The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts


When Hank started to describe a meeting he had been leading with his team, the word negotiation caught my attention. It was a meeting he had set up to reach an objective. His assumption was, that his team would take the plan he had prepared and buy into it by discussing if and how they could implement it.

We discussed his attitude towards the team as well as the assumptions he started with.

One possibility was, that he would use his plan as means to understand what his team saw as achievable and how they could see themselves do it. Another possibility was, that he was seeing his plan as his perspective of what they should achieve and assuming that it would serve him to find a common ground with his team.

What had caught my attention was the possibility of the second approach. I wondered if he would take a position on one side of the field and see his team on the other. In which case I saw the risk of them entering a competition of who is right. Competitions lead to tension between the leader and the team, where both pull in different directions. It also leads to a team being cautious to share all their ideas, ambitions, and anxieties. Their challenge then being to be open and competing at the same time. Even more so, when the competitor has more authority. For their security, the team members will often prefer to give in to make their boss happy. For the leader, on the other hand, it is often a disappointing situation, as the team’s ambitions will rarely be as high as his.

Such competition disconnects the team and leader as both have to have a different aim during the negotiation. Having had opposite sides during the negotiation, they have to find a way to see themselves again on shared ground. It happens by making the result their common objective. It is a work that involves building trust that they all accept the result. It also includes grieving the loss they experienced during the negotiation by giving up their initial position.

The negotiation process might include all of it. However, if the focus is only on achieving the result, the relationship will remain unattended for a while or left to the link power establishes between them.



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