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Relationships Don't Thrive On Just The Sweet Stuff



“So tell me again, why are we doing this? I’m not sure why it’s helpful to say something I know is just going to upset someone.”

This is a common question we get when we are working with teams.

First, let me define the term “team.” It is any working group of two or more that have a collective goal and are willing to share resources. So partnerships, project teams, business teams all count, in our view, as a team.

“So tell me again why would I want to say something that I know is going to get my partner or teammate upset?”

Because you care, and you want the best for your partner, team and business!!

Break Thumper’s Mother’s Rule

That’s right! We encourage you to break Thumper’s Mother’s rule: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

”That rule destroys teams and relationships!

It may seem counter intuitive, but on teams, you want to encourage corrective feedback.

Relationships don’t breakdown because of the major differences.

Sure, it can appear that way, but by the time major differences show up, there have been tons of little annoyances that never got talked about. It is those little things that went unspoken, and unaddressed, that will lead to the big chasm.

Relational Health is like Dental Health

In terms of your teeth, you need to take preventive measures, like getting your teeth regularly cleaned and checked. Also, you can’t just eat sweets otherwise the results are cavities and major dental problems.

The same is true for Relational Health. You can’t just ignore problems and just survive on the sweet stuff. It will create relational dysfunction and team breakdowns.

Back to Thumper’s and the real message I want you to take away: If you don’t have anything nice to say, it is probably because you have needed to say something – not so nice – for a long time.

Most people want the truth. They want honesty even when it stings. They especially want it from their teammates.

How about you?

Wouldn’t you prefer to hear something you are doing that is unproductive from a friend and colleague rather than from a client, or worse, from the gossip mill? Most of us want people who care enough to give us the straight goods, so that, we are not caught off guard by someone else. We want our teammates to have our backs!

Here’s the thing. When you don’t deal with the little things and clear them up, you wind up collecting other little bits of information that makes that unproductive issue bigger and bigger.

Let’s Talk About Todd

As an example, let’s say your business partner, Todd, isn’t great at getting all the details down from taking a call. However, you don’t say anything because you don’t want to make a big deal of it.

It happens again. Still, it’s no big deal. You shake it off. You did get the message, and even though there was no number attached, you have an address book, so you can make it work. Right?

Then you notice other little details that Todd isn’t writing, like his expenses from his last trip, or the next steps he’s responsible for in closing a client. Plus, recently you did hear from a client that she was annoyed that you did not get back to her in a timely manner. Surprised and embarrassed, you become fairly certain that it was a call that Todd forgot to mention all together!

You see how it grows. Now, you have quite a case for Todd’s poor behavior!

Just imagine how that conversation is going to go! Likely, you will be working to control your edge as you blurt out a laundry list of details that Todd has delinquently forgotten, blaming Todd for your clients being upset with you because of his poor behavior!

Trust me, it won’t go well, nor will it be very helpful.

There is a Better Way

However, there is a better way. Imagine saying something when it happens, or shortly just after. I know radical, right?

“Todd, I am uncomfortable bringing this up, but I noticed the phone messages you pass on to me don’t seem to have all the details written down, and I think you may miss sharing some important details later when you pass them on to me.

This doesn’t work well for me. I wonder if you have noticed that this has happened now a couple times?”Todd may get defensive.

Todd may disagree. However, you are being honest and clear with him. Plus, this early in the process there you may still be able to hear Todd’s perspective, and even come up with a better system that works for both of you.

Accountable for Behaviors

Holding each other accountable on a team is important for creating great results. If a team doesn’t do it, they will dissolve into mediocre performance. Do you want that? I am guessing, no.

When I say “accountability,” I don’t mean holding someone accountable for deliverables, which we are pretty comfortable doing. “Todd, you were suppose to get that report to me on Monday. It’s Wednesday. Where is it?”

I mean holding your team members accountable for behaviors, unproductive ones. Unproductive behaviors are precursors to unproductive results and unproductive teams! Teams that master giving and receiving regular direct honest feedback are rare and frankly the highest performing!

Don’t let your team or your teammates down by not speaking up early, even when it’s hard.

Wouldn’t you want to know if what you were doing might be causing problems! And wouldn’t you want to hear it first from someone who cares!


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.



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