BUSINESS JOURNAL, April 4, 2003
Mind your business
To work together, departments need
In this age
of cross-department interdependencies, earned trust is your most valuable ally.
Trust means confidence, the absence of worry, backed by a performance track
record. It is unrealistic to have confidence without the track record, and an
expensive oversight to have the track record without the confidence.
instance, you are in product development, you obviously need to know how to
build trust with peers in your own department. And if part of your focus is
customer satisfaction, you will also need to earn trust with people in sales
and marketing. Therein lies the challenge for many.
organizations are set up with inherent conflict between departments. Employees
thus become vulnerable to recycled problems, especially problems that require
input from several different functions. Product development, for example, may
be motivated by quality, by reproducibility, and by innovation. People in sales
may be motivated by volume, by flexibility, and by speed of delivery. In the
absence of active, earned trust, these natural differences can create
complaints: people in sales may feel that the product-development people are
too focused on perfection, seem inflexible to product adjustment, are slow to
commit to deadlines, are even uncommunicative. Yet both sales and product
development have highly motivated, positive employees who probably even like
the people over in product development may begin thinking that the sales
department is unrealistic, promises anything, isn't focused enough on quality,
is obsessed with the short run and is overly susceptible to customer-scope
before the coffee room complaints become audible, both departments may be on
the brink of damaging those very interdependencies that are critical to earned
trust and productivity.
interdependent departments face these same vulnerabilities. And the more
passionate the organization, the more obvious the opportunity. When employees
strongly want success for their customers, failing interdependencies
simultaneously become more critical and more frustrating.
solution is closure: ending every interdependent interaction with credible
commitments that include timeor a time for a time. This habit of closure
begins the performance track record critical to earning trust.
might one approach a closure communication? Opening with "we need to talk" is
certainly accurate, is often innocent, and is usually unproductive. Opening
with "can be get a few moments..." is more likely to be productive because it
elicits willingness. After all, no one is really obligated to talk with you, at
least sincerely talk with you, though they may feel obligated to salute and sit
through it. Acknowledging that trust, and asking, can set a positive tone, even
in situations with a rocky history.
internal intention is critical. An intention to prevail tends to limit ideas to
those brought into the meeting, when an entirely new synthesis may be what is
needed. You can encourage openness by developing and communicating the
intention to understand and be understood, rather than to prevail.
course, make sure the meeting reaches real closure that meets customers' and
participants' needs: Who will do what, and when. Allow for unknowns: "I don't
know when, or whether, I can deliver that." but don't end the conversation
there. Ask, respectfully, "OK, can you tell us when you can tell us
conversation begins the construction of a good track record together. Good
follow-up and helpful exchange furthers that building process and is absolutely
essential. Confidence will follow, either confidence in trustworthiness or
confidence in untrustworthiness. Both are trust. Neither is possible to
establish without real closure in virtually all interdependency
CIANCUTTI is the founder and CEO of Learning Center, Inc. in San Anselmo,
author of "The View From the Gurney Up" and co-author of "Built On Trust." He
can be contacted through learningcenter.net.