Using Effective Goals to Solve Internal Conflict

Three primary causes of Staff conflict are 1) the lack of a clear vision, 2) a sense of belief that problems will not be resolved and that how things are done will never be different, and 3) a perception of a powerful entity that creates a "we-they" dynamic.

In his book Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald A. Heifetz describes the requirements of leaders. His list of key activities on the "to do" list of effective leaders is to "Bind people together by listening then powerfully articulating their values, hopes, and pains." Leaders must "weave these hopes into some image of the future" (vision). When "painting the picture" of the future remember the 4 C's. The image of the future must be Clear, Compelling, Communicated and Credible. If every Staff member can imagine their part in the future Spa, their attention will shift from the bickering of today to the belief in tomorrow. A journalist happened on to the scene where several workers were laying bricks. The journalist asked the first worker what he was doing what he was doing and the worker replied, "Isn't that obvious? I am laying bricks." When the same question was asked of the second worker the reply was curt. "I am building a wall." When the next worker was queried his reply was different. He laid down his trowel and as tears filled his eyes he said " I am building a cathedral". All three were doing the same task but with different visions. Of the three, which will be the most likely to engage in petty arguments and bickering with the other workers? If a Staff can "see" a future picture of something worth doing, they shift their focus and motivation increases. And with the improvement in focus and motivation the financial situation also improves. Of the three bricklayers, which do you believe will change jobs for 5 cents/hour?

Likewise, effective leaders understand that hope is a powerful motivator. If there is no reason to hope for a better day or there is a sense that problems are insurmountable, the Staff will begin the blaming game. Most problems have causes and resulting effects. By establishing ways to identify all of the problems and then looking for common causes and trends, the Spa leaders can begin to ask questions that separate the vital few from the trivial many. Because not all problems can be eliminated instantly, effective leaders prioritize and look for patterns and root causes. Because most problems are caused by how the Spa is organized and managed, solutions must focus on the interactions rather than the actions. As resources are used to more successfully solve problems, Staff will begin to focus on the problems rather than each other.

We are all "in the same boat". Most of us were taught that every problem had a solution and that there were a few gifted ones and especially teachers that knew all the right answers. They were the special one and the rest of us were not. That was a set up. In the real world where we work everyday, no one has all the answers. We must work together to figure out what will work best. If someone believes that "they" are "special" and "we" are not, resentment builds when the supposedly "all-knowing ones", "teachers" and gifted ones fail to help the rest of us. Internal competitions such as "employee of the week" set up a "we/they" which is toxic to teamwork. Contests create 1 or 2 winners which means the rest of us are, well..., losers. The best Spas set up the contest so that everyone wins. When the Spa is not longer staffed by rare winners and plentiful losers, the competition for being named "the special one" will end. Spa team goals such as getting an ever increasing number of referrals from Guests will work better than "win/lose" games.

Through the creation of measurable goals such as Spa team goals for Guest referrals, satisfaction, loyalty and number of problems permanently solved, Spa leaders are doomed to continue dealing with conflict, turnover and unpredictable Spa performance. The vision of Spas being places that consistently deliver peace and harmony on both sides of the desk is possible. If we can imagine that, it is simply a matter of time until we can measure our progress and make it the reality.

By Linda Bankoski, Spa Quality