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
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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- Although cubicles do provide facility cost savings compared with walled offices, they do so at the price
of product development delays and increased product development costs. Decisions of facilities planners
can have dramatic project schedule impact.
- Message Mismatches
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tempers can flare on both sides. But if we keep in mind two ideas, we can reduce the effects of message
- No Surprises
- If you tell people "I want no surprises," prepare for disappointment. For the kind of work
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- Down in the Weeds: I
- When someone says, "I think we're down in the weeds," a common meaning is that we're focusing
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we do about it?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 23: Look Where You Aren't Looking
- Being blindsided by an adverse event could indicate the event's sudden, unexpected development. It can also indicate a failure to anticipate what could have been reasonably anticipated. How can we improve our ability to prepare for adverse events? Available here and by RSS on August 23.
- And on August 30: They Just Don't Understand
- When we cannot resolve an issue in open debate, we sometimes try to explain the obstinacy of others. The explanations we favor can tell us more about ourselves than they do about others. Available here and by RSS on August 30.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenQixWGnyBuzFDcROhner@ChacOgVOUnfbFnJoHbYgoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
- On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald
Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen
had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished.
As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business
analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read
more about this program. Here are some dates for this program:
- The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 4535 Commerce Street,
Virginia Beach, VA 23462: September 13,
Monthly Meeting, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- CTCPA, 716 Brook Street,
Rocky Hill, CT 06067: September 20,
Full-day Workshop, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 4535 Commerce Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23462: September 13, Monthly Meeting, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
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speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises
is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage,
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Read more about this program. Here's a date for this
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin
Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19,
Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19, Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
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