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Communication and Conflict Resolution

Posted By Editor, Laurie, Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Contributed by Bruce Calvin, JD, President, Calvin Associates Inc.


Creating and Building Effective Organizational Partnerships
March 8th. 9a.m.

After spending over 35 years in the human resources profession honing my craft in the “art” of how to address and keep communication lines open between human beings, a very obvious phenomena has clearly emerged. Over the last several years, it has become more and more evident that communication, our ability to express ourselves in verbal, visional and/or non-verbal form with other human beings is being redefined. 

If there is a potential conflict brewing and/or a misunderstanding has surfaced, it appears the safest and fastest way to respond is by text or emailing the other party. It’s not that this is a bad way of communicating, it just needs to be used in its proper context when there isn’t a potential or perceived issue. In those situations when potential misunderstandings and/or issues begin to arise, so many times a short face to face conversation has allowed misunderstandings to be cleared up. If the conversation is only by text or email, by the third text or email, the real issue is buried and emotional levels are heightened to a pitch. 

Yes it’s easier to just text or email, but unfortunately text and email are, as we know, cold and clinical and usually can and will be taken out of context and/or just taken the wrong way and the flurry begins between the parties. Usually conversation stops between the parties, sides start being taken and you have a communication shutdown. Another challenge occurs when someone inside tries to get the parties to resolve the communication challenge and it usually turns out worse. It’s not because the person trying to fix the issue can’t do it, it’s because they’re just too close to the issue, that’s all. Until, as I call them, an outside neutral “parent/adult” party is brought in and helps get communication lines open in a non-emotional way it cannot get better. 

An experienced outside neutral party will use one or more of the following, either individual counseling, conflict resolution or mediation. When allegations are raised, an investigation may be initiated. Since 2015 I have been focusing on how to help individuals and teams understand that yes, text and email are a critical and time saving method of communicating today. To fully be effective in the art of communicating is the ability to communicate to other human beings on a physical one-on-one basis. It’s not so much the actual communication but more the how we initiate and ensure communication lines stay both open and focused on an equitable resolution. 

By focusing on the issue and not the person, we ensure a better chance of working through to an equitable compromised solution. This provides the opportunity to improve morale, initiate partnerships and is often noticed in a positive light by upper management. I recently had the opportunity to share with the I-680 Commercial Information Exchange the subject of “Communication and Conflict Resolution.” 

I covered the basics of understanding the why we act and respond the way we do and individual tools we can use to effectively open and maintain better lines of communication. In addition, how to use conflict resolution tools and an understanding of the connectivity each of our own individual cultural diversity can contribute to team and organizational success.

Have questions, facing similar challenges? Let’s connect!

I'll be speaking at HR West 2017 on March 8th. 
Creating and Building Effective Organizational Partnerships
9:00am  -  10:15am
Are you attending?  
Register for #HRWest17 with Spkr100 to receive $100 off.


Tags:  Bruce Calvin  Communication Training  HR Coaching  HR Management  HR Training  HR West 2017 

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Defining Problems: The Most Important Business Skill You've Never Been Taught

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2016

By Michael "Coop" Cooper - Executive Coach & Trainer, Influencers & Innovators

Join Coop for his session,
Effectively Analyzing and Defining HR Problems to Get Results, at HR West Seattle, July 15, 2016. 

This article originally appeared on
Albert Einstein once said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” While that may sound extreme, it does highlight the importance of defining problems. It also hints at some interesting facts: A well-defined problem often contains its own solution within it, and that solution is usually quite obvious and straightforward. By defining problems properly, you make them easier to solve, which means saving time, money and resources.

Every businessperson needs to master the ability to define problems, or challenges, but very few MBA programs, leadership development programs or management training programs teach this indispensable skill. I spoke to a group of 80 HR managers recently and asked if any of them had been taught how to define problems. Only one person raised a hand. That’s common to most business groups I speak with on a weekly basis. Less than 1 percent of the workforce has been taught how to define problems.
During my first five years as a coach, I didn’t know how to define problems properly, but in the ten years since, I’ve learned this critical technique. I use it every single day, with every single client. It has transformed how I work with people and has made the work much more impactful. These days, clients will hire me solely based on the fact that I have the ability to define their problems during our very first conversation together. When I hear them begin to differentiate between issues, asking, “Which problem are we solving?” I know that I’ve made a major impact on their business.

Defining problems is simple and any difficulty that arises is because it requires patience, repetition and thorough examination. It is the most important element of critical thinking.

You can define problems correctly in just three steps I call the Problem Definition Filter:

1. Explore the current situation. Paint a picture in words by including the “presenting problem,” the impact it is having, the consequences of not solving the problem, and the emotions the problem is creating for those involved.

2. Explain. Once you have examined and clearly explained the situation, draft a simple problem statement by filling in the blank: The problem that we are trying to solve is: ___________. Distill the problem to its simplest form possible.

3. Ask yourself. “Why is that a problem?” If the answer is another problem, then congratulate yourself for moving from the “presenting problem” to a deeper problem. Then ask yourself again, “Why is that a problem?” Do that repeatedly until you either land on what is obviously the source of all of the problems you’ve identified or you identify unexpected consequences of not solving the problem. If you land on unexpected consequences, the problem you identified right before that is likely your “source problem.”

Toyota famously created the "five why’s'' technique for their Six Sigma process improvement program. While that number was limited to five why’s, the truth is sometimes it takes only one why. Other times, it may take 17. Ask as many times as needed until you get to the source problem.

This high-level overview of the Problem Definition Filter can help you learn how to define the problems in your department or business and determine if you’re wasting time and resources on poorly defined problems. When it comes to determining whether you have defined a problem well, ask yourself or your collaborators if the solution to the problem is obvious or straightforward. Also, ask if it is a problem worth solving -- many problems aren’t.

About the Author

Michael O. “Coop” Cooper is an internationally recognized executive coach, advisor, facilitator and trainer who specializes in working with executive teams to develop the leadership skills, alignment and strategies to grow and thrive in a constantly changing environment. His passion is helping entrepreneurs, executives and leadership teams overcome their self-limiting beliefs and personal issues to reach their potential, by addressing interpersonal challenges, defining their purpose, gaining team alignment, and developing the strategy, systems and processes to execute their vision. He founded Innovators + Innovators to help right-brain entrepreneurs and executives capitalize on the need for more creativity in business leadership.

Connect with Coop

HR West Seattle Speaker Session:
Effectively Analyzing and Defining HR Problems to Get Results
Register for HR West Seattle 2016
"HR in the most innovated place on earth"
July 15, 2016


Tags:  HR  HR Management  HR Training  HR West  HR West Seattle  NCHRA 

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