Suzanne surveyed the options: "Grill" (that meant burgers and fries), "Garden" (that meant salad bar), "Home" (that meant hot and boring), and "World" (today it was East Asia). She noticed that Matteo was at the salad bar, so she decided to do salad today, and headed over there with her tray.
As she reached for the lettuce tongs, Matteo nodded to her and said, "I hate salad."
Suzanne couldn't resist. "Good," she said. "More for the rest of us who hate salad."
Matteo chuckled. "So what'd you think of Lynn's idea?"
Suzanne reached for the cottage cheese spoon. "I think it might work. We have to fill in some holes, but it just might work."
"I agree," said Matteo. "She has a real gift for finding the third way."
Matteo is referring to Lynn's knack for finding a new way to look at things, to bring unity into an otherwise polarized debate. It's one of the skills of people I call Problem-Solving Ambassadors.
In the context of dispersed or global teams, we often meet face-to-face for problem-solving sessions. To manage our travel budgets, we send delegations to these meetings, usually selected for their domain knowledge and problem-solving skills.
And this is where we sometimes err. We choose people for these meetings using the same criterion — domain expertise — that we use for the face-to-face context. Although domain knowledge and problem-solving skills are important, a new skill set is required for dispersed teams — the skills of the ambassador.
Here are some tips for finding and choosing problem-solving ambassadors.
- Negotiation skills and empathic skills are critical
- In the dispersed environment the delegations that meet must negotiate agreements that last beyond what anyone can know for certain. Agreements must be much more than technically sound — they must support the agendas of the parties well enough to make adherence the best alternative. Problem solving alone won't cut it.
- Seek balance
- Problem-solving ambassadors do have problem-solving skills, and they are well versed in the subject matter of the meeting. But they need not be the most well versed people available, because we're willing to trade off some domain knowledge and problem-solving abilities for ambassadorial skill.
- Look for them where they are
- Seek a balance
of domain knowledge
and ambassadorial skill
- Where do we find problem-solving ambassadors? Because they're relatively gregarious, they're often bored by purely technical work. We find them in technical sales support, or in customer support or customer consulting. Or maybe management.
- Expect varied careers
- Because they appreciate the multiplicity of perspectives, they enjoy breadth more than depth. The paths of their careers pass through many different fields.
And most important, like the Lynn that Matteo and Suzanne were talking about, problem-solving ambassadors thrill in resolving issues between constituencies — in finding the third way. Do you know a problem-solving ambassador? Top Next Issue
For more about empathy and the uses of empathy, see "The Uses of Empathy," Point Lookout for January 4, 2006.
Ambassadors must be diplomats, and one of the most important skills of diplomacy is a mastery of indirectness. See "Using Indirectness at Work," Point Lookout for December 6, 2006, for more.
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenKlUfYNklmERpPweLner@ChaczxGhUbeTFjAQeuVboCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Team-Building Travails
- Team-building is one of the most common forms of team "training." If only it were the most
effective, we'd be in a lot better shape than we are. How can we get more out of the effort we spend
- When It's Just Not Your Job
- Has your job become frustrating because the organization has lost its way? Is circumventing the craziness
making you crazy too? How can you recover your perspective despite the situation?
- Confirmation Bias: Workplace Consequences Part I
- We continue our exploration of confirmation bias, paying special attention to the consequences it causes
in the workplace. In this part, we explore its effects on our thinking.
- Unnecessary Boring Work: I
- Work can be boring. Some of us must endure the occasional boring task, but for many, everything about
work is boring. It doesn't have to be this way.
- Just-In-Time Hoop-Jumping
- Securing approvals for projects, proposals, or other efforts is often called "jumping through hoops."
Hoop-jumping can be time-consuming and frustrating. Here are some suggestions for jumping through hoops
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 29: Manipulators Beware
- When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.
- And on December 6: Reframing Revision Resentment: I
- From time to time, we're required to revise something previously produced — some copy, remarks, an announcement, code, the Mona Lisa, whatever… When we do, some of us experience frustration, and view the assignment as an onerous chore. Here are some alternative perspectives that might ease the burden. Available here and by RSS on December 6.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenzGvzMEjKfNgXqgcvner@ChacciIBEpNYgHYMRDdFoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
- Most of what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.