The webinar will feature a specific example of a cross-functional team whose actions, because of diverse and/or differing mindsets, can greatly influence its organization’s success or, potentially, stifle its growth and expose it to great risk.
Barbie: Hello, everyone and welcome to today’s webinar, Exploring the Mindset Barriers to Cross Functional Collaboration. This is one in a series where we connect for about 30 minutes to bring to life some of the challenges we see in the market and what to do about them.
During today’s session, Andrew Cohn, one of Axialent’s senior consultants will engage in a dialogue around the different mindsets and specifically how they influence success or the lack thereof for an organization. We will host a Q&A session at the end of the presentation but if you have any questions that come up during the session, don’t hesitate to use the GoToWebinar control panel and you can type in your questions and then we’ll address them at the end of the presentation. With that, I’ll pass it on to you, Andrew.
Andrew Cohn: Thank you, Barbie. I appreciate the introduction. This is me for those of us who haven’t met. I’m not going to go over too much of my background but just as a way of introducing this topic to recognize that this is something that we could spend hours talking about, about mindsets, defining mindsets, types of mindsets, where they come from, et cetera, and some of the topics that we’ll go into really are flyover quick definitions, if you will, to get to the heart of the conversation here which is really about cross-functional collaboration and cross-functional mindsets.
I ask for your understanding and forgiveness in advance that we’re not going into great depth on most of what we’re talking about here but I certainly am available for further questions both at the end of this webinar using the chat function or after the webinar as well. Thank you for joining us. When we initially begin to talk about mindsets, where do you start? If we start with a basic definition of what a mindset is and I’m trying to be less of a dinosaur and I’ll look on Dictionary.com these days. An attitude, disposition or mood, that’s an interesting one. I think the second one is more of what we’re talking about here in terms of how mindsets show up in the workplace. An intention or inclination and perhaps that word inclination really is the most important. How are folks with different mindsets likely to or inclined to think or respond or react or engage in the workplace?
Let’s start and talk about different types of mindsets. We could talk about cultural mindsets. Obviously, mindset is derived from the culture where we grew up or where we learned. It could be that we grew up in a particular country or region and our parents were from a different region and we would learn about their culture in addition to the culture where we grew up. There’re cultural mindsets and we’ll talk about all these in turn quickly.
Organizational mindsets actually are … Some of our organizations, they’re as big as certain nations but organizations have their own typical tendencies. Functional mindsets, which we really will be focusing on in this call and some which I like to call core human mindsets that underlie people’s thinking and people’s inclinations across cultures and organizations and functions. We’ll talk briefly about those core human mindsets. Many of you know what we might be talking about with core human mindsets that actually went because it underlies a lot of our work. That will be a real quick review.
Mindsets derived from culture could include orientation to time. I just returned from a trip to Mexico where time is relatively fluid. The 10 o’clock buses or kind of around 10, if you will, whereas time is more controlled in places like Switzerland, Germany, Japan perhaps. I know that many of you on the call have more experience with some of these cross-cultural mindset issues than I do and I’ve heard you share them with me so I think you know what I mean by orientation to time.
Directness of interpersonal communication is also a mindset that differs from culture-to-culture. In the Netherlands, they tend to be a bit more direct. Barbie, would you disagree with that?
Barbie: You know what you’re going to get.
Andrew Cohn: That’s it.
Andrew Cohn: Okay. As opposed to, say, Japan which is indirect or China which can be very indirect and some other cultures. Many of you I know work on global teams where that can really be an issue. How do we understand what’s driving this behavior. This person’s too direct, too indirect. Generally, that too reaction stems from what our own mindset is and what our own familiarity is and where we’re coming from. The third mindset that might highlight and there are many would be work and customer relationships, are they transactional like in the US?
For example, the US sales team goes into a room with some new customers from South America, for example, and we present our deal and we expect people to then respond, do you want to do business with us? Do you not want to do business with us, because the relationship is transactional whereas in parts of the world such as many years with South America and in China, for example. I don’t know if they want to do business with you, we don’t know each other yet. The relationship has to have a interpersonal component to it. There has to be a level of comfort personally before someone will sign the deal.
I know when my work with many salespeople specifically and in particular in the US, when they go to certain other countries before they learn these lessons, they don’t understand why people, why aren’t they ready to engage on the deal? Well, because the relationship needs to be more personal. We need to go to dinners. We need to meet spouses. We need to spend time together before we’re ready to do the deal. It’s not simply transactional.
That would be an overview of cultural mindsets, one category. Organizational mindset, like what’s the primary focus of an organization as it might be defined from the outside and the inside as well. Ben & Jerry’s and Whole Foods might focus on social issues. That’s the tendency, that’s the leaning, that’s what comes up first in many conversations. Costco is concerned about customer value. Interestingly, sometimes at the expense of vendor experience, right, because I have some clients who are vendors of Costco and talk about how difficult they are to work with and how hard they are on vendors.
Profits, Goldman Sachs is all about profits and we’re not focusing on social issues. We may or may not be focusing on customer value, it’s profits. Nothing wrong with that of course. Design, Apple, some people may disagree depending on what your bias is. I’m an Apple user but we don’t need to go there. Zappos, for example, is really, really focused on their organizational culture. That is top of mind in many of their decisions and what they do and that’s the reputation they have out in the marketplace.
Just highlighting different aspect of mindsets where many of them come from and what helps shape some of our thinking and inclinations. Of course, we all have all of them. We may grow up in a certain culture. We may work in an organization and then we may work in different functions and that’s where we’ll focus this conversation. Typical differences based on function, risk-taking differs by function, lawyers like to limit risk.
Now, I have a path to talk about this and spoke to one of lawyers because that’s where I come from and these are my brothers and sisters and we like to focus on what’s safe and what is proven, right? Our job is, in a corporate setting in particularly is particularly focused on limiting risk as opposed to sales who can tolerate more risk than us because success means taking risks and that’s just the way it is. Success means taking risk.
Another difference of mindset based on function concerns past or future focus. Regulatory looks backwards, looks to the path past. What has been approved before? What has been adjudicated before? What has been blessed by regulatory agencies before as opposed to marketing which is future focused and what’s possible? This one is particularly aggravating for certain teams that regularly include regulatory and marketing people including the sample team we’ll look at a few slides from now.
The third thing I might want to highlight in terms of typical functional mindset differences relates to breadth of focus. The classic example for this is finance. Finance people often, not necessarily always, focus on narrow details, specifics, fourth column from the right of the decimal point. Whereas strategy people often, not necessarily, will focus on broad, long horizon issues, rounding figures, things like that, that sometimes makes the finance people crazy because it’s all about detail and specifics. That breadth of focus can be a difference based upon one’s function.
Now, to be very clear, I’m talking about tendencies here. This is not rules, this is not someone from sales is always going to show up this way or that way. In fact, I think as we have more experiences working cross functionally, our mindsets broaden a bit and we may not be driven by one particular mindset now in our careers as much as we would have been earlier. I’m just highlighting tendencies that tend to show up with different functions so before the mail starts coming in, I appreciate that these are tendencies.
The question I would ask that you think about is, what functional mindsets do you find yourself adapting to in your day-to-day life and in your work life? Which are the ones that matter most to you really in terms of your cross-functional interactions? Barbie, is this where we have our poll question?
Barbie: Yeah. I’m going to launch the poll right now.
Andrew Cohn: Thank you. Which functional mindset tends to be the most challenging for you? Is it a mindset that limits risk too much or alternatively tolerates too much risk? Is it a mindset that focuses too much on the past, you guys are looking backwards, or is it focusing too much on the future and maybe I’m feeling that other person is disregarding where we’ve been? The fifth option, and by the way, the reason that this fifth option is blended is because the poll only allows us five options. Is the focus too broad, the focus of the other person is too broad or too narrow? What’s most real for you?
Okay. How is our response rate thus far?
Barbie: We’re at 77%, oops, 81%.
Andrew Cohn: Excellent. Great.
Barbie: Let me close the poll and show the results.
Andrew Cohn: All right. Okay, interesting, look at that. Okay. Limiting risks too much and focusing too much on the past. I wonder whether we have an interesting leaning here with this group towards more risk taking, more future focused, maybe more marketing folks, sales folks, the business development people, great. Good. Good to know.
Keep this in mind as we move forward. Thank you, Barbie, for that. Keep this in mind as we move forward and talk about what shows up typically on cross-functional teams and what we can do about it. Keep that example in mind for yourself and how you might apply some of these tools towards those particular teams. Okay. We’ve talked about cultural-based mindsets, organizational based mindsets, functional mindsets.
Before we dive deeper into functional, I just want to highlight that fourth category of core human mindsets and the two, we often talk about at Axialent are do we focus on what is in our control or what is not? This of course is something that different people focus on at different times within all cultures. Do we focus on what’s in our control or what’s not and are we curious and open to data and other points of view or is our thinking certain and fixed.
The first question … By the way, both of these come from our Book Conscious Business so we plug the book here briefly. The victim mindset is one that focuses on things out of one’s control and the player mindset, as Axialent often calls it, focuses on what is under our control. To be clear, it’s not one or the other in our lives or in a day or in an hour. We may switch back and forth depending upon a meeting, an interaction, a particular individual, a particular episode or incident or piece of data coming across our screen. Do we go to victim mindset or player mindset?
This is a human tendency that we have to go to one or the other and of course, very important to pay to attention to it because of issues of affecting this which we’ll talk about. The fixed or knower mindset focuses on being right and values being right whereas the growth mindset, you may have heard this term used more often, or as we call it the learner mindset focuses more on being effective and learning. Again, we all do both of these. It’s not one or the other. It’s just recognizing the greater value that’s available when we’re focusing on what’s under our control and valuing being effective and learning rather than being stuck in a fixed mindset.
Okay, this crosses cultures, functions, organizations, et cetera, but I think worth noting that, yup, this can influence how we show up in meetings. Speaking of which, why does this matter? Why are we talking about this? How we frame or define things is going to be greatly influenced by what our mindsets are. What we discussed in meetings, what data we highlight or pay attention to and what’s important to us, what we prioritize is going to be influenced by our mindsets.
Have you ever been in a meeting and somebody wants to talk about issue number three rather than issue number 1? You’re convinced that issue number one is the most important. They’re convinced that issue number three is the most important. You may very well be different mindsets at work. This is what our mindsets will influence in the workplace and this is what the payoff is. If we can work well across mindsets, we can breakdown silos that separate functions or organizations because we can understand each other better. We can therefore improve collaboration and we work across functions. We can promote greater engagement and satisfaction because we’re less frustrated. We’re more engaged and feel heard ourselves as opposed to feeling judged or marginalized or disagreed with at every turn by someone with a different mindset.
We’re more engaged and satisfied and we can be reducing unnecessary tension and conflict. To be clear, as we look at these benefits, if I’m in a cross-functional team and there’s six people in the group, if two of the other people on the team are engaged in cross-functional conflict, if I can intervene from my role even if the conflict isn’t personally involving me then I can do something as a leader, not necessarily a title from that point of view but demonstrating leadership behaviors to reduce unnecessary tension and conflict even if it’s not my “conflict.” Very important to recognize, we can all contribute if we’re in the room.
Let’s talk about a sample team. I’m going to highlight the pharmaceutical company, legal-medical review team. I know some of you on the line are very familiar with these types of teams, for others it may be newer. I’ve had a lot of experience working with these teams and they’re a festival of cross-functional mindset misunderstanding. It’s, I believe, a great way to highlight how some of these issues can come up.
This type of team is about discussing and approving marketing materials that the marketing folks will bring into the room which includes, in addition to the marketing folks, legal people, regulatory, people from medical affairs, people from privacy, people from other functions, sometimes finance, sometimes communication and those are some of the functions represented in the room. This process is mandated in the US by the Food and Drug Association here so as to ensure cross-functional review of marketing materials.
It’s interesting that this particular cross-functional structure is mandated by a government agency so as to ensure that different functions have reviewed and approved the materials that marketing is bringing and proposing that they be released out into the marketplace such as, for example, TV commercial about a particular drug or a magazine ad or a cocktail napkin at a conference, or sponsoring research. It could be anything.
What that might look like, I’m sorry, I’m having trouble advancing the slides here. Marketing’s at the table with medical affairs, legal, privacy and medical communications as well, as well as some others. That’s what this room typically looks like and what will often happen is marketing folks will come in and they’ll say, we should go forward with this TV ad campaign and maybe the legal folks at the other end of the table will say, “No. We can’t do that.” Okay. Typical situation in my experience and I’d suggest to you that there are different mindsets at work here and let’s get underneath this type of conflict and figure out how it can be addressed.
One of the typical reactions to this type of disagreement or this type of conflict is, I just love this visual, “Well, you know, that’s just like your opinion, man!” Not necessarily that people would say this in a meeting. More often, people might go to this type of the mode where they’re literally just pushing against one another. This might be a physical depiction of what it feels like although I don’t suggest that people are standing and shoving against each other in a meeting.
That’s me on the right and my colleague on the left is doing something very typical in these situations because as I’m advocating for my position, he’s not even paying attention. He’s looking away. The other folks in the room maybe have a stake in the conflict and maybe pay attention for that or they may just be tuning in for their own amusement as they watch us do this conflict that we’ve done many, many times. That literally feels as though we’re just pushing against one another, not particularly productive. It feels as though we’re facing in different directions and frankly, frustrated and lost. A lot of time is wasted.
One of my favorite images, that’s what this can feel like. My briefcase has this proposal that I’ve been working on for several weeks and I’m bringing it to the room and it’s like fuck, I’m just laying down in the street.
At this point in time, we say, “All right. What could we possibly do about this?” I’ll bring into the conversation an application of the concept of positions versus interests and making clear what the distinction is between the two so we can get underneath the positions to the interest that are at work. In a typical example of positions versus interest, a position might be we should update our sales support software platform and the other position or an opposing position might be we shouldn’t invest in this. We shouldn’t waste our money with this new sales support platform. The two positions are opposed.
Let’s look at what’s underneath the two positions. The person who is advocating for updating the software is thinking, “Well, our top priority should be efficiency and this system is going to help with that.” This will help us track customer data. That will help up to repeat sales. That’s what’s behind my thinking. That’s what’s behind my position, and we need the software to attract top sales people. This is even related to attracting top talent and keeping people employed with our company. We need the top tier system. That’s what’s behind this position.
Now, on the other side, the person who was saying we should not invest in this software, they might be thinking, “Well, I don’t know. Our clients are uncertain. We’re not sure what kind of year we’re going to have. Basically, we don’t know if we can afford it.” I’m not convinced that this new system is really going to help us and we have better ways to spend our money. For example, maybe this is because of my function that needs some help. We can hire more people and spend money that way.
If we look at the set of interests, in my experience, the set of interests are much more easy to respond to than the stated position. If someone were to come in to a meeting and say, “We should be spending money on this new sale support software platform.” I may have reason to disagree with that as stated by my interest down here but if they explain what their interests are, “Well, wait a minute. This is now something that I can speak to.” For example, if I were to state the other position, “No, we shouldn’t invest in this.” If I were to say, “I’m not convinced that this system will really help us,” then the person on the other side can then respond to this interest.
Whoops, I’m going too fast. The other person can respond to this interest. Let’s talk about what this looks like again in that legal-medical review group setting.
Again, marketing comes in with the example we gave earlier. “We should go forward with this TV ad campaign.” Legal says, “No, we can’t do that.” Here’s what might be behind the marketing thinking, we need to capture more market share. This will help us do that. Our brand is indistinguishable in the marketplace and this ad will help with that. That’s the interest I’m trying to satisfy with this position or this recommendation. Personally, very importantly, not every team is going to share this openly but many of the most successful ones do. I’m going to share that I’m evaluated by how many ads run this year, okay.
This is important to me personally. I don’t mean that from a selfish perspective. That could potentially be in conflict with the company’s interest. This matters to me personally. This is important to me. I’m measured by this because on the other side, there may be some very different interest. This ad overstates the product’s effectiveness. We’re not indicated for this, this puts us at risk and that risk that lawyers tend to focus on and I am measured on whether we’re exposed to risk, right?
Lawyers in meetings that I’ve been in have said, “All that matters is whether we are exposed to risk.” That’s all that matters. This is a one-issue thing for me. I’m a one-issue voter and that’s all that matters for me. Again, understanding the interest is something that we can address. I can respond to the interest. It’s almost an invitation to a discussion much more than the position is. If we don’t get underneath the interests then we don’t have this conversation because if all we get is the interest then this is what it feels like. I love this cartoon. “Anybody else care to share feedback on my proposal?” Because all we’re going to do is slam the other position and this is where you have two hands pushing against one another directly and we’re just stuck in that position.
Getting behind those interests is very, very important and we’ll talk about how to do that in a moment. Please remember that distinction between intense and impact. The other person’s intention may be very different from their impact on you. This particularly happens. I might highlight the legal and marketing opposition with legal and regulatory in part just because of the way we lawyers sometimes think and sometimes communicate and I’d also suggest that maybe this shows up in terms of cultural differences.
Lawyers can sometimes be very blunt. A no, we can’t do this is an invitation to a discussion in a lawyer’s mind. It’s not over because we’re almost expecting the lawyer or the person on the other side to argue back. That’s what lawyers do and that’s what you’ll hear from my wife and anybody else who is married to a lawyer is where people, lawyers tend to be much more comfortable engaging in what feels like argument, even if the intention isn’t to argue. The intention is just put on a position and we mentioned, well, if he disagrees then, what do you think? Whereas other functions and other cultures as well tend to have a lighter touch for example.
The impact can be very different than the intention. We’ve got to pay attention to the impact that we’re having on others on our cross-functional teams. This is something again that anybody in the room could pay attention to. Someone may say, “Well, hang on a second. Let me just back up a second. When you said that, ‘No, we can’t do it,’ is there another way that you could phrase that, that maybe that would land a little bit easily.” Anybody in the room could ask that question which is an inquiry item and we’re going to inquiry next. Anybody in the room can ask that. Think about how from wherever you sit in the room, you can focus on impact but also recognize when intention may be fairly harsh or maybe too direct for certain people so please, keep that it mind.
Three suggested actions and actually, I just want to see if any questions have come up so far. I see not yet but that’s fine. We haven’t specifically invited them yet. Let me get to three suggested actions. Then we’ll open up the breadth of some things you might have questions about.
First, clarify your interests. Clarify what your interests are underlying your positions and clarify other’s interests by inquiring to get under their positions. Don’t stop at positions, okay. Be relentless and very deliberate and very intentional about getting below the interest to … excuse me, below the positions to the interest. Second, align with your team members as much as you can and that means move across the table. We’ll talk about that in a few minutes about what that specific technique looks like literatively and figuratively. Third, do a stakeholder map. Create a map of your stakeholders which includes an element of the anticipated mindsets of each stakeholder based upon their function in particular but even also their culture and maybe their organization if they’re from outside your organization and we’ll talk about each of these in turn.
In terms of clarifying interests, if we go back to our example here, let’s share what the interests are first so maybe, marketing first before sharing what their recommendation is or what the position is or what we’re advocating for, let’s share these interests. We need to capture more market share. We need to make our brand more distinguishable in the marketplace. I have a proposal that’s going to do that. Now, by sharing what my interests are first, if somebody would disagree with this particular solution or this particular option, which is all the position is, it’s an option for satisfying interests.
If I start with my interests and put them on the table, it gives the other side if there is opposition, a place to enter the conversation. I might respond by talking about what else might we do make our brand more distinguishable? How else could we capture more market share? What have we done this year so far to address these issues? What else are you working on that’s in the pipeline that addresses these issues? It opens the door a little bit and certainly, on the other side, right? If legal is going to respond with the position and the interests underlying that position are, “This ad overstates the product’s effectiveness and puts us at risk.”
Hang on a second. Now, we have a question to ask. How does it overstate the effectiveness? What’s the specific language that you’re concerned about? Which part of the ad? Is it about the sizing of the font? Which does matter in these situations? The timing of the release of an ad campaign or any other physical aspect of this offering. It’s like focus for me on what’s overstated. Now, we have something to talk about as opposed to just a no, as opposed to just, “No, we’re not going to talk about that.”
Okay. In order to do that most effectively, let’s focus on inquiry. What do you like about that point of view or about that position? What’s most important to you? That second question, what’s most important to you, evokes interests. What’s most important to you about that option? In other words, tell me what your interest is that’s underlying that position.
I’m not clear about that, could you explain what you mean by that? Could you explain, for example, going across the table the other way? Could you explain why you believe it overstates the products effectiveness? Tell me why you disagree, please. I could be missing something, would you tell me about that or really good disarming question. What do you think I need to know about your thinking? Very, very disarming question. What do you think I need to know about your position or about your interest that I don’t know? Great, great question, I love that question.
Before we move to advocacy, which we will do, in a meeting, we have a position to assert. I think we should do X because. That because is here are my interests. Let me tell you why I’m suggesting this. X is the best course of action because. Again, it’s surfacing my interests. I hear your point of view but I think X because. Then, again, I’m stating my interest, that’s what we’re talking about.
Inquiry and advocacy, very, very important for stating and understanding the interest that underlie positions and I might suggest and really strongly recommend inquiry comes first. Because the more we understand the other’s interests, the more we can effectively advocate so very, very important in that sequence as well to get beyond these opposing differences and to bring up a quotation we sometimes use in our presentations.
“I do believe that in order to be a successful negotiator, you have to be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Unless you can understand what’s motivating the other person, you’re never going to be able to figure out how to solve a particular problem.” I would add, you’re never going to be able to figure out how to effectively partner with them unless you understand their motivations or their interests. What can we do to get behind the positions and understand their interests and inquiry is a very, very powerful way.
Another powerful way is aligning to your other team member, aligning to their position by moving across the table and I suggest this to my client physically, how can you see what they see? Both their words, their positions or interests, sometimes physically. Shift your position to be next to this person at the table. Tell me why this would be the most valuable option for the company. Again, this is inquiry at work but it’s different when you shifted your position and you’re demonstrating, I want to see it the way you see it, that’s important to me. Be patient. Just by changing position or asking a question does not mean that this is a magic, excuse me, a magic pill and we’ll have immediate breakthroughs and everything will be just completely solved.
In this situation, the woman on the right is in disagreement with the woman in the blue on the left or to our left. Note the aggressive pencil targeting in that photo there and they’re really opposed to one another, makes sense. They’re disagreeing about an idea, very typical in a meeting. Okay. The woman on the left is now moving closer to her adversary or at least the adversary, her position. She’s showing perhaps some details in her computer, they’re both looking at the same thing. They’re pointing at what is most … if they have a disagreement, which they still might, they’re at least focusing their disagreement on something specific that they can see together.
At this point, they’re not disagreeing with each other. If they still have a disagreement, they’re disagreeing with a particular detail in a proposal or in a position. I physically suggest move so that you’re both looking at the same thing. This is why I believe that we should never be sitting across the table in cross-functional meetings from the people we think we’re going to have disagreements with. Set the meeting up so that you’re seated next to the people and if it’s your meeting and you think the other people is going to have conflict, put them next to each other, save them the trouble of having to get up and move across the table. Start them up in a way that they’re more physically aligned. I think that that physical structure of the meeting does make a difference.
The third option in addition to inquiring to get underneath someone’s position to their interest and aligning to them by moving across the table would be to create a stakeholder map. This is what this looks like. I know some of you are familiar with this. This could take a big chunk of time. This can be done a lot of different ways but I want to highlight a few things that would be useful on a stakeholder map vis-a-vis be different functional mindsets.
List all the people and organizations involved with your work. Put each one on a posted note and create one for you. Consider who’s on your team, other departments, other colleagues, managers, partners, perhaps academic colleagues if that applies to your world, competitors, personal contacts, who your key stakeholders. Really, I’m suggesting here since in the context of what we’re talking about who are the people you’re likely to have conflict with and create a post-it up for them and post those things like this. This is what it physically would look like and these are types of stakeholders. No need to spend any time on this.
As you create these post-its, arrange them on a blank sheet, put you in the middle and those you interact with most often should be closest to you. Proximity means closest to the center of the map next to you and very importantly, consider their interests. What are their functional priorities? What’s most important to them based on your experience with them or based on your experience working with other people in that function or maybe some experience you’ve had from a previous employer, whatever it might be. Use your experience to inform your understanding of their functional priorities and if you’re not sure, inquire. We’re back to inquiry.
What’s most important to them? How are they measured and rewarded, which of course goes to what’s most important to them? What’s your experience with them and others from their function in terms of their openness to your ideas? If your experience suggests that every time you raise the word budget, they’re going to react to it, is there some other thing you might do but having a purposeful reflection about the other stakeholder’s functional mindset prepares you for that conversation better.
The stakeholder map is an exercise in preparation and therefore, in effectiveness, when you engage with these folks. What have they tended to welcome? What have they intended to oppose? I think that’s really, really important and helps guide how you enter into a conversation, particularly when we can anticipate it being problematic so stakeholder map is definitely something I would suggest. With respect to stakeholder maps and even more broadly, I absolutely encourage you to use your community, meaning the folks in your function who’ve got to experience with the “other side.”
The people you know well whether it’s from a previous employer, maybe they’re still at your old company who work in that other function, so to speak. How can they support you? How can they help you understand how people think? Use everyone; everyone is a resource for you, I would say. Use your community inside of work and outside of work to help you build an understanding of the other function and to help you more effectively communicate what your interests are.
At this point, we’re at the 38 minutes past the hour. I’d love to open up some questions. Let’s see what our questions are.
Barbie: I have one question, Andrew.
Andrew Cohn: Yes.
Barbie: Whenever you’re ready.
Andrew Cohn: Yes, fire away.
Barbie: How do I start a conversation about mindset with my team as they struggle in similar meetings they attend?
Andrew Cohn: I might just introduce this concept. I think we’re going to forward these slides to people and you’re welcome to use this any way that they might help you. I think at sometimes talking about functional mindsets and a tendency for different mindsets to think in certain ways, sometimes that can evoke a reaction. Nobody wants to be labeled, right? Nobody wants to be told, “Well, you’re a lawyer, of course, you’re going to think that way,” and I’m not suggesting that you do that.
As a way of opening the conversation, I might suggest talking about different cultural mindsets because people tend to have more experience and it’s a little bit less touchy sometimes and then introduce functional mindsets as really, almost like another aspect of culture. It can be a finance culture or a legal culture, regulatory culture, sales culture. I might start with cultural aspects before functional aspects in the team setting. My experience working with cross-functional teams, including with some people who I think are on the line, is to tee up these issues very directly and say, “Let’s talk about interests versus positions. What’s underlying that?”
As an outside facilitator, which sometimes is very, very helpful for teams, not that you always need that, a facilitator can help ask those questions, particularly neutrally if the team’s engaged in some kind of conflict. I think there’s a number of different ways to get at it.
Barbie: Great. Thank you so much. Another one, how do I become more aware about the mindset I am in?
Andrew Cohn: I’m thinking about anybody married out there? How do I become more aware of the mindset I’m in? Think about the type of feedback, you know what I’m talking about, think about the type of feedback that you typically receive like I might receive feedback that says, “Andrew, you’re being rigid with that position.” I may be really fixed on my position based upon some aspect of my thinking. I might ask somebody from a typically different mindset, how am I coming across? Ask for feedback. If you’ve had the benefit of 360 feedbacks, see what mindset-related feedback is showing up in the qualitative comments if you have the opportunity to hear that.
Pay attention to what’s being said about how you advocate, about how you listen, how you work with others. Pay attention to the feedback and ask people, absolutely. Also, I mentioned earlier there was a real disarming question highlighted in the inquiry slide is ask questions of the cross-functional team, how am I coming across? It’s very, very disarming. The question I asked earlier, what do you think I need to know about what you’re thinking is or how do you think my thinking is different than you’re thinking? Is it disarming and really, really effective question in my experience? Asking questions can be really useful that way.
Barbie: That’s very helpful. Thank you.
Andrew Cohn: Yeah.
Barbie: What happens, so if we go through the process, we sit on the same side of the table and we actually end up agreeing to disagree? What do we do?
Andrew Cohn: Yeah. Well, in that case, if you’re agreeing to disagree then in my book, you’re agreeing but if you haven’t and I don’t mean that too flippantly. That’s not my intention, but if you’re agreed but then you have a conflict then the question becomes where do we go for resolution but we go together. It’s a concept that many of you I know know the term healthy escalation of conflict, right?
We recognize we have a conflict. We recognize that we’re at a bit of a stalemate. In one of these, for example, pharmaceutical teams that I’ve worked with, a person said, “Well,” the lawyer said, “This is language that from my point of view, my function, is drawing the line in the sand that says we cannot use this language to indicate that our product can do X. We cannot use this language, it’s non-negotiable. If you insist on using that language, I cannot approve of this.” The marketing person says, “Well, my understanding is that that language is absolutely fine, it’s tried and true.” You can agree to disagree about what’s allowed and what’s appropriate and people are drawing very clear lines. The question then becomes, to whom can we escalate this together?
If we need clarity about this functional conflict, if we need the head of my function to sit down with the head of your function then you and I may not be the department leads, right? The head of marketing needs to sit in with the head of regulatory and make a policy decision about how much risk is tolerable then we can be part of that discussion together and in fact, by raising the conflict, we can reduce the stress levels of our cross-functional team in the future very significantly. We can escalate together would be one way to do that. Like I said, this is not a magic pill. We could recognize that we’re aligned and still have conflict and we then need to do more.
That’s a good question. Let’s be realistic.
There’s another question I’m noticing here. How do we avoid making incorrect assumptions when creating a stakeholder map? That’s a really, really great question. I’ll just create a stakeholder map and maybe dig myself a deeper hole because I’m making incorrect assumptions. How do we stay open to possibilities if we start with those assumptions? That’s a really, really great question and that is an example of a learner question or a growth mindset question because we’re acknowledging that we may be inaccurate in the assumptions we’re making about other’s mindset.
Great question, I’d suggest create the stakeholder map with post-its. Possibly write things in pencil because they may be changed, right? Growth learner mindset often writes in pencil either literally or figuratively or functionally and then get feedback. Show folks in your function and maybe in other functions what you’ve created. Is this accurate? Is this correct? Is there something I’m missing? Again, that question, what do you think I need to know? Is there something I’m missing? That’s a really, really good question. An important watch out is to not be stuck with assumptions about the “other side.” Again, we’re back to inquiry and we’re back to that learner growth mindset. Great, great question. I appreciate that, that’s good.
Barbie: Thank you, Andrew.
Andrew Cohn: I would have felt remised if I hadn’t talked about that so I’m really glad that question came up. Thank you.
Andrew Cohn: Any other questions?
Barbie: I have one question.
Andrew Cohn: Yeah.
Barbie: What’s the single most valuable thing I could do to solve this problem on my team?
Andrew Cohn: I have a couple of responses to that. One is I don’t know that it’s ever solved. I think that it’s addressed but it’s always going to be present because teams are set up on purpose deliberately to often be pulling in different directions in terms of our ideas. There will always be people on teams who are pushing for more risk who are driving for more specificity, who are thinking more long term than other folks on the team.
Solving is maybe unrealistic but I would say the single most effective thing we could do is to drive for discussion about interests. What’s most important about the different positions here? Why is that the recommendation you’re making? Both to resolve a specific current disagreement that may be on the table but also to improve my understanding and effectiveness in my interactions with the functions more generally. Oh, that’s why the legal department is always proposing X because it’s really important that X, Y, Z requirement be satisfied.
By focusing on interests, for example, I get educated about a function on the other side of the table that I might not have known about and that knowledge that that other person is providing me with could then be used outside of that meeting room at a different time on a different project. Maybe even at a different point of my career. I’d say focus, purposely focus the conversation on interests as quickly and completely as you can, not always easy particularly in a fast-paced world where it’s like we’ve got 15 minutes to make a decision. What can you do to set up your meeting so you don’t have that kind of time pressure will be a question I’d ask. Focused, purposeful conversation about the interest, I think that would be a real great starting point.
Barbie: Thank you, Andrew and I noticed that Tanya has raised her hand so I’m going to unmute Tanya in case she has a question. Hi, Tanya, can you hear us? Tanya? Maybe it was an accidental raise of the hand.
Andrew Cohn: Okay. Any other questions?
Barbie: Okay, Andrew. This concludes the webinar for today. I’d like to thank all the participants for attending and we look forward to seeing you on one of our other sessions very soon.
Andrew Cohn: Thank you very much. Thanks Barbie. Thanks for your help. Thanks everybody, have a good day.
Barbie: Thank you too, Andrew. Take care everyone.
Andrew Cohn: All right, thank you.
Andrew Cohn: Bye.