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

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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.

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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

Is People Management the Right Career Path for You? Signs You Need a Career Change at 30 (And How to Make It Successful) How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Possible 9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career How to Recon Like a “Spy” to Manage Conflicts in the Workplace

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Last Updated on June 1, 2021

10 Effective Ways To Make You a Fast Learner

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10 Effective Ways To Make You a Fast Learner

The importance of learning cannot be underestimated. Learning empowers us to fulfill our ideas and realize our full potential. The speed of gaining new knowledge is practically as important as its volume. Who wouldn’t love to remember tons of information as quickly as possible?

If you want to start learning faster, you need a new approach towards the process which would enable you to comprehend the essence of the matter and relate it with new concepts you encounter.

The following 10 tips will help you become a fast learner:

1. Analyze Your Learning Style

Before you can start experimenting with different studying methods, you need to understand what type of learner you are:

Is your memory associated to sound?

Maybe you can remember what you were reading when a particular song was playing? If this is your case, then you fall into the category of auditory learners.

If you want to start studying more efficiently, then it would be wise to record the lectures and listen to them instead of reading textbooks.

Do you relate information to visual content?

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If you are a visual learner, you should implement images, graphs, charts, infographics, colorful lists, flashcards, and other types of visual content when you study.

Are you a physical learner?

If your learning style is not auditory or visual, then you might be a physical learner. Some students have too much energy; they tap their feet or play with a pen during lectures.

A walk before a lecture will calm your nerves down. You can try studying or listening to audio lectures during a walk. That will help you remember the information more quickly.

2. Use the Right EdTech Tools

Technology has the power of making everything easier. There are plenty of websites, online tools, and smartphone/tablet apps that will boost your skills of planning, writing, time management and brainstorming, etc.

One way of improving your productivity is using flashcards. You can make your own cards, but you can also download pre-made kits online:

  • StudyBlue is one of the best online destinations when it comes to creating and discovering flashcards from all areas of study.
  • If you are looking for a tool that makes the process of brainstorming more effective, then you should try PapersGear.
  • You also need the SelfControl app, which will eliminate all distractions when you need to stay focused.
  • Quizlet is another website you should bookmark; it offers study tools that will transform the learning process into a fun activity.
  • Notella is an app that will help you take quick notes at any time.
  • Brainscape is an educational platform that makes complex subjects easy by relying on cognitive science.
  • You can also try Dragon Dictation, especially if you are an audio learner.

3. Train Your Brain to Accept New Information

Efficient studying is a habit. Your brain needs constant training if you want to improve your focus and complete complex tasks without taking breaks.

One way to achieve this goal is to create a private learning space in your home. You’ll also need a specific time of day that you’ll devote to studying. That will make your brain ready to accept the information it gets, so you’ll notice you’re starting to learn much faster by the day.

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4. Get Some Exercise

You are aware of the fact that physical activity is good for your body, but your brain needs it too!

Light exercise, such as yoga, can help you learn much faster. If you are inactive throughout the day, your body will want to move, so it will be difficult for you to stay focused.

If, on the other hand, you canalize your energy through light training sessions, you will be ready to study productively.

5. Work on the Ambiance

If you have a noisy neighborhood or a working environment full of distractions, you won’t be able to learn or study no matter how hard you try.

If you want to learn quickly, you need a quiet, distraction-free environment that won’t disturb the mind in any way. Such a peaceful place will set you in learning mode as soon as you find yourself in it.

6. Take a Lot of Notes

Only few people are capable of remembering information as they read it. If you don’t belong to this category of privileged learners, then you absolutely need to start taking notes.

This simple learning method will force you to think about the essence of the material. It will also give you a nice framework that will help you review the things you’ve learned.

Write down only the most important information. That will help you remember all the other things you’ve learned.

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Here’re some tips to take notes effectively: Why Successful People Take Notes And How to Make It Your Habit

7. Make Mind Maps

Mind maps are among the best tools to speed up the learning process. Your mind will process information effectively if you create a visual representation of the things you’re about to learn.

You can create a nice mind map in the old-school way: take a large sheet of paper and organize all facts and explanations. Use pictures, note-cards, and other symbols you can think of. Group similar items together and connect them with colorful pens.

Some tips mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

Of course, you can also use an online mind mapping tool if you want to save yourself some time.

8. Experiment with Memorization Methods

Memorizing is often misused in the process of studying. Some people memorize whole sentences, paragraphs and lectures without grasping their essence.

However, memorization can be useful when you need to learn definitions and classifications really quickly. Don’t avoid this technique if you want to fill your brain with information without wasting any time.

Try this if you want to memorize more and faster: How to Memorize More and Faster Than Other People

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9. Find the Right Context

Memorization works solely in times of urgency. If you want to learn in the most effective manner, then you need to have context for information.

Find an aspect that’s interesting for you; try to research for related information, and you’ll discover the joy of learning.

The first step? Jot down as much information and as many ideas as possible: How Simply Jotting Down Ideas Can Make You Smarter

With time, this practice will make you a faster learner.

10. Study Every Day

It will take some time before you get used to a daily studying routine, but your mind will eventually grasp the habit.

The more frequently you study, the less time it will take for you to remember the things you read.

If you start studying as soon as possible after you have learned some new concepts, it won’t take long at all for you to get ready for an exam. Now that sounds really good, doesn’t it?

More to Help You Learn Quicker

Featured photo credit: Becca Tapert via unsplash.com

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