Nick Heap

Team of Two

by .  Last edit was 9 months ago
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Much of the business of an organisation takes place between pairs of people. These interactions can be positive and developing or frustrating and destructive. You can improve them using simple methods, providing people are willing to listen to each other.

"Team of two" will work between secretaries and managers, managers and directors, consultants and clients or engineers working on a job together. It will even work between life partners.

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Goal

Improve job satisfaction and organisational effectiveness.

Attachments

Instructions

The idea

Much of the business of an organisation takes place between pairs of people. These interactions can be positive and developing or frustrating and destructive. You can improve them using simple methods, providing people are willing to listen to each other.

"Team of two" will work between secretaries and managers, managers and directors, consultants and clients or engineers working on a job together. It will even work between life partners.

It does not work when the relationship is so broken down that either party would rather have a battle than do anything to make it better.

The method

Each person writes down 1) How they think they could help the other person and 2) How they think the other person could help them.

The hypothetical example of a manager and secretary will make this clearer.

Manager's list:

  • Things I, manager, could do to help you
    • Let you know where I am going when I leave the office.
    • Stop giving long urgent tasks after 4pm
  • Things you, secretary, could do to help me:

    • Tell me what you need from me so you can give me the best help.

    • Help me be more organised in my work

Secretaries' list:

  • Things I, secretary, could do to help you
    • Talk to other secretaries on site to see if they have good admin. ideas we could use
    • Filter your emails, deal with routine ones.
  • Things you, manager, could do to help me
    • Listen to me when I am overloaded
    • Help me understand your priories

The people decide what to do.

A person may say: -

  • "Of course I will do as you ask". This would be sensible if the request is easy and gives an immediate benefit.
  • "I can't do that because......" . The request might violate your values, by being (say) unethical, or it might be politically unacceptable, or take too much time.
  • "I would be prepared to meet your request if you would help me with this one of mine". The request might demand work or a change of attitude. You would both win eventually.

It helps people to follow through with their decisions if they record and preferably display their agreements.

Play the negotiation straight. If you use tactics or manipulation, then people will not use the method again. They will also become suspicious of all the management techniques you use.

Make your requests small, clear and doable. It is more useful to ask someone to say "Hello" in the morning than to "Be more considerate".

Aim for equity in the negotiations. If people "give in" to every demand they will feel exploited later. People who want something for themselves for everything they give will lose co-operation. People will think they are mean.

Give the process enough time. The expectations take time to clarify. This is often the first time people have talked directly about how they work together

Workshops

I have used these ideas in a series of workshops for secretary/PA and managers. The exercise easily led to free, open and positive discussions and decisions about all aspects of the work together, from the day to day, filing etc to the strategic, about priorities. One common decision was for the PA to attend some meetings with the manager so she or he would understand more about the manager's work and thus be able to make better decisions about what was important.

This tool will not work if the relationship has so broken down that the parties do not want to make improvements.

Finally

Please play with these ideas and use them in any way that makes sense to you. If you stick to giving and receiving practical help and treating both parties fairly it will work well, if the people want to make their relationship work.


Tips for running this activity online

  • Use a video conferencing tool where you can assign the participants into breakout rooms (eg. Zoom).
  • When briefing the exercise and assigning the pairs or groups to work together, keep all participants in the main video conference room and explain best practices.
  • After this step is completed, turn on breakout rooms so each pair can work on their tasks.
  • After the group breakout groups are completed and participants return to the main room, debrief the exercise.
  • If you do not have breakout sessions, keep everyone in the main room, though invite pairs to communicate in private messages or small groups in Slack.
  • If you anticipate difficult conversations to come up, try having people write their proposed questions and send them to you before the meeting. You can help refine those questions to make the later discussion more productive.

Background

Source: Nick Heap

Comments (1) (5.0 avg / 1 ratings)

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  • Thanks, Nick! Great exercise - I will try it out when I get an opportunity

    10 months ago