It can’t have escaped your notice this week that Donald Trump #POTUS and Kim Jong Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, have historically met this week in Singapore. Up until this point their ‘relationship’ has been a bit like The Clash of The Titans. 2 (self proclaimed) Gods, making lots of noise and sounding off about and against each other. Who has the biggest sword.
This week they have made history. It is the first time the leaders of the two countries have been in the same city, let alone the same building or the same room. After all the chest puffing and aggression, they both have needs that were not being met with the pontificating.
It remains to be seen where it will lead but it reminded me very much of a situation with a client where a new manager was brought into an organisation and had to deal with some very negative anti feelings and forge a new working relationship.
This new manager came to me when he had just moved to another company. There was ill feeling he said, because another manager thought his ‘protege’ should have got the job. And at first there were a few clashes with both the established and the new manager standing their ground and refusing to give way or negotiate on the (fairly irrelevant) things in question.
The manager – we’ll call him Ken – had tried appealing with logic to the other manager – on a ‘we need to work together or it will be bad for both of us’, level. That didn’t work. The problem is when someone already has a negative feeling towards another person, logic isn’t going to fix it. The emotions need to be dealt with.
The first thing I advised him to do was to meet the other manager on neutral territory – perhaps taking him for a lunch at a favourite eating place. Neutral ground always works best in these scenarios. A bit like Trump and Kim meeting in Singapore.
The second strategy is to redirect the bad feeling. So for Ken, that was about saying – look neither you nor ! have put us both in this difficult situation, the Company did that. I wasn’t in the meeting with Kim and Trump but I could imagine that maybe some reference was made to the past as the cause for the current problems.
This redirects the emotion to a third party.
The next step is reciprocity and giving first. Ken discussed that he was looking for a lead for a project involving both their teams, and proposed the ‘protégé’ of the other manager. The role would involve the protégé being included in high-level meetings which would spotlight him and certainly aid his career ambitions. It would also highlight the skills and importance of the other manager’s team and therefore give him some reflected glory.
By giving first – Ken cleared the way for the other manager to ‘give back’ without having to actually DO anything except for supporting the initiative – which of course he was happy to do to help his protégé.
In a similar way, Donald Trump has agreed to stop all wargames in the Korean Peninsula. This is before Kim has actually done anything – but it clears the way for Kim to comply with The Donald’s wishes without losing face.
There is one more stage that is necessary for this strategy to work long term and that is about being clear about the relationship going forward. The other manager needed to know that Ken valued him and his team but that he was not indispensable and that the offer was time limited.
So, the conversation went something like this “I think Ben is ideally suited for this project and I would love to have him on board. I intend to speak to him tomorrow before the board meeting on Friday – but I need to know right now, whether you support him as the lead for the project and whether you can release the time he will need to be involved. If that is not going to be possible I have 2 other names on my list of potential project leads and as the board meets Friday you can see the urgency.
Again, not being party to the conversations I can’t say whether this strategy was used in the meeting of the Titans, what I am sure about is that there would have been conversations about next steps and there would have been urgency introduced by POTUS.
If two of the worlds most dangerous men, and most unlikely looking world leaders, can turn their Clash of The Titans into a bromance, then it is possible for anyone!
If you have this sort of situation in your business or you can see it happening in the future – feel free to email me on email@example.com This is just one of the potential strategies we can implement to help with difficult relationship issues at work.
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Jan Sargent is co-Director with Julie Hutchison of Transforming Performance, a consultancy which provides businesses with expert support in Leadership Coaching, Team Development and Performance Coaching, Executive Coaching, Mentoring, Training and Behavioural Profiling and help in getting the best from you and your people. If you’d like to have a chat and a coffee to discuss how we can help you, we’d love to talk. Call us on:
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