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Oh Sh*t! A Total Waste of Time

“Forget it. This is a waste of time!” Charlie said. He turned and looked directly across the table at his teammate Joe, “No way am I working with you Joe. Frankly, I don’t like you, nor trust you.”

A silence fell across the room. Then, as if in unison, the team sitting around the table turned their heads and looked at us.


Yes, this really happened. And it’s actually the type of moment we hope will happen on teams. Teams that are stuck, that is. No it’s not the feel-good, touchy-feely moment people imagine we are looking for. It’s the OH SH*T! moment, that if handled well, turns a team from average to awesome and leads to a innovative leap.

“Great…Really. Sounds crazy, but I am glad you said it. Joe, anything you want to add?” Susan said.“

Ditto. This is a waste, and Charlie I feel the same about you!” Joe replied.

“Okay. We can work with this.” Said Susan.

This was a team of twelve network engineers for a national wireless telecommunications company. Their goal was to create and successfully rollout a workflow process to map for new networks.

We were the third consulting team hired.

When it came to implementation, the previous three times the team had failed.

What We Did

We requested two-day offsite with some focus team building, in addition, to the workflow process map. At the start of day one, we laid out our model for Innovation including the value created when people bring all of themselves to the table, the Me. Contrasting that with the tension that is created as each member does show up, the We. Conflict is bound to occur, which can be messy, but healthy conflict, is critical for creating Great Results.

Back to the Moment

After Charlie and Joe put their frank comments on the table. We took twenty minutes. We used our Check It Out model to discover that:

  • Everyone knew about the conflict between Joe and Charlie, but didn’t know what to do and hoped they would work it out “off-line.”

  • Nine months earlier there had been a bad handoff between Charlie and Joe’s two teams. Each team had felt let down by the other team and both teams lost their bonus.

OH, SH*T! Conclusion

We did not solve it in those twenty minutes, but a frank conversation occurred that left Joe and Charlie feeling heard and acknowledged. Both of them were willing to move on and work to rebuild their relationship and their team’s relationships.

In the end, the team rolled out their original workflow process. Yes, the one that was designed before all the consultants. This time the implementation worked great!

Susan Clarke and CrisMarie Campbell are Coaches, Consultants, and Speakers at thrive! inc. (www.thriveinc.com) They help business leaders and their teams use the energy of conflict, rather than – avoid or defuse it – to get to creative, innovative, profitable business results. You can see their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! On YouTube. They would be happy to coach you, consult with your team, or to speak at your next event. Contact them at thrive@thriveinc.com

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