Dealing with conflict at work

We were delighted to be joined by Amy Gallo, contributing editor at Harvard Business Review and author of their Guide to Dealing with Conflict. Amy’s talk combined the latest management research with practical insights to deliver evidence-based advice on difficult conversations, collaborative relationships and negotiations for women at work.

We found Amy’s discussion entertaining and full of practical advice – now to put her tips into practice! Don’t forget to check out further advice from Amy on HBR’s Women at Work podcast.

Here are our key takeaways from the talk:

  1. Too often conflict feels like a threat. We go into fight or flight mode and react with gut instinct rather than considering. Therefore we tend to avoid discussions
  2. Women tend to shy away from negotiation because we are penalised for doing so. Societal expectations of how women should behave are the opposite of how we expect leaders to behave. This double bind is difficult to navigate
  3. Disagreement does not have to be unkind. We get artificial harmony in many workplaces from not dealing with conflict.
  4. Address conflict with kindness and compassion. Try to be thoughtful and caring about other people.
  5. People generally fall into two categories: conflict avoiders or seekers. Avoiders value harmony whilst seekers lean in or create conflict because they value directness and honesty.
  6. Step to analyse a conflict:
  • Understand your counterpart. Think about what the other person is going through. Try to give them the most generous possible scenario to unhook your own bias and to be more open to hearing their perspective.
  • Identify the type of conflict. There are four types at work; relationship; task; process; status – they rarely fall into one category, separate them into each category and then identify the most appropriate solution.
  • Determine your goal. It will help you decide how to tackle the conflict. An overlapping goal makes it far easier to solve the conflict. Think about the business/relationship perspective.

7. Options for handling conflict:

  • Do nothing – in certain scenarios its best to walk away. If you do nothing you have to truly let go
  • Address indirectly (use a metaphor or a depersonalised anecdote);
  • Address directly (Amy’s recommended option if possible)
  • Exit the relationship – not recommended unless it’s paramount to your own wellbeing

8. Buy yourself some time; walk away, particularly if tensions are high; say you need a break. But don’t suggest how other people feel.

9. Don’t have these conversions over email – it does not convey the same emotion that an over the phone or in-person discussion can.

10. Manage your emotions; stay genuinely curious; label your feelings; breath; anchoring.

11. Open the conversation with a question – makes it collaborative and easier to see if you have an overlapping goal.

Final thoughts: What is one way that you behave in a conflict that you’d like to change? Remember you cannot change another person! Try to focus on what you like about that person and manage your own emotions.

How Science Got Women Wrong with Angela Saini

 

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In July, we were delighted to welcome award-winner science broadcaster and journalist Angela Saini.  As well as presenting on BBC Radio and writing for The Guardian, New Scientist and The Economist (among others), she is also author of the critically acclaimed Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong.

Angela spoke to BroadMinded about her extensive research for Inferior, revealing the shocking bias which has shaped scientific studies on gender for centuries, the myths that society has accepted as truths as a result, and the reality about women and men that science is now beginning to uncover.

Here are some of the highlights of her talk (although we highly recommend you buy the book for a fuller picture!):

  • In the past, many scientists allowed their bias and prejudice about gender or race to affect how they read data. As a result, they drew false conclusions about intellect, physical ability and natural status that were deeply damaging to women and other oppressed groups.
  • Scientists today are much more careful about eliminating bias of this kind; however, the rise of ‘click bait’ headlines means that ‘old science’ is getting airtime again in an alarming way.  As consumers it is essential that we read with a critical eye and check sources where possible.
  • Women on average have the same IQ as men and ideas of what women and men are categorically good at and not good at are myths.
  • We absorb stereotypes that we’re raised with and they’re reinforced because of the environment we live in. Upbringing plays a huge role in how socialisation affects us.
  • Studies about ‘inherent’ differences between men and women are notoriously difficult to conduct because of how early socialisation begins. The differences we have been able to identify are so slight as to be insignificant. Differences between individuals are much more significant than any differences between groups.
  • A patriarchal state is not our natural state. Bonobo monkeys (one of our closest evolutionary ancestors) exist within a matriarchal social hierarchy. This is because females cooperate with other females they aren’t related to and these strong bonds prevent males from moving up the hierarchy. We can move beyond the current patriarchal system by coming together and supporting one another.
  • The Nuclear Family is a social construct of how a family “should be”; we have not always lived like this. It forgets the importance of extended family and grandparents. One theory even suggests that grandmothers play a bigger role than parents in increasing human longevity.
  • Although social scientists look at science, scientists often don’t look at the social sciences which have much to tell us about the way that upbringing and environment can affect brain development; this needs to change.
  • Social debates are outstripping what science can tell us; in a lot of cases the science is not yet there to support the debate.
  • Science is one of the slowest areas of society to move on from its mistakes.
  • And finally, once again – differences between individuals are much more significant than any differences between groups so: 1. Let people be who they want to be and don’t try to mould them to a particular idea of what they ‘should’ be. 2. Every time you meet someone new, try hard not to form any stereotypes in your mind. Treat people as individuals.

The Future of Women in the City

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We all know the city has a long way to go when it comes to achieving gender parity. But what are the systemic and cultural problems at the root of this inequality and how can we best tackle them?  This July we were delighted to welcome Peter Harrison, CEO of British multinational asset management company Schroders, who took us through the challenges and successes he has faced in his efforts to bring diversity into the City of London.  Peter was interviewed by the brilliant former Financial Times Business Editor, Sarah Gordon.

The conversation explored a number of the key issues known to be preventing progress, as well as evaluating some of the strategies that have been implemented.  Here are some of the key points:

· The challenges that organisations face are both systemic and human, with unconscious bias still a huge factor. Companies are already changing on a systemic level; the human element is where the challenge lies. Solutions to this need to be broad, but might include companies being required to report on diversity in company accounts or more organisations linking managers’ targets and bonuses to diversity data.

· Data is key.  Ensuring efforts are correctly focused is impossible without this – for example, data would suggest that unconscious bias training is not really effective, whereas standardised interview questions are.

· Gender pay gap reporting was a hugely effective wake-up call to many organisations.  However, the metrics are not perfect.  Some suggest that the gender pay gap may have to widen for long-term positive effects to be felt, as firms need to hire entry-level female talent to close the gap.

· The problem of lack of diversity needs to be addressed by private companies, not just public companies.

· The discussion needs to develop beyond gender into a broader discussion on diversity. Many firms are still not tackling issues such as social inclusion.

 

How to present without losing your nerve

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Presentation skills aren’t just for CEO’s and TV presenters. These are skills required in almost every job, and everyone can learn to become a better public speaker, we just don’t have the techniques – cue the Pitch Process. The Pitch Process, both professionally trained actresses who have been helping people like us for nearly ten years on how to stand up confidently, speak clearly and present in a way that makes people listen.

We were joined by Laura and Peta from the Pitch Proces for a two-hour interactive workshop full of tips and tricks to improve our presenting skills – who knew whispering could be such a useful way to prepare for presentations!

We learned lots of practical techniques, but here’s our summary of the top takeaways from the morning:

 

  1. Preparation is key. Know your material inside out but also prepare yourself inside out. Do whatever you need to feel ready to take on the day whether that’s meditation, a HIIT workout or putting on your favourite red lipstick.
  2. Presence and being present – occupying space is characteristic of confidence. Use your body language, stance, eye contact and energy to hold presence. Be aware of your natural habits (voice, posture, nervous ticks) and adapt them.
  3. Use your imaginary elements (like a light beam or an imaginary cape). External points of focus can transform your body language. You don’t need to use this technique throughout the duration of the presentation, it could work best just for your entrance.
  4. Occupy vocal space. Pace, pitch and volume can all be used with variety to create impact. Warm up your vocal cords. Try reading the presentation in a whisper to practice articulation to avoid stumbling over words.
  5. Pace and pause give authority, impact and resonance and can really make the audience listen. Use pauses to land an idea. Timing is flexible.
  6. The audience is your friend and they want you to succeed! Take them on a journey with you – guide them with questions and eye contact. Tell a story (see Seth Godin).
  7. Know your audience and adapt your behavior accordingly. Are they cats (quiet) or dogs (eager)? Try to think of intentions + actions e.g. make them relaxed + smile, make eye contact. Communication is ultimately about connection and relationship.
  8. Nerves – slowing and elongating the breath helps to relax the nervous system which in turn calms us, makes us sound relaxed, fuels our voice and helps to stimulate relaxed body language. Try visualizing sending a calming blue breath to your diaphragm or place your hand on your stomach to help to connect to the physical sensation.
  9. Release tension. Physically clench your fists and toes then suddenly open them out to feel a physical release and to help release tension.
  10. Name your demon. What are the common negative thoughts that pop into your head when presenting? Try to think of these and think of a response to them – break your demon down.

Why Incompetent Leaders Rise to the Top, and How to Fix it with Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

We were so glad to be joined by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic to discuss his controversially titled book Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders interestingly there were no men in the audience.Tomas is an organisational psychologist and professor of business psychology at UCL and Columbia University as well as Chief Talent Scientist at ManpowerGroup.

Tomas outlined the misconception about the qualities that constitute leadership potentialand redefined what kind of people make the best leaders. Here were our key takeaways from Tomas’ talk:
  1. The book was based on an article that Tomas wrote in 2013 in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In which Tomas views as pseudo-meritocratic messaging much like the American Dream.
  2. In the western world, leadership comes with a certain level of narcissism as it doesn’t consider the collective and therefore doesn’t benefit society as a whole.
  3. The current system incorrectly rewards arrogance, chauvinism and confidence rather than rewarding merit. There’s a need for a system that reduces the number of incompetent people in power.
  4. Not only do we need to promote more competent leaders, we need to assess how leaders perform once they get there to truly judge if they’re good leaders.
  5. Female leaders who rise to the top are a product of the same flawed system/the same flawed leadership archetype
  6. The argument is not to promote more women but to promote a “more feminine leadership style” and people with more typically feminine attributes like self-awareness, humility and a degree of altruism – all beneficial leadership qualities.
  7. We need to learn to assess talent not confidence. The problem is that confidence is easy to see and talent more difficult to judge meaning too often confidence is mistaken for competence.
  8. But, how can we assess talent? Talent isn’t just about assessing hard skills, there are KPIs to judge soft skills too. Hiring companies should be looking at how employees have previously performed by examining upward feedback and 360s rather than just sales statistics.
  9. A good leader needs outward confidence, a degree of inner self-doubt/imposter syndrome, humility, honesty and competency. 
  10. There is hope! With the rise of A.I. and automation it’s EQ that will be increasingly in demand and emotional intelligence that will set talent apart.

 

The Battle for Equality: Lessons from the history of feminism​

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We were joined by Bee Rowlatt, author of In search of Mary, to learn all about the mother of feminism Mary Wollstonecraft. So much interesting ground was covered, but here’s a recap of some of the key things we learned about the inspiring and radical Mary Wollstonecraft:
  1. She wrote the Vindication of the Rights of Man before she wrote Vindication of the Rights of Woman, arguing for human rights, not just women’s rights. Enlightenment theory of perfectibility was central to her argument – that humanity was worth fighting for and that we should always be seeking to improve.
  2. She campaigned for women’s access to education, set up a school for girls and wrote a book titled Thoughts on the education of daughters.
  3. She was tragically erased from the history books. Her legacy was tarnished after details of her life that were deemed unacceptable at the time (having a child out of wedlock, attempting suicide, writing with her tone…) were exposed after her death. You can learn about Bee’s campaign to right this wrong and to memorialise Mary Wollstonecraft here.
Despite the advances that have been made since Vindication of the rights of woman was published we’re still fighting for the gender pay gap and women having control of their own bodies – some of the issues that Wollstonecraft originally argued for. There’s certainly scope to return to some of her writing in the current political climate.
If you’d like to learn more about Mary Wollstonecraft or read more of Bee’s witty (and hilarious) book you can order a copy here (through Hive, which is cheaper and much better for authors than Amazon).

Lessons from Annie Auerbach…Flex: a flexible approach to work, life and everything

We have heard from some fantastic speakers during our time hosting Broad Minded events, but Annie Auerbach was certainly one of the most articulate and witty! During the morning we learned that the ability to build flexibility into your life comes in many guises and the flex experience is totally personal for each individual but here are the key takeaways from Annie’s discussion:

  1. We need a systemic change that supports flex life – but how? Challenge “hustle porn”, machoism and presenteeism in your workplace. Use technology to your advantage. Can you be remote for meetings? Are conversations best had on Slack?
  2. Trust is crucial. Working culture that supports flex is high trust and believes employees won’t shirk.
  3. If you are working flexibly, embrace flex life and be open about it. Don’t be secretive about it. Openness will help to educate your team and challenge “flexism” bias (equating flexible working with a lack of productivity, overlooking for promotions etc.)
  4. Asking for flex in an inflexible work place. Be honest with yourself about what you want and what you can achieve. Think about the business case  and frame the benefits for the team as well as the employer brand e.g. attracts new talent, increases retention loyalty.
  5. A side hustle should be advantageous to your employer. You’re bringing your dynamism and ambition back to the business. See Henley Business School white paper and Timewise
  6. Flex in the home/in a partnership. Sit down and assess how evenly tasks are distributed. Do it with empathy, relinquishing control if you have perfectionist tendencies. Think about the wider picture, long term partnership and family ambitions.
  7. Flex in the body. Understand circadian rhythms and menstrual cycle and use them as a beneficial way to navigate life. Tackle creative tasks at your most efficient times.
  8. How to squeeze it all in? Be efficient, prioritise and set boundaries (and stick to them)!
  9. Flex in our futures. With careers being longer and people living longer  we need to think deeply about the way we live our lives. How can we think flexibly about maintaining our skill sets and staying relevant to ensure we’re not phased out by automation? Flexible working and creativity can help to maintain relevance.
  10. Their motivations are different but there’s a common thread that unites all flexers; they’re brave, creative and thinking in a maverick way. Here’s their 4 stage journey:
  • Clarity – Identifying a clear flaw in your current situation. Why is this not working for you right now?
  • Creativity – You’re paving your own way and creative about the solution to the problem.
  • Chutzpah/Badassness! –  Brazen bravery! It involves going against the grain .
  • Conviction – Obey your own boundaries and stick to your own guns. Flexibility is about intense strength and having hard edges; not answering to emails on your day off and saying no to things.

 

We hope you’re all feeling motivated to build some degree of flexibility into your life. Look out for Annie’s book for more ways to make flex work for you.