Prevent Conflict by Knowing Your Talent's Needs, Expectations, and AssumptionsIn this episode, Lisa explains how knowing your strengths, and the strengths of others, can help you get along better at work. You’ll also find out what grizzly bears have to do with the workplace!

Prevent Conflict by Knowing Your Talent's Needs, Expectations, and Assumptions

In this episode, you’ll get a conversation guide you can use in your one-on-ones as a way to prevent conflict at work. The root of most conflict and consternation at work is missed expectations. As a leader, you have expectations of your team and they have expectations of you.

Interestingly, built into each of the 34 StrengthsFinder talent themes, you’ll find some inherent needs and assumptions. For example, imagine an employee named Connor. He’s on your team and he leads through the Includer talent. He needs to know there’s room for everyone’s opinion — including his. No surprise, since it feels good for an Includer to be included.

Each talent also often comes with the assumption and expectation that others might notice or value the same thing they do. It’s natural for all of us to not realize how unique each person’s assumptions and expectations are.

So in that example, Connor would notice that someone’s ideas are being ignored. And he’d probably expect you, as the manager of the team, to rectify the situation. And then when you don’t, he might wonder why you’re such a jerk to flagrantly ignore the situation. Meanwhile, you lead through Analytical, Activator, and Command and it never occurred to you that someone has an issue. After all, if you had an issue, you’d say something quickly and directly.

The source of most conflict in the workplace is missed expectations. Usually these expectations are never spoken of. It’s like we keep secrets in our minds. Well, not exactly. But we often assume others think the way we think or instantly understand what we expect from them. Our natural way of thinking and acting is so innate that we often don’t notice we’re doing it or that it’s different from anyone else’s perspective.

What a Vacation Taught Me About Leadership

Here’s an example to illustrate how conflict comes from missed expectations. I went to Glacier National Park for vacation. The most exciting hiking trail is called the Highline Trail. It’s one of those trails that is only the width of the footpath. Teeny. There is a rail attached to the face of the mountain so that you can hang on because if you are the least bit afraid of heights you will think you are about to fall off the mountain to your death. So of course that is the trail I wanted to go on! We showed up at the visitor center ready to go, but there was a sign that said the Highline Trail is closed. Boo! Written on the whiteboard, it said they closed the trail because there’s a carcass in the way. I was so bummed because it was THE attraction I wanted to experience at Glacier.hiking trail is closed

From the View of the Manager. Now let’s break this example down in the context of expectations. Let’s take the person who closed the trail. Imagine they are the manager on the team. They had to look out for the best interest of the team. They were afraid that hikers would be attacked because wildlife were trying to eat the carcass and we might be in danger if we got anywhere near the carcass. This is quite similar to what happens to managers at work. As a leader, you have to consider the broadest perspective. Without fail, you have conflicting demands — the things people want from you. And those things are rarely in alignment. A team member wants something different from you than your peer. And that request is different from what your leader is asking for. And that’s different from what your customer has been requesting. Inevitably you have to make tough decisions that disappoint people, in the same way that the park ranger's decision disappointed me at first.

From the View of the Team. Now, imagine what's going on in the minds of the grizzly bears, wolves, and mountain lions on the team. Where else do you get a business conversation that encourages you to get in the mind of a grizzly bear. Ha!

If they see a carcass on the trail they are going to get it. If a tourist comes by, they will see the tourist as a food thief. They see someone who threatens their survival. They will assume that I want to eat that carcass and they will attack me. It is an incorrect assumption, but if you get in the mind of a mountain lion or grizzly bear you can absolutely understand. Likewise, you have seen this at the office before. This is why silos exist inside of companies. People are protecting information or status quo in order to ensure they can survive or thrive in their environment.

bear on trail

From the View of a Colleague in Another Department. And then there’s me as a character in the example story from the hiking trail. I represent your disappointed colleague, visiting from another department. When I got the news that the trail was closed, I pouted for a minute (only in my mind, not out loud). I lamented the fact that the mountain lion and grizzly bear cannot understand me and just let me pass by. This is very much what happens on the job when you imagine people in other departments at the office. You wonder if they are blocking your progress on purpose. You wonder if they are ignoring your request or failing to trust you for any good reason. You know all you’re trying to do is get your project further down the hiking trail.

Now to bring this (sort of silly) hiking metaphor into action, take a look at how StrengthsFinder can help you overcome these assumptions and expectations that lead to disappointment and conflict.

Three Tips to Help Overcome Unmet Expectations

1. Assume positive intent.

Each party is probably doing the best they can with what they have or what they know. Very few people come to work intending to sabotage. If you are lucky enough to know each other‘s StrengthsFinder talent themes, consider that person‘s top five themes to give you perspective on where they might be coming from. It will help you look for the good they are attempting to bring to the situation.

2. Get further into the psyche of the person you’re working with.

Understand what each person's talent themes need at the office. To offer you a tool for this, I posted a conversation guide on the Resources Page. It will help you prevent conflict by directly using StrengthsFinder language. Look for a thumbnail image that says "strengths tips for teams" at the top and "prevent conflict" in the middle.

This document outlines the inherent needs that every one of the 34 talent themes has. If you can have an open conversation with each person on your team about these, you can prevent these missed expectations before they happen. If possible, you will want to have this conversation in a one-on-one meeting when you’re not in the middle of a conflict.

Knowing these things in advance will help you not assume things and will help you understand your team members' natural assumptions. If you use this guide during a conversation, here’s what you do: Have the person look at their top five talent themes on the document. See if the Needs listed for their top five resonate with them. For those that do, ask them about what they would naturally assume or expect based on that need.

For example, if you have a new team member who leads through Consistency, he might expect that you have documented processes. That’s one of his needs listed in the conversation guide. Then, when you ask about Assumptions, he tells you that he assumes he can and should enforce policies related to these processes. Imagine how good it would be for you to know that if he’s replacing someone who was willy-nilly about things. Your new team member will likely be frustrated by the cobbled-together mess he’s inheriting. And people from other departments will be surprised by his policing efforts. Yet if you know these things before conflicts happen, you can turn it around into a celebration of how he’s going to get an efficient operation established.

3. Know thyself.

If you want to make this Expectations and Assumptions one-on-one ultra–effective, come to that conversation having already prepared your own document. Of course, it’s always good to be self-aware. It also allows you to show them an example so that they know what you’re getting at. It keeps them from raising the skeptical eyebrow wondering why you’re asking these things. Most of all, the reason to look inward first is that you have your own assumptions and expectations that you naturally view the world with. It’s important to know these because it affects the way you lead.

For example, I expect that if someone sees something broken, misspelled, or incorrect, that they will fix it in the moment, regardless of whether it is their job description or not. This expectation comes from my Maximizer talent. And if you look at the document I made for you to download, you’ll see that there’s an inherent need that talent has — it’s to respect quality as much as speed and quantity. On the other hand, It’s perfectly reasonable for someone on the team to take a note of something broken and plan to fix that thing they noticed ... later. Well, it's reasonable to them. Yet it won't feel reasonable to my Maximizer talent theme.

This is exactly why it’s helpful for you to know how your expectations might be different from your team members. And, it’s critical that you get comfortable verbalizing them to each other so that it’s not only about you making demands of them. It’s about an open conversation so you understand where each person is coming from and you can avoid the conflicts before they happen. In all directions.

To close out, here’s one more example using the Connor with the Includer talent and the manager with the Analytical talent. Imagine you’re the manager and you assigned a research project to Connor. He starts by collecting information from peers who are in a similar role. He gathers feedback from customers, from peers, and from end-users. Meanwhile, you are waiting for a spreadsheet to help you make a Go vs. No Go decision by using charts and graphs and data. He assumes that "researching" involves human inputs. While your Analytical talent naturally leans on data when you're researching for insights.

Both are natural assumptions. Connor, the Includer, uses relationships to inform decisions through people‘s past experiences and feedback. You, leading with Analytical, find truth in data. One is qualitative. One is quantitative. Both are valuable. And if you don’t know this about each other, you’ll drive each other crazy! And of course, if you do know this about each other, you can make a powerful partnership.

Data On Strengths Helping With Alignment Of Expectations

Speaking of data, here's a bit of research to close out the topic. This is from Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement studies. They found that Employees who regularly apply strengths at work are 5.1x more likely to strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. Interesting, isn’t it? That makes a direct and unexpected connection between the application of strengths and clear expectations.

Resources of the Episode

If you want to use the document I made for you to explore Assumptions and Expectations according to each person's StrengthsFinder talent themes, get it at the Resources Page. Look for the “Preventing Conflict” image. Remember, the root of most disappointment and conflict at work is unmet expectations. You can get ahead of that by using StrengthsFinder to explore these default assumptions and expectations with each person on your team.

 

Here's A Full Transcript Of The 16 Minute Episode

You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, and I got to tell you, it's hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work. And in this episode, I'll offer you a conversation guide, you can use in your one-on-ones as a way to prevent conflict at work.

How about that? There's so much conflict running around at the office. This is very needed. Interestingly, it's kind of simple. The root of most conflict and consternation that's going on in the office, that route is missed expectations. And as a leader, you have expectations of the people on your team. And they have expectations of you and interestingly, built into each of the 34 StrengthsFinder talent themes, you will find some inherent needs and expectations and assumptions.

[1:07] So let's take an example person. Imagine a team member named Connor. He's on your team, and he leads through the Includer talent. Well, he needs to know that there's room for everyone's opinion on the team, including his and no surprise, it feels good for an Includer to be included.

Now, each talent also often comes with the assumptions and expectations that others might notice or value the exact same thing that they do. So, it's natural for all of us to not realize how unique each person's assumptions and expectations are. So, in that example, Connor would notice that someone's ideas are being ignored. And he probably expects you, as the manager of the team to rectify the situation. You would expect that you saw someone's ideas or voice was totally getting ignored. And then when you don't, he might wonder why you're such a jerk to flagrantly ignore the situation.

Meanwhile, you lead through Analytical, Activator and Command, and it never even occurred to you that somebody had an issue. And if you had an issue, you would just say something quickly and directly. So, it would never come up this way. See, the source of most conflict in the workplace is this same kind of thing with missed expectations. And usually, these expectations are never spoken of out loud. It's like we keep secrets in our mind. No, of course, it's not really. It's that we assume others think the way we think, or we think they understand what we expect from them naturally.

But really, our real natural way of thinking is just so innate to us that we often don't realize, or notice that we're doing it, or that it's different from anyone else’s.

Here's an example to illustrate. I'm just going to build out a situation from a vacation to make the point about how conflict and missed expectations happen. I went to Glacier National Park for vacation. And the most exciting hiking trail of all is called the Highline Trail. Now it's one of those trails, that is only the width of the footpath. It is teeny. There's a rail attached to the face of the mountain so that you can hang on, because if you're the least bit afraid of heights, and you turned back to look, you would think you're about to fall off the mountain to your death. And so of course, that's the trail I want to go on.

So, we show up at the visitor center ready to go. And I spot a sign that said, -

“The Highline Trail is closed.”

Wow. So written on this whiteboard, it said they closed the trail because there's a carcass in the way. And I was so bummed because it's the attraction I wanted to experience at glacier.

Now let's break down this example in the context of expectations. So, you're going to mix in the Highline Trail vacation with real workplace application here. Let's take the person who closed that trail. Imagine they're the manager on the team, they had to look out for the best interest of the team. They were afraid that hikers would be attacked because wildlife we're trying to eat the carcass. And we might be in danger if we got anywhere near the carcass.

Well, as strange as it sounds, this is quite similar to what happens to managers at work as a leader. You have to consider the broadest perspective and without fail. You have conflicting demands and desires, the things that people want from you and those things are rarely in alignment with each other. So, a team member wants something from you that's different from what your peer wants from you, and that's different from what your leader is asking for, and that's different from what your customers been requesting. It can be really dizzying. And inevitably, you have to make tough decisions. And it's going to disappoint someone. And it's just like that, in this example, where the park ranger had to make a decision that disappointed me at first.

Now, let's get a different perspective, a different angle on the same example. Now, imagine the mindset of the grizzly bears, the wolves, the mountain lions on the team. Where else do you get a business show, that tells you to get in the mind of a grizzly bear? It’s pretty awesome. So, if they see a carcass on the trail, they're going to go get it. And if a tourist comes by, they will see the tourist as a food thief.

[5:48] They see someone who threatens their survival. And they will assume that I also want to eat that carcass, and so they will attack me. It's an incorrect assumption. But if you get in the mind of a mountain lion or grizzly bear, you can absolutely understand why they think that way, because that's how they think.

Likewise, you've seen this at the office before. This is why silos exist inside of companies. People are protecting information, or they're protecting status quo in order to ensure that they can survive or thrive in their environment. And then the final angle in this example, there's me as a character in the story from the hiking trail. I represent your disappointed colleague visiting from another department. So, when I got the news that the trail was close, I'll tell you about it for a minute.

[6:44] No, luckily, it was only in my mind, I did not pout out loud. But I was thinking for that first minute or so I was just lamenting the fact that the mountain lion and the grizzly bear cannot understand me. It just let me pass by, “Come on mountain lion!”

This is very much like what happens on the job. When you imagine people in other departments at the office, you wonder, are they blocking my progress on purpose? You wonder, are they ignoring my request or not trusting me for any reason, when you're sitting back thinking, all I'm trying to do is get my project further down the hiking trail.

So, to bring this, yes, sort of silly hiking metaphor into action, take a look at how StrengthsFinder can help you overcome these kinds of assumptions and expectations that people have of each other that lead to disappointment and conflict.

[7:39] I'll give you three tips.

[7:40] Tip 1 is to assume positive intent. You know, each party in a situation at work is probably doing the best they can with what they have or with what they know at the time.

[7:52] Very few people come to work intending to sabotage. Are you like me, and every time you hear the word sabotage you think of the Beastie Boys? Anyway, I digress. If you're lucky enough to know each other's StrengthsFinder talent themes, consider that person's top 5 talent themes so that you can get perspective on where they might be coming from. It'll help you look for the good in them, the good that they're attempting to bring the situation.

Alright after assuming positive intent, tip 2 is to get further into the psyche of the person that you are working with and understand what their talent themes need at the office. At leadthroughstrengths.com/resources , I posted a conversation guide to help you prevent conflict by using StrengthsFinder.

So, look out for a thumbnail image that says Strengths Tips for Teams at the top. And it says “prevent conflict” in the middle. This document outlines the inherent needs that every one of the 34 talent themes has. So, if you can have an open conversation with the person on your team about these, you can prevent the missed expectations before they happen. So, if possible, you want to have a conversation and a one-on-one meeting when you're not in the middle of a conflict. Knowing these things in advance will help you not assume things and not let it go too long. It also helps you understand your team members’ natural assumption so you can see where things might go wrong before they start going wrong.

If you use this guide during a conversation, here's what you do. You have the person look at their top 5 talent themes on the document because the document displays all 34. So just look at theirs and then to see if the needs listed for their top 5 talents resonate with them. And for the ones that do resonate, ask them about what they would naturally assume or expect based on that need that's written out.

So, to make this sound less jargony and actually make some sense here, so you can think about it, here's an example. If you have a new team member who leads through Consistency, he might expect that you have documented processes for the operations for the work that you do. This is one of his needs that you would see listed in the conversation guide. Then when you ask about the assumptions and expectations, he tells you that he assumes he can and should enforce policies that are related to these processes. So, imagine how good it would be for you to know as the manager. If he's replacing someone who was willy-nilly in the past, in the job, your new team member is going to get really frustrated by the cobbled together mess that he's inheriting.

So that would be good to know of in advance. And the people from other departments will be surprised because he's going to come into these new policing efforts that he assumes he should be doing. So, if you know these things before the complex happen, you can turn it around and make it a celebration of how he's going to get an efficient operation established. And you can make sure that the parties have that expectation, and it goes over well.

So that's an example of what you can do with that document, because it lists out the suggested needs of the talents. And then you have the conversation to fill in the expectations and the assumptions.

Now, tip 3. I'm giving to you third in order in the flow of the show, but it really should happen. First, I wanted you to first understand the document and the activity. That's why I'm offering this to you last, but you want to take this action first. Because if you want to make this expectations and assumptions one-on-one ultra effective, you need to follow tip 3, which is know thyself, and that is by coming to that conversation already having prepared your own document.

Of course, it's always good to be self-aware. Yes, just it's part of emotional intelligence and a thing that most of us seek to do or be. But doing it through this process allows you to show your team members an example, an actual, “hey, I worked through this on me as well”, so that they can just understand what are you getting at, because it helps them from keeping that, hmm, you know, how they put the defenses up, and they raised that skeptical eyebrow-wondering “why”, -

“Why is she asking me these things? I don't know what this is for?”

That's a great reason to do it in advance. But most of all, the best reason to look inside first is that you have your own assumptions and your own expectations that you naturally view the world with. And it's important to know those because it affects the way you lead the team.

So, for example, I personally expect that if someone sees something broken, or misspelled or incorrect, that they're going to fix it in the moment, regardless of whether it's in their job description or not. Now that expectation, I know comes from my Maximizer talent. And if you look at the document that I made for you to download, you'll see there's an inherent need that the Maximizer talent has, and it's to respect quality as much as speed and quantity.

On the other hand, though, it's perfectly reasonable for someone on the team, to not have that talent theme, and to just see something that's broken and take a note of it, and think, “Okay, I'm gonna make a plan to fix that later.” And see that's reasonable to them. That wouldn't be reasonable to me. And this is exactly why it's helpful to know these expectations of each other. And it's critical that you get comfortable verbalizing them to each other, so that when they come up, it doesn't feel like it's just you making demands of them. If you do it in a one-on-one conversation, when there isn't a conflict, it really feels more like an open conversation. So, you can just understand where each person is coming from. And then you can avoid the conflicts before they happen in every direction.

[13:44] To close out, here's one more example using the example of Connor the guy that has the Includer talent and the manager with the Analytical talent. So, imagine you're the manager and you assigned a research project to Connor. And he starts by collecting information from peers who are in a similar role. He gathers feedback from customers, from peers, from end users.

[14:08] He feels psyched he is going after it. Meanwhile, you are tapping your watch frustrated because you're, you've been waiting to receive a spreadsheet because it's going to help you make a go-no-go decision, by using charts and graphs and data. Now, let's say you never specified that you wanted a spreadsheet but that's the way it's always been. So that's what you're assuming you'll get.

See, both of these approaches are natural assumptions. Connor the Includer, he assumed that using his relationships to inform the decisions through people's past experiences through feedback is a really important way to gather information. You leading with Analytical, you find truth and data. One is qualitative one is quantitative and both are valuable. And if you don't know this about each other, you'll drive each other nuts and of course, if you do know this about each other, you can make a powerful partnership out of it. But you have to know those differences going in, otherwise, you're just going to drive each other crazy.

[15:12] So speaking of data, I'll end this episode with a bit of data for you. This is from Gallups Q12 Employee Engagement Research. They found that employees who regularly apply strengths at work are more than 5 times as likely to strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. So interesting, isn't it. It makes this direct, and I think unexpected connection, between the application of strengths and clear expectations.

So, to close this out in full, remember, if you want to use the document I made for you to explore assumptions and expectations by StrengthsFinder talent theme, get it at leadthroughstrengths.com/resources , and look for the Preventing Conflict image.

And remember, the root of most disappointment and conflict at work is unmet expectations. You can get ahead of that by using StrengthsFinder to explore your default assumptions and your default expectations with each person on your team. And that will help you stop conflict in its tracks before it happens.

[16:26] With that, thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths. Remember, using your strengths will strengthen your performance on your team. And if you've been putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, then you've probably been picking the path of most resistance. So instead, claim your talents and share them with the world.

About Andrew Kroeger

Andrew's Top 5 StrengthsFinder Talent Themes are Strategic, Futuristic, Learner, Relator, and Ideation