ESTIMATED READING TIME – 4:00
Learning goals for this activity
– Understand why creating productive peer relationships are important to talent optimization.
– Be able to list and describe the four best practices for creating high-performing teams.
Why productive peer relationships are important to talent optimization
When a sole proprietor adds their first employee, they open a door to expanded output—and interpersonal conflict. When any two people in an organization collaborate, they are able to share resources, skills, knowledge, and abilities in mutually beneficial ways. Two people not only can do twice the amount of work; they can do things together that would not be possible if they worked in isolation. These benefits don’t happen automatically or without risk of friction between the two parties, however.
To make sure that each pair of co-workers is set up to have a productive relationship, you must:
- Foster self-awareness, and awareness of the other person.
- Identify competing styles.
- Highlight competing goals.
- Pre-negotiate optimal ways of working together.
Using these sequential steps, let’s look at how you can ensure productive peer relationships.
1. Foster self-awareness, and awareness of the other person.
Conduct a thoughtful review of each individual’s strengths and potential pitfalls, as was described in the “Understand each person’s natural strengths” step in the Design aptitude. Then provide each person with the other’s profile of strengths and potential caution areas. This type of transparency and mutual understanding establishes a foundation of awareness and situational awareness.
2. Identify competing styles.
Look for areas where the two parties are significantly different from one another in terms of their behavioral preferences and natural strengths. For example, if one co-worker is detail-oriented while the other is spontaneous, it’s important to surface this competing style. Otherwise, if each acts solely in line with their nature, the interpersonal dynamic may become strained. It’s important to point out to the parties that neither style is right or wrong, and neither is good or bad. They are simply different and must be equally understood and respected.
3. Highlight competing goals.
Many times, a pair of co-workers will be pursuing respective objectives that compete with one another in some way. A common example in organizations are the competing goals of innovation and adaptation vs. stability and control. If one party is working to discover new ways of doing things while the other party is working to maintain high levels of quality, efficiency, and predictability, then these objectives compete with one another and the natural friction may spill over into the interpersonal dynamic.
4. Pre-negotiate optimal ways of working together.
The best time to sow the seeds of a productive relationship is when it is a new relationship. Before the partnering work begins, execute the above steps. After creating a thorough understanding of respective strengths and any competing styles or goals, the parties can discuss how they will conduct their work together.
For example, one party may be extremely extroverted and prefer to “think aloud” while the other is more introverted and prefers time in quiet isolation to generate and process ideas. Under this circumstance, how can you help the two parties come to some agreement about how they will interact before the real work begins? By coming to a mutual agreement, the pair will be able to refer back to it when pressure inevitably builds, deadlines loom, and individuals tend to revert to their natural behavioral styles.
If conflict arises between any two co-workers during the course of their work, it’s possible to “reset the relationship.” If possible, change the setting by bringing the parties to a new, neutral location. Revisit the natural strengths of each person and look for competing styles and competing values that have begun to affect their collaboration. Help them redefine and recommit to their negotiated ways of working well together, then ask them to hold one another accountable to honoring that agreement.