Hi, my name is Sari van Poelje, I’m an expert in agile, innovative design. I fly around the world helping businesses innovate as quickly as they innovate their products. One of the questions I’m often asked is, “What skills do you need for cooperation and especially to create cooperative teams?”Well, we just said, the first skill is contracting. The second is communication and the third is consequence management. And we’re going to talk about first one, contract.
So what do we mean by a contract?
A contract is really a very good bilateral agreement about what we’re going to do together and what results we want to achieve together. The key word in this is bilateral. So, I often find that leaders tell people what to do, but they don’t actually ask people what they want done and they don’t actually wait for an answer. So when we say contracting, we really mean, I ask you a question and you give me an answer, whatever that may be. Yes, no, under these conditions. And then we talk about it and when we agree what we’re going to achieve together, we call that a contract.
What’s so important about having a contract?
- Well, one is you are for sure both implicated in reaching the same goal. So, that’s really important. Reaching the same goal is a status, what we call a cooperative relationship.
- The second thing is if you and I agreed together and we’ve actually had a talk where you say, “Well, I’ll do it under these conditions.” And I go, “Okay, let’s see if we can get that done.” And we actually agree, “This is the goal. These are the conditions. What support do you need from me?” We stay in what we call an okay-okay relationship. An okay-okay relationship in cooperation is very important. It means you’re okay, and I’m okay, despite our behaviors, we still think of each other as worthy and valuable human beings. And that’s a really important thing to have, the trust and the relationship. Very important to have when you want to create cooperation.
- The third reason it’s really important to have a contract is because it moves you from a problem orientation to an action orientation. So, when I come to you as an employee and I say to you, “Hey, the machine isn’t working.” And I go, “Okay.” And you don’t actually ask me a question or you don’t ask for help, then it’s very, very difficult to make a clear contract. And we stay on that problem. We stay problem-focused. But if you come to me and say, “Hey, we have a problem, the machine isn’t working. I thought of three ways of doing this. This is scenario one, two, three.” And I go, “Let’s talk about it.” And we agree on a scenario, then we’re already from a problem focus to an action-oriented focus. And that really helps in creating cooperative relationships.
So contracting is a very important part of creating cooperation in teams, and it’s one of the skills you’ll have to master.
In the next videos we’ll take a deeper look at some more of these issues. Follow me to find out more.
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Sari van Poelje has 30 years experience of innovation on the interface of leadership and organizational development, executive coaching and transactional analysis both as a director within several multinationals and as an international consultant. Specialization in creating agile leadership teams and business innovation! She is the author of numerous articles and books on leadership and change.