I loved working with “Amy”, but in recent months she had gone from being actively involved to dialing it in. I got the sense that she was checking off a to-do list to meet minimum requirements and wasn’t engaged anymore. Her personal life had gotten chaotic, and she had checked out on me.
I ask everyone who works with me for a 24-hour response time. I ask them to either respond to my questions and task requests within 24 hours or tell me when they will be able to. When I reminded Amy of that, she told me she couldn’t commit to it anymore. I like partnering with people I hire, and she had become more APART than a PART of my business. We decided to go our separate ways. I invited her to let me know if things changed and she was able and willing to be more engaged in her work with me.
I was thinking about Amy after speaking with a family friend who said he wanted to get a divorce. I suggested he try getting married first. Yes, he and his wife have been legally married for over 30 years. But he never sounded fully engaged to me. His marriage sounded like one more thing on his endless to-do list. I’d like to see him get fully in the game before he decides it isn’t working and gets out.
Business and personal partnerships are about being a PART of a greater whole. When partners are more APART than a PART, it’s time to get yourself and others in (or out of) the game. Collaborative communication agreements can’t fix every partnership and team problem – but they can work collaborative magic if they are handled well.
There are two ways to use collaborative communication agreements.
You can ask for agreements as situations arise. For example, you can say, “Before you analyze my presentation for its weaknesses, can you tell me what you like about it? I’ll do the same when I give you feedback.” You can say, “It seems like the conversation has gotten adversarial, when we’re on the same team. Can you help me figure out how we can get back to being allies here?”
Or you can have formal meetings with individuals or groups to define the kind of communication culture you want, and what agreements will help you get there. Here are some steps.
Invite people to meet to create a vision of the kind of communication culture the team wants to create. Ask them to prepare two ways.
Collaborative communication is foreign to many who have worked in competitive and adversarial environments. Many of us have done business with people who used the win-win language to mask their win-lose agenda. It’s natural for people to distrust attempts to change habits and cultures and to distrust when trust has been betrayed in the past. Trust must be won. These agreements can work magic – but that magic can take time. Still, staying committed to finding collaborative communication agreements that really work for everyone can get people in the game. Or out of it if when all is said and done, they really don’t belong.
Meryl Runion Rose can facilitate a communication agreement process in house or over the web. Call 719-684-2633.