Reframing Business Relationships


Whenever we have spoken about the four key factors that must be aligned, we've started at the top with the group 's goals. And, in newly formed teams , this is generally where alignment begins. But in teams that have been working together in a state of dysfunction for some time, where there is a great deal of interpersonal baggage that needs to be dealt with, the sequence in which the alignment is carried out is usually reversed . Work from the bottom up: first aligning business relationships, then protocols, then responsibilities, then goals.

Depersonalizing is particularly difficult in the area of business relationships. When team members comment on the way they work together, they enter the twilight zone of communication style and the "inner person." The discomfort here is natural and, typically, short lived.

For the R&D group, the alignment of business relationships began when each member evaluated the way he or she interacted with others in terms of candor and receptivity. Ascending scales of 1 to 10 were used, with 1 meaning "not at all candid" or "not at all receptive" and 10 meaning "completely candid " or "completely receptive." One team member at a time was asked to score himself or herself on each trait, and the scores were written down on the whiteboard.

For example, Pamela, vice president of quality control, gave herself a 6 for candor and an 8 for receptivity. The other team members were then asked how their view of Pamela's candor and receptivity compared, and if it differed, why. Eight of the thirteen other team members agreed with Pamela's self-assessment. But, based on their personal experience with Pamela, three others said they felt Pamela had scored herself too high, while another two believed her self-scores were too low. Pamela then wrote down, for further reflection and follow-up, the names and comments of these five people.

After all the team members had evaluated themselves and received feedback, each one summarized for the group:

  • Whether or not their self-perception was on the mark

  • Where they needed to work to increase their score

  • Who the key players were with whom they needed to have further conversation

Next, each person did additional soul-searching, telling one another how they thought their fellow team members viewed them, how they wanted to be viewed , what they personally had been doing that was keeping the team from reaching high performance, and what they would be doing differently if they were 100 percent committed to helping the team reach stage four. Then, they identified the person on the team with whom they had the greatest number of unresolved issuesthe need to become more independent, resolve recurring problems, examine overlapping areas of responsibility, open lines of communicationand prioritize the rest of the team on the same basis.

It takes tremendous courage to stand up in front of your business associates and admit that you are not a paragon of virtue. But, to their credit, Art and his team did exactly that. The team's catalogue of dysfunctional behaviors included:

  • Not sharing information

  • Being too aloof

  • Going underground with their complaints

  • Listening to and commiserating with coworkers' complaints instead of encouraging them to seek resolution

  • Triangulating: seeking support for their self-interest from Art and others

  • Holding on to going-in stories that excused nonengagementfor example, "I haven't been here long enough. I'm considered the new kid on the block, and the team does not value my contributions."

The openness was like a spring breeze . Chapter 1 discussed the German manager whose public acknowledgment of his autocratic behavior gave his team the courage to speak up. Similarly, as Art recognized and admitted his past mistakes, his team began to feel comfortable being candid with him. One of the team members said to him, "You exhorted me not to be a part-time member of this team. I exhort you not to hold me at arm's length, not to give me just your intellectual attention, but all your energy." It was a heavy request but not an unreasonable one. Other members asked Art to:

  • Include them in bigger issues

  • Spend more time with them, both as a team and individually

  • Discuss with them the goals of the teamtell them what, exactly, the group had been charged to do

  • Let them in earlier in his thinking process so that they understand it and make a contribution

  • Ask for their help and perspective

  • Put their time together to better use

Art was not the only one who was asked to change his behavior. Mike, his second-in-command, was chided for micro-managing and encouraged to start delegating in order to (a) lighten the load that often made him irritable and difficult to access and (b) allow others some say in how things were run. Other team members began stating their issues and specifying the new behaviors they wanted to see going forward.

Day one of the alignment concluded with a discussion of the behavioral continuum (see Figure 1-2) and the need for team members to develop skills to move from its extremesnonassertive and aggressive to the center, which is assertive. The team was scheduled to attend a training session two weeks later, so at this point the discussion remained conceptual. But barriers were breaking down, and stage one was quickly becoming history for this team.




When Goliaths Clash. Managing Executive Conflict to Build a More Dynamic Organization
When Goliaths Clash: Managing Executive Conflict to Build a More Dynamic Organization
ISBN: 0615198686
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 99

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