Monday, October 21, 2013

Building and Maintaining Healthy Work Relationships

Recently, I have been in a lot of meeting where the subject of resistance has surfaced. Too many times, I have to point out that the people who are resisting change often care about the organization and that resistance is simply a normal form of communication and feedback. The hard part about these conversations is that I often have to end up asking a difficult, and unnerving for some, but still important question: What is a healthy work relationship for someone in a leadership or management position? Most answers revolve around creating role clarity and making sure all involved are clear about expectations, goals and priorities. These are good answers but I like to go deeper than this when exploring this question.

First, Patrick Lencioni, in a book called The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable, Jossey-Bass, 1998, wrote that there are a series of temptations for those in leadership positions:

- Temptation #1: Choosing status over results

- Temptation #2: Choosing popularity over accountability

- Temptation #3: Choosing certainty over clarity

- Temptation #4: Choosing harmony over productive conflict

- Temptation #5: Choosing invulnerability over trust

Right now, I see more and more young leaders and even some more experienced and older leaders getting sucked into work relationships based on status, popularity and certainty.  I do not fault the young leaders and hope they can read more and receive better coaching over time to correct these missteps in judgement and perspective, but I am disturbed when older and more experienced leaders do not role model a healthier and more grounded understanding of leadership relationships.

There are days now when I wish I could greet each person who is new to the world of supervision and hand them a copy of the above book. I would then say, “please read this in the next 24 hours and then we will start your one to one coaching sessions.” Maybe then we can start off on the right foot.

Next, I would review the core concepts in the book, Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High, McGraw-Hill, 2002, by Kerry Patterson, Kerry, Joseph Grenny, and Ron McMillan. As they point out, crucial conversations are normal to the work world and happen when opinions vary, stakes are high, and emotions run strong.  “When two or more of us enter crucial conversations, by definition we don’t share the same pool,” i.e. the pool of shared meaning which is a measure of a group’s IQ, and is the birthplace of synergy. 

First, the authors say to “start with heart” and work on yourself. “Remember that the only person you can directly control is yourself.” Next, “focus on what you really want.” As they explain, when you find yourself moving toward silence or anger, stop and pay attention to your motives. Ask yourself: What does my behavior tell me about what my motives are? Then clarify what you really want. Ask yourself: What do I want for myself? For others? For the relationship? And finally ask: How would I behave if this were what I really wanted?

They continue this line of thinking by refusing the “Sucker’s Choice,” i.e. that you must choose between peace and honesty, between winning and losing, and so on. Instead, they share with us the following term, CRIB. It stands for:

- Commit to seek mutual purpose.
- Recognize the purpose behind the strategy.
- Invent a mutual purpose.
- Brainstorm new strategies.

If more leaders were to commit to a CRIB perspective, we would have healthier work relationships. As David Cottrell in his book, Monday Morning Leadership: 8 Mentoring Sessions You Can’t Afford to Miss, reminds us: “Your job is not to lower the bottom by adjusting and accommodating the falling stars. You should be raising the top by recognizing and rewarding superstar behaviors.” It is time for all people to be super stars by avoiding the temptations of a leader and to commit to mutual purpose.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

1 comment:

  1. In my experience, the critical component of the CC model is "mastering your own stories." If one cannot do that, it's very difficult to get to CRIB. If one does do that, CRIB flows almost naturally.

    The April, 2009, issue of "Harvard Business Review" contained an article entitled, "Decoding Resistance to Change." I think this is essential reading for leaders, especially for those whose first response to resistance is to double down on their own arguments for change. If nothing else, the points in the article can help a leader master his/her own stories, making it easier to move forward.