Dear Geese: “I disagree with your premise!”
I’ve been a CEO and top executive for many years and I wanted to weigh in after reading your last blog, It’s Not My Problem! In short, I disagree with your premise. You cannot run an organization like it’s a democracy. If you did, nothing would ever get done. I think teamwork and camaraderie are fine, but sometimes decisions need to be made by the leader without everybody’s input. That’s why they are in that leadership position. If 2 of my executives were at sorts with each other, I’d pull them aside and read them the riot act instead of pulling everyone in for a group conversation, as you implied. That would be wasted time and money in my opinion.
Maybe I’m missing something.
-Charles from Princeton, NJ
Thank you for responding and challenging my premise in last week’s blog. In an attempt to be short & sweet in all my Dear Geese published responses, I don’t always expound on my advice and would be more than happy to do that here.
In my opinion, the real issue in last week’s blog was this: Whose responsibility is it to handle an unresolved conflict between two co-workers, regardless whether they are senior executives, managers or frontline employees?
Before I break this down a little further, I think I can say with 100% certainty that we’d all agree that the 2 conflicting parties have a primary responsibility to try to resolve their differences together, first and foremost, correct?
But with that said, let’s say that, for whatever reason, the 2 co-workers haven’t resolved their differences and it’s becoming a problem for everyone else.
What I failed to mention or distinguish in my previous response to this situation was the difference between a team and a work group. Since the person asking last week’s question implied that he/she was a member of a team, I responded in kind and wouldn’t change a thing about the advice I gave. However, my advice would have been completely different had we been talking about a work group.
How do you know the difference?
According to Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, authors of The Wisdom of Teams, a team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. In high performing teams, the synergy of the team relationships is as important as the task at hand.
Katzenbach and Smith go on to say that a work group is a group for which there is no significant incremental performance need or opportunity that would require it to become a team. The members interact primarily to share information, best practices, or perspectives and to make decisions to help each individual perform within his or her area of responsibility. In a work group, each member is responsible to successfully complete the job duties assigned to them by their immediate supervisor.
Given the difference between the 2 groups, I’d advise the supervisor of a work group to address the unresolved conflict with both individuals separately and then together with the intent to resolve their differences. The rest of the work group would not be involved whatsoever.
Charles, does that differentiation help? I know many executives refer to their executive group as a team but in reality they are structured more as a work group. Not sure if that’s true in your case but I’m guessing it is.
If you’d like me to expound further on the specifics on how to manage/facilitate conflict resolution within a work group, simply submit it as a Dear Geese question and I’ll provide that for you as well.
Lastly, in the Outward Bound example I also shared from last week’s blog, we were a team, not a work group. That’s why the instructor held the whole team responsible for the individual actions of our members.
Greg “Geese” Giesen
The Laughing Leader
To submit your Dear Geese question, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.