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March 28, 2003

"Success will not lower its standard to us.  We must raise ourstandard to success." 
--  Rev. Randall R. McBride, Jr.
Research shows that even with the best products and business practices, you still need strong relationships to succeed in this marketplace.  The following is a roadmap to turn personality differences into positive business results. 

Respect is at the heart of business relationships.  It is the glue that holds together the functioning of teams, partnerships and  managing relationships.  (Up and down, peer-to-peer, internally and externally).  Respecting the right to differ is a concept like apple pie and motherhood.  We all agree with it but can we truly foster it?

The first step is to identify the specific areas of difference.  Many people see things in terms of rights and wrongs.  "My way" is right and therefore "other ways" are wrong.  When a situation is viewed through this lens, a power struggle ensues.  When, however, a situation can be seen through the lens of difference, and a position is simply a matter of opinion not fact, then cooperation and compromise is possible.  Identifying and understanding differences allows people to shift their position to one of compromise and negotiation.  The following steps are the roadmap to success: 

Respect leads to accepting a person for what he/she is.  Accepting a person where they are, creates an environment of trust.  Trust, leads to a willingness to be open to:  new opportunities, new collaborations, new strategies, new ideas, and new products. 

Once you understand the above you can use the following list to avoid power struggles, which drain energy from your effectiveness. Here is a top 10 list for type of differences to look for. 

1.     Communication Styles
All people do not communicate in the same fashion.  There are many inventories available to identify differing styles.  Once you understand a person's style, this knowledge can lead to respect not conflict.

2.     Non-Verbal Communication
All forms of communication must be considered.  This form of communication is more covert, but not any less important. Non-verbal communication includes:  body language and tone. Non-verbal communication may differ from the verbal.  With this additional understanding of what is really being communicated more effective collaboration is possible.

3.     Learning Styles
People learn in different ways.  When this concept is in the forefront of understanding then communications can be geared to various styles and will meet with greater success.

4.     Differing Values
This concept can be a little tricky.  While values need to be identified and respected, there are times when conflicting values can be so different that they cannot coexist on the same team. When mutually exclusive values are encountered, collaboration is not recommended.

5.     Boundaries
We all have different space needs and boundary needs. (Boundaries are the limits you place on the behavior of others around you.)  The first step is to be aware of peoples' boundaries and then to use this understanding to approach them respectfully. This new behavior often avoids conflict and strengthens relationships.

6.     The Self
Self-respect is a vital and primary building block that supports the formation of relationships.  By being aware of your own needs and styles you create a healthy foundation and the ensuing relationships are more solid.

7.     Company Culture
Seasoned employees have come from different companies and each company has a culture.  This must be identified and respected in order to insure successful integration into the current company.  This concept is especially pertinent to mergers and acquisitions.

8.     Culture of the Country
With the global nature of our business, employees often come from different countries, each with a different culture.  In order to successfully integrate multicultural differences, these differences must be understood, articulated, and respected.

9.     Family Cultures
The influence of our backgrounds is great.  Often we ignore these differences because they "do not belong to the workplace."  However, the reality is that people cannot keep who they are out of the work environment.  The key here is to recognize when the source of the conflict is based on someone's family/personal issues.  This allows you to choose not to engage in a battle that is based on their family history.

10.    Individual vs. Team
Balancing the individual's needs with team needs is always an interesting dilemma.  However, if this healthy balance is not reached, problems are certain to follow.  Taking the time to identify and then address both individual and team dynamics are at the core of this balancing act. Business success is directly related to getting this right.

Copyright 200, 2001, 2002, 2003 by Thomas J. Leonard
With all of these differences to consider, where to start?

1.     Identify one business relationship that needs to be stronger.

2.     Identify the specific area of difference in that relationship.

3.     Write down 3 action steps to reduce this difference.

4.     Share these actions with your "buddy" to ensure completion of your commitments

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