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Monday, 27 June 2016

How do you deal with a tricky stakeholder?


We were discussing Thomas-Kilmann model of conflict on last week's supplier management workshop. It suggests that there's 5 different reactions to conflict based on your level of assertiveness and level of cooperativeness:
  • Avoiding
  • Accommodating
  • Competing
  • Compromising
  • Collaborating 
In my post yesterday I shared some of the insights from the discussion we had during the session about the scale of assertiveness from passivity to aggression.

During our conversation we also explored what strategies procurement has to influence tricky senior stakeholders that we're in conflict with. How do we know which of the above strategies would be most appropriate? 

That is rather than fall back on our own preferences we may need to adapt our style in order to effectively influence the other person. 

The first steps are: 
  1. Knowing what outcome we want (desired outcome)
  2. Knowing where we are in relation to that outcome (current situation)
  3. Exploring the beliefs we have about achieving the outcome and/or the other person (e,g helpful, unhelpful, self fulfilling, supportive, harmful, resisting and so on), and amending these beliefs as appropriate (ie in order to get a different outcome)
  4. Understanding the change you're asking of the stakeholders, and considering effective change management 
  5. Identifying a plan to get from 1 to 2 
  6. Taking action towards 2 
  7. Adapting the plan and our behaviours based on feedback from actions taken 
  8. Being prepared to change the desired outcome we're aiming for (which may fit into the strategy of compromising)
  9. Perseverance
To develop the plan also requires that we understand more about the stakeholder ie:
  • Their values (ie what motivates and inspires them)
  • Their beliefs
  • Their objectives and interests - short and long term
  • Their influence within the organisation
  • Their interest in procurement, the category, supplier or project 
  • Their support for procurement, the category, supplier or project 
  • Their allegiances with other stakeholders 
  • Those they listen to - other stakeholders and from within procurement 
  • Who they will accept advice from 
  • Their preferred communication styles, learning styles, preferred conflict style, operating metaphors and the like 
  • Understanding their perspective by standing in their shoes 
  • (And as I've just heard on Star Trek Deep Space Nine tonight (it's Star Trek's 50th anniversary this year) remembering the Ferengi's 98th rule of acquisition 'everyone has their price', or something they value enough to change their current viewpoint).
It's also useful to understand the above for ourselves too, and also, if the conflict has been going on for some time and we've perhaps tried the strategies above, understanding:
  • What of our behaviours might be pushing the other persons buttons? 
  • In what way lack of rapport is contributing to the outcome 
  • Is it really our responsibility to change their viewpoint?
  • What of our buttons are being pressed in the conflict ? Ie why are we persevering? 
  • The impact on our well-being of holding on to the outcome (ie knowing when enough is enough and we've tried everything we can) 
  • Understanding our options if they don't agree - I do, however think there's a 6th to be added to the five listed above, and that's to walk away. Which I see as different to 'avoiding' because it's only done after you've been very active in trying to resolve the conflict.
Additional suggestions most welcome in comments below.

This discussion is likely to continue this week at a number of stakeholder engagement clinics I'm facilitating. I'll add any other strategies identified in those sessions to this post later in the week.

Alison Smith
Inspiring Change - inside and out 

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Assertive or aggression?

I've been told many times over the years that if I stick with eating hot spicy food I'll eventually be able to tolerate, and even enjoy it. One lodger even used to throw a few chillies onto my half of the pizza in an attempt to expand my palate.

I've never yet managed to get beyond the numb mouth, and lack of enjoyment for the rest of the meal.

Some might say perseverance would get me there, but I doubt it.
Last night I went to see Independence Day: Resurgence - which had a 12a classification which suggested that it contained scenes with mild violence. Like the lodger throwing chillies on the pizza the movie had violence thrown in that, instead of sensitising me to the violence, had me closing my eyes until the scene was over. 

I shouldn't have been too surprised as many programs I once enjoyed with 'mild' violence (Doctor Who, Star Trek and SG1) I now find too violent. (Any sci-fi recommendations with minimal violence most welcome).
What I've come to understand is I'm getting more and more sensitive to spicy food and violence. That is, perseverance doesn't seem to have made me less tolerant of spice or violence but more sensitive to it.

It would seem like many things spice and violence have an analogue scale not a digital one, and one that can change over time. 

The problem comes when we try to attribute values to the scale - after all where I'd put mild, medium, hot, and very hot would be in very different places on the axis to my spice loving lodger, and to other Indian meal loving friends. (And no there is not an Indian meal that my palate would describe as medium never mind mild - they are all HOT!)

On a supplier relationship management workshop this week two of the models discussed had 'level of assertion' as one of their axes. In both models the axis being discussed went from unassertive or passive to assertive. 

In the session we discussed that the scale doesn't necessarily stop at assertive - it's a bit like saying it stops at medium spice. The missing piece to that scale is when assertion becomes aggressive, or very very hot. 

On a Google search I like this interpretation of the scale:


Just like spice or violence what we perceive as aggressive will, however, be open for individual interpretation. Even the words used to describe each of the above perhaps say much about where the person writing the words feels comfortable. 

That is my passive could be your aggressive! So where does that leave us? 

The topics we covered on the workshop last week suggested strategies might include: 
  • Understanding your own perception - values and beliefs.
  • Standing in the shoes of other people we're working with and understanding their perception, values and beliefs.
  • Not judging the other person as wrong just accepting the difference.
  • Taking responsibility for the reactions/ outcomes others have to our behaviour.
  • Understanding whether what we're doing is moving us away from or towards our short, medium and long term goals.
  • Adapting our style to suit the people we're dealing with, and the outcome we're wanting.
Next time you say something is "mild" and the other person is telling you it's "much too hot" you may want to stop stop and consider which of the above strategies would help find a happy "medium". Without that "medium" being overly accommodating, competitive or manipulative.

Or of course you could keep pouring water on to hot oil - just don't be surprised if someone gets burnt! 


Alison Smith
Inspiring Change - Inside and out