Albert Einstein once said, "The leader is one who, out of the clutter, brings simplicity... Out of discord, harmony... And out of difficult, opportunity."
He could have been sitting in the corner of the conference room where I was convening as Organizational Ombuds for a team that was stuck - there was (emotional) clutter, plenty of discord, and a really difficult situation. Tension was high, people were venting. At any moment (my experience told me) someone could explode with frustration. It was like a freight train approaching the room, about to crash!
In our training as Ombuds, aka Conflict Advisers, we see this often in mediation situations. In fact, we look for any opening to force that train INTO the room because it’s a turning point that will make the difference in the relationships - a breakthrough that changes everything for the team. Ombuds strive to see things materialize before they happen, and to bring awareness to the group as to how we can move through it and forward. With this team I had already established a place of trust and space so they knew the train wasn’t going to run off the track and bring damage; they knew they’d be OK.
The goal in this work is to help the team pull into the station together, to get to the place where they want to be – that common purpose everyone wants to have. These moments bring to me a deep feeling of success and satisfaction, every time.
Is "mediator” in your job description?
When you took on your leadership position, did anyone hand you a training manual on handling situations like employee accusations of bullying or harassment, deep-seated and destructive tensions between teams, a partner who becomes toxic to a crucial project effort, a high-performing employee who can’t get along with anyone, a simple dispute that ends up in litigation? No, probably not.
These are all examples of negative and unmanaged conflict, and any organization is susceptible. This is because conflict is a natural aspect of relationships between people and is part of the everyday processes of decision-making, innovating and accomplishing goals.
Most leaders aren’t trained to deal with issues that may arise due to differences in gender, culture, childhood experience, personalities, interpersonal styles, trust factors – any number of things that can cause differing, and often highly-emotional, points of view. Yet these conflicts can escalate into workplace-wrenching situations that will negatively affect productivity and profits.
The Organizational Ombuds is trained for and experienced in working with these situations. More and more businesses are embedding Ombuds services into their organizations, creating an impartial, confidential and flexible partnership where the Conflict Adviser provides support in all kinds of areas – proactive conflict awareness, conflict diagnosis, coaching, training, team development, shuttle diplomacy, mediation and more.
Why are smart businesses reaching out to Organizational Ombuds?
Here are 10 profitable reasons:
Reduced Costs: Creates a healthy workplace environment which reduces employee turnover, wasted time, sick days, and 35 other costs.
Fewer Disputes: Provides a space for very early intervention that heads off negative conflict before it escalates. Unresolved disputes lead to disgruntled employees, and lower morale decreases productivity.
More Innovation: Increases and encourages open communication, employee empowerment, and creativity which leads to a vibrant exchange of ideas that results in innovation and positive change.
Productivity Gains: Brings measurable results in a proven cost-effective way, a 1:5 Cost-effectiveness Ratio ($ Cost of Ombudsman Services : Savings/Productivity Gain).
More Transparency: Creates an environment of trust and communication that encourages company pride and participation.
Uncovering Unspeakables: Provides impartial presence and discreet facilitation for safe conversations about thefts and illegal or unethical behaviors.
Better Teamwork: Develops and sustains a team culture that is more productive, positive, efficient and nimble.
Systems View: Acts as an early warning system for issues often unknown to management so they can be dealt with in a timely manner before they escalate.
Training: Provides awareness-building, mentoring, and on-site coaching to leadership and teams, teaching tools and skills for respectful communication, problem-solving and “constructive conflict.”
Happy Employees: Engenders feelings of value, trust, inspiration, creativity, being heard and respected - all things that make employees happy, thus more productive.
Consider adding the valuable expertise of an Organizational Omubuds to your leadership toolbox. Not only can we help to bring simplicity to clutter and harmony out of discord (and save you costly litigation), we can also help you build a workplace culture where constructive, creative conflict is harnessed to bring out even more in your teams in terms of innovative ideas, creative problem-solving, and high performance.