Team of Two  

This is one way to improve job satisfaction and organisational effectiveness.

 

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 Things you, secretary, could do to help me
Let you know where I am going when I leave the office. Tell me what you need from me so you can give me the best help.
Stop giving long urgent tasks after 4pm Organise my office and filing

Secretaries’ list

Things I, secretary, could do to help you Things you, manager, could do to help me
Talk to other secretaries on site to see if they have good admin. ideas we could use Listen to me when I am overloaded
Learn to use the spell checker! Say “Hello” to me when I come in

The parties then share their lists and create a joint list as below.

Combined list

Things I, manager, could do to help you Things you, secretary, could do to help me
Let you know where I am going when I leave the office. Tell me what you need from me so you can give me the best help.
Listen to you when you are overloaded Talk to other secretaries on site to see if they have good admin. ideas we could use
Stop giving long urgent tasks after 4pm Organise my office and filing
Say “Hello” when you come in Learn to use the spell checker

The two people now discuss the information and decide what they will do.

A person may say:

  •  “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.
  • “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 technique 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.

I have used these ideas and found that 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 two individuals involved to attend some meetings together so she or he would understand more about each other’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.

I am indebted to Nick Heap for his creation and development of the content above.