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Mark Weber visits our Centre For Family Business

by Rick Baker
On Mar 17, 2011
“Resolving Disputes in Business and in Life”
That is the title of the presentation Mark Weber gave at our last Centre For Family Business breakfast.
As always, Mark provided a fun, educational session.
I took lots of notes and this Thought Post outlines a couple of my take-aways…which I have already used to help myself and other folks with decisions.
For more information, please contact Mark Weber.
1st take-away: When resolving a dispute, first focus on Interests
There are three approaches to resolving disputes: the Interest approach, the rights approach, and the Power approach. Mark pictured it this way:
Interests are our needs, desires, concerns…that’s the best place to resolve disputes. When we escalate discussion from Interests to Rights we get into negative emotional territory. An example of Rights would be, ‘the contract says _______’. Beyond discussion of Rights, disputes could escalate into Power territory. An example would be, ‘setting an ultimatum’.
When facing a dispute, first, take time to focus on Interests.
2nd take-away: People are biased and make a fundamental attribution error
While Mark was talking, I drew a little table to capture another lesson.
When it is me
When it is someone else
When things go well
I give the credit to myself
I give the credit to the situation
When things go poorly
I blame the situation
I blame the person
I don’t believe this is intended to apply to all the people all the time. Rather, it is a tendency we should consider as we judge other people…and, as we try to understand how other people judge us. 
In summary, when the biasis at work we judge like this:
  • When other people do poorly we blame their behaviour [ie, we blame them]. However, when other people do well we give credit to the situation.
  • We do the exact opposite when it comes to judging ourselves.
Thank you, Mark, for presenting very helpful advice on this thought-provoking topic…a topic that, as your presentation title says, applies both to Business and to Life.
A personal story – about Bias
Clearly, to the extent bias exists in us we should work to find at least middle ground.
As an example - Performance Appraisals are not a dispute per se…but they can quickly and even quietly become disputes.
Many years ago I recognized I tended to judge people too harshly when I gave performance reviews. My view at the time was - people judged themselves too leniently. I came to these conclusions because I asked people to write their own self-assessments and provide them to me before I presented the performance review I had written about them. When I received their self-reviews and compared them to my boss-created-reviews I noticed a consistent, big gap. I gave this quite a bit of thought. I tried to put myself in the other peoples’ shoes so I might understand how they reached their self-review scores. Then I thought about why the gaps in our views were so large. I concluded I set very high standards on myself and those standards could not, in general, be applied to others. [Perhaps that conclusion was wrong…I hope to discuss this with Mark Weber.] I decided to refrain from reviewing people’s self-assessments until I had completed a first draft myself. Then, I took my first draft and before looking at the self-assessments I raised every grade…about 20 points out of 100. That removed the gap for some people, removed more than half the gap for most people…however, a too-big gap still existed for some people.
That was many years ago. I now understand situations are a vital consideration. I now know under the same situation some people succeed while other people fail. I know leaders and co-workers must do their best to construct ‘winning’ situations. And, we must do what we can to help one another be better prepared for the ‘challenging’ situations.
More on this topic in future Thought Posts…


Communication: Improving Communication | Entrepreneur Thinking | Family Business and CFFB

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