Tap the Mid-Sized Market

Why Corporate Training Programs Do Not Work

Marketing Resolutions

Technology Women Form Webgrrls

Know Your Conflict Style

Corrections or additions?

These articles were prepared for the January 11, 2006

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Survival Guide: Mercer Economic Summit

A major Mercer County economic summit highlights the diversity of this

relatively small county. Workshops are set to address everything from

large-scale warehouse operations to the most sophisticated emerging

technologies. Putting a wrapper on these core economic activities are

talks and workshops on the arts, environmental planning, and mixed use

centers.

Sponsored by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, the summit

takes place on Thursday, January 12, at 3 p.m. at Friend Center on the

Princeton University campus. Cost: $50. Call 609-924-1776 or visit

www.princetonchamber.org.

The keynote is by James Hughes, dean of Rutgers’ Edward Bloustein

School of Planning and Public Policy. There are a number of breakout

sessions. J. Robert Hillier, founder of architecture firm the Hillier

Group, leads a session on mixed use centers, highlighting those in

development in central New Jersey. Anthony Tennariello of the

WorldTrade Management Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers leads a group

that addresses warehousing, distribution, logistics, and foreign trade

zones, a large and expanding business in the county.

Richard F.X. Johnson, senior vice president of Matrix Development,

moderates a session on environmental planning and urban renewal with

an emphasis on the investment options in the county’s urban centers.

Congressman Rush Holt talks about the development of an Einstein’s

Alley of technology and bio-sciences companies along the Route 1

Corridor.

Finally, Kimberly Stever of the Capital Region Convention and Visitors

Bureau moderates a panel of local and statewide leaders who address

the impact of arts and culture in the county and talk about plans to

enhance and grow cultural and artistic industries.

Top Of Page
Tap the Mid-Sized Market

There are more than 17,000 mid-sized companies in the United States –

a lucrative market, if you know how to approach it, says Peggy McHale

of Consultants 2 Go. Her management consulting firm specializes in

marketing and sales development. Located in Berkeley Heights, she and

her partner, Sandi Webster, specialize in working with mid-sized

companies.

McHale speaks on "The ABCs of B2B: Getting Your Share of the B2B

Market" at a meeting of the Mercer County Chapter of NJAWBO (New

Jersey Association of Women Business Owners) on Thursday, January 12,

at 6 p.m. at the Harrison Conference Center. Cost: $40. Register by

sending an E-mail to rsvpmercerdinner@yahoo.com.

Why should you target mid-sized companies in your marketing? Not only

do they make up a large segment of the marketplace, but also, because

of their smaller organization structure, they often need to hire out

services that are provided by in-house employees at larger companies.

For instance, a smaller firm may not have its own human relations

staff or marketing department, and will need to hire a consultant for

these types of services.

Before you can target a business, you have to learn about it, says

McHale. She uses the Small Business Administration guidelines as a

starting to point in defining a mid-sized company. According to those

guidelines, a mid-sized company has between 500 to 1,000 employees and

grosses between $50 million to $1 billion a year.

But within those basic guidelines there are an infinite variety of

businesses – everything from older, well-established firms to

start-ups. These companies may be involved in manufacturing, banking,

retail, and almost any other type of business. "While it certainly

varies, you will find a large concentration of manufacturers fall into

this category," says McHale. Community banks and information

technology companies are two other groups that are often found in the

mid-sized range.

One common characteristic, however, says McHale, is that mid-sized

firms have a "flatter" organizational structure. "You have to move

very high up in the chain of command to get to the decision maker."

This is especially true of family firms, she says.

As a vice president specializing in new industries for American

Express, McHale had an opportunity to become familiar with the needs

of small and mid-sized businesses. She was working for American

Express in downtown Manhattan on 9/11 and says that experience played

a key factor in starting her own business. "I think I always had it in

the back of my mind to start my own company," she says, "but it was a

risk." When she was offered a seperation package in 2002 she decided

the risks no longer looked too large, and went out on her own. "After

9/11 I just look at risk differently," she says.

McHale offers a number of practical tips and techniques for reaching

the mid-sized market.

Learn about your potential client. This is of paramount importance.

Before approaching a company, try to learn everything you can about

it. Not only should you learn about the industry, but also about the

individual firm: what they sell, who they sell to, and of course, who

those key decision makers are.

This can be particularly important and particularly difficult if the

business is family owned. The CEO may be the person who started the

company or it may be the child of the founder or another family

member, but the founder may still be very involved. "In a family-owned

business, it is important to ferret out who all the key influences

are," she says. "They may be board members or even other family

members who are not directly involved in day to day operations of the

company."

Get to know the people. No matter what industry or company you are

targeting, it helps to get to know the people in charge in a personal

way, says McHale. "Find out what associations they belong to – what

chambers or trade groups." Then join those groups so that you can meet

people in a more casual environment. "Get involved in the

organization," she recommends. That way you will have a chance to

interact with those key decision makers on a regular basis.

Another good way to get to know the decision makers is to find out

what charities they are involved in and join them yourself. For

example, she said, many community banks are involved in Habitat for

Humanity. Volunteering with a local Habitat group will give you the

chance not only to meet bankers, but to learn more about them on a

personal level.

Package your services. Once you’ve met the decision makers, you still

must convince them that your product or service is right for their

business. Packaging is often the answer, says McHale. "Mid-sized

companies are less apt to buy custom solutions and more apt to look at

something that has been "productized." This means that the product or

service can be easily replicated and offers a cost savings for the

customer.

Offer added services. Since mid-sized firms often don’t have a large

staff, offering additional services is a great benefit. For example,

automatic upgrades to software or free or low cost maintenance and

service are attractive "extras" to this type of company. "In some ways

selling to a mid-sized firm is more like selling to an individual

consumer," she says.

No matter what the size or type of business you are targeting, McHale

says the most important thing to remember is to "do your homework."

Don’t go in unprepared or without the knowledge of who you need to

talk to make the sale.

– Karen Hodges Miller

Top Of Page
Why Corporate Training Programs Do Not Work

Corporate managers are always going off to one kind of training or

another, a day here, a seminar there. In fact, the belief that

training pays off has spawned a network of internal trainers and

external consultants whose goal is to improve productivity and swell

the bottom line. But Don Blohowiak, a Princeton Junction-based

organizational consultant and individual coach (www.leadwell.com),

worries that training is often less effective than one might suppose.

The issue is something he calls the "KND problem: Knowing, Not Doing."

Often managers get the concepts down, but putting them into action is

another story. "They will talk about and promote ideas, slogans, new

programs, and consultants, and things don’t change much," he says.

"Many times they do things that are at odds with what they are talking

about. They haven’t gotten down to the process level, where tasks,

programs, and systems support the new ideas."

Blohowiak is speaking on "Managerial Performance: The Truth Is Out

There, So Why Are We Ignoring it?" to the Mid-New Jersey ASTD on

Thursday, January 12, at 8 a.m. at the Princeton Courtyard Marriott.

Cost: $40. Register at www.midnjastd.org.

Blohowiak, who maintains an interesting blog at

www/blogs/bnet.com/leadershipnow, says that research makes eminently

clear the characteristics of a good manager. And the most managers in

an organization can cite the correct practices by chapter and verse.

Then what prevents effective management?

The problem is that the organization and the individual manager often

work at cross purposes. "They are two sides of the same coin, but they

can be at odds," says Blohowiak. He likens the situation to that of a

magnet. The positive and negative poles together can create energy,

but they have to work in tandem. But in a business mixed signals often

dominate, pushing for one thing on the corporate side while

undermining it at the individual level. "You have to address both,"

says Blohowiak.

For successful outcomes, businesses have to get the two organizational

levels in synch, and bring together the conceptual and the practical.

Blohowiak suggests a number of ways that organizations can improve

management effectiveness:

Do not give oppositional directives. Blohowiak points out that "mixed

signals confuse people, waste time, and frustrate managers, who are

trying to figure out what the company really wants." This occurs when

businesses say they are going to emphasize customer satisfaction, but

that they are predicating managers’ bonuses on cost-cutting.

Likewise, businesses that have lost good employees and want to make

sure managers don’t overwork those who remain, tell managers to "honor

the work-life balance." They promulgate slogans and write articles in

corporate newsletters urging employees to live full lives. But at the

same time they institute a budget cut, and, needing to do more with

less, may initiate a hiring freeze and urge managers to increase

productivity.

Another common corporate action is to promote a "team environment"

while at the same granting all rewards based on individual

achievement. Also, any number of organizations talk about managing for

results and running a taut ship, but at the same time tell their

managers not to fire anyone so as not to hurt morale.

"Managers figure out which mixed messages mean things," Blohowiak

says. "They will focus on their own rewards and what their own

managers want." They think to themselves: "It would be better if I

fashioned this in the manner of X, but I believe the company wants Y,

so I will put the emphasis on Y."

Use the appropriate measures to assess progress. "Make sure you are

measuring things that align with what you say are your priorities,"

says Blohowiak. Typically, businesses, and even nonprofits, use broad

financial measures like expenses and profits to gauge success.

"There are other key measures they need to get their hands around if

they are going to be successful," he says. First, they need measures

relevant to the changes they are trying to make. "They can’t measure

the old stuff and preach the new stuff. We’re not changing the things

we keep data on and assess success by." Second, organizations need to

track results and profits in multiple areas, including operations,

finance, human resources, and customer service.

Develop organizational systems that support desired changes. "Every

organization is perfectly aligned for its current results," he says.

But if, for example, you want a more streamlined process, you need

support systems that allow that to happen. Perhaps you need more

sophisticated or simpler technology and a good system for hiring

people with the right skills and then rewarding them. You can’t have

business as usual, paying only lip service to desired results, and

expect that they will come about.

Institute consequences that support change. "If you don’t reward what

you want to happen and punish for refusing to do what you want," says

Blohowiak, "you default to inertia." Without sufficient motivation to

change, people will continue to rely on their old habits. When people

are confused or frustrated – as they tend to be in any change

environment – they will default to what they know and are comfortable

with.

"If there are no consequences, why put up with the problems of

change?" says Blohowiak. Even the most dutiful employees will ask "why

am I doing this?" if the company doesn’t recognize their efforts and

sends signals that they don’t matter. When companies say that the

stars will get a 3 percent raise and the clunkers just half-a-percent

less, change will not happen.

Train individuals and corporations to work together for corporate

goals. "Those of us who work in training and development try to give

people better ways of doing things, but exposure to information does

not change behavior," says Blohowiak. He mentions two lyrics he often

hears from managers. The first is "you can’t please everyone, so

you’ve gotta please yourself," from Ricky Nelson’s "Garden Party." The

second is "I can’t do what 10 people want me to do, so I guess I’ll

remain the same," from Otis Redding’s "Sitting on the Dock of the

Bay."

Trainers need to help executives develop a holistic understanding of

organizational function. At the same time individual managers need

tailored, individualized training – especially coaching and mentoring

– not training programs that assume everyone is at the same place in

development.

Blohowiak grew up in Milwaukee and graduated in 1978 from the

University of Wisconsin with a self-designed degree – a Bachelor of

Arts General, or BAG – in communication. His studies combined

journalism, rhetoric, and interpersonal communication. He began his

career as a journalist and soon was recruited over to the business

side.

"It was a career path that I had never expected," he says. The reason

he gives for his interest in the ideas that nourish good management is

that he has never taken a business course. "I started writing books

because I had the questions and not the answers," he says. "It has led

me to always look with an open mind."

Blohowiak says that before setting out on his own as a consultant 10

years ago, he was a manager and executive with Fortune 500 companies

in four time zones. He spent five years with AP as a marketing

executive and worked with the cable television industry in New York

City as a professional publicist. "Working in California, Denver, New

York, and Detroit," he says, "I reached the conclusion that no matter

what the business or nonprofit, the people issues remain the same."

Blohowiak says that he cares a lot about ideas and eventually reached

a point in his career where he wanted to see concepts realized. He

took the ideas he had learned from day-to-day dealings with state

government, associations, Fortune 100 companies, and family-opened

businesses. "I was so fortunate to see an extreme variety of

organizations and see that the challenges are universal," he says.

His goal is to close the chasm between knowing and doing. "The mind is

perfectly capable of ignoring what it knows," says Blohowiak. "People

excuse themselves out of doing better." In the face of this aspect of

human nature, his goal is to teach and enable top managers to do

things in a different way.

– Michele Alperin

Top Of Page
Marketing Resolutions

Sure you have clients, but are they the clients you really want?

Stephanie Sharp poses this surprising answer when asked about why it

is important to review marketing plans a the beginning of a new year.

"Marketing is not about getting business," she says. "It’s about

getting the business you want."

Sharp, owner of Hamilton-based graphics communications firm, Sharp

Designs, speaks at the NJAWBO Marketing Roundtable meeting on Tuesday,

January 17, at 8:15 a.m. at the offices of the Mercadien Group at 3625

Quakerbridge Road. Marsha Stoltman of the Stoltman Group is also

speaking. The meeting is free to members and is $20 for all others.

Call 609-392-8724 for more information.

Sharp is a Texas native and a graduate of West Texas State University

(Class of 1984). She worked for several firms in New Orleans and then

in Atlanta before following her husband, an executive in retail

management who commutes to Manhattan, to New Jersey and

re-establishing her company here. She uses independent contractors –

writers, photographers, and graphic designers – to work on all aspects

of branding, including logos, brochures, and newsletters for business

to business companies. Many of her clients are in the pharmaceutical,

healthcare, and financial services industries.

For her own business, she finds that the most effective marketing

involves joining – and participating actively in – associations. "A

thing I hate," she says, "is hearing people say `I joined this group a

year ago, and haven’t gotten any business.’" The key she says, in an

interview held right after she returned from a chamber of commerce

breakfast, is to attend regularly and to participate in committees.

Become known as a person who adds value and can be counted on, and

business may well follow. This kind of marketing costs very little, as

do many of Sharp’s marketing suggestions.

Prepare a written marketing plan. Many business owners, busy putting

out fires, simply never take the time to draw up a marketing plan.

Even in busy times, however, it’s a good idea to do so. "Write it

down," says Sharp. "Make a commitment to yourself."

Ask the big questions. A marketing plan should begin with a thorough

self examination. What exactly is it that you do? Sure, it sounds

obvious. But are you a website designer who specializes in E-commerce

sites or a website designer with a deep understanding of non-profits?

Who are your competitors in this niche? Why are you better than they

are? Is it your graphics that set you apart, or your quick turnaround,

or maybe your level of experience?

Translate your strengths into benefits for your clients. When you have

to have a clear understanding of your niche, use your marketing plan

to state just how it translates into a value proposition for potential

clients. "It’s not all about you," says Sharp. Your marketing

materials may mention awards you have won – and people do occasionally

ask, she says – but mostly they must talk about what it is you do that

will plump up clients’ bottom lines or make their lives easier.

Take advantage of free marketing. It costs nothing to send out a press

release. Do it, says Sharp, and do it well. But make sure not to do it

too often. Yes, many media outlets will snap up the story of how your

company is helping Katrina victims rebuild their homes. But

thrice-weekly releases on incremental changes to your products or

services may soon cause reporters to automatically crumple anything

with your company name on it to use in wastebasket basketball practice

sessions.

If the organizations you join offer free ads in their newsletters or

listings in their databases, by all means take advantage. "I belong to

the Mercer Chamber," says Sharp. "They offer new members an ad in

their newsletter, and I am amazed by how many people do not take

advantage." She has even offered cut-rate help in preparing an ad, and

still finds that some members don’t want to bother. "It’s a way to get

your name out there," she says. And it’s free.

Another potentially valuable free marketing opportunity presents

itself every time that attendees at a meeting are invited to stand and

talk for a minute or two about themselves and their businesses. A

frequent meeting goer herself, Sharp has observed that "a lot of

people could use some help with their elevator speeches." Be prepared

for these opportunities. Craft a succinct, interesting message.

Know that you are part of your branding. At a recent chamber meeting,

Sharp ran into a business owner wearing an orange and black tie. She

asked if he was a Princeton graduate. No, he said, pointing to his

brochure and showing her that these were his company colors. Sharp’s

company colors are teal and silver, and she says that she frequently

wears some item of teal-colored clothing to association meetings.

Spend on basic marketing materials. Sharp sometimes is handed business

cards that "look like they were printed from a home ink jet printer."

While a business owner may think that this is a smart money-saving

move, she says that cheap materials often translate in potential

clients’ minds to a fly-by-night image. "They may wonder if you can

afford business cards, and if you’ll be around to finish their

projects," she says.

Invest in a website. Sharp says that even a restaurant now needs a

website. At a minimum, potential customers need basic information

about a business, contact information, and directions.

Set concrete goals. Without a marketing plan, it is difficult to

measure results. It’s a road map to business growth. Make it as

specific as possible. "You can write that you want to add six new

clients this year, or increase sales by 15 percent," Sharp gives as

examples.

Set aside time to market. "I know a man who makes cold calls between 9

and 10 a.m. one day a week," says Sharp. The same business owner sets

aside another block of time later on in the week for follow-up calls.

Make this marketing push a regular part of your routine, because no

matter how busy you are now, feast or famine is the rule for most

businesses. Outreach during busy times can mean that the work will

keep on coming.

Reel in better clients. Many business owners are happy just to have

business, and eagerly take on anyone who throws work their way. Bad

idea, says Sharp. "There are bad clients," she says, her Texas twang

softening the critical assessment. These clients tend to call whenever

a question pops into their heads, interrupting work and soaking up

time. Do the numbers, and these time wasters may be adding less than

nothing to the bottom line. Other clients to be avoided are those that

pay too little, or whose work is just not the sort of thing you want

to spend you time on.

Use marketing time to woo clients with interesting work who pay well

and are considerate of your time. What business owner could ask for a

better New Year’s present?

– Kathleen McGinn Spring

Top Of Page
Technology Women Form Webgrrls

A new women’s business group launches in the Princeton area this

month. Webgrrls, a branch of an 11-year-old international

organization, has as a somewhat frivolous name, but a serious mission.

"It was the first Internet group in New York City," says Jamie Cid,

the organizer of the brand new Princeton chapter. "It’s focus is to

propel women forward in their careers." In keeping with its name, the

group also has a technology focus. But it’s not limited to women who

work in Internet or high tech businesses. "Technology drives most

enterprises," says Cid. "If you’re in marketing, you have to know how

to put together an E-mail campaign. If you’re in sales, you have to

know how to manage your contacts."

The first Princeton-area Webgrrls meeting takes place on Wednesday,

January 18, at 7 p.m. at the Borders book store in the Nassau Park

shopping center. Call 917-975-6645 for more information.

The inaugural meeting is free. After that a yearly membership will be

about $55, and will include the cost of all meetings, as well as a

Webgrrls database listing. Non-members will be able to attend future

meetings for between $10 and $15. Cid says that the price will depend

in large part upon who will be speaking. Cid is not yet sure on which

day of the month the group will meet. She is looking to feedback from

early attendees to determine a good monthly date.

While the group’s name denotes an all-female membership, Cid says that

men are welcome, and that some do attend, while others serve as

sponsors or workshop leaders. "Everyone is welcome," she says.

Topics of discussion will include such Internet topics as how to

establish an E-commerce site or how to start a blog. But there will

also be workshops and talks on more general business subjects,

possibly including how to handle finances for a small company and how

to market effectively.

Why have a technology group for women? "The dynamic is different when

there are only women in the room," says Cid, who has been attending

the New York City Webgrrls chapter for years. Women tend to interact

differently when they’re on their own, she finds. There is less of a

sense of competition. Women may also need more support in technology

careers, she adds, pointing out that the fairer sex is seriously

under-represented in IT careers.

Cid, however, has pushed straight ahead in male-dominated fields, and

is only now taking a sort-of-female detour by launching a line of skin

care products.

A Brooklyn native, Cid, 30, is largely self-educated. She spent some

time at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where she studied

accounting, but soon left to pursue a Wall Street career. She became a

broker and did financial consulting for four years before "becoming a

little bored." She says that she wanted "something in technology," and

signed on with Sprint where she sold telecom equipment to big

companies. She then did the same thing for MCI.

At that point she wanted to change career direction again. "I took a

year’s break to think about what I wanted," she says. "I traveled to

India, got involved in alternative medicine. I did volunteer work."

She also decided to change locales, and moved to Lawrence. She changed

her career, too, joining Ramco, a software firm with offices at 3150

Brunswick Pike, where she now works as an aviation software developer.

The time off – and interest in alternative medicine – also gave birth

to Cid’s first entrepreneurial enterprise. In December she launched

the Saijade brand of skin care products (www.saijade.com) at an event

in SoHo. As a base, her products use rooibos, which, she explains, is

a South African herb with healing, anti-inflammatory properties. She

chose the company name because it embodies her view of 21st century

women. "Sai means mother and father in Persian," she says. "And jade

signifies strength, longevity, and protection."

"That is the essence of a woman," she continues. "We are mothers and

professionals. We play the role of male and of female, and there has

to be a balance."

Cid is running the new company from her home with a partner, Pushita

Loffreda. The two met when Loffreda married one of Cid’s best friends.

The two traveled together and discovered similar interests. "It’s a

perfect fit," she says. Loffreda handles the day-to-day business of

getting the skin care line into stores, while Cid says that she is "a

week-end entrepreneur." The partners worked with one consultant on the

formulation of their products and another on the labeling. Cid

explains that the skin care line is organic, and therefore does not

require FDA approval, but it does need to submit to FDA labeling

guidelines. The two women designed the line’s packaging themselves.

As if aviation software design, a skin care products launch, and the

organization of a new women’s group was not enough, Cid has just

started a technology blog. Located at techgadgetblog.com, is a

joint venture with Josh Hinds, an Alabama-based motivational writer

she became friendly with during visits to his website, Get Motivated

(getmotivated.com). She envisions that women who join her

Webgrrls chapter will use the blog to share information and expertise,

and to promote their own businesses.

Meanwhile, Cid is writing the blog herself. It’s a full life for the

self-taught techie, entrepreneur, software developer, and blogger. "I

get up at 5 a.m.," she says. But still she is hatching new plans. She

talks about getting the new Webgrrls group involved in mentoring, and

is planning on signing up a number of corporate sponsors – at about

$150 apiece. But won’t rounding them up take a lot of time? "Oh no,"

says Cid, "just some short phone calls."

Her life has been all about moving from enterprise to enterprise,

using networking of all kinds as the vine she swings on. She is

confident that the Webgrrls group – which she is publicizing largely

through her group of contacts – will provide the same kind of

opportunities for those who participate.

"It’s all about empowering women," says a woman who has been powering

her own career progress, with a little help from her friends, since

she was a teen-ager.

– Kathleen McGinn Spring

Top Of Page
Know Your Conflict Style

`There is a mini epidemic in business and industry of not making

decisions," says Stephen W. Oliver. That lack of decision-making

leadership means companies, at best, are often being led by inertia.

At worst, they flounder and eventually fail or become take-over

targets.

Oliver, a human resources consultant based in Philadelphia, teaches

classes in leadership. He teaches a five-session course, "Leadership

Skills for Managers," at Mercer County Community College, starting on

Wednesday, January 18, at 6:30 p.m. Cost: $270. Call 609-586-9446.

"Leadership Skills for Managers" is part of the American Management

Association University Certificate in Leadership Excellence offered by

the college. To earn the certificate, participants must complete four

core courses and two electives.

Management in today’s workplace demands "a new type of leadership,"

says Oliver. These new leaders need to be "visionaries, change agents,

coaches, and empowerers."

Oliver has worked in human resources for over 20 years. A graduate of

West Virginia University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in

English, he received his master’s degree in human resources

development at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. He moved

to the Philadelphia area about 10 years ago to work in training and

development at Hahnemann University Hospital. Along with his

management consulting firm, Stephen W. Oliver and Associates, he

teaches leadership and human resources management at Mercer County

Community College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Villanova

University.

Leadership, Oliver says, "is about dealing with people." A person is

often promoted to a management position "because they are good

technicians. But they’ve never been taught how to be a leader or how

to deal with people." There is a difference between "being a manager

and being a leader," he says. "A leader understands that you have to

do whatever it takes. A leader uses communication to provide

direction, not dictation."

Instead of dictating that a project be completed in a certain way, a

true leader, says Oliver, will "give ideas, provide direction, and

then enable employees to do the job on their own. A leader should be a

mentor and a coach."

Anyone in a management or leadership position needs to be aware of the

fact that they are always leading by example. "If you come to work

early or late, how you act, what you do," he says. "You are being

observed." A leader who is approachable makes it easy for the people

under him to come and discuss problems.

One of the most important aspects of leadership is conflict

resolution, says Oliver. "Whether it is at home or in your business,

conflict is inevitable." How that conflict is dealt with is what is

important, he says. A leader "turns conflict around and makes it a

positive."

Everyone has different approaches to conflict. Oliver uses the

Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument to describe several approaches

to conflict.

Competitor. This person sees conflict as a competition that must be

won. "It’s my way or the highway," says Oliver.

Avoider. An avoider will do anything to avoid a conflict.

Accommodator. An accommodator "will take care of everyone else’s needs

except their own," says Oliver.

Quick fixer. This person is always looking for the fast and easy way

out.

Collaborator. This type of person tries to get people to come together

to look at the long term.

Everyone has a preference for one or the other of these styles.

However, says Oliver, your preference does not mean that you always

react in the same way to every situation. Often people will react

differently to conflict with different people. And, he adds, if you

are aware of your style preference, you can adjust your style to the

situation. "The worst thing can be to have two competitors in conflict

or two avoiders." In the first case, neither side is willing to be

proved wrong. In the second case, "the two will do everything to avoid

a conflict and never resolve the problem."

Oliver says that while categorizing conflict styles may seem

simplistic, it is not. "It is important to know your style and

understand the style of others," he says. In addition, different

circumstances may call for different methods of resolving conflict. In

a relationship a "competitor" must always be right or may be very

difficult to live with. Not an ideal partner, the competitor can be

the person you want with you in some situations. For example, says

Oliver, "in a hospital emergency room I want a strong-willed person

who can make life and death decisions, who can say, `We’ll discuss it

later. Now step aside.’"

"The bottom line," says Oliver, "is to learn your own conflict style

so that you can work better with other people."

– Karen Hodges Miller


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