, but it will represent a layer of costs that provide no value to the business owner and will create increased risk across areas not yet defined.

Larger businesses rarely take time to learn about or meet with the owners of small businesses. Yet, opportunities do exist where leaders of large and small companies can meet and understand the many things they have in common.

One of those opportunities is provided each year by the Services Cooperative Association. SCA is a co-operative comprised of business owners that have a purpose that hasn’t varied in 36 years. Through its processes, it assists business owners in Market Expansion, Business Development, Entrepreneurial and Intrapreneurial Education and Professional Growth. It is a set of processes that has led numerous companies to succeed where they might otherwise have failed.

Each year the Services Cooperative Association hosts its Annual Economic Forecast, and on Wednesday, January 8, 2020, the association will host its 37th Economic Forecast. Each year the City Controller, or his or her representative, presents the city’s view of the Houston economy, and Houston Community College provides an overview for the State of Texas.

Mr. Chris Brown, Controller for the city of Houston, has once again accepted the invitation to be SCA’s keynote speaker at this event, and Professor of Economics, Ms. Sophie Haci accepted on behalf of HCC.

As Chairman of the Board for the Services Cooperative Association, I cordially invite those of you reading this who live in the greater Houston Area to mark your calendars and take the time to attend this annual event, meet other small business owners, and gain a fresh perspective on the many issues that impact our fellow Houstonians.

I invite you to visit the website here, and learn more about the event, and while there take a moment to check out some of the other resources available through SCA.

Food for Thought:  We learn to do, we learn by actually doing it; men come to be builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. In the same way, by doing just acts we come to be just; by doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled; and by doing brave acts, we become brave”. (Aristotle)

Between Yesterday and Tomorrow

Between Yesterday and Tomorrow

It is now the first few hours of the New Year, and as I sit at the edge of the year 2020, I continue to think about three words and two phrases that occupied my mind over the past 30 plus days. In the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, I received many notes, some electronic and some in the more traditional form, wishing me and my family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

I sent out similar good wishes to friends, acquaintances, and people I’ve done business with, and each time I thought about those three words and two phrases. I came to the conclusion I needed to take specific actions this year to more actively live into the call to action that lies in those words. This may sound to some like a New Year’s resolution, and to some extent, it may be.

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Yet, this is not about losing weight, exercising more, or keeping up with the household chores better. These are important in their own way and lead to being a better person. I’ve come to the conclusion that so many of those more obvious goals don’t get carried out in a sustained way because the virtues have not been put in place first.

This time of year and the messages associated with this season reminds me that we cannot do anything for ourselves without first looking beyond ourselves. Conversations about virtue are rarely held outside the home because too many people are afraid to have that conversation, or simply don’t know how to start one. For me, the start of any conversation such as this, is what am I called to do about something?

The three Great Virtues are called Faith, Hope, and Charity, and each one is a call to action. People in business use a lot of action based phrases; to the point, it is often a catchphrase. For Christians these words are much more than a simple call to action, and yet, each of these words speaks to anyone who wants to make things better, and once understood in that context, the obligation to act becomes clear. 

Having the belief that you can effect positive change is a universal trait. Holding to the expectation that you will succeed, and being able to act with unselfish motives are also universal.

Two phrases also make an appearance at this time of year; Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards Men. I see these words as an expression of the four Cardinal Virtues written about with great eloquence by philosophers such as Plato and Cicero. 

It was Cicero who wrote….” Virtue may be defined as a habit of mind (animi) in harmony with reason and the order of nature. It has four parts: wisdom (prudentiam), justice, courage, temperance.” 

As we all enter this new year 2020, I invite those who read my letter each month to dedicate yourselves to a new level of action, a higher level of commitment, and the promise to yourself that small steps matter as much as the larger steps.

As noted in several recent letters, I again invite you to join me next Wednesday, January 8, 2020, at Gallery Furniture at their North Freeway (I-45) address for the 37th Annual Economic Forecast hosted by the Services Cooperative Association

SCA is a co-operative comprised of business owners that have a mission, a purpose that hasn’t varied in 36 years. Through its processes, it assists business owners in Market Expansion, Business Development, Entrepreneurial and Intrapreneurial Education and Professional Growth. It is a set of processes that has led numerous companies to succeed where they might otherwise have failed.

Action versus Words

Learn to make the right choice
Ethics in the Workplace Training

A relative of mine once made a comment that actions are the mirror that reflects intent. That phrase comes back to me from time to time when I come across something in the news or on television. Generally speaking, I wait to avoid reacting to things I read about or hear, because early disclosures rarely provide enough truth to assess what is really going on.

Over the past several weeks I’ve thought about the kerfuffle over Chick-fil-A’s decision to re-direct its corporate giving, and more to the point, announcing it would no longer give emphasis to faith based charities such as The Salvation Army. Why announce this change? Who to donate to, how much, where, and when are matters largely discussed and decided internally by the company’s management. These decisions rarely make headlines because they are rarely discussed outside the boardroom.

I have to conclude the decision by Chick-fil-A to announce the new focus of its corporate giving programs is one more example of a company walking into the minefield that is the modern American culture. It is one more company that made a decision based on surveys which, more often than not, began from the wrong premise. This false starting point reflects a failure of critical thinking; a necessary discipline in understanding the relationship between a company’s purpose and its intent.

Intent and purpose have clearly different meanings, and yet, they are also linked. It is the relationship between these two ideas that define a company’s culture. Chick-fil-A’s failure to understand this linkage led it to the inevitable either/or position from which there is no good outcome. Either they continue to operate a company built on faith based values, or jettison many of those values in order to put themselves in a better light in an increasingly secular world.

Integrity is impossible without ethics, and ethics is impossible without a moral foundation. Chick-fil-A may come through this period of controversy positioned to expand and grow; that remains to be seen.  The current leadership asserts publicly that the company remains committed to Christian values.

Yet, because of the public announcements, overtones of appeasement echo as a result of these recent actions, and almost any answer they give for their decisions will smack of moralizing. Just as there is a difference between intent and purpose, so too is there a difference between moral reasoning and moralizing. Understanding that difference also requires critical thinking.

What is missing in all of this is a transparent motive that is separate and apart from the desire to do more business in heretofore unfriendly parts of the country. It may become clearer in the future, but in the short term, I think the company will continue to struggle with the conflict between intent and purpose.

Small businesses and companies escape many of these dilemmas. I think it is because the owners and leaders of smaller business entities live closer to the action. The decisions they make, good or bad, provide almost instant feedback; especially if those actions disappoint the client.

Given the bad rap that business owners and leaders get in the media, entertainment, and across large segments of the government, they do the right thing with more consistency than is generally known. To them integrity is fundamental to who they are and they don’t compromise their fundamental sense of doing what is right.

Exceptions exist in this as in all things. Yet, I am no longer surprised by the fact that, at the small business level, owners and leaders are comfortable talking about ethics and integrity as being key aspects of their way of doing business and, taken as a whole, do not act in ways that compromise those pillars of their business.

Larger business rarely take time to learn about or meet with the owners of small businesses. Yet, opportunities do exist where leaders of large and small companies can meet and understand the many things they have in common.

One of those opportunities is provided each year by the Services Cooperative Association. SCA is a co-operative comprised of business owners that has a purpose that hasn’t varied in 36 years. Through its processes, it assists business owners in Market Expansion, Business Development, Entrepreneurial and Intrapreneurial Education and Professional Growth. It is a set of processes that has led numerous companies to succeed where they might otherwise have failed.

Each year the Services Cooperative Association hosts its Annual Economic Forecast, and on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 the association will host its 37th Economic Forecast. Each year the City Controller, or his or her representative, presents the city’s view of the Houston economy, and Houston Community College provides an overview for the State of Texas.

Mr. Chris Brown, Controller for the city of Houston, has once again accepted the invitation to be SCA’s keynote speaker at this event, and Professor of Economics, Ms. Sophie Haci accepted on behalf of HCC.

As Chairman of the Board for the Services Cooperative Association, I cordially invite those of you reading this who live in the greater Houston Area to mark your calendars and take the time to attend this annual event, meet other small business owners, and gain a fresh perspective on the many issues that impact our fellow Houstonians.

I invite you to visit the website here, and learn more about the event, and while there take a moment to check out some of the other resources available through SCA. Food for Thought:  “We learn to do, we learn by actually doing it; men come to be builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. In the same way, by doing just acts we come to be just; by doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled; and by doing brave acts, we become brave”. (Aristotle)

The Emotion Trap

The Emotion Trap

People often ignore factors or circumstances that surround disagreements, and when they do, disagreements escalate into conflict. Delay resolution too long and the conflict becomes intractable.  Once this happens, a successful outcome is harder to reach.

These kinds of conflict leave emotional scars. In an article some years ago I wrote about the emotions that are connected to most conflicts, and how these can interfere with both a timely solution and one that satisfies the interests and needs of those most directly involved in the conflict. The reason why it is so difficult at that point is surprisingly simple.

You cannot overcome an emotional investment on the part of someone without taking the time to separate the person (i.e. his/her feelings) from the issue. Once someone invests his or her emotions in a particular point of view or position, changing that person’s mind becomes very challenging.

A quick look at what we see playing out in our communities and in the country more broadly provides ample evidence of how hard that process can be. We also can look more narrowly and focus on the business world and see conflicts that haven’t been successfully resolved, and the reasons almost always reflect a failure to overcome the emotional investment of the parties in the issue in dispute.

It is easy to point out some of the more typical kinds of unresolved conflicts such as labor strikes in various companies and industries. We know mergers are fraught with conflict because careers and people’s livelihood are on the line. While these kinds of conflicts make the news, they are not even the tip of the iceberg.

Look around your own company or department and, if you pay attention, you will notice that things are not running as smoothly as you initially think. The signs are there, but most people aren’t trained to recognize them for what they are.

Are the other employees in the department competitive in an obvious way? Just about everyone is taught that competition is a good thing, but there is a fundamental truth in the old adage that too much of a good thing is harmful. When employees in a group or department become too competitive, it is a symptom of something much larger. In a highly charged environment where employees become excessively competitive, teamwork collapses. This, in turn, introduces another group of behaviors that are mostly negative.

Are you uncertain of your management team, and as a consequence, are you trying to “fly under the radar”? This defense mechanism is not uncommon when employees find themselves working for managers that are never around, or who are known to excessively criticize an employee’s work.

In an environment where conflict percolates beneath the surface and goes unresolved, a series of behaviors can build up and continue almost unnoticed that force people in that department to adjust here, bend there, and make other kinds of compromises to get things done.

And when you go home at the end of the day, you take with you a lingering sense that the day did not go as well as you wanted. That sense of dissatisfaction builds up and eventually impacts your performance, your dedication, and your commitment.

Unresolved conflict erodes group cohesion, damages professional relationships, and can even damage the organization. People’s emotions sustain conflict, and once you recognize that, you can begin the process of unwinding the issues that created the conflict in the first place.

In my work, I talk about this unwinding process in terms of a triangle. Some of you who’ve read my newsletter over the years know I talk about this from time to time. I try not to repeat myself, and look at different ways of making these essential points. For those of you reading this for the first time, the three-point of the triangle are: Separate, Explain, and Criteria.

Successful conflict resolution almost always begins by getting each sides’ assumptions out into the open. The emotional investment that I talk about in this letter is, more often than not, supported by assumptions; mostly about the other parties in the dispute. Bringing those assumptions out into the open is the first step in separating fact from fiction, and separating the person from the emotions.

The manager or the person facilitating the process can then present a set of questions that allow the people involved to explain their issues in detail. The explanation process introduces clarity, and this produces understanding. This is not a step where one party agrees or accepts what the other party wants. It is the point where each side understands the other. The foundation for conversation is built.

The third corner is what I call the criteria step. Once the foundation for dialogue is built, potential solutions require clearly identified criteria that will allow the solutions to advance in a manner the people can see and evaluate objectively.

This is the crux of the process. The triangle has to be more than a drawing on a page or whiteboard. The process requires that the parties to the conflict take action in a controlled way that leads to a successful resolution of the conflict. This action has key components, including, but not necessarily limited to:

  • Jointly developing a written plan where everyone involved in the conflict agrees with the plan. (consensus over compromise)
  • The basis for measuring results is built into the plan
  • Key decision-makers are identified early and their roles are equally clear
  • Ownership of outcomes is a commitment established at the beginning

Work environments damaged by conflict can be healed, and the integrity of the organization restored. Those directly involved in the conflict, and those brought in to assist need to recognize that this process is not without consequences. In my work with clients I keep two concepts in mind; equity and prudence.

I emphasize these two concepts because, in today’s environment, people accept the idea of collateral damage far too easily. I have an immense distaste for solutions that clear the field without any thought to innocent bystanders.

Food for Thought:  In order to develop a complex argument it is necessary to ask what, how, and why questions. These questions will lead from observation to exploration and from there to an argument (from the Penguin Handbook).

Do you have questions about how to grow your business?  CDC Integrated Services Supports the Services Cooperative Association. Learn more about them at: www.servicesca.org.

When The Two Don’t Meet

Each month I send out a newsletter. The title of this publication is Putting It in Context. My readers know that, while the subjects I cover may touch on a range of issues, they all center on the core themes of my books, speeches, training modules, and the other core services of my business.

I will occasionally take a risk and tackle a subject I don’t normally talk about, such as leadership, but I do so in the context of a specific subject or issue; otherwise, it’s like tossing a pail of water into the ocean.

Also, regardless of that month’s subject, I always tie the idea in the letter with my closing thought. Each letter ends with my “Food for Thought” statement. This closing is either something I want people to think about, or I connect it to something someone else said that is particularly relevant to the month’s topic.

Yesterday’s letter was about perceptions and misperceptions as it relates to conflict in the workplace, and how many people think that what works in one set of circumstances should work elsewhere. One of the subjects I touched on was that negotiations and mediations are not the same. The processes and techniques of each may overlap occasionally, but to assume they do so in most circumstances is a recipe for failure.

In my closing I reminded readers that “A successful negotiation requires compromise, but successful conflict resolution requires consensus. Sometimes the two meet in the middle, and sometimes they don’t”.

Experienced leaders and senior managers know the difference between the two, and avoid mixing the two concepts. Further down the chain managers and supervisors frequently do get it wrong in that they try to direct parties in conflict to compromise.

The parties may yield to that pressure in the near term, but it will re-surface at a most undesirable moment. In a conflict situation it is not the agreement that matters, but the consensus on which the agreement rests.

So keep reading my letters, and I invite anyone to call who simply has a question unrelated to a specific problem. No one will try to sell you anything. If you have a concern about something specific, then I invite you to call me at your earliest convenience. During the month of August the first ½ hour is free.

We can be reached at: info@cdci-mediation.com, jerry@cdci-mediation.com, or at (C) 832-452-8537; (O) 346-561-0612.

What Did He Say?

 

Human head silhouette with question mark concept

Every once in a while, when you are deep into a discussion, you hear something that sounds like “and the eagle flew upside down.” Your first reaction is what? What did he say? If the person was talking to you, your second reaction is, am I losing my hearing? So you ask, what did you say? The person typically will give an answer that removes the initial confusion, but it will not ease the sense of disquiet that the person listening missed an essential clue in the conversation.

It is a common feeling because many times we do miss important clues. During his career, Peter Drucker would tell executives he worked with that in a negotiation the most important thing about that negotiation is what is left unsaid. When saying that, one of the things he was alluding to is that neither side takes the time to learn what is important to the other party in the disagreement.

Whether you are negotiating a contract or helping two parties settle a dispute, the truth underlying Peter Drucker’s admonition is an enduring truth. Too many times I see parties in a negotiation assigning little or no value to the other party’s concerns. Having done this for some years now, I’ve learned to discuss this issue early either in a mediation or when hired to help someone through a negotiation.

When I am brought in to consult, I make it clear that the route to a failed negotiation is taking the position that winning on all your key points is all that matters. Some years ago I assisted in a negotiation that led to an impasse because the person I was helping went into the room convinced he was right and the other side needed to see it his way. Many of you reading this already know that the insistence on being right is rarely a winning strategy.

In this instance when my client successfully painted himself into a corner, I suggested we take a break, which he readily agreed to. During our meeting, I asked him what he wanted to do. His first reaction was that he could not give up his position, that the other party would “run the table on him.” I let him talk for a bit, and then I asked him, what are the two key points the other side raised, and why were those two issues important to them?

After a short conversation, it became clear he could not state clearly why those two issues were essential to the other party. He had not learned that before sitting down to negotiate, and he had not discovered it during the negotiation. I suggested that when they resumed the discussions, that he re-set the tone by asking just one question. What is it you want me to know?

It is a simple question, yet a powerful one. Surprisingly, it is one question both sides forget to ask. I recently attended a dinner where a gentleman with a great deal of experience in this field gave a speech, and it was downright eerie to listen to him talk about solving disagreements and using language very similar the language I routinely use.

In the example above the two sides eventually resolved the dispute successfully, but it took a bit of effort to get there. (My client was young, successful, and brash). He had good control over his personal and professional life, except for his ego; which is common among very bright people.

I was reminded of this when I read the book, Multipliers, by Dr. Liz Wiseman. A number of the examples in her book resonated with me because of my own experiences in helping others to become better listeners. I urge those reading my letters to buy this book – after buying my latest book. It’s called The Battle for Ethics and Integrity in the Workplace: The Leaders Dilemma.

And this brings me back to the eagle flew upside down. When you experience such a moment, you will find you don’t have a hearing problem; you have a listening problem. There is a growing awareness of this, and more companies are providing training to their employees to become better listeners. Unsurprisingly, I find too many companies offering these classes to the wrong end of the organization chart.

It is hard to convince employees to engage in better listening exercises when those higher up the chain don’t walk the walk. Managers and senior managers have a hundred different ways of saying “make the problem go away, do it quickly, and as cheaply as possible.” We have all heard variations of that theme enough times to know it creates more problems than it solves. Still, it remains an all too common message employees receive.

The gap between agreement and disagreement won’t go away until you take the other side seriously and they perceive you are doing so. It applies equally to disagreements with coworkers as much as it does at the negotiating table.

When something you read raises a question, don’t be bashful. Give us a call. We can be reached at 346-561-0612, 832-452-8537, or at: info@cdci-mediation.com. You can also learn more about CDC Integrated Services by visiting our website at www.cdci-mediation.com

Food for thought: Beyond the precise meaning found in a dictionary, judgment is more than just the ability to make good decisions about what needs doing. It begins by thinking carefully and critically, which are skills that come through practice. You cannot acquire them by going to a conference or a seminar.

The Eagle Flew Upside Down

Have a Question Contact CDC Integrated Services, LLC

What Did He Say?

Every once in a while, when you are deep into a discussion, you hear something that sounds like “and the eagle flew upside down.” Your first reaction is what? What did he say? If the person was talking to you, your second reaction is, am I losing my hearing? So you ask, what did you say? The person typically will give an answer that removes the initial confusion, but it will not ease the sense of disquiet that the person listening missed an essential clue in the conversation.

It is a common feeling because many times we do miss important clues. During his career, Peter Drucker would tell executives he worked with that in a negotiation the most important thing about that negotiation is what is left unsaid. When saying that, one of the things he was alluding to is that neither side takes the time to learn what is important to the other party in the disagreement.

Whether you are negotiating a contract or helping two parties settle a dispute, the truth underlying Peter Drucker’s admonition is an enduring truth. Too many times I see parties in a negotiation assigning little or no value to the other party’s concerns. Having done this for some years now, I’ve learned to discuss this issue early either in a mediation or when hired to help someone through a negotiation.

When I am brought in to consult, I make it clear that the route to a failed negotiation is taking the position that winning on all your key points is all that matters. Some years ago I assisted in a negotiation that led to an impasse because the person I was helping went into the room convinced he was right and the other side needed to see it his way. Many of you reading this already know that the insistence on being right is rarely a winning strategy.

In this instance when my client successfully painted himself into a corner, I suggested we take a break, which he readily agreed to. During our meeting, I asked him what he wanted to do. His first reaction was that he could not give up his position, that the other party would “run the table on him.” I let him talk for a bit, and then I asked him, what are the two key points the other side raised, and why were those two issues important to them?

After a short conversation, it became clear he could not state clearly why those two issues were essential to the other party. He had not learned that before sitting down to negotiate, and he had not discovered it during the negotiation. I suggested that when they resumed the discussions, that he re-set the tone by asking just one question. What is it you want me to know?

It is a simple question, yet a powerful one. Surprisingly, it is one question both sides forget to ask. I recently attended a dinner where a gentleman with a great deal of experience in this field gave a speech, and it was downright eerie to listen to him talk about solving disagreements and using language very similar to the language I routinely use.

In the example above the two sides eventually resolved the dispute successfully, but it took a bit of effort to get there. (My client was young, successful, and brash). He had good control over his personal and professional life, except for his ego; which is common among very bright people.

I was reminded of this when I read the book, Multipliers, by Dr. Liz Wiseman. A number of the examples in her book resonated with me because of my own experiences in helping others to become better listeners. I urge those reading my letters to buy this book – after buying my latest book. It’s called The Battle for Ethics and Integrity in the Workplace: The Leaders Dilemma.

And this brings me back to the eagle flew upside down. When you experience such a moment, you will find you don’t have a hearing problem; you have a listening problem. There is a growing awareness of this, and more companies are providing training to their employees to become better listeners. Unsurprisingly, I find too many companies offering these classes to the wrong end of the organization chart.

It is hard to convince employees to engage in better listening exercises when those higher up the chain don’t walk the walk. Managers and senior managers have a hundred different ways of saying “make the problem go away, do it quickly, and as cheaply as possible.” We have all heard variations of that theme enough times to know it creates more problems than it solves. Still, it remains an all too common message employees receive.

The gap between agreement and disagreement won’t go away until you take the other side seriously and they perceive you are doing so. It applies equally to disagreements with coworkers as much as it does at the negotiating table.

When something you read raises a question, don’t be bashful. Give us a call. We can be reached at 346-561-0612, 832-452-8537, or at: info@cdci-mediation.com. You can also learn more about CDC Integrated Services by visiting our website at www.cdci-mediation.com

Food for thought: Beyond the precise meaning found in a dictionary, judgment is more than just the ability to make good decisions about what needs doing. It begins by thinking carefully and critically, which are skills that come through practice. You cannot acquire them by going to a conference or a seminar.

Season’s Greetings

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

We at CDC Integrated Services wish to take a moment to thank everyone who chose us to aid them with the issues brought to us during the past year. We are grateful for your business and wish all of our clients a safe and peaceful new year.

Peace and Goodwill to all.

From Jerry Cooper and the CDCI team

A Retainer That Makes Sense

Benefits of a Professional Conflict Resolution Services On Retainer:  Dozens of different conflicts confront people in a corporate setting every day. It’s a fact of life, and with millions of people are in the workforce today, it’s not going to get any easier. Some companies have such strife among the workers that the work environment becomes hostile, and getting things done is difficult at best. To avoid such potentially disastrous consequences, it is important to have options, including access to a professional conflict resolution service already on retainer. The following are the benefits that will come with hiring a professional to facilitate/mediate conflicts that fall outside the normal give and take dynamic.

Conflict Solution Companies Put Employees First:  When human interaction in the workplace causes strife, workers can find themselves in difficult situations. Most companies have policies that direct employees to seek the assistance of their supervisors when experiencing difficulties, but what if the supervisor or manager is the source of the conflict?

The outside conflict solutions company companies put employees first and make sure that they understand that facilitators/mediators are not there to cause anyone to lose their job, or causing the company any problems. Conflict solution professions know how to defuse disputes in ways that allow the parties to move forward more productively. Their goal is to breakdown the arguments, remove false assumptions, open communication between disputants, and expand options. To do it correctly takes time, and that is a resource not available to those trying to get the job done.

The Goal is Peaceful Resolution:  Going forward, you’ll find that a conflict resolution company achieves peaceful outcomes at a very high rate and at surprisingly modest costs when compared to traditional avenues such as litigation or arbitration. The goal here is to make sure that anger and other frenetic emotional responses are not the norms. Emotional responses drive negative behaviors that make the arguments more difficult to overcome, and conflict professionals can help with calming things down before strife causes those involved to quit. Turnover produces many negatives of its own, and facilitating/mediating disputes can have a positive effect on the “revolving door”.

Quick Recovery:  When conflicts are not resolved promptly and fairly, the parties involved will build and hold grudges, and at some point, those grudges will boil over. They will feed lingering discontent, and will not want to work things out when future disagreements arise. Conflict solutions professionals focus on efficiently resolving conflicts and problems for their client company. Their goal is to make sure that conflict resolution creates an agreement between the parties, and the dynamics of the group is restored. A powerful benefit of having a conflict solutions company on retainer is it thwarts the paralysis of uncertainty, allowing a healing process to begin much sooner.

Empowering Your Workers:  Following along with other benefits, it’s imperative to understand that a professional conflict resolution company empowers workers by providing them the means to resolve the conflict and stay in control of the process. They educate the workers and unite people instead of dividing them. They focus on hearing all sides. They work towards resolving issues that are going to help not only the immediate issue(s) but will offer a blueprint for employees going forward. Managers and employees will be empowered to deal with conflicts before they get out of hand. Ultimately, over time a cultural shift may occur making the use of the outside professional necessary only on an exception basis.

The Results Matter:  As stated above, the most obvious benefit is the high degree of success. Moreover, once implemented, the willingness of employees to use the process under the guidance of the neutral third-party increases, and the number of intractable disputes decreases.

Want to know more? Please contact us for more information. We can be reached at 832-452-8537

Finding the “SD” in Mediation

“People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do”. (Isaac Asimov)

Mediators who do not allow the principle of self-determination to guide the mediation’s outcome will risk seeing that mediation fail.

Mr. Mark Baer, a mediator who writes interesting articles, posted a recent study about mediation and shared it with us on his LinkedIn page. The study focused on family law mediation in California, and the data developed as part of that study identified an interesting fact. In the state of California the field is saturated with retired judges and attorneys.  Having wrapped up their legal career these judges and attorneys turned to mediation as a second career.

I found several other facts in this study to be interesting as well. Their careers and experiences did not prepare them on how to use mediation effectively. The study reinforced the basic fact that good mediation combines skill, training, and experience. The researchers concluded in fairly blunt terms that mediation requires skills that …”judges and lawyers do not possess by virtue of having decided cases in a courtroom…”, and in that state surprisingly few retired judges and lawyers have any formal mediation training.

The study further disclosed that there is a higher instance of these mediators pressing or directing the parties in these mediations towards a preferred or suggested outcome, such that a higher number of mediations didn’t hold up, and the parties to a dispute reverted back to litigation. It confirmed what I had seen at an anecdotal level.  The dry nature of the data understates the burdens these failures place on those who find themselves back in court

Mr. Baer has written before about the risks attorneys run when they, under the guise of mediation, begin to subjectively evaluate the actions and positions of the parties and attempt to lead to or suggest a particular settlement. It is a risk that I have written about as well in my posts.

A successful mediation changes the perceptions and relationships of the parties in dispute. It breaks down the distrust that the parties have towards each other, and helps rebuild trust. Successful mediations encourage the parties to decide the outcome(s) they want through consensus by using the process provided by the mediator.

When the process is set in motion correctly, the parties are able to step away from entrenched positions and it allows them to look at alternatives; and looking at alternative solutions is at the heart of successful mediations.

The message here is to think carefully about how you choose a mediator or a third-party neutral to assist in resolving any potential dispute. Ultimately, you need to have confidence in the outcome of any negotiation, and be well satisfied that it sets things back in balance to the point you can move forward.

We at CDCI follow this principle and encourage you to contact us if you have any questions. You can reach us at 832-452-8537, or contact us through info@cdci-mediation.com. We also respond to texts messages.

Mediation is not Surrender

            Unravelling Conflict

I recently read an interesting article in one of the mediation blogs I follow. In that article was a phrase that caught my attention, which reads, in part, “when parties agree to mediate, the search for solutions is not a sign of weakness”. This phrase brought home in a simple way the challenge all mediators face.
Once you have done this a time or two you discover several ways to get things started so that each side talks about the issues that brought them to the table that day. The challenge, though, is getting them to ask the kind of questions they need to ask of the other party that will lead them away from an entrenched defense of their point of view.

In order to explore alternatives the parties need to reach a level of confidence that allows the parties to begin the examination of alternatives. They can only do that by becoming curious about/interest in the other party’s point of view.

A good mediator prepares the parties for the mediation by setting the stage, and in doing so gets the parties to buy into small agreements about the process that will be used. These small agreements occur where the mediator talks about mundane things such as the mechanics of the mediation, his or her role, the expectation of good manners and courtesy, and other such things. During this process, the mediator also explains that this is “their” mediation, and they control the outcome.

At this point the mediator also reminds them in a deliberately low-key manner that they will be the negotiators, they will be the authors of the final agreement, and at that point encourages them to ask questions after each side has stated the reasons for being there.

In my mediations I take several opportunities to make the parties comfortable with the idea of asking questions so that when the parties actually begin to engage each other so that, as mediator I can, where appropriate, encourage the pursuit of questions intended to invite an exploration of solutions without the parties seeing that as a threat or sign of weakness.

In other parts of my business I talk about the importance of building a framework from which questions can be asked and explored. I also emphasize why asking questions is important in my book The Monday Morning Checklist, A Guide for Experienced Leaders in a Busy World. The book is available through Amazon at: http://amzn.to/2f08DIH.

Is Your Integrity Intact?

Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams our second president, was his intellectual equal. They wrote each other frequently when they were apart because they trusted each other’s judgement.  In one of her letters she wrote, in part, “…How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking!”

Ethics and ambition will be in conflict with each other if a leader is not the master of his ambition. There are two kinds of leaders; one kind keeps his/her integrity intact, and the other type of leader does not.

The one who does keeps it close and guards it. It is OK if it is a little tattered around the edges and maybe holding a patch or two, but it is essentially all there. The one who does not keep his integrity intact sheds pieces along the way so that when that leader reaches the position he or she holds, there is a real question whether or not they can conduct themselves in an ethical manner.

I think the verdict is clear. Just in the past five years you can find real life examples of corporate leaders who failed in spectacular fashion.The seeds of their destruction was a result, in large part, to their unethical conduct. They chose the easy path instead because it looked like the fastest way out of a dilemma. Yet solutions that often seem to be a way out of a dilemma create opportunities for inappropriate behavior.
It leads to policies that, instead of creating innovation and growth, function as a shield allowing directors and managers to engage in behavior that is self-serving and unethical.

How many of you have heard the phrase honest to a fault?  All us deal with a lot of noise in popular culture. With great sound and fury we demand that our leaders must be as close to perfect as possible. Yet, even the best of us lead imperfect lives, and the successful leader is one who catches his/her mistake and quickly corrects it. Good leaders do not allow gaps to form between the error and the action to correct the mistake.

How can you be sure you are doing everything you can to keep your integrity intact? Review the absence of the word “morality” in the business environment. This word gets very little attention in within the business community and this is ultimately harmful. This is not about forming judgements or replacing standards of behavior. It is about the moral dimensions of what they are doing.  A leader cannot build an ethical culture in his organization without understanding the foundation on which ethics rests.

Want to know more, call us at 832-452-8537, write to us at info@cdci-mediation.com.

That Sinking Feeling

In my book, which will be available through Amazon Kindle in about three months, if not sooner, I talk about the fact that many companies say they are customer focused, but they aren’t. They say they are committed to under-promising and over performing. They point out, often with much fanfare, that they have strong compliance programs and have a solid ethical foundation. They spend millions of dollars each year selling that message – until things fall apart.

It turns out it’s a fancy façade on a structure that is deeply flawed. One day the façade collapses and the structural flaws are glaringly obvious. A few months ago, we turned on the TV or opened the newspaper and read how Wells Fargo had, over a number of years, stolen money from millions of accounts, and now we see United Airlines in the midst of a disaster the scope of which will not be known for months.

It is safe to say that the credibility of both companies is non-existent. Wells Fargo is a company that has been around for more than 140 years, and they will do what it takes to rebuild its reputation. It will be a long-term effort but they have every reason to succeed. United Airlines presents us with more questions than answers at this point. But in its own way this failure is every bit as stunning as something pulled from the pages of a melodrama.

When I  discuss ethics and integrity training with executives and managers , I am often confronted by a check the box mentality. I sometimes need to remind these men and women that they work in a high risk environment and the existence of compliance programs, ethics policies, written standards of behavior, and even training programs are not guarantors of success. That compliance failures and ethical lapses are just one bad decision away from erasing all hard-won gains.  These failures often occur because they don’t look at ethics and integrity with a focus on the human factor.

Want to know more about our approach to ethics and integrity training? I invite you to take a few brief minutes and visit our website. Our approach is designed to reduce the impact on the time of executives and managers. Take a moment to view our upcoming training event in early May, and we will be happy to answer any questions you have.

 

 

 

An Uphill Climb

In a recent article I read, the author talked about how technology is disrupting the way work is done both nationally and internationally. Companies like Facebook and Uber have, within a few short years, achieved market values greater than 80 percent of the companies on the S&P 500. They have corporate structures, processes, and systems, but unlike the large corporations that have been around for decades, they do not have thousands of employees.

More than just the computer, technology is disrupting business models across the world and rendering many traditional methodologies obsolete. Brick and mortar stores like Macy’s and jcpenney are struggling to create new workable models in an environment where technological innovation is forcing a brutal transformation.

Add to this many companies are merging, and their organizations are growing more complex as their size increases. Managing these larger, more complex organizations successfully is a daunting task. Managing Ethics and Integrity issues in these demanding times also grows more challenging. The near constant demand to control costs in a low growth, low profit world puts intense pressure on companies to find savings. Many times training programs of all kinds become an easy target; ethics and integrity training included.

This unrelenting pressure claims high-profile victims every year. Whether it’s Wells Fargo Bank’s epic ethics failures, or MD Anderson’s failure to follow basic rules in placing millions of dollars in contracts involving a state of the art technology created by IBM, the number of companies that fail to comply with their compliance obligations grows each year.  There is an area of risk that risk managers content with almost daily. Regardless of the fact that most companies have a range or resources that focuses on compliance and ethics, they do not provide certainty. The number of companies that must work under a Consent Decree or Deferred Prosecution Agreement give proof to that reality.

The list of companies that fail to meet requirements and standards grows every year, and companies struggle every day to avoid being added to the list. The question one needs to ask is if the old business models are being transformed as we speak, why do so many companies still rely on canned training programs that drive managers and employees to check the boxes at the appropriate places?

If the example of Wells Fargo and dozens of other companies teach us anything, it is that existing programs do not drive the cultural changes necessary for modern complex organizations to succeed long-term. We at The Ethics Workshop believe that a series of relatively small incremental steps, consistently applied and reinforced over time, will sow the seeds for real cultural changes in this demanding environment. We invite you to reach out to us and consider having a brief conversation. You have nothing to lose and potentially something to gain. To learn more please visit our website to view these offerings in more detail.

Each month I remind my readers in and around the Houston area that I support a business cooperative called Services Cooperative Association. SCA is an non-profit entity that helps people become successful business owners and entrepreneurs and it does this through regular workshops and a variety of training options. If you know someone with the desire to start a business, invite them to visit the website.

Food for Thought:  Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. (Helen Keller)

Communication and Forts

Defensive Fort

All across the country in companies large and small annual reviews occur between a manager and the employees reporting under him or her. In the course of conducting this performance review, one of the areas that almost all performance appraisals include is how well the manager and employee communicated.

Whether the person being evaluated got a very good score, or something less, the inevitable result is that the evaluation will leave room for improvement, and will include suggestions to that effect.

But what if you find yourself involved in communication that is not intended to get things done – at least in a way that will advance the goals and objectives that matter.  What about communication that does the opposite? In work environments where conflict goes unresolved communication isn’t about getting things done. There individuals begin talking over each other, going around each other, and working at cross purposes. The consequences of unresolved conflicts is significant.

Communication becomes the vehicles by which the combatants in a conflict build their defenses. They defend their positions in a conflict before any consideration about how it affects the work. Any criticism or complaint, no matter how small, becomes an imperative that must first be defended against and then challenged.

In this environment it is critical that encouraging and positive statements be maximized and that body language fully complement the language being used. When there is a disconnect between the words and the speaker’s body language, any effort to de-construct the defenses of employees in a conflict will quickly lose credibility.

Social scientists have developed a significant body of empirical data that non-verbal communication often sends messages more clearly that words. When I am asked by client about assisting in resolving work place conflict, this is one of the areas I focus on almost immediately. I emphasize the importance of choosing carefully how words are used, by whom and where, and review non-verbal elements that can undermine their efforts.

There are many ways that body language can undermine someone’s efforts to resolve a dispute. One of the suggestions I frequently make to managers and supervisors is to always hold those discussion where everyone is sitting in a straight backed chair. Nothing robs a manager’s credibility quicker than the parties in conflict sitting in the manager’s office in “visitor chairs”, and the manager is in a chair where he ca swivel and look away or lean back. Nothing creates a more powerful message of “I am not as involved in this as you” or even worse “I am really being patient here so let’s hurry it up”.

We at CDC Integrated Services are ready to answer questions or to meet for more detailed discussions. Visit us here to find your answers.

The Past Matters

Turning the Wheel of Conflict

In mediation disputes the past does matter. Earlier this fall I wrote about the Wheel of Conflict, a concept introduced in a book written by Professors Bernard Meyer and Christopher Moore. In their analysis of conflict, a series of common themes interact with each other; some more heavily than others. Yet, they all play a part in the dynamics of a conflict.

Spin the wheel and the arrow will eventually stop on “history”. What does the history of the parties to conflict tell a mediator about the nature of that conflict? An experienced mediator knows that this is a key element in any conflict and it must be described and expressly recognized so that any decisions reached build important elements of continuity that have value in resolving the conflict.

People that view conflict through the prism of their experience in the business world can have a distorted understanding of how conflict is resolved. For many it is a problem that is taken outside the normal processes so that work can move forward. The fact that it is often moved outside of the normal processes sometimes results in people involved a conflict not having the opportunity to resolve underlying issues; which can color or adversely impact all future relationships involving the parties to the original conflict.

Sometimes the parties to a conflict stay involved all the way to the resolution, and still those underlying issues can remain unresolved. Add to this dynamic the reality that many companies, being sensitive to accountability and diligence concerns, choose binding arbitration which generally solves the immediate issues, but does little to address the root cause of the conflict in the first place.

Some conflicts are easier to resolve than others. Family feuds can last beyond an individual’s lifetime, and the damage can be incalculable. In business disputes the goal is to resolve the conflict in way that preserves the relationship so that the work can move forward without further disruption. They are not necessarily easier to resolve, but the simple fact that people’s careers and livelihoods are often on the line tends to focus one’s attention on search for ways to solve disputes in a business environment.

What the parties to the conflict need to know about the other party matters. Failure to understand the motivations and values of the other party(s) to the conflict will lead to assumptions about the other party that are almost always wrong. The drawing of conclusions will create negative biases that can impede or damage progress, delay resolution of the issues, and even bring about long-lasting harm to a business relationship.

The above cannot be overstated. Whether you Kellogg protecting a cereal brand, Mattel defending a line of dolls, or Oracle protecting its software, the battles are costly, time-consuming, and damaging to the reputations of both parties in these types of disputes.

Mediation is often the overlooked avenue that prevents conflicts from escalating to the point they become a legal precedent or a case study in business schools, and these outcomes are legacies most companies want to avoid.

Want to know more about prevent or mitigating business conflicts? Contact us at www.cdci-mediation.com or by E-mail at info@cdci-mediation.com. We can also be reached by telephone at 832-452-8537.

I strongly support small business development. I do this through the Services Cooperative Association here in Houston. SCA helps people become successful business owners and entrepreneurs. If you work in Houston, Texas have breakfast with us at the Lakeside Country Club on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017. We will be hosting the 34th Annual Economic Forecast. Contact me for a ticket at a reduced price, or learn more about the event here.

The Hidden Snares

Before decisions comes the problem solving

I live and work in Houston Texas as do many of the people who read my letters and follow my blog. Many of you living here work for companies with a focus on or an involvement in oil and gas production. Others work in companies not related to oil and gas, but represent a number of other industries. No matter which industry, most of the companies over a certain size, have the following characteristics in common:

A compliance program conforming to the regulations and rules promoted by either the federal or state government.

An ethics policy

A credo stating the company’s foundational principles

Procedures and guidelines that incorporate clear standards of behavior

Training programs that direct managers and employees in understanding their obligations across a range of ethical issues.

For many companies these are important processes that go back decades. Companies spent tens of thousands of dollars to set up and implement these processes and spend thousands of hours and a significant amount of money each year managing these processes, analyzing and reporting on their adherence to and compliance with these requirements.

Last week I stood next to a client looking at a section of the Interstate that passes in front of his office about 100 yards away and some three stories below us. He noted that the real estate we saw in front of us had changed a lot in the 30 plus years he had been at that location, and that the way he did business had changed even more.

We had just finished a meeting where we were discussing some changes to the way his company approaches ethics training and it was a conversation that had some difficult moments for both of us because his company spent a lot of money to install and implement the processes that are in place and the training that supports it. He was still not convinced of the benefits to his operations.

As we stood there, I asked him to think about the fact that he and I are surrounded by companies that have all the above processes, including his company; all of them trying to get it right. Yet the landscape is dotted with companies that operate under a Consent Decree or Deferred Prosecution Agreement imposed by the Department of Justice because in spite of the above, they didn’t get it right.

That is the harsh reality of today’s compliance environment. It does not matter whether your company is in the oil & gas industry, banking, or retail, none of these processes and programs offer any level of certainty. Given the number of companies that fell short and paid sizable fines, and must now conduct their operations under the watchful eye of the government, the question becomes how to avoid being added to the list.  My client thanked me for giving him such a warm and fuzzy feeling and said that perhaps we did need to talk more on the ideas we discussed, and he invited me back in the New Year to talk more.

The people who manage and administer a company’s compliance program well appreciate the difficulties they work under.  For them it is a constant search for behaviors behind decision-making that do not conform to the standards, working to re-orient, and train managers and employees not to take the wrong action. Compliance professionals know full well that somewhere someone is taking a shortcut, intimidating an employee, or engaging in any number of actions that lead to unethical conduct, which if not corrected, will result in adverse consequences that are almost always severe and expensive.

Here at the Ethics Workshop, a division of CDCI we help our clients focus on the human factor behind these processes and procedures. In our presentations and training modules we look for ways to have conversations that promote an organic approach to ethics. To learn more please visit our website to view these offerings in more detail.

If you read my letter on a regular basis you know that I support those starting new businesses or looking to grow their business, and I offer that support through an organization called the Services Cooperative Association. The SCA is hosting an economic forecast on January 11, 2017 and the keynote speaker will be Mr. Chris Brown, Houston City Comptroller.  Also speaking is  Professor Sophi Haci of the economics department of Houston Community College who will give an overview of the Texas economy. It will the 34th year that SCA sponsors this event and I invite you to visit the announcement here to learn more about it and put it on your calendar.

Thought for the day and one of my favorites: “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” (John Wooden).

The Absence of Courage

Broken concrete pier or jetty and rocks on a blue sea. Hills on background. Long exposure photography.

After the Shock Wave

This week’s blog can also be called Ethic’s Seismic Fracture, and here is why.

Wells Fargo Corporation opened fake bank accounts and fake credit card accounts, and charged its customers fees for accounts they did not know existed. These actions were both illegal and unethical and will have significant consequences for all those involved. It has all the trappings of a soap opera scandal and everyone is piling on adding his or her opinion wherever they can. But the story is not over and I think there is more to come.

This is an ethical failure of seismic proportions, and I will likely write about it in a future letter, but it is too soon because I don’t believe we know the whole story. It does offer an excellent segue into a related issue that I think is relevant to this story.

An article in the Harvard Business Review discussed the subject of listening and why this is such a critical skill for CEOs and other leaders. The author noted that a recent survey indicated as many as 25 percent of CEOs of major companies were either not good listeners or down right bad at it. The article went on to explain that this deficit at that level of leadership in a company can have severe consequences to the point of damaging the company. I think it’s safe to say the authors of that survey got that one right.

When such a deficit exists at the top level, imagine what the absence of this skill would mean in someone heading up a major business unit who must communicate and receive feedback from other business unit leaders. Information naturally flows up an organization making information transfers across the various organizations difficult at best, but it is made more difficult if the person in charge of one of these organizational structures does not listen well.

Think for a moment about a company much like Wells Fargo where employees at multiple levels in an organization are trying to convey important information up the chain of command; information that signals the train is going too fast and is about to go off the tracks, but that information doesn’t move up the organization. It meet resistance that shows itself in several ways. These can be procedures that require detailed explanations and lengthy reviews for no apparent reason, a set of well-established routines that do not conform to any written procedures or policies and which cannot be bypassed, and a culture that says to the average manager or employee “make your numbers first and save your complaints for later…” The transition from poor listening skills to an un-willingness to listen is a very short step.

One of the most important skills a leader has is the ability to listen. It is one of the ingredients of leadership that separates a leader from the rest of the crowd. Does this mean that you can’t achieve a leadership role without this skill? No, it doesn’t; a person can achieve a leadership role in a company or organization without this skill, but the chances of doing well in that position are significantly diminished without it.

The leaders at Wells Fargo failed in their leadership role. It is not the first company to suffer a severe failure of leadership, and it won’t be the last. As more time passes I think we will find there were ample opportunities to change the work ethic in that company, but the warning signs were ignored. I believe the failure to listen at various levels of the organization was the catalyst that sowed the seeds for disaster.

Successful leaders learn early in their careers that listening is part of a process designed to produce communication with others that works so that misunderstandings are reduced or eliminated. I encourage those who read my letter each month to read, or if you have already, then re-read Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He understood that listening, especially empathic listening requires training. Sometimes leaders trained themselves to achieve this level of listening, and sometimes leaders found someone to teach them how to achieve this level of listening.

In chapter 5 of his book Stephen Covey wrote that there are several principles of communication and he begins by saying “seek first to understand then to be understood”. I believe those principles are as valid today as when he wrote his book some 30 years ago.

The idea that you first needed to understand the person you were talking to was a completely foreign concept to the vast majority of people. In the business world of that era it was seen as an impractical point of view, and that view was not hard to understand in that most communication at time was directive in nature where the boss told his employees what to do and when he wanted it done and the employee was expected to figure it out.

I am firmly convinced that empathic listening as he wrote about has a sound ethical foundation and provides the best framework for building listening skills of the scope and reach that will separate you from the crowd, and sustain you in your role as a leader.

A strong ethical culture requires the right kind of action. Listening is an action and so it must be supported by the right kind of action to be successful.

Food for thought: Great readers and great listeners all have great work ethics. They work hard at what they do and they are devout about their reading and listening. (Andy Wilkinson)

CDC Integrated Services believes that small businesses are the foundation of ingenuity and supports the efforts of the Services Cooperative Association in Houston in its efforts to foster and promote entrepreneurship

Emotions and Conflict

Tough to brakeThis is the third post in my series of comments on the Wheel of Conflict developed by professors Bernard Mayer, Ph.D. and Christopher Moore, Ph.D. In developing the graphic illustration of the different factors that drive conflict, these two gentlemen placed Emotion immediately after Structure. There are sound reasons for their decision to place where they did because emotions drive one’s actions, behaviors, and even thinking.

More than 50 years of research offer compelling evidence that emotions strongly shape most decisions, and are a key driver of behavior, and are often the impetus behind conflicts in the workplace and even between companies. Emotions are not uniformly negative as both science and history teaches us. Strong emotions can drive people to achieve extraordinary things; even anger can generate positive outcomes.

But the converse is equally true in that emotions such as anger can create a negative and damaging environment in the workplace and is often the driver behind many workplace conflicts.

Psychologist John D. Mayer argues that emotions carry a physical aspect when they bridge thought, feeling, and action and can impact a person’s physiology both positively and negatively depending on the level of stress being felt at the time of the decision/action. This simple truth has been experienced by anyone confronted by a demanding task coupled with a critical timeline.

Managers and supervisors often fail to recognize that decisions people make in the workplace are judged, by those making the decision or taking the action, on the basis of the risk to themselves. That perceived risk strongly influences their decisions or their actions. Someone who feels anxious about the impact of the outcome on him/her may choose a more conservative approach, involve others, take longer to execute the task, and potentially sacrifice the best outcome for one that is safe.

A negative work environment will drive other negative behaviors. Doing the safe thing can lead to doing only the least necessary to stay “under the radar”, and it can lead to other more damaging behaviors such as missing schedules, making excuses, asking others to do the work for you.

Managers and supervisors need to develop an active awareness of those situations where emotions can have an adverse effect on the work, the cohesiveness of the group, and the productivity that is necessary to produce the necessary outcomes, and they must be able to react in a constructive way to avoid the potential for conflict without creating reasons for greater anxiety and uncertainty.

Want to know more? Visit us at www.cdci-mediaion.com or call us at 832-452-8537.

August at the Library

Direct from The Ethics Workshop.   Have you been to the library recently?

Well, come join us at the Kendall Branch of the Houston Library (see below) on August 25th.

Start Now Indicating At This Time And Immediate

Experience an Introduction to:

A NEW DYNAMIC – DOING THE RIGHT THING AT THE RIGHT TIME FOR THE RIGHT REASON®

Mark down the date and location shown below. Spend just two hours with us and you will learn about the building blocks for a more dynamic culture in the workplace.

Behavior drives failure and behavior drives success. Lean how to prevent/mitigate failure and increase success in your work.

WHAT WILL BE COVERED

In two hours YOU will learn:

That doing the right thing sets the stage.

That doing the right thing at the right time defeats failure

That doing the right thing for the right reason is the difference between success and great success.

In two hours find out how these building blocks apply to real life situations and can transform a department or a company.

 AUGUST AT THE LIBRARY – join us on the 25th from 1:15 to 3:15 PM at 609 N. Eldridge Parkway, Houston, TX 77079.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST??  WOW!  YOU ARE IN LUCK. For this day only it is FREE.

The regular price for this is event is $189.00 per person, but we are introducing it to businesses in West Houston and Katy on the date indicated above through this no cost introductory offer.

To register, or for more information about other dates, please contact Jerry Cooper at: 832-452-8537, or at jerry_cooper@att.net.

Jerry P. Cooper

CDC Integrated Services, LLC