Diplomacy is essential for success

So you have assembled a great team.  They are highly effective, motivated and efficient.  As their leader you feel confident that any task this team is assigned will be completed on time, on budget, and ready to be passed along to the next department or group in the organization.

The only problem is, you have absolutely no authority or control of the other department.  You haven’t had great communication with the other department head and there has been some animosity between the groups.  You realize that all that great work you have established with your team under your own umbrella is about to be jeopardized.

You’re confident in your leadership abilities, but, diplomacy is not your strong suit.

One of the hardest tasks for any leader is to create and maintain effective relationships with peers leading other functional departments, because it requires so much emphasis on the “soft” skills of diplomacy.

Most leaders are used to being in positions of authority for most of the day, so it’s a bit unnatural and uncomfortable to affect progress and change without that authority.  My experience has shown me that utilizing soft skills and demonstrating diplomacy may be the only way to truly have it all.  So how can we maximize peer-to-peer and department-to-department relations, and maximize the company’s chances for success?

There are 5 tips that can help:

  1. Understand the impact of each area –Work tirelessly with your peers to understand the value and impact of each of your functions to the organization as a whole.  – It will pay off.
  2. Align your ultimate goals and objectives. Repeat. Then Repeat again. – Your common boss will preach this, but it’s up to you and your peers to make it work.    It’s surprising how objectives can change within departments without constant reinforcement.    For example, you’d think something as simple as “provide superior customer service” would be enough of an overarching goal to keep inter-departmental harmony, but unless it’s preached constantly between peers, things can go astray in a hurry.
  3. Use Proper Pronouns (i.e. toss “They” out of your vocabulary) – Nothing promotes disharmony more than the use of that four letter word, “They“.   It has to be about the “We”.    That’s diplomacy.   AND, leaders must ensure that teammates within their own departments realize that they are all in the same boat with their cross-departmental community, and should also toss “they” out the window.   That one-act alone will make a HUGE difference.
  4. Define your roles and territories –– All too often, because the lines of “who does what” are so blurry within an organization, a lot of “toe-stepping” occurs between different departments.  Roles and responsibilities need to be clear so everyone knows where their territories begin and end, and, even more important how it works when responsibilities cross over.