Are They with you or Against You?
Are 'They' With You or Against You? by Gil Hilleard
Who is 'they' in your organisation? 'Sales'? 'Marketing'? 'the Executive Board', 'Customers'? Do 'they' ever seem to be making your job harder to do? Do you ever hear stuff like (or catch yourself saying): "this job would be fine if it wasn't for 'them'!", "nobody tells me anything", "'they' move the goalposts all the time"?
It seems that we often fall into the trap of creating a 'them' and an 'us' - a 'silo' mindset. It can kick in surprisingly fast! We have seenorganisations of twenty or so people who have divided themselves up into different functional groups, where 'Sales' complain about 'Operations', 'Marketing' fingerpoints at 'Sales', the 'staff' are suspicious of 'management' - and everybody sits in the same room!
This mentality is caused by individuals' and groups' perceptions of each other - 'them' - that over time start to appear to be the truth. Let's take a look at what's going on from some different angles:
Who's in Your Team? Who in your daily working life shares with you a commitment to your organisation's success? When you really think about it, do you share a common interest with 'Sales'? Absolutely - admit it! With 'Marketing'? For certain. Your Customers? Yes, if your product or service adds value and meets their needs. Your suppliers? Almost certainly. Your competitors - aha! Possibly not. Here you just might meet someone who does not have your best interests and those of your organisation at heart - though even here you may know of a few stories where competitors have a shared commitment in a joint venture.
Challenge yourself and those you hear talking around you. It can't really be the case that all those departments, divisions, individuals and groups actually want the organisation to fold and you to fail! Something else must be going on.
What Motivates 'Them'? Do you come to work to do a poor job, miss your targets, and make others' life difficult? Of course you don't. Why then would you ever assume, or allow others to assume that anyone else would? In our experience the vast majority of people in responsible jobs are deeply committed to doing the best job they can every day.
To assume that anyone on your team (see 1 above for who is on your team!) would ever by deliberate action or conscious inaction make your job harder and jeopardise the success of the organisation, is to show a deep lack of respect for that person. They feel that they are doing their very best to do a good job. If the results of their efforts don't work for you, guess who is responsible for raising the issue and resolving it? A hint: it's not 'them'!
How can I Sort it Out? First, explore the questions in 1 and 2 above. It is best to get help from a coach or objective outsider: you are part of the problem and this bit can be like trying to do brain surgery on yourself!
Now you have an opportunity to resolve some issues and clear up the misunderstandings. Here's where to start:
Identify the key player(s) and sit down face to face and talk
Take full responsibility for your past attitude to them and their contribution
Allow them to do the same in return - and listen without defending yourself
Have a good laugh together about the absurdity of it all!
Acknowledge them for their commitment to doing a good job and make it clear that you respect that they are doing it in good faith
Explain the impact of their actions and decisions on you and allow them to explain why they do what they do - without arguing or defending your corner
Work together as equal partners to find a solution that works for both parties. You may not sort out the whole issue straight away, so make a commitment to keep meeting and chipping away at it until you have a solution which works for both of you
You'll need patience. It takes time to undo the habits of a lifetime and to resolve problems which may have built up over months or even years. It takes time and creativity to build bridges and create trust especially when new processes and agreements don't immediately work perfectly.
We're not talking here about 'troubleshooting'; we're talking about the conscious, complex and skilful process of making an organisation really work. It's about people working together in mutual respect to ensure that each gets a solution that works not only for his or her own interests or group, but for the other individuals or groups as well. It's what we'd call partnership, and in true partnership, there is no 'them'!
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About the Author
Gil Hilleard is a director of Shine Consulting, a partnership of business consultants committed that people and organisations produce a new standard of results through the passion, inspiration and commitment of people.