Relationship Mulligans At Work

by | Feb 7, 2019 | Executive Coaching

A common reason teams don’t perform well is because an interpersonal relationship within the team that has soured.

“Some research suggests that a key reason why some teams fail is that employees are ill-prepared to make the transition from individual contributor to team member”. Capretta, Cara et al. FYI For Teams. Korn Ferry. 2017.

Sometimes the best way to fix a wounded relationship with a co-worker is to ask for a do-over. A mulligan. Not just a situational mulligan. An entire relationship reset. I’ve seen it work and it will catapult results for an organization!

Mulligan – noun – (in informal golf) an extra stroke allowed after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard.

If you know you’re in one of those relationships and you have a level of emotional intelligence that enables you to swallow your pride and release your need to be right, then try this simple formula for your relationship mulligan:

  1. Schedule 30 minutes and invite your counterpart to collaborate on your relationship.
  2. Open with, “I would like to work on improving our relationship. Would you be open to us hitting the reset button?”
  3. Raise the energy of your meeting by telling your coworker something you appreciate or admire about them.
  4. Share with your counterpart what you would like to see change about your relationship going forward. Invite them to share their thoughts on the same. Use “us” and “we” language. Avoid using the word “you”!
  5. Create mutual commitments to the behavior changes you will make and perhaps establish rules of engagement for the future.
  6. Prepare to earn each other’s trust all over again (or perhaps for the first time) by following through on your commitments, refusing to mirror back bad behavior if your counterpart slips or has a bad day, and gently (and privately) hold each other accountable.
  7. Create opportunities for open dialogue between the two of you about your progress together and other changes you want to co-create.  This might feel uncomfortable at first, but it is an essential step!

I often work with leaders (via triad meetings) who are trying to repair their damaged relationships. It isn’t unusual for the leaders to decide to profess their intentions to their team members and peers. This creates a level of support, accountability and encouragement they wouldn’t experience if they nursed their relationship in secret. Not sharing your intentions overtly also allows you to slip back into old behavior patterns when workplace stress heats up. Sharing and following through on your commitments also sets a powerful example for others in the organization.

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