Sales. Project Management. Account Management. Customer Success. Implementation. So many functional areas that must work together to make an organization run profitably. While each “silo” is important, it’s the integration that often drives competitive position and performance. The quality of that human integration will depend on how well professionals, with diverse skills, personalities, and motivations, collectively focus efforts on a common purpose and goals. When internal teams cultivate healthy partnerships and are laser-focused, great organizational performance flows naturally.
In the absence of this, however, teams can exercise unhealthy, anti-partnership behaviors. This disfunction can depress performance, spill over into client relationships and taint the organization’s value proposition. At some point, with tension high and performance compromised, leadership changes can be expected.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Best of enemies?
A prime example of this is the often-tense relationship between Sales and Account Management in a technology services company. You know, the “hunters” and the “gatherers.” In a recent coaching engagement, I worked independently with both Sales and Account Management leadership. This indispensable relationship was turning a little toxic, with each “silo” blaming the other for the tension. The limited entreaties offered by each team never addressed the fundamental cause. Performance was going to suffer.
Despite the tension, the situation in no way reflected ether team’s bad intentions: both were highly committed to meeting top-line objectives and satisfying the customer. Both were committed to the cause of the company. Digging in their heels, however, both clung to their “truth” and neglected to interrogate the other perspective.
Now, when you’re in the middle of a situation like this, it’s very difficult to take a step back and assess the problem from both sides and anchor yourself in the common goal. But that’s exactly what needed to happen.
My job as a leadership coach was to support the Account leader’s desire for change — a healthier partnership with Sales that produced revenue and customer satisfaction more efficiently and sustainably. But also a relationship that made his team (and himself) feel more respected and appreciated. While I as the leadership coach can never be responsible for the client’s behavioral changes, I am responsible for creating the process and framework that guides my client to a better awareness of the change they want, what’s getting in the way, and the plethora of possibilities to reach the desired change. I also play a role in my client’s creation of an action plan and ongoing experimentation.
In the case of my client who led Account, one-on-one leadership coaching led to a new awareness of what was holding him back from cultivating a more successful partnership with Sales and the development of a plan for positive change.
While I can’t recall the exact words that led to his breakthrough, the coaching conversation went something like this.
Powerful Questions Elevate Awareness
After asking a few probing questions about his current state, I asked him this question:
“What is your perception of the current situation with Sales?”
And I followed up with:
“What do you think Sales’ perception is of the current situation?”
Unsurprisingly, he replied with an insightful answer:
“Well, they have a lot of pressure on them these days and a lot of their income at the end of each month depends on the business they close. So, I suspect they consider our constructive feedback unhelpful and maybe evening annoying.”
I then asked:
“How is that different from your perception of the current situation?”
So, he knew there were two very different perceptions and motivations. What he hadn’t done, however, was show empathy to his partners and consider both perspectives before coming to conclusions about the best path forward. Nor had he really involved Sales in the discussion of how their partnership could evolve and be stronger and how everybody would benefit.
Here are a few more questions I remember asking:
“How do you think this perspective influences Sales’ behavior with your team?”
“Have you and your team ever considered what would happen if the Sales team did not exist”
“How could you change your approach for a better partnership?”
” What does a better partnership mean to you? What do you think it means to Sales”
“What could you do now to get the partnership with Sales on better footing?”
Open, empathetic dialog packs a positive punch
It turns out, my client had never had any open conversations with Sales about enhancing their partnership nor had he discussed any of this with his Account team. At the next meeting with the Sales team, my client started by asking how things were going for Sales —how they were dealing with the intense pressure to close deals and hit aggressive sales targets. My client also thanked the Sales team for their essential work and eventually asked to hear their perspective on taking the partnership to greater heights. He was ready to build a stronger partnership, with his “new” partner in Sales.
About Mach10 Career & Leadership Coaching
We believe everyone can reach their potential and find true professional satisfaction and fulfillment. We created Mach10 Career & Leadership Coaching to catalyze professional growth, development and success. We partner with organizations to develop and retain high potential leaders and teams, and we work with individuals, independent of their employer, to discover a fulfilling and rewarding work life.
If you want to explore how leadership coaching can support your organization’s growth and performance, text me (617-529-8795), send us an email [firstname.lastname@example.org] or visit http://www.mach10career.com.