Build Relational Resilience: Support Your Brilliant Idea and Your Team
Relational resilience is critical to business success. Business isn’t only about numbers. It’s more about building relationships with customers and employees than creating the best products or getting the “right” answers.
Many great ideas and gadgets never made it, for the simple reason that the people involved couldn’t move from a great vision through the relational gauntlet required to bring something intangible into existence and get it into the hands of customers.
Let me give you an example from our work with leaders and teams.
We worked with a company that had a brilliant product: a small, implantable chip that made it possible for people with diabetes to go without shots or external meters. A prototype was tested and everything was going well, but when faced with the step of working with a big medical supplier, the team stalled and the CFO, Tom, reached out to us for help. Without supplier backing, this brilliant product wouldn’t make it far.
In working with the team and the company’s founder, we discovered that the founder was unbendable, unable to take feedback from his team about his style making it impossible to attract and land the necessary supply partner. He remained arrogant and determined to do it his way.
The result was that the product didn’t make it beyond a first small circle of customers. Another company designed a similar product, one not quite as ingenious, but with backing from a major medical supplier, their product became mainstream.
The problem was not the product, the FDA, or the medical suppliers. The problem was the leader and the team’s lack of relational resilience.
The founder is the easy target to blame, but when we look deeper, it becomes clear that although the founder did play a big part in the downfall, the team contributed by not giving feedback earlier or speaking up to demand that the founder step aside.
This type of relationship gauntlet is messy, uncomfortable, and filled with uncertainty. It demands humility and resilience.
In other words, it ain’t easy.
What is Relational Resilience?
Here’s how I define relational resilience: The ability of a person or team to return to original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched, having been influenced by learning new information.
Granted, this sounds messy and painful, but what growth process isn’t? We aren’t wired to willingly step into messy! However, we are innately capable. We just need to drop the façade and become curious.
Building and Sustaining Relational Resilience
There’s a simple process useful for fostering team resilience when differences arise. We call it VOMP.
This great team tool provides a structure for each person to go through to clear the air and reach solid ground while other team members provide a container for staying on track.
Tom, the CFO in the example above, called us again on his next job, working on another start-up, this time in technology, with a brilliant founder, Barry. This time, Tom contacted us much earlier in the team’s development. He wanted to make sure the founder wasn’t going to create roadblocks as the company progressed.
Early on, we introduced Tom and his team to VOMP and they used it effectively through the course of the company’s development, right through to a successful IPO.
Let’s look at how VOMP works as a tool for individuals and teams in disagreement.
V — Vent
Venting is an opportunity for each person to say how and why he or she is upset or disagrees.
Often, people want to by-pass this step, believing they can transcend the messy. In our experience, more times than not, people who don’t do this step wind up “accidently” squirting somewhere inappropriately.
Yes, venting can be messy, and usually is when there’s a logjam of energy that hasn’t been expressed.
It’s valuable and effective to include these three areas in your vent:
what happened for you — what you heard or saw;
your story — how you put the pieces together, your theory, your opinion;
The key is to not go on and on. If you vent more than two minutes, you’re probably only escalating and becoming more upset. About a minute of being frank regarding how you see the situation is enough.
Supportive Tip: When listening during the vent, it’s helpful to reflect back the gist of what the venting person said, to be sure you understand.
Here’s an example from Tom’s early vent on his new team with Barry:
Tom’s Vent: “Yes, you started this company, your ‘baby,’ but I’m tired of you always having the last word and treating the rest of us as less important. I’ve been on this ship before and it didn’t sail well. I don’t want that again!”
Barry’s Reflection: “You think I’m not going to let go of any control. You think this team is doing important work. You’ve worked with other founders like me and it didn’t go well.”
Each person involved gets their own chance to vent.
O — Own
When you hear someone vent, it’s helpful to acknowledge the grains of truth that fit for you.
For example: “I agree that I can be a control freak when it comes to my ‘baby,’ and, yes, I think of this company like that.”
M — Moccasins
It’s important to walk in the other person’s shoes.
When I take time to walk in others’ shoes, I’m not necessarily agreeing, but I am willing to consider that if I were putting the pieces together the way they do, then I could understand their reaction.
Let’s use Barry as an example.
Barry: “Tom, when I asked you to take this job, I knew you’d been through a difficult start-up that failed in part because of an overly controlling founder. I hired you so I wouldn’t be that guy. I also know I say ‘it’s my baby’ a lot and that can sound dismissive of anyone else invested in this company.”
P — Plan
It’s important that each person closely involved has a turn in the different roles of the VOMP process: venting, owning what fits, and walking in the others’ moccasins.
Once those steps have occurred, making a plan together becomes much easier and faster.
For Tom and Barry, the plan involved a “time out” signal that could be used by any team member to initiate an outside review if they believed Barry was too invested and taking to much control in a voting situation. Barry asked Tom to be the person to make those presentations to an outside consultant.
Summary and Follow-Up
Relational resilience is critical to team and business success. Your team needs to be willing to get messy and they need tools for cleaning up.
VOMP is a simple set of steps to apply in any conflict situation.
Tom shared with us that using VOMP early on with Barry was one of the hardest and most rewarding times in his career. On two occasions over a seven-year period, the company could have been destroyed if it hadn’t been for that early VOMP conversation.
Don’t let your great idea fail or let your team down due to being brittle. When problems come up, give VOMP a try, and remember that relational resilience improves the bottom-line!
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke are Master certified life coaches, business consultants, speakers and authors of The Beauty of Conflict. They believe real relationships are the key to creating great business results. They’ll take your team from mediocre to great.
Interested in coaching? Check out CrisMarie’s executive coaching and personal coaching, or Susan’s personal coaching and equus coaching.
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