Tag archive: building-strong-relationships-at-work
The Age of Collaboration and Negotiation
Not a day goes by in this century that we are not reminded that our economic world is indeed flat. Competition in the global marketplace is more fierce than ever. The battle for market share, control of resources and technological dominance will continue for the balance of our lives. On a personal level there is little doubt that our jobs, our salaries and our standard of living will be increasingly affected. We see evidence of these changes everywhere. The workplace itself is changing under our feet and we must move with it. Disputes and disagreements between superiors, peers and subordinates are likely to increase as more of us become knowledge, information and service professionals rather than production or manufacturing executives. Top-down decision-making and management, while still dominant, will gradually give way more and more to team and project organization. We can safely project that members of these teams will be better educated than those of earlier generations. Each will have developed technically and professionally along paths of specialization previously unheard of. These “idea” people will feel strongly about their viewpoints and concerns. They will defend their ideas vigorously and have a lower tendency to be passive when confronted with conflicting views or values. The same factors will come to play on the factory floor and service sectors not at so fast a rate as in the professional classes. They will also demand a greater voice in how things are done and managed. They will want to negotiate a greater range of workplace issues. We are in the age of collaboration and negotiation as far as ideas and viewpoints are concerned. How we handle and resolve the rising tide of conflict is crucial. We can continue to deal with each other as we have in the past and accept an increasing level of dysfunction, or we can embrace a new approach that fosters the open exchange of ideas and increased innovation. What I propose is a new approach and model for working together and resolving difference harmoniously and productively in an economic world centered on ideas, constant innovation, individual choice and intense competition. That model, “The Effective Negotiating Virtuous Cycle,” with its emphasis on Collaborative Negotiating, Being Heard and Listened To, and Building Positive Relationships, when applied by each of us in the workplace, has the power to help us work together more effectively and lift our level of creativity to greater heights. With that our success in the global marketplace will grow.Read more »
The Collaborative Both-Win Mode
The Collaborative Both-Win Mode is the key to success in dealing with others at work. It is the negotiation mode that best leads to a resolution of internal differences and the building of stronger, more innovative relationships. Let us assume that our negotiation with an associate has gone on for a while. After considerable give and take we are still apart. An impasse is likely if nothing more is done. It is this need to do something or risk creating a deadlock that provides the opportunity for both parties to develop creative ideas and alternatives not previously considered. Imagine for a moment that a 10” diameter pie cut into 10 pieces. You and I are bargaining over how many pieces each of us will get. How we share this special pie is important because we intend to celebrate Fridays at the office by baking our favorite pie, sharing it with associates and taking leftovers home to the family. The negotiation begins with you offering me three pieces. You think it is fair because not only is it your special recipe, but it is you doing all the work. I object to your offer of three because I sincerely believe a share of five pieces is fair. It is I who purchased the ingredients and invested sixty percent of the money required. You are initially adamant but later raise your offer to four pieces. If we deadlock there will be no Friday celebrations. Worse, our superb relationship may suffer. Both of us want to reach agreement so we decide to put our minds together to find a better way to close the deal in a fair and reasonable way. Before long, through collaboration and an open exchange of information, we find ways to combine our resources, purchasing power and culinary skills in a new and innovative manner. We create a 12” pie that is bigger and tastier. We can cut this new pie into twelve pieces and share it more easily that the original smaller, less delicious one. This pie costs the same or only slightly more than the other. As stretched ass this analogy may be, it illustrates a governing principle of negotiation; that, through collaboration, there is ALWAYS a bigger and better deal possible for both sides if they are willing to search for it together. Both negotiators have the power to increase mutual satisfaction by working together, often at little or no expense to the other. They can make the negotiating pie larger, better and easier to share. ALWAYS.Read more »
When Constructive Feedback Works Best
When a subordinate does something wrong or fails to follow directions, most managers feel justified in correcting their behavior by speaking to them in a constructive manner. If this constructive feedback is done well the individual may move toward positive change. If done poorly it will leave a trail of hurt feelings and result in little to no behavioral change. We will explore several approaches to constructive feedback designed to help other move in a positive direction.Read more »
- When you maintain a high ratio of positive to negative interactions. The manager who maintains a high ratio of positive to negative feedback will find their peers and subordinates more receptive to change. Later, by maintaining a good ratio over time, your words of advice when things go wrong will fall on friendlier ears.
- When your relationship with the other is good. Criticism, even when directed with the best of intentions, is hard to take. When the relationship between parties is strained, it is rarely effective and certain to be resented. The rule is simple; the stronger the bond between the parties the higher the probability the feedback will be accepted and acted upon. Building relationships based on respect, trust and appreciation is part of your job description no matter how busy you are.
- When it is asked for—but. When the other party requests your suggestions or advice is it generally wise to offer it, but be careful. What they might really want is not your honest opinion but some positive affirmation or approval instead. Criticism or feedback, solicited or not, is something done only with prudence, tact and forethought.
- When it is accepted as part of the training process. Constructive advice is accepted when it is provided as training. Once the training period is over, people tend to perceive further feedback not as training but as criticism. Instead of welcoming new suggestions they resent both the message and messenger.
- When the criticism or advice is specific and timely. Feedback provided for performance problems that took place is the past is far worse than none at all. Such feedback is destructive because it is likely to cause bickering and faultfinding rather than improvement. To be useful, feedback must not only be expressed soon after the problem arises but must also be focused on the specific task to be corrected.
- When both parties are involved in solving the problem together. The more associates have worked together to solve joint problems the less they will view their difference and associates’ corrections as criticism or ego-threatening.
- When the feedback is preceded by strong positives. If you find it necessary to criticize another the better way to do so is to start with positive things the other person has done and follow that with one (yes, one) specific and timely matter requiring improvement. Suggestions are more likely to be accepted if restricted to the main dish rather than a smorgasbord of large and small problems.
- When the advice allows the other to sort things out for themselves. The more you leave others free to work in their own way the more responsive they will be to your suggestions.
The QUANXI Tradition
The Chinese place great value on the development of interpersonal harmony and trust long before differences arise. This heavy investment in building strong relationships helps dissipate the heat of disagreement before it envelops them in dysfunctional animosity. The Chinese investment in social harmony begins with what they call the QUANXI tradition, a tradition that began millennia before the current Chinese industrial revolution. Friendship and allegiance to the family were promoted and developed at an early age. Each person in the immediate and extended family including uncles, aunts and cousins as well as second and third extensions were governed by widely accepted standards as to what constituted proper courtesy and tact in dealing with one another. The “QUANXI” culture emphasized the importance of obedience in business and social matters. In effect, the rules established in dealing with others were well-understood and accepted in a wide variety of circumstances. Today, in China’s complex industrial economy, QUANXI is less frequently attributed to family relationships but lives on in business-based connections, relationships or networks based on trust and reliability. Chinese business people invest significant time in getting close to those they deal with. They build ongoing relationships not only on a company-to-company level but also on a personal basis both prior to a sale and long afterward. Networks with intersecting entities like banks, suppliers, customers, trade networks and governments are nurtured, knowing that the QUANXI tradition of mutual “back-scratching” and exchange of favors will help them reduce bureaucratic friction and win more business later. QUANXI, whether in family affairs or business, makes it easier to cope with discord and conflict by setting limits on the dysfunctional aspects of disagreement. Differences in status, age, gender, connections, intellect and motivation are recognized and afforded courtesy and consideration. Emotional outbursts, casual interruptions and disrespect are softened.Read more »
How Stereotypes Create Work Barriers
This stereotyping at work applies to many occupations. Medical doctors fail to listen to nurses and technicians whose proximity to the patient provides insights that the doctor, skilled as he or she may be, may not have. I have attended meetings where the words of salespeople, closer than anyone to the marketplace, were dismissed because they were only “low-level salespersons.” This casual dismissal of potentially important information would have been more difficult to do if they had been sales directors or vice presidents. In that case they would have been heard. Nobody at the meeting could afterward remember that they have been told by the salesperson that the customer had warned that the product line was in jeopardy because a competitor would soon be offering a superior product. Had we in charge listened better to that salesperson and acted quickly, the big account and product line might have been saved. In today’s global economy those closer to the frontier of change may know much more about what is going on than the chief executive officer. They have the information we need to know to survive, whatever their position in the organization or job title. Few people take the time to learn about the actual work those alongside us do. We make assumptions based on their job titles that never tell the real story. This is especially difficult in the digital age where so much of what we do cannot be observed. Output is invisible. Work done by a team member today may not be recognized as successful until the project ends years from now. No job description or title can tell the story. Dig deeper to gain a more full understanding of what your co-workers really do. Job titles and the stereotypes they create inhibit communication unless we dig deeper. The more we know about the work associates actually do and the more they know of ours the easier it will be to settle difference and make sound decisions. It will also help in building rapport and stronger long-term relationships. People generally enjoy talking about what they do if asked in a non-judgmental and casual manner.Read more »
Simple Interactions are Negotiations
Think about all of the interactions you have at your office, or with your family or friends. There is no doubt about it —THESE ARE NEGOTIATIONS: * Differences of Opinion and Disagreements * The Exchange of Viewpoints and Ideas * Being Heard – Selling your ideas. * Building Personal and Professional Relationships It’s important to realize that all of these types of interactions are negotiations. And, since they are negotiations, then the same skills that trained negotiators use can help in these, more subtle, but no less important negotiations. * Time – Am I using my time wisely? Should I ask for more time? * Deadlines – are they working for me or against me? Can they be changed? * What has the other person not disclosed?” * Where can I find “BOTH-WIN” opportunities? * What are the Personal/Intangible Issues impacting this negotiation? * What can I ask for in return? * How will I deal with a dead-lock? Should I cause a dead-lock? * What planning should I do before I enter this negotiation? * How will what I do impact my future relationship with this person/group? How you handle your daily discussions and meetings impact your career and all of your professional and personal relationships. Use the KARRASS techniques. Approach these interactions as negotiations and you will find yourself more confident, in more control and ending up with improved results.Read more »
The FlyWheel Effect
What we say or do in daily interactions with associates affects how they feel about their relationship to us. It’s a negotiation that takes place virtually from moment to moment on the job. A positive working relationship is crucial for communication, collaboration and personal growth. One way to explain why some relationships are strong and energy-building while others are not is by understanding the “Flywheel Effect.” Imagine a wheel upside down, suspended on a base. The flywheel shows relationship strength and weakness as a moving object, spinning sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly, and sometimes hardly turning at all. In a sense, the rate of flywheel spin is a barometer of a person’s ability to build and maintain positive relationships. Every time we experience a successful relationship, our flywheel spins faster. A strong, successful relationship has a fast-spinning wheel that will spin for a long time. The longer this relationship’s flywheel spins, the more momentum the flywheel has to keep spinning. A slow or stopped flywheel, however, denotes weakened relationships. It occurs when successful interactions are few and far between. It is a sign that connections are failing. Between successful interactions, the flywheel of a good relationship continues to spin. This inertial spinning can be looked at as our reserve strength, the strength we use to cope if difficult times occur between us. People who have weak relationships have slowly spinning flywheels and therefore have little or no reserve strength, a fact that is apparent in the way they fail to establish rapport or psychological connections with each other, especially when problems occur. Successfully working together puts a lot of spin on our wheel and can keep us going for a long time. For most of us, life consists much more of a series of small but pleasant experiences that work together to keep our wheel spinning smoothly and regularly.Read more »
Relational Skills Ought to Be a Key Performance Indicator
The capacity and willingness of every employee to build relationships should, in my opinion, be made part of each person’s job description and evaluation at performance review time. It matters not if the individual is Chief Executive Officer, a physicist involved in launching a spacecraft, a scientist, or someone responsible for cleaning the office. Each employee should recognize that relationship building is part of their job and an important factor in determining their career trajectory. When people are aware of its importance in their work they will pay more attention to it. They will strive to strengthen their day-to-day connections and will benefit from the reduction in friction that flows from improved relationships. People who trust and like each other may differ at times, but they are less likely to personalize their differences or bicker constantly. When the need for collaboration is anticipated, they will willingly join hands. Each of us is capable of improving relationships at work. It’s a matter of devoting the time and effort necessary to do so then acting accordingly.Read more »