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Published on February 6, 2020

How to Recon Like a “Spy” to Manage Conflicts in the Workplace

How to Recon Like a “Spy” to Manage Conflicts in the Workplace

I love a juicy plot with dynamic characters and kick-ass action. Growing up I romanticized about being the next Sydney Bristow in espionage. My martial arts training kind of fulfilled this dream. I believe that we can all take a page from spies like Lorraine Broughton, Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne or James Bond and apply it to our work. Spy skills can help us better manage conflict in the workplace and navigate difficult situations.

My greatest takeaway from spies is doing reconnaissance (aka ‘recon’). Please don’t mistake this approach to act in a sneaky or unethical way!

‘Recon’ means observation, survey, or research of an area to make discoveries.[1].

I always like to be prepared and learn as much as I can about the environment and people I’ll be encountering, especially at work. The degree of my ‘recon’ will vary depending on what’s at stake. For example, meeting a new vendor or client, addressing a difficult behaviour, a team meeting, or attending an interview.

Take a different approach for a moment and think about your favourite spy character or superhero. What kind of skills do they have that can help you gain a different perspective about how to navigate conflict in the workplace.

Here are the five key spy skills you need to thrive in your workplace and why they are helpful to manage conflict.

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1. Awareness

Awareness is defined as having the knowledge that something exists or understanding of a situation at the present time based on information or experience.[2]

When dealing with conflict in the workplace:

  • What’s your role in the conflict?
  • How much awareness do you have of the situation?
  • How are you reacting to other people’s behaviours?
  • How can you approach the situation with an open-mind and remain unbiased?
  • How much do you know and understand about the other parties perspectives?

Be self-aware. Knowing yourself gives you key insights into your strengths, development areas, and how others perceive you. How well you understand yourself and your interactions with others can limit or boost your impact and effectiveness as a leader.

Here are a few ways to enhance your self-awareness:[3]

  • Take time to reflect on your values, strengths, personality traits, behaviours and experiences
  • Understand how you interact with others by asking for specific feedback
  • Understand how others perceive you by asking questions about your reputation

You need to take intentional action, make space for reflection, digest the information and learn how to receive critical feedback so that you can continue to develop yourself.

This process takes time, commitment and practice. And your approach may change as you learn more about yourself.

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Be organization-aware. Knowing yourself and your surroundings like your team and company culture will better help you prepare for unexpected situations.

Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) or PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, Environmental) analysis of your situation or environment.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to understand your stakeholders and your company:

  • What are the parties trying to achieve?
  • What are the parties interests? How are the interests similar or different?
  • What are the constraints in which the business operates?

By understanding the people and the environment in which your business operates, you’ll be better equipped to navigate difficult workplace situations and manage conflict.

2. Build Relationships

Know who your allies are. When dealing with conflict at work, speak with people who you trust Have a group of trusted advisors or mentors who you can vet your difficult situation with. Sometimes having someone be your objective sounding board is all you need to see a new perspective of the situation.

Build new relationships. Continue to build quality relationships that can help you strengthen your conflict management skills. Maybe you admire someone who deals with conflict in the workplace with ease. What skill sets do they have? What is their approach? Perhaps a coffee meeting with this person can help you learn more about their approach so that you can develop your own conflict management style.

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Maintain existing relationships. Don’t forget to schedule time to touch base with your current relationships. Continue to assess what you need out of that relationship and how you can help each other progress with your projects and careers.

3. Change Management

Your ability to adjust to constant market changes in your work environment is essential. The better skilled you are at pivoting, the better positioned you’ll be to navigate challenging work situations.

Being able to adjust to the ebbs and flows of people’s behaviors and your changing environment can better help you communicate with others during times of uncertainty.

Here are a few change management resources that can help you better understand people’s emotions during times of change:

4. Professionalism

Having a certain level of business etiquette and grace in the workplace is key. And this covers interpersonal skills like active listening and nonverbal communication.

Here are some key characteristics of professionalism to keep in mind:

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  • Be on time
  • Be organized
  • Keep your cool
  • Dress appropriately
  • Be reliable and follow-through
  • Admit your mistakes and learn from them
  • Have good etiquette (E.g., verbal, non-verbal, and written)

5. Special Skills

We each have our own set of lethal and targeted skills that we can use to navigate conflict in the workplace. Know what your strengths are, what feels natural to you, and know what gives you energy. Maybe yours are listening deeply, communicating with clarity, or negotiating.

Do an inventory of your skills. Which of these skills can you leverage during times of conflict? How can you use these skills to resolve conflict?

Summing it up

What are some of your favourite TV shows or movies? Who are some of those characters that you identify with? Why? Whether it’s, Batman, Sherlock Holmes or Jason Bourne,

there are skills that we can learn from our favourite characters and apply them at work.

The five key spy skills you need to thrive in your workplace and manage conflict are:

  1. Being Aware and Prepare
  2. Build Relationships
  3. Change Management
  4. Professionalism
  5. Special Skills

Approach conflict with a sense of curiosity by asking questions to understand the situation. This can reduce stress and fear. Open and non-judgemental discussions can lead to a facilitated approach to resolve conflict.

More Work Skills for Career Success

Featured photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Reconnaissance
[2] Cambridge Dictionary: Awareness
[3] Center for Leadership: 4 Ways to Boost Self-Awareness

More by this author

Ami Au-Yeung

Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

How to Recon Like a “Spy” to Manage Conflicts in the Workplace 7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Top 10 Interview Questions for Hiring the Best Managers Is People Management the Right Career Path for You?

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Published on February 17, 2020

What Is a Bullet Journal and What Are the Benefits?

What Is a Bullet Journal and What Are the Benefits?

You may have heard of a productivity method called Bullet Journaling. What is a bullet journal? It is a very personal approach to getting in control of your life and becoming more productive.

It does that by allowing you to build your journal, your system, and your method of journaling with very few limitations.

Traditional journaling, or productivity systems, usually give you a template: a set way to record your information and tasks. You input the information and the system then shows you the information in a predetermined way. Not so with a bullet journal.

What Is a Bullet Journal?

With a bullet journal, you start with a number of symbols and a blank notebook (or a digital equivalent). Your choice of notebook, the pen you use, the ink color, and how you use the symbols is entirely up to you. You have complete freedom.

In a sense, with a bullet journal, instead of having a “system,” you have some best practices that guide you.

Is a Bullet Journal Right for You?

So, with that in mind, would a bullet journal work for you? That depends. A bullet journal is ideal for those who have a strong creative side: a person who does not want to be bound by constraints and limits. Bullet journals give you complete creative freedom, and for many people, that is the attraction.

However, if you are easily distracted and are a bit of a perfectionist, this lack of constraints can be a rabbit hole of lost focus and frustration. There is also the issue of the amount of time it takes to maintain a bullet journal. Depending on how you want your journal to look, these journals can take up a lot of time just to maintain. That is not for everybody.

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How a Bullet Journal Works: An Overview

A bullet journal works by giving you a blank page for each day. You have an appointments section and a to-do section, and after that, you can add anything you want.

In your to-do section, there are a few symbols you will use to indicate what has happened to a to-do:

  • A bullet – a task
  • A bullet with a cross – task complete
  • A dash – indicates a note
  • Forward arrow – task moved to another day
  • A circle – an event

That said, you can of course modify these symbols to suit your tastes.

On top of your daily pages, you will have an index page and a calendar page. How you create these is up to you..

Benefits of a Bullet Journal

1. Improves Your Mental Health

We know journaling has incredible mental health benefits. The act of journaling gives you time for reflection, time to get your thoughts out of your head, and time to review and plan.[1]  It’s a tremendous way to add some much needed perspective in your life.

When you give yourself that valuable time to yourself, you have the opportunity to slow down and contemplate, and that allows your mind to settle, calm down, and reset. In a world that is relentlessly distracting, noisy and frenetic, those quiet moments with your journal can help sooth you.

Learn more about improving your mental health: 8 Simple Ways to Be Mentally Healthy

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2. Helps You Stay on Top of Your Goals

Bullet journaling helps you stay on top of your projects and goals. Your to-do list guides you towards getting important things done each day and gives you a space to collect new tasks, opportunities and events.

Without having a place to store your ideas, tasks and events, it is very easy for these things to slip your mind. When you have a journal with you everywhere you go, it’s very difficult to miss these things because you have them written down.

Being able to see what you have planned, what you would like to achieve, and how you are progressing is a great way to keep you motivated to keep going, even when things get tough.

Read more about how to reach your goals: 6 Golden Rules to Make Progress Towards Achieving Your Goals.

3. Develops Creativity

Bullet journaling can help develop your creativity. Having a blank page every day on which to create your vision for that day engages your creative side, and the more you use your creativity, the more creative you become.

The freedom a bullet journal gives you to write, draw, color in, and develop gets your creative juices flowing. And if you need inspiration, you only need search “bullet journals” and you will be inundated with ideas and examples.

4. Lets You Write Your Life’s Story

Every day you write a few more words of your life’s story. Over time, you build an incredibly unique story — the story of your life. That one reason alone should be enough for you to go out and buy yourself a beautiful notebook in which to start writing your story.

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Most people drift through life without documenting anything. Holidays with loved ones and friends go undocumented, becoming little more than a blur of memory and a long-lost batch of photos hidden among thousands of others stored on your phone.

With a bullet journal, you can write down how you felt and who you were with, and you can print out your favorite photos and stick them into your journal to help you remember. (Yes! You can do that!)

In ten or twenty years, when you look back through your journals, you will be able to re-live those special moments and experience the feelings you had at those times.

5. Helps You Achieve Your Goals Through Writing

The act of writing down your goals is one very powerful step to take towards achieving those goals. Studies have shown that when you write down your goals, you stand a much better chance of actually achieving them.

Having a place to evaluate and review your goals helps keep you on track and keeps those goals up front and center in your life. It is very easy to sit down in the excitement of a new year and tell your friends about all the things you plan to do, only to completely forget about those goals by the end of January.

When you write your goals down in your bullet journal (you can create a goals section), you have a place to remind you of what you want to achieve. This will keep you motivated and focused.

Need more tips for staying motivated? Check out 8 Steps to Continuous Self Motivation Even During the Difficult Times.

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The Bottom Line

There are multiple benefits to keeping a journal, and the beauty of a bullet journal is that you get to create your own way of doing things. There are many resources online to guide and inspire you.

The stories and memories you record in your bullet journal will give you joy and inspiration for years to come. So the next question is, when will you start to create your own.

I have written a step-by-step guide you can use to start building your bullet journal today. This gives you guidance and ideas for the kind of notebook and pen to use, what you can store in your journal, and how to set up the basic structure.

Good luck and happy journaling!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

Reference

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