Business leaders don’t always have all the answers to everything. But once a workplace crisis arises, you should be ready to take charge. You must know how to deal with your employees and mitigate their challenges. You need to understand the whole story and quickly find the best solutions. If you’re laying people off, you must do so from a place of empathy. Business leaders must play the difficult role of bridge builder that mends the gaps within the team.
Join Alicia Couri as she talks to Conflict Resolution Coach Joyce Weiss about the right way to deal with workplace drama as a business leader. Learn how to drop the ego and show up as an effective team player. If you are currently managing a messy workplace, now is the time to bring that much-needed resolution!
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Solving A Workplace Crisis As An Effective Leader With Joyce Weiss
In this episode, we welcome The Queen of Conflict Resolution, Ms. Joyce Weiss. Joyce says that isn’t it amazing how drama occurs in the workplace? It’s like our own reality show. You want to kick conflict to the curve and get the respect you deserve. Joyce, welcome to the show.
Thank you. I love talking about conflict, especially enthusiastic people who get it. That’s you, Alicia, right?
Yes. The workplace drama that sometimes we wish wasn’t there, leaders have to deal with that every single day when they come to work if there’s drama. Tell me something that you do to support leaders so that they can show up powerfully and resolve conflict without coming to work.
How I spin it to leaders is I say to them, “Imagine a world where your direct reports figure out conflict on their own and don’t come to you or they don’t go to the HR professional.” I then shut up, and how you’re reacting is what they do. They have that big smile.
I want that to happen.
The only way that happens is when leaders realize that they need help. Meaning, most of us were not taught these communication strategies in college. I don’t care how high up the leaders are. I’ve dealt with the high executive level all the way down to the direct report. It’s the executive level.
It doesn’t matter how high up the ladder you are. As a leader, it’s okay to admit that you don’t have all the answers. It doesn't matter how high up the ladder you are. As a leader, it's okay to admit that you don't have all the answers. Click To Tweet
A lot of times, when you hit certain levels of leadership, you have this expectation that you’re supposed to have all the answers. Is that right?
Exactly where I was getting at. You’re in my mind. That’s an issue for many leaders because they don’t ask for help because, “I’m supposed to know it all. I’m getting this salary. I’ve climbed the ladder, I’m here,” whether it’s a CEO or CIO. I don’t care what the big title is. If they see the same patterns going on and on with their top leaders and nothing changes, something has to be done. I’ve got some examples, but you tell me where you want me to go with this.
I love that because we’re not supposed to have all the answers. We are supposed to support one another. We’re supposed to ask for help. This is why I love doing this show because it’s about releasing some of the negative mindset or the negative expectations that you think you’re supposed to have once you hit a certain level of leadership. We don’t always all have it together. We’re talking about workplace drama or workplace conflict. Let’s say we have a leader and a direct report and there’s something going on. Where would you start in that process? Do you start with the leader? Do you start with both of them? What is your methodology for helping that situation?
I’ve tried all different ways. This is what works, at least with my style and with the clients who happen to be attracted to me and to my skills, that I interview both because I got to get both stories. I then have them both together. I ask the same questions, but with both of them in the same Zoom room. Many times it’s, “Are you kidding? Is this what I do?” I’ll then always ask the leader, “What are you hoping that this direct report and I accomplish?” By then, the leader and the direct report agreed that they want to have some coaching.
I then work with each one of them alone. The leader, if he or she, doesn’t always want to. I will work with the report, and I almost beg the leaders to at least have a couple of sessions because we have to talk about possible blind spots and whatever strategies, they use that they may think they’re working. I’m there not to be the devil’s advocate, but I ask, “Are the same patterns appearing?”
I was going to mention blind spots. It’s called blind spots for a reason. You have no idea that it’s there. Sometimes we have behavioral patterns that we’re totally unaware of. We have no actual awareness of how other people are receiving it or how it’s landing with anyone else. If we continue to do that, it causes friction and problems. If you keep it as a blind spot, you’re always like, “I don’t see anything wrong. They need to change.” Both people do need to come to the table together to hear what the other is saying.
Let me tell you a perfect example that you brought up. There was a CEO of a huge global corporation who came to me on Zoom and said, “I’d like you to work with a top executive. He has such potential, but he deals with the weeds. He gets into so many details that we all tune him out. We cannot promote him because we can’t stand being in the room with him, but we don’t know how to say this.” Let’s call the top executive, Tom. I worked with Tom and the first time, I said, “What do you see? How do you see it?” He says, “I don’t know. It seems like people are tuning me out.” He then went into the weeds with me.
I was going to say that’s why we do the assessments that we do so that people can see when they do that, that they have this natural tendency to do it so they can self-regulate.
The coach’s role is not to point things out. They have to make sure that they ask the right questions so the person realizes it. I said, “Tom, let’s stop right now. How do you think this conversation went?” He said, “I did a lot of talking.” That was the beginning of me saying, “Do you know about blind spots? Are you ready?” He was floored and not in a bad way. He didn’t realize that’s why at the executive-level meetings, they all ignored him.
They were tuning out because he went too far down the rabbit hole. Nobody wants to follow you.
This was the top leader. Not the CEO, but a few steps below the CEO.
He’s pretty high up there and as you said, in a global organization. That’s pretty high up. The thing about blind spots and conflict is that each other is not seeing their own blind spots. There’s that conflict happening because I fail to notice my own blind spots. I only see yours, but you are not seeing yours either. We’re battling and that can affect confidence. If you continue to have these exchanges with people, it’s either you start feeling like, “What is wrong with me,” or, “Nobody gets me. Everybody’s wrong.” It’s either you either turn it in or turn it out. How do you as a coach help people understand how to see their blind spots?
I use the word assessment. There are so many of them. I discovered one, it’s called The Conflict Dynamic Profile. It measures how we deal with conflict before, during, and after. I have not had one person yet say, “That’s wrong. How do you know? It’s not me?” It’s such a good assessment. From doing that, “I have people say no wonder why I’m not getting those results because I run away from problems.” There are the people that, “I don’t even think. I just go.”
That’s something that I wanted to ask you if you had certain conflict profiles. How many different conflict profiles are there? The escapee that runs and hides from conflict. There’s the reactor. You say, “The sky is blue. No, it’s red.” They’re looking for some argument. What other types are there?
You hit the two most important ones. The third one, people don’t even realize this until they take the profile or most people don’t. We react to conflict with different people in different ways. They’re called hot buttons or triggers. I did one for a human resource professional. It measures all the hot buttons. Let’s say this is the middle, anything above means the whole world ticks you off. She was off the page for almost every single hot button.
She said, “No wonder why I can’t deal with the super organized person, micromanager, or know it all. She automatically has an issue with every trigger in her life. We’re not going to go analyze each other, but narcissists drive me nuts. When I am with one, I do my best not to react and get out of that room as quickly as I can.
You’re not engaging. They’re looking for a fight. That’s one of the keys too. If you’re around someone that’s always looking for a fight, how do you handle that? If you have a manager or a leader that’s always looking for a battle, contradict, or belittle, how do you respond to that?
In so many ways, it depends. If your leader or manager is a bully, it’s going to be hard. It doesn’t mean you can’t, but I had a client do this. The manager was saying, “Why do you always do this?” They’re always barking at this person who was more of an introvert. She and I practiced and the direct report tried it on him. I said, “It may work. It may not work. Everything’s a risk when we do something new. Let’s call the manager George. “George, I would like to continue this conversation. Could we postpone it to tomorrow because I feel that there are so many items that you’re not pleased with? I want to take a look at the report, see what you say I’m not doing, and get back to you tomorrow.” That is the passive way of doing it, but that’ll shut up that leader who’s doing this to you.
Tomorrow, whenever you decide, or maybe it’s even the next moment say, “You mentioned this and this. I can see that I do that. I agree with you. You mentioned this and this, could you tell me specifically what I do?” Many times, the leader gets caught because he or she’s used to doing this because the direct report never stood up to this person. Does this make sense?
Yes. It does make a lot of sense because it’s now turning it back over to them but in a polite way. “Show me an example of when I do this so that I can correct the behavior, but I need to know specifically.” I had someone tell me something the other day that I should do something a particular way, and I was asking them, “Are you saying that because you’ve heard or noticed me doing such and such that I’m not aware of?”
They were like, “I like to tell people to do things this way.” I was like, “Okay.” I was trying to understand if she was noticing a blind spot of mine that I didn’t realize that I was doing and so she was trying to give me advice, but she couldn’t pinpoint an occasion where I did do the thing that she was trying to correct me on or tell me how I should do the thing. I kept asking the question. I was like, “Yes, but have you heard me say this before? When have I said this or done it this way that makes you bring this up to me? Why are you bringing this up to me?”
The way you handled it, it’s an A+ because you didn’t let her get away with that.
I didn’t want to get offended about her telling me how to do something. I was trying to understand, “When have I done it this way because I can’t ever remember hearing myself say those words?”
You’d be open. She asked because she’s like, “This is the way I like people to do it,” but it probably had nothing to do with you is what you’re saying. It’s just she needed to be the expert and talk. That to me almost sounds a little judge-y. I love judgmental people because I can handle them now. That’s why I do what I do. I help transform people from not knowing how to start a tough conversation to feeling confident speaking their voice, especially during tough conversations. When people are judgmental, I always say to my clients, “Start with the phrase, I’m curious.” “I’m curious what makes you say that. It’s like you did it.
Solving A Workplace Crisis As An Effective Leader With Joyce Weiss Click To Tweet
I didn’t use the words, “I’m curious,” but that’s good.”
It doesn’t matter. You still got the point. “I’m curious, you say I do this and this. It would help me so to have an exact example.” Those generalists who love putting us down because they think we’re so easy to push, you’re throwing it in their lap.
Give me a specific time that this has happened to give me contact so I understand what it is that I’m doing.
There’s no pushback on your side. What we did is verbal aikido because you could have said, “No, I don’t. This is you.” “Yes, you do.” It’s going to get nowhere. “I’m curious,” or “Please give me an example.” You’re pulling away from the person and you’re throwing it at them.
This is for direct reports and for leaders. A lot of times as a leader, as we were saying in the beginning, you think that you have to have all the answers, but you don’t. The most powerful position that you can be in is to ask questions. Don’t feel like you have all the answers, but ask more questions. If you have a situation with a direct report and there is conflict there, ask more questions of them. “Why did you feel like this was the course of action?”
Find more ways to ask more questions of the person like a coach, thinking about what they did and how it affected other people and everything else because you telling them doesn’t help bring their awareness. As you said, they can either recoil and start and put up a barrier, or ask the question to invite the conversation more.
It invites the conversation and the person or the direct report to tell his or her story. It’s up to the leader not to allow this to happen. If the story is all blaming, then the leader has to stop and say, “Alicia, I hear your story. I want to know what happened right before, during, and after. Let’s get everything together.” I hear the whole story. “It sounds like you’re feeling like a victim, which I get, Let’s move beyond that.” This is deeper coaching conversations, but this is how leaders can learn and it’s very easy, direct, and nice and you’re empathetic. Maybe then the direct report will answer you without getting defensive and feeling like a victim.
We always have to have a difficult conversation. There are always difficult conversations that we had. There’s training and coaching. There are sometimes people you have to let go of or fire someone. Let’s talk about that because there are some situations. I’ve changed my voice because it’s always a hard situation when you have to fire somebody. Have you coached people through that process of having to let someone go?
Yes, I do, up to a point. I’m not a lawyer. I’m married to one. Many times, my HR directors are my clients. I first always say, “First of all, come back after you talk to your lawyer about what you can and can’t do.” Sometimes when they come to me and say, “I’m not sure about Sue whether we’re going to let her go,” before you let her go do the important work, start documenting. Make sure that you don’t have a yearly review, but if you’ve got somebody that’s on the edge, “We need to talk about this and this. This needs to change or we need to go to the next step, or you don’t fit here. Are you willing to get some coaching or do this?”
You write that in their file, “Let’s meet a month from now to see if you know how you’ve progressed.” If they’re not progressing, put that in the file. By the time you need to do it, you’re as protected as you can. Again, this is a disclaimer, you’ve got to go to your attorneys first, what can you do before and what can you do during.
Those are even harder because they could be good people because of budget cuts or departments being let go, and all these people have to let go. It’s heartbreaking. That’s a difficult conversation to have.
It’s difficult but did you hear how your voice lowered and your heart got tugged out of your chest? When one has to let someone go, not fire, but if it’s the whole department as you said, it has nothing to do with productivity then you got to put your heart there and see what you can do for that person.
Companies want the best for these employees and they do whatever they can to make that transition a little bit lighter with different severance packages and helping them find another job, or doing exit interviews. Did you like your position here? How can I help? Do you need recommendations or references? We’re here for you,” and things like that. even though it is a difficult situation, you have to find ways to bring the positive into it.
Also, make it a win-win. Meaning, not that, “I’m letting you go, sorry. No money for your department. Deal with it,” which you know they’ve been told versus what you just said, “What do you need from us to help you with this transition?” You then throw in, as you said, recommendations. “I could even refer you to someone.”
I had a CEO of a credit union say to me, “Do you know of anybody who’s good in HR?” That day I met someone from Radio Shack who was an HR director. This CEO from the credit union and this HR director also lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I put them together and they’re still working together. This is what can happen. The person who’s letting go of that star probably isn’t going to say, “Goodbye. Deal with it. Have a good life, we’ll call you,” but let me do what I can for you.
The person being let go needs to also come to the table with what it is that they can do for you too because if you can give suggestions, “Can we connect on LinkedIn? Can we stay connected on LinkedIn? Can you write me a recommendation on LinkedIn? Can you do certain things?” Also, coming up with some ideas yourself of how they can help would also soften that a little bit too.
You’re all about audacious confidence.
It’s how you show up powerfully.
It’s not the onus and the leader. If anybody is reading this and you’re shy, you got to throw the shyness out and put in the pretend suit of, “I can do it,” and bring in what would you need from the company.
When you're laying people off, throw the shyness out the window and bring in what they need from the company. Click To Tweet
Have a list of what you need too if you know layoffs are coming and certain things are happening, even if you didn’t get along. Sometimes you may not have always gotten along but you respected one another and both of you did good work and you both had respect for one another. You weren’t spending the weekends together or whatever, but Tom prepared something as well. “This is what I would need. Can I get a recommendation letter? If I don’t get a job in two months and then I get an interview, can I still reach out to you if they ask me for a recommendation?” Keep those lines of communication open on both ends.
You’ve got to know your needs and express them, otherwise, it is internal. You get depressed and even though you know it has nothing to do with you, you still think it has everything to be with you.
It can absolutely turn on the inside of you. It can be all about you. The whole company let 500 people go to let you go. They need to get rid of you so badly. They got rid of 499 other people. They couldn’t deal with you anymore.
I’m not saying we all do this. We take it personally, even the host of this show and even the queen of conflict resolution.
I’m going to throw this out here because I’m going to do a talk on this in this little book called The Four Agreements. It’s a powerful little book.
I remember that.
Not taking it personally is one of those agreements.
Ms. Joyce, on this show we’ve talked about a lot of great things and I hope people got the nuggets that were in this because we shared so many great tips, but I’m about to do something. I’m going to put you through a rapid-fire, which I do with all my guests. This is a lot of fun. The first thing that comes to your mind, I want you to let me know. What has been the biggest leadership mistake that you’ve ever made or been a victim of?
The biggest leadership mistake that I made happened when I got an award from the National Speakers Association and I was the leader of this particular conference. My head was so full of, “I got an award. Aren’t I great? They’re so lucky that I’m going to be here,” and 3,000 people walked out of my room. It’s a whole story. I’ve had colleagues say, “How do you share that?” That’s one of the most important mistakes I’ve ever made in my life were never ever there.
Three thousand people walked out of the room? This is pre-COVI because people were in the room.
True story and this was in 1993.
Were there more than 3,000 in the room or was it only 3,000 and all of them left?
The board of directors who brought me in stayed. They said, “I don’t get what happened.” I had to analyze it. I was blaming them at first. It was after lunch. I then said, “Wait a minute. I didn’t do what they asked. I was too into my ego.” Watch your ego folks.
What were the lessons that you learned from that?
The lesson is you’re never there. The lessons why do you think I drove you crazy with all my questions to you before this show or any other ones that I’ve been on. I ask questions to make sure that I’m prepared.
You’re prepared and delivering what you need to deliver now.
It has nothing to do with my ego or me. It’s all about the people I’m leading. It’s all about their needs.
As a leader, watch your ego. Focus more on your people and their needs. Click To Tweet
Who am I serving now? That’s huge. As leaders, we are servants. We’re here for other people. We’re not here to say, “Look at me and I’ve come. Look what I’ve accomplished and all I’ve done.” We are still here to serve others. I love that.
I’m so glad you do.
It didn’t happen to me so I could love it all I want.
I do now because ever since then it’s been a breeze.
It has changed your life.
Yes, it has.
Also, your business. What’s the best leadership advice then that you’ve gotten that you still adhere to?
The building bridges piece is going out of my head all the time. You talked about this that even if somebody isn’t your best friend, you don’t want to hang out with them. They drive you crazy. It could be a trigger, but you work with them. You got to figure out how to build that bridge of differences. It used to be a challenge, but now I look for it. I said, “We’re different. I don’t think I like them. I have a feeling. If they don’t like me, how can we build that bridge between us?” That was something that I learned and I don’t remember who told me that. I wish I did and I would thank them now.
That’s important because business moves so fast now. Your boss maybe somewhere else five years from now and then you start your own business, but if you built that relationship, even though five years have gone by, you can still call that person up and say, “I’ve started my own business. It’s a consulting business. I’d love an opportunity to share with you what I’m doing.” If you treated each other with respect, a business relationship will still be viable.
I have a coach that says, “Relationships don’t spoil.” As long as you left with respect, you can call them twenty years from now and they’ll still be like, “How are you doing?” Now, they’re nice to help you. Always leave people with a good taste in their mouths about you.
I have had a trademark for years called Be Direct with Respect and that says it all. That’s what we’re talking about in this.
The next question is if you were a castaway on a deserted island, what three things would you hope washed up ashore or fell out of the sky or airdropped to you that you couldn’t live without, and one of them cannot be a cell phone?
My aura ring, but I need my cell phone though to use it. Does that count? I live for this. This teaches me everything about my sleep, walking, breathing, or whatever. I need a big fat plastic book with plastic pages so I can read. I need a big fat pillow that’s probably made out of plastic so it’s not full of mold and seaweed I can sit on the beach because I need that. I need my pillow, my book, and water, even though water is there.
Let’s say water is available.
Some wonderful food or some protein.
That’s fish in the ocean. You don’t need to bring that, but something else that you want.
I need fruit. This island has no fruit trees.
They don’t have banana trees or coconut trees.
I don’t want banana trees. I don’t like bananas. Maybe some apple trees. Maybe Johnny Appleseed in a can.
You plant and make your own apple tree?
You need your fruit, oranges, or apples because you need that vitamin C to prevent scurvy.
Mainly, because I like the taste.
I have two more. If you were a song or a song title, what would it be and why?
The first thing that comes to my mind, The Rolling Stones. You can’t always get what you want. That came to my mind. All the goals that we set and all the actions that still are no guarantee, like you put a little Post-It note, “I’m going to lose five pounds.” You are not going to lose five pounds. Maybe you won’t get that goal.
You can't always get what you want. There are no guarantees with all the goals you are setting. Click To Tweet
You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need. The last question. what are you reading now or what are your top three favorite books? You said you wanted books on that island of yours.
It’s called Take the Ride of Your Life, and I do read it every summer. It happens to be written by me. I have to be reminded of my own words because sometimes doubt comes into my mind. That’s one book. I absolutely loved Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Anger. I talked about this in one of your shows. That’s a very old book. I still use it in my coaching practice and within myself too. No one can change.
You can’t change anyone, but when you change the steps of the dance, other people around you are going to automatically change. It’s magic. That’s why it’s called The Dance of Anger. For those of you reading this and saying, “I can’t change my kids. I can’t change my direct reports. I can’t change my significant other.” You’re right, but if you change something like stop yelling, then they’re going to stop yelling. They’re going to mirror you. That’s another one.
You gave us two good ones.
I belong to The World of Business and Executive Coaching Summit, and they’re always giving us books. Any coaching book on answering questions and the neuroscience behind psychology. I find that fascinating because you can’t fight science.
I love it all. Thank you. There are two things that we want to share with the readers. The first is you have a questionnaire that leaders can download and have it if they send you an email. Tell us about the questionnaire and how it benefits them.
It’s called Questions to Keep Your Team Engaged: Stop the Revolving Door Syndrome. Leaders give this assessment survey to everyone in the company and then no one writes their name, and then if people like coming to work if they can make mistakes, and speak their minds, their department gets the respect it deserves, and all kinds of questions. There are eleven questions and it’s free. All people have to do is send me an email at Joyce@JoyceWeiss.com.
You just say, “Send me the questionnaire.”
That’s it. If they have a question about leadership, the email costs them the same amount of money. That’s number one. We just created it and I’d love to send it. I tested it and my leaders love it. For the other one, we put this VIP package together, and again, send me an email and I can give the exact details. What happens is people get two copies of my book called Take the Ride of Your Life Shift Gears for More Balanced Growth and Joy.
It’s an easy read. It’s a great summer book. They get one for themselves and another one to gift to someone. When you order them, you would tell me exactly who to autograph the books to and send me your email then I could send the link. What happens is, instead of $44.95, they get two books for $24.95, and that includes shipping and handling. It’s really a good deal.
You get two of the books autographed, so send an email to Joyce@JoyceWeiss.com. Let her know you would like the books and the questionnaire. Joyce is a terrific friend of The Red Carpet CEO where we produced. She has been on every show that we got. There’s one more that she hasn’t been on yet, but she’ll be on. She’s terrific.
Look her up and connect with her on LinkedIn, Joyce Weiss, if you want to know more about conflict resolution and leadership development. Check her out. Her leadership development style is a little different from mine. I don’t believe in competition, only collaboration and supporting each other’s businesses. “Why is she telling everybody about her?” I do leadership development too, but there’s enough of this pie for everybody.
We do it differently. Alicia, thank you very much for those kind words. I accept them graciously and I want to let you know and readers who know you, they’re going to say, “Joyce, tell me something new,” but I’m on the edge of my seat every single time we have an interview. I never know what’s coming from you. How am I going to handle it? Somehow you make it so easy for guests to feel comfortable. Sometimes I’m on shows and my body language tells it. I said to myself, “Don’t do that.” Thank you for being a very comfortable host and making your guests feel at ease, and the questions are wow. Those rapid-fire questions, I’m like, “What is this? These were not rehearsed.
Not at all. I throw these at you. I love it.
Thank you so much, Joyce. Everyone, thank you for joining this show. I encourage you to go out and lead yourself, your team, and your organization with audacious confidence. Until next time, bye for now.
- Joyce Weiss
- The Four Agreements
- Take the Ride of Your Life
- The Dance of Anger
- The World of Business and Executive Coaching Summit
About Joyce Weiss
Isn’t amazing how much drama occurs in the workplace? It’s like it has its own reality TV show. If you can relate, it’s costing you big time. Joyce specializes in Kicking Conflict to the Curb: Get the RESPECT You Deserve!
She teaches her clients how to speak confidently without frustration and feeling unheard, kicking or screaming – even with bullies! Her clients learn how to use their voice during stressful conversations instead of letting the looming fear drain all their energy and motivation.
Joyce works with Human Resource Professionals so that their direct reports confidently resolve relationship issues at work. They transform from not knowing how to start a tough conversation to feeling heard and respected.
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