A client emailed me the other day, complaining about someone he had to work with. “I keep waiting for him to finish this project,” my client shared, “or at least to get back to me with where things are with the project, and it’s like he’s avoiding me. He doesn’t stop by; he doesn’t call; and he only answers my emails after hours. How can I get him to respond?”
I know my client wanted the magic formula, the silver bullet. He wanted me to give him explicit instructions, so that he could do one thing and miraculously his colleague would switch gears and become responsive. But the sad news is that no such magic formula exists.
However, while my client was driven to learn a simple way to successfully collaborate, I was just as driven to have something brilliant – an answer, a solution – to share with him. Even though we firmly believe that our clients have their own answers and that we’re not the “experts,” I wanted to be the expert. I wanted to give him an idea that would yield results.
But instead I stopped, quelled my need to have all the answers, and thought about what might really work. I then offered my client the only real step I’ve seen resolve differences, ease conflict, and clear up misunderstanding. “Get on the same side of the problem,” I shared.
“Instead of trying to convince your colleague that he’s been wrong not to respond, or to make him change his errant ways, make your main intention to find a way to work as a team. You have a project to complete – the two of you have a project to complete – how can you get on the same side of solving the problem and finishing the project?”
I’m not sure if my client was satisfied with my answer, or if he begrudgingly accepted it. He said he’d give it a shot, and not two days later, he emailed me with exclamations of success! It turns out that his colleague was under intense pressure from other areas of the business and other projects. When my client approached him to jointly solve their shared problem, his colleague shared his situation and together they developed a timeline and a plan to tackle what was in front of them. The added bonus was they developed a better understanding of each other and a stronger working relationship.
I’ve seen it work time and time again. I’ve seen it work when nothing else does. When someone is incomprehensible to me, I make myself see things from their point of view and, lo and behold, they make more sense…and I generally find a way to talk with them and work with them. When someone is fighting me and I want them to “toe the line” and do as I say, I look for a way to join with them to see a shared challenge that we can overcome together. As a result, we often find a way to fight the battle and win the war.
How have you gotten on the same side of the problem with someone? Please leave a comment.
If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.
For help in seeing things differently and getting on the same side of a problem, contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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