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Want more collaboration? Put yourself in THEIR shoes.


Lynn Scott Coaching

One of the most common requests on my leadership programmes is to ‘do something on difficult conversations’.

And one of the most powerful ways I work on this with my leadership groups is to enable people to imagine the world from that ‘difficult’ person’s shoes.

Because the thing is, we can’t change anyone else (however much we would like to).  The only thing we can change is ourselves and the way we choose to respond.

This exercise is so powerful because it gives people a new understanding of how to collaborate with that ‘difficult’ person. They get to understand their motivations, their fears, their preferences…. and to respond accordingly.

Here’s an example from the programme (names changed).  One leader (we’ll call Sam) was constantly irritated with a colleague (Chris) who (she said) went round and round the houses and didn’t get to the point.  When Sam ‘stood in Chris’s shoes’ (she imagined herself, literally and metaphorically, in those shoes), she started to understand what this was about… his belief that a manager should have all the answers, his fears about not knowing the answer to a question (and belief about what that might mean for his career progression) and so on. 

Sam was able to feel some empathy for Chris and was therefore able to change the way she worked with him.  Their joint collaboration has now made a big impact on their success (and profitability) at work.  So here are the top seven ways to get more collaboration from your colleagues:

  1. Pay attention.  What are their biggest challenges or opportunities?  How can you HELP them to achieve – and to achieve yourself at the same time?  (win-win);
  2. How do they prefer to communicate?  Verbally?  Email?  Face to face?  Find out.
  3. Do they like lots of detail or big picture?  Ask them!
  4. Ask the question: ‘what can we do together to improve our working relationship/results'?  This seemingly simple question is very powerful because there is no ‘finger pointing’ or blaming the other person;
  5. Find out what motivates them.  One size doesn’t fit all.  So ask.  And listen.  The way they speak, the way they operate, the language they use will all give you lots of clues;
  6. Keep your promises.  Deliver what you say you will.  And if you can’t, give them plenty of notice … and an alternative option;
  7. Have a ‘can do’ attitude.  Whingers and whiners drain everybody’s energy.

Lynn Scott

This Page was last updated on: 8 July 2016

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