A Hint of New Business Team Conflict = No Win
Good chemistry means learning how to have difficult conversations to maintain harmony
You've seen it happen: two members of your team aren't getting along. You've tried to repair the damage, but everyone knows it's there. While everyone tries to cover it up in the pitch, it still shows. You don't win (instead, you come in "second"). The VP Marketing cites "chemistry" as what made them choose your competitor.
Hopefully, you hear "chemistry" as the reason why you lost.
Discord in a marketing services company is felt by everyone around those who are out of sorts. It's therefore critical that we all know how to skillfully and effectively diffuse and repair relationships.
As I was faced with one of these situations recently, I gravitated to a Harvard Business Publishing article by Peter Bregman called "The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations". Peter emphasizes the importance of really listening to those who are upset until you completely understand the issue.
He suggests Three Things to Do to Communicate Listening:
- Ask questions. Ask open ended, exploratory questions, such as who, what, when, where, how, why, etc. These will clarify what the other person is saying and feeling. Stay away from leading questions and statements that pretended to be questions but won't fool anyone, like "You don't actually believe that, do you?"
- Actually listen. Shut up and hear what the other person has to say. Avoid thinking about anything except what the other person is saying. Try to hear what they're NOT saying, but are implying: the desires, fears, and assumptions behind what they're saying.
- Repeat and summarize. Recap what you heard, trying to use the same words they did, and check to be sure you understood them correctly. If you didn't get it, ask the other person to repeat what they said so you hear the whole thing again. What you really want to know is what you got wrong. Ask what you missed. Once they've told you, repeat that part again and ask them if you got it right this time.
This sounds easy, and like most things it's harder to do than it is to write or say. But it works, so it's worth the effort. If you try this approach, I think you'll find that you develop the habit of asking questions instead of jumping in and suggesting what should be done to fix the problem.
We all want to be heard. Once we know that we've been heard and understood, we're generally much more willing to compromise and find a solution that works for everyone involved.
For new business teams, getting back to a stable state of affairs is critical, since chemistry is a critical ingredient to winning new accounts.