Articles published in 2016

Three types of disastrous leadership behaviours brought to light by Politicians in the recent Brexit showdown

eu flags

Whatever you feel about the Brexit decision, most people agree that it has become a site of bitter conflict.  Indeed, many feel that leaders on both sides have aggravated the situation, accelerating it into a veritable tornado of whipped emotions, while innocent civilians are trapped like Dorothy and Toto inside the maelstrom.  In a Washington Post article, Anthony King, Professor of Politics at the University of Essex, observes that in the newly charged environment much of the political class is behaving with distinctive ‘adversarialism’. Whilst it is easy to dismiss this as a Westminster issue and not one that affects your professional role, we are all influenced and shaped by a culture that often values confrontation over diplomacy, exaggeration over honesty, and aggressive drive over reflective discussion.

In this light, consider three types of disastrous leadership behavior recently modeled by our politicians that you should really try and avoid.

The Exaggerated Fact (sometimes known as a lie)

Albert Carr’s argument in the Harvard Business Review back in the late sixties famously argued that bluffing was all part of the business game.  Competitive business activity, it suggests, is immune from the mundane moral scruples of ‘truthfulness’.  However, times have changed and whilst the art of bluffing might win you round one, sooner or later that partner, client, or colleague is going to realise you were not being entirely truthful, and feel angry, betrayed, or frustrated.  You do not have to acknowledge all your company’s difficulties, but do stay on the side of truthfulness.  You will earn respect and trust, and reduce the risk of increased conflict further down the line. Just as votes and money are only really valuable in politics if you can maintain public trust, the same applies in the workplace. Bluffing for self-interested pursuit of short-term goals tends to spiral into unforeseen and uncomfortable outcomes.

The short term win focus

Yes, we know you want to win that argument or that bid, and perhaps this requires risking a little bit of conflict. Conflict in itself is not always inherently negative, but if you don’t understand why you are in conflict and what your motivations are, then you risk getting into dangerous waters.  Ask yourself why you want to win, what exactly you are winning, and what you will do after you win.  Ask yourself how you will make peace, and create harmony if some disagreement or discomfort has been necessary. Most people understand the value of a ‘necessary’ confrontation about things that are truly important. Few sensible people understand the value of a competitive punch up for the sake of having had one.  Having a strategic conflict management plan that anticipates and manages the outcomes of any conflict that arises will have a huge positive impact on mid and long-term outcomes including team productivity and engagement.

The bad loser

Whilst Winston Churchill argued that the price of greatness is responsibility, President Teddy Roosevelt argued of perseverance in crisis, ‘Don’t foul, don’t flinch—hit the line hard’.  When you lose, and it is inevitable that sometimes you will lose, do not run for the hills. You need to stay focused and engaged emotionally as well as physically. Assess your own emotions, be reflective, talk to loved ones or trusted colleagues and do not be ashamed to share your feelings of disappointment and failure. However, neither self-flagellation nor blaming others will help here. Your team needs a strong, secure, and calm leader to reassure them and to start to look forward and assess new possibilities in the future. They do not need an angry, raging, power play of blame and backstabbing, or the sight of you grim with despair and self-loathing. This might seem self-evident, but if we look at Westminster, perhaps it is not so easy in practice. Just as you would make a conflict management plan that deals with spill over from a hard fought win, make one that considers failure. Ask yourself, how will this affect morale? What steps can I put in place to ensure that things quickly get back on track? What support do I need to be an effective leader at this difficult point, and how will I source this and make time for it? Most importantly, make this plan before you lose, not afterwards.  A helpful tip if its too late for that now: Take five minutes to consider three other points in your life in which you did not get the outcome you thought you wanted or needed. Did you survive? Did you find other ways to succeed? Take note, and as Roosevelt quipped, hit the line hard.

My name is Patrick Moulsdale and I work with leaders and groups to raise consciousness, develop teams and resolve conflict. If you would like to understand more about how I can work with your organisation, please contact me through the form at the top of this page.

Are you the problem when conflict arises in the workplace?

bad leadership

We’ve all been there. It has been a long week, or even a long month and you feel it’s been made even longer and more tiresome by certain members of your team. Perhaps if it had not been such a long month, you might have found a way to be more diplomatic, but before you know it – you’ve opened your mouth and said that ‘thing’ that you have wanted to say for ages but have been keeping buttoned up. Immediately you feel better, but it’s not long afterwards that you start to feel worse. What was initially a small underlying tension, has just been blown up into something far more damaging.

It’s easy to point the finger in these kinds of scenarios and say that he or she deserved it because of ‘xyz’, but have you ever taken the time to ask if your own behavior is a contributing factor when things get out of hand? If not, you might be in trouble. A Harvard Business Review article published last year found that when leaders were less self-aware, their teams ‘made worse decisions, engaged in less coordination, and showed less conflict management’. In this persuasive dataset, taken from research within a Fortune 100 company – entire teams were negatively affected by their leaders’ lack of self-awareness. It is also worth noting that if you feel that this is not relevant to you, the statistics are not in your favour. Research suggests people tend to only possess moderate self-awareness and that this is often weaker in professional contexts.

As leaders, we can’t avoid making mistakes, but we can work on some simple and dynamic methods to improve self-awareness, and in doing so, improve work-place productivity, harmony and engagement.

Consider utilising evaluation tools that will help you measure self-awareness

Whilst there is debate about the efficacy of the current means of evaluating self-awareness such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in a management context, many companies are increasingly trying to implement systematic evaluations that compare how people see themselves with how others in the workplace might see them. It’s not a substitute for having meaningful conversations with your team but it can bring to light some personality traits which you may find surprising.

Don’t confuse self-awareness with self-introspection

Whilst self-introspection can be a useful mechanism for improved self-awareness, you also need to find out how others view you. In addition to considering formal evaluation tools, talk to members of your team, from the highest to the most junior. Ask them, in a way that will make them feel comfortable, how they see you as a leader and what they think you could improve on? Have you ever made them feel under-valued? You might be surprised by their insights, not only by what they say, but also by what they don’t say. The absence of certain feedback can be just as powerful as the feedback itself.

Build reflective practice into your staff training and make sure you participate

Reflective practice can be shaped to best fit your team’s needs. It might be something as simple as asking people to reflect proactively on a recent mistake or conflict in the team. Alternatively – you could ask individuals to explore a personal characteristic that could be holding them back. Create a space that feels safe – no blame or stigma attached.

Keep a written record of your decision-making and come back to it three months later

Some mindfulness experts suggest keeping a daily diary, but let’s face it, it’s not for everyone. Instead, consider recording your more important strategic decisions and what you predict the outcomes will be, including any human resources implications. Come back to your records three months later, and reflect on how accurate your predictions were. Consider any patterns that emerge in these records, and reflect on what they might suggest about your operational decision-making.

Learn to be observant of how others behave around you

You might feel that you are the most approachable leader since the dawn of time, but take time to notice and appreciate how others behave around you. The Hewlett Packard founders made the MBWA (Management by Walking Around) approach popular but as well as engaging in active listening; consider your team’s body language, and facial expressions during your interactions. If they look terrified, despondent, or even just bored to tears, chances are that it might be something to do with your leadership style.

It’s important to record and reflect on your findings and then open dialogue with yourself and with others on what you could do differently. Perhaps deceptively, self-awareness is less about notions of self, and more about relationships than we often give it credit for.


If you have enjoyed this post – you might want to check out some of my other articles in this blog. My name is Patrick Moulsdale and I work with leaders and groups to raise consciousness, develop teams and resolve conflict. To learn more about how I can work with your organisation, please contact me through the form at the top of this page.

Using conflict as a positive force in your organisation


It will depend on where you get your statistics, but according to many leadership and HR focused organisations – somewhere between 25 and 40% of a manager’s time is spent dealing with conflict. For many leaders who face this challenge, the temptation might be to try and claw back valuable time by simply ignoring the conflict and hoping it plays out to a natural conclusion or call the protagonists into the office to give them “both barrels” before sending them on their way, hoping you’ve heard the last of it.

The problem with both of these approaches is that the conflict remains unresolved. It may be “out of sight and out of mind” for you – but for those in battle, the conflict is very much alive under the radar. If the protagonists are not actively battling each other in the office, inside their own minds where there are no boundaries – there’s every chance the conflict is in full swing and wildly out of control… ready to resurface at the slightest provocation.

So as a leader, if you do want to claw back at least some of that 25-40% of your time spent on conflict what approach should you use?

Well, conflict does not have to be a negative force in your organisation. In fact, by embracing conflict and giving it a time and a place in which it can take place in a controlled environment, conflict can actually be hugely positive for your organisation and here’s why.

It gives everybody a chance to get their voice heard

Conflict often arises because people don’t feel listened to and don’t feel their thoughts, feelings and needs are taken into account. By providing an opportunity for discussion around key issues, you can ensure team members are listened to and any information they give, taken into account. Perhaps one of the biggest plus points of doing this is that giving people a voice increases the likelihood of each person buying-in to the ultimate solution.

It helps people learn about each other’s roles and understand the ‘bigger picture’

Opening tricky topics up for debate and allowing people to explain their position helps to build an understanding of the interdependencies between different teams and the core goals that each person or team is working towards. Healthy debate allows us to see the bigger picture rather than just our own goals and that promotes openness and deeper thinking when it comes to problem solving.

It removes stress and anxiety

By allocating a time and a place where lively and constructive debate can take place, you’re giving people an opportunity to relay their challenges and their fears in an environment where everyone is committed to finding solutions.

It improves team culture

Learning how to have a lively and passionate debate without hurling insults at one another builds respect, trust and empathy with colleagues and that leads to a better workplace culture.

It increases productivity and creativity

Conflict consumes enormous amount of time and emotional energy. Even when a person involved in conflict is not directly attacking their opponent, their energy and focus is directed to anger and trying to find a way to “win the battle”. If you’re able to allow conflict to take place in a managed environment where the goal is to find the best way forward, all of that time and energy can be used to push your organisation ahead.

It allows change to happen faster

Embracing conflict in your organisation can actually make it more agile by allowing change to happen faster. There’s two ways this can happen. Firstly – by bringing people together to focus in a safe way on contentious issues in your business, you’re more likely to find a solution faster. But also by giving people a voice and having their opinions recognised and taken into account, you’ll get less push back later on when you go to put the change in place.

With the modern workplace becoming more complex and more demanding by the day – the need to address the effects of conflict and put a strategy in place to utilise conflict as a resource rather than see it as a problem is becoming more important.

My name is Patrick Moulsdale and I am a group conflict management expert and professional mediator with over 15 years’ experience. If you are experiencing the effects of conflict within your organisation, contact me today through the form to the right of this post.

How a negative workplace culture can affect your bottom line…

workplace culture

2 weeks ago I read an interesting article on the CIPD website claiming that nearly half of all employees hear discriminatory remarks in the workplace every week and this rises to over 70% if you measure it on a monthly basis. More than a third of these discriminatory comments were made directly to individuals.

For those on the ‘giving’ end of the remarks, this might all seem like harmless office banter and you as a leader might agree – but for those on the receiving end, the impact could be significant. A drop in confidence, a move to distance themselves rather than enter into conflict, a reluctance to turn up to work and internal battles around their own self-worth. All this from just a few comments to one person. Just imagine what the effects could be on your organisation if discrimination is as widespread as the CIPD report suggests.

Sick leave

People who are discriminated against at work are more likely to take sick leave. In part this could be to avoid further discrimination but also a lack of enthusiasm for the role and a lack of commitment to the organisation will play their part. If discrimination is ripe within your office culture – this could be costing your organisation thousands, if not hundreds of thousands every year.

Staff Attrition

What does a person do when they’ve taken a day off to avoid discriminatory comments? They look for a new job of course and even if they’re not taking time off, they’ll be doing that anyway. You could be losing some of your best people to discrimination and that means not only are you losing great talent from your organisation, you’ll have to hire and train new ones and that costs money.


Costly, embarrassing, bad for morale and don’t forget the brand damage that goes with it which will have an impact on your sales and customer retention.


People who feel bad about themselves or feel angry because they’ve been discriminated against, don’t make for very productive workers. Low confidence impedes their ability to communicate effectively, fear of further remarks distances them from their colleagues and sadness and disappointment saps their motivation to try hard. The result when discrimination becomes prevalent is disconnected, lethargic teams, poor staff morale and rising workplace conflict.

Creativity and Innovation

Creativity and innovation are some of the most highly prized assets in successful organisations. Lose those and you start to fall behind your competitors, you start to miss deadlines, deliver below par products, lose sales, lose customers and ultimately you’re no longer profitable… and that leads to job losses, workplace conflict, more tribunals and who know where it will end.

Whether you like it or not – discrimination is an unwelcome part of your organisations culture. It feeds off of the conversations (or the lack of them), the interactions, the tone that people take with each other and the moods that people carry with them. But although we might never be able to fully eradicate discrimination entirely, we can minimise it by taking proactive measures, by focusing on inclusion and most importantly, having better conversations.

My name is Patrick Moulsdale and I work with leaders and groups to raise consciousness, develop teams and resolve conflict. If you would like to understand more about how I can work with your organisation, please contact me through the form at the top of this page.


The invisible forces that shape the behaviour of your organisation

group dynamics

You’re probably sitting comfortably in your office at the moment, surrounded by busy colleagues and tasked with a thousand things to complete before you head out of the office for the day – but can you remember your first day in the role?

For most of us, it was a mixture of nervousness and excitement. Excitement with the opportunity that lay ahead, the endless possibilities and the journey into the unknown. Nervousness with your new surroundings, new ways of doing things and new people. Would you fit in, would your new colleagues like you and would this be the role where you could finally spread your wings and show your true potential?

These are common thoughts… in fact they’re more common than you might think. Journey all the way back to the late 1950’s and you’ll find a leading American psychologist called William Shutz who developed a theory around just this. He suggested that within a group, each individual has three core needs that they want the group to meet:

  • The need for inclusion – The key question for each member is where and how do I fit into this team?
  • The need for control – The key question here is how much influence can I exercise in this group and how much personal autonomy do I have to give up to be part of this group?
  • The need for affection/openness. Whereas ‘Inclusion’ is about the decision to belong or not, the ‘affection’ phase is about building emotional ties and deciding on the degree of closeness within the team. This is referred to as ‘intimacy’ or ‘norming’ in other models

So when you joined your new team, it’s highly likely that your nervousness was based around these three core needs. More than that, your behaviour within the group – even now is unconsciously motivated by your desire to meet these needs. But perhaps more interesting still, is that your entrance into the group will have caused the group dynamics to change as people’s own needs adjusted to the new person.

There’s no need to feel bad though. The reality is, that when a group is viewed as a whole – it is always in a state of flux. As well as the personnel changes that occur within a group, our individual needs change over time… different things become important, work can take a more front facing or background role in our lives and our values might also change as we experience more of what life has to offer us. All of these will have an impact on the dynamics of a group and the larger the group, the more complex the dynamics become.

What’s important as leaders, is to be aware that we can influence the way a team or group behaves, if we recognise the needs that motivate individuals. In doing this, we’re able to lessen the energy and the time that individuals devote to negative thoughts and conflict situations and the result of this is a happy and high performing team, department and even organisation.

My name is Patrick Moulsdale. I am a (group) conflict management expert and professional mediator with over 15 years’ experience. If you are experiencing the effects of conflict within your organisation, contact me today through the contacts page on my website.

Is your team affected by this morale sapping bug?

Conflict in the workplace

The first time you noticed something unusual was about 2 months ago. You came out of your office and your team were unusually quiet… staring intently at the screens, madly pressing away on their keyboards or clicking at a mouse. One team member seems to be strutting around the office nervously making jokes and trying to get people’s attention and another team member was missing, presumably in the loo or taking a coffee break… it was a bit odd, but you didn’t think too much of it and went back inside your office to continue working.

In the days and weeks afterwards, the office banter lessened. People started coming in at one minute to nine, seemingly unhappy to be at work and then leaving as soon as the clock chimed five. At times, you’d see a small huddle of people around someone’s desk and then whole groups of people leaving the office to lunch together leaving just one or two behind. Pretty soon sales targets were being missed, project schedules were getting delayed, people were calling in sick and a new phrase had started appearing in the office… “sorry – its not my job”.

Conflicts are an inevitable part of working life, but when left unmanaged – they have the capacity to tear teams and even entire organisations apart. What might start off as a spat between two individuals can quickly escalate into an unsavoury popularity contest forcing unwitting team members to take sides and so it’s important as a leader, to identify and mediate the conflict at the earliest opportunity.

But how do you go about mediating a venomous and bitter conflict? How can you bring about a successful conclusion when both parties regard the opposing one as being in the wrong, deceitful or just plain mad?

Here are a few simple pointers to help:

  1. Speak to the individuals involved and make sure they feel their feelings and needs are acknowledged and understood.
  2. Help them understand that conflict is a circular dynamic — to which both parties contribute. By understanding their own role in the conflict and the power they have to break the cycle of conflict, it can help to avoid further incidents in the future.
  3. Bring the ‘combatants’ together, to talk through their feelings and needs and also to explore why they took the path they did
  4. Look beyond the conflict at the qualities and the value each person brings to the bigger picture.

Conflicts are often born (or at least heavily fuelled) by incorrect assumptions. Perhaps something said innocently, that has been taken the wrong way or a team member taking action, which another person feels is devious or deliberately damaging to them. In no time at all, what may have been a minor initial incident (or not even an incident at all) becomes distorted beyond all recognition as emotions go into overdrive.

But it doesn’t always have to be like this. The road to conflict resolution requires self-awareness and empathy from all parties – and if as leaders, we instill these values within the very culture of our organisations – we stand a very good chance of conflict becoming a far less significant part of everyday office life.

How do you deal with conflict as a leader?

leadership conflict approach

A unique combination of nature, nurture and life experiences means that every one of us sees the world from a different perspective. Not only do we form different opinions about the world around us, but we also react to events and the circumstances that surround us differently. The result of this, particularly in stressful situations or when the stakes are high… is conflict.

Our working environment can and often is the perfect breeding ground for conflict to take hold. An ever more competitive environment, tighter deadlines, higher targets, smaller budgets and opposing departmental objectives are some of the many sparks that can ignite the ‘conflict flame’. So with conflict being such an inevitable part of working life, it’s important as a leader to recognise your role in it and your responsibilities to manage and resolve it.

Long-time experts in the field of conflict management – Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann found that the way we deal with conflict can be determined by measuring our assertiveness against our willingness to cooperate. From here they came up with 5 conflict management styles, each with their own positive and negative attributes. As a leader, can you recognise your approach to conflict in one of the conflict management styles listed below?

Conflict Styles


Assertive and uncooperative, this person pursues his/her own concerns at the expense of others. If you fall into this category, you’ll do everything in your power to win whether it’s pulling rank, shouting the loudest, intimidating your competition or imposing marshal law. A competing person will stand up for his or her rights and vigorously defend a position which he or she believes to be correct.


Unassertive and cooperative, this person is the complete opposite of the above. When accommodating, the individual neglects his or her own concerns to satisfy the concerns of other people. Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, obeying another person’s order when you would prefer not to, or yielding to another’s point of view.


Unassertive and uncooperative. This person neither pursues his or her own concerns nor those of other individuals. They would rather not deal with the conflict at all. An ‘avoiding’ person is likely to diplomatically sidestep issues, postponing them to a better time, or simply withdraw completely from a threatening situation.


Both assertive and cooperative, this person is the complete opposite of avoiding. Collaborators attempt to work with others to find a solution that fully satisfies their concerns. It means digging into an issue to pinpoint the underlying needs and wants of the opposing parties. Collaborating between two people might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights or trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.


Moderate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. This person wants to find a mutually acceptable solution for both sides. The challenge with this is that neither of the opposing sides get what they want and compromising across the board could mean compromising on the success of a project in its entirety.

Did you recognise yourself from the five options above?

Conflict can be crippling for any organisation and because we all react differently to it, learning how to manage conflict proactively and mediate it when it arises, is hugely important. As a conflict management expert and professional mediator with over 15 years’ experience, I can help your organisation to recognise the symptoms of conflict and to transform conflict from a source of pain to an engine for communication, understanding and productivity.

For more information, you can contact me directly through the form at the top of this page.