Practical tools and tips to help resolve difficult situations and challenges in managing people and teams


Practical tools and tips to help resolve difficult situations and challenges which arise in managing people and teams were suggested by Mr. Luke Monahan, Director, Mediation Foundation of Ireland and Director, Curam, when he spoke at a meeting of HMI South East Region in St. Luke’s General Hospital in June.

Mr. Monahan, who is an accredited mediator with expertise in workplace conflict, was speaking  on “Leading with people through change, conflict and opportunities – onwards to better outcomes for all.

He said emotional intelligence leads to increased leadership ability, increased team performance, improved decision making, decreased occupational stress and reduced staff turnover.

The competencies of emotional intelligence were self-awareness, self-confidence, self-reliance, assertiveness self-actualization, relationship skills, empathy, flexibility, self-control and optimism.

Mr. Monahan said the six domains of resilience were Vision(purpose, goals and congruence, Composure (regulate emotions, interpretation bias, calm and in control) Reasoning (problem solving, resourcefulness, anticipate and plan) Health (nutrition, sleep and exercise), Tenacity (persistence, realistic optimism, bounce back), Collaboration (support networks, social context, manage perceptions).

When faced with difficulties and challenges, you need to mind the gap between intent and impact.

“When faced with difficulties and challenges, you need to mind the gap between intent and impact. Keep calm and summarise.  Look at positive reframing.  Reframing issues is like taking barbs out of barbed wire.  You can reframe issues into softer language.  For example you may be tempted to say “he is lazy as sin.’  You could reframe this by saying  there ‘is an issue re productivity.’

“It is also helpful to reflect emotions, word for word.  If somebody tells you ‘I was really frightened,’ it is a good idea to reflect this back to them, by, for example, saying ’You told us that you were really frightened.’

“It is helpful to reflect on your emotions, ask for perspective, observe, pause for a moment, become more empathetic by trying to understand the ‘why’ and choose to learn from criticism.”

Mr. Monahan said that generally negative feedbacks from meetings held to resolve issues  were more than 20%.  “They reject you, not just the feedback.”

He said people should consider what they brought to their teams.  Did they bring innovative ideas, nail actions down, open up discussions, bring other viewpoints.  Did they bring good humour, an interest in others and not just work. Were they good at listening, did they bring clarity in procedures and processes, did they chair in an inclusive way, drive things on to action.  Were they collaborative, did they challenge ideas, proposals, check assumptions and bias, represent views of others, explore a range of options.  Were they a  consensus builder,  did they lead from the front, focus on details, get the job done, fix problems, get everyone on board, get to the key issues quickly.

He said research from 100 work settings (Vital Conversations by A. Grimsley) showed that one third said their current projects were slow-motion train wrecks, 75% said challenging the key decision maker was impossible and 40% of these said the project was salvageable, but only 10% felt confident to speak up.  Forty per cent said their leader didn’t challenge poor behaviour for a year – 30% said four years.

Breakthrough conversations were about the commitment to uncover and address what mattered, with a disposition that was curious, courageous and constructive and being able to say and hear what needed to be said and heard.   Problems should be dealt with early, directly and constructively.

Mr. Monahan said that the single  most untapped competitive advantage was teamwork.   To gain this advantage, teams must trust one another, engage in conflict around ideas , commit to decisions, hold one another accountable and focus on achieving collective results.

When trust was high, people could quickly apologise, accept questions and challenges, take risks in offering feedback and assistance, appreciate and tap into others’ skills, focus time and energy on important issues, admit weaknesses and mistakes, know about one another’s personal lives and not be uncomfortable discussing them and not be afraid to ask for help.

Forty per cent said their leader didn’t challenge poor behaviour for a year – 30% said four years

When  Working Genius (wonder, invention, discernment, galvanising, enablement and tenacity) was well represented on a team,  members observed the environment and questioned current approaches as well as the status quo.  They dreamt and contemplated about how things could be different, generated novel solutions and ideas, evaluated ideas and ensured the best solution was pursued, rallied the team around the best initiatives, provided the support needed to move the solution to the first stages of implementation, held themselves accountable to finishing well and enjoyed seeing the full impact of the solution realised in the world.

When Working Genius was underrepresented on the team they spent most of their energy on ‘getting things done’ and rarely stopped to discuss what was happening in the industry or environment.  They often failed to identify serous problems or take advantage of major opportunities.  They felt frustrated or demoralised with their inability to create new solutions to frequent problems and kept relying on the same products, services, or ideas.  They failed to evaluate, identify, and dismiss bad ideas  before they got implemented, they didn’t spend enough time refining good ideas to make them better, they failed to get the team rallied and focussed round their best ides or endeavours, they failed to help around the most important priorities,  no one responded to the rallying cry around the idea or solution, they failed to complete projects and moved on to the next thing before seeing the initiative all the way through.

“There are four key behaviours in leading change – make people feel safe, get people involved, be an example and communicate more.

*Luke Monahan’s  roles are many and varied and include contributing to various Masters programmes on Organisational Behaviour, Leadership and Regulatory Management and working as a senior associate with the Irish Management Institute. He is also a programme director and senior tutor for the Health Service Leadership Academy. He has also acted as consultant to a range of organisations across all sectors, both nationally and internationally in the areas of change management, leadership, strategy development, resilience and conflict.