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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

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Last Updated on October 28, 2020

How to Set Long Term Goals and Achieve Success

How to Set Long Term Goals and Achieve Success

Have you ever wondered what you life is going to be like in 5 or 10 years? Will you be doing the same things you are today? Have you taken the time to envision the future through long term goals?

There are only three possibilities for your life in the future:

  1. It will be the same.
  2. It will be worse.
  3. It will be better.

There really is no other choice, so realizing this, which option will you choose?

If you choose option 3, then being able to set long term goals is the best way to ensure that you’ll get to where you want to go.

What Is a Long Term Goal?

A long term goal is what you are planning to achieve in the long-run or in the future.

Where do you want to be in five years[1]?

Everyone has a plan for their life. We all imagine what our future will look like, what we will be doing, how we will be living, and even who we will be living with.

While things rarely work out exactly as planned, it is nonetheless important to set long term goals and work toward them. Without long term goals, we are just wandering aimlessly through life.

The most successful people know the power of goal setting and how to break down larger goals that may take years to achieve into a series of smaller, short-term goals that will keep you focused and motivated.

How to Set (and Reach) Your Long Term Goals

Do you suffer from paralysis by analysis? It’s a common condition that happens when people are faced with a lot of options.

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When faced with too many options, they become obsessed with choosing the “right” one and never make a decision.

Likewise, when faced with a seemingly overwhelming task, they may never even start because they “just don’t know where to begin.”

Before we get started with some tips to help you, you can check out this video on setting goals for success:

By following these 7 easy steps, you can set and achieve almost any long term goal, no matter how big or small it is.

1. Make Goals, Not Wishes

Who hasn’t thought about winning the lottery or inheriting a lot of money from a rich relative? While there is nothing wrong with daydreaming about these things, they are not goals.

A goal should be something that you can work towards during a period of time, not something that falls into your lap through luck.

A goal is “I want to have a business that makes one million dollars a year within five years,” not “I want to win the mega millions within five years.”

2. Be Specific

Remember when you were young and a grown up would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

No one ever said I want to work in the medical field or in government. You said I want to be a doctor, the President, or a policeman. These were specific goals that we had as kids, and while most of us didn’t end up astronauts or presidents, we still pictured ourselves in these very specific roles.

When you are setting long term goals for your life and career, it’s important to be as specific as possible. Get into detail about what you want, and think about it in very concrete terms.

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Instead of saying “In five years, I want to be rich,” think about what that really means to you and what it would look like. Having a more specific goal would be, “In five years I want to own a Ferrari, live in an upscale neighborhood, and be making enough money to take a two week vacation to Europe every year.”

Having specific goals makes measuring your progress more easily. You know you reached you goal to have a Ferrari if you look in the garage and see one. It’s much harder to gauge if you are “rich,” as rich is always a moving target.

3. Write Down Your Goals

A goal that’s not written down is just a wish. Please do not neglect this step!

As humans, we are prone to daydreaming and wishful thinking. We need to take concrete steps to realize our goals.

When you set long term goals, you need to write them down. This single act will take your goal out of the realm of the mind and into the physical (real) world[2].

Just by taking this step, your odds of achieving your goal go up tremendously.

4. Break Down Your Long Term Goal Into Smaller Goals

It can seem overwhelming to say, “In five years, I’ll have a business that makes one million dollars per year.”

How do you get from not having a business at all to having one that makes a million dollars per year? The answer is the same way you’d eat an elephantone bite at a time.

Once you have decided on your long term goals, you’ll then need to break them down into a series of short term goals.

In our business example, you’ll first need to do some research on a business you can start in your spare time. There are a lot of options out there that don’t necessarily take a lot of time or money to get started.

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Then, you’ll want to get competent in the business by taking training courses and networking with others who are already successful in the business.

Once you have a good foundation, it’s time to get started. Launching the business will be the scariest and most rewarding day of your life, but you’re still not close to making a million dollars per year, so break it down some more.

Your first-year goal may be to earn $50,000. Your second year, you’ll want to earn $150,000. From there, you’ll basically need it to double each year in order to reach one million dollars in five years. 

Each of those years can be broken down into smaller goals until you realize you need to make $149 per day. You can break it down even further to say you need three sales per day to make the $149.

At first, you may have no sales, but by experimenting with various marketing strategies that you learned earlier, the sales will start coming in. Then, it’s just a matter of fine tuning your marketing efforts and building on your successes.

5. Remember Your Long Term Goals

You have set your long term goals and even written them down.

Now, don’t just put them in a drawer. We need to have a constant reminder of why we are doing this. Your long term goals should be displayed somewhere prominent (for you). You don’t need to hang them over the fireplace, but they should be placed where you can see them every day.

Things go wrong, and issues and problems arise that no one can see. It’s during these times that remembering your long term goals is important.

6. Reevaluate and Adjust

You should always be looking for ways to improve what you are doing, but it’s especially important in this new internet age. We don’t have to look very far to see how quickly things can change. You must be willing to change course or be left behind.

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Setting long term goals

    Getting back to your growing business, the marketing that got you to $600,000 per year might not be the marketing that gets you to your long term goal of one million dollars per year.

    Always keep your goal in mind, but always be willing to adjust course to get to it.

    7. Don’t Give up

    Realize and understand that the road to success is never straight. You will inevitably come up against obstacles and barriers to your goals. This is not the time to quit.

    In fact, coping with the obstacle or finding a way around the barrier leads to more success than anticipated. Always remember, the only sure way to fail is to quit.

    You can learn more on how to overcome challenges you may face in this article.

    Final Thoughts

    Fear of failure

    is the number one reason most people will never become as successful as they could be. Change is a scary thing, and it’s not easy for people to get out of their comfort zone. Most people won’t unless they have to or they perceive that the reward is worth the risk.

    By setting long term goals and then breaking them down into smaller goals that are easily achievable, you have created your own personalized road map to success.

    And while that long term goal of making a million dollars a year seems insurmountable, the short term goal of making $149 is easily doable.

    While the road to achieving your goals is never a straight line, and there will always be detours and bumps in the road, embrace these things, as they are all part of the journey.

    More Tips on Setting and Achieving Goals

    Featured photo credit: Bench Accounting via unsplash.com

    Reference

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