December 9, 2008

Persistence Pays

Persistence pays ... when applied correctly.

We all know someone who just keeps at you like a battering ram until you throw up your hands and agree to whatever they are asking. This application of persistence is not dissimilar to the modus operandi of many three-year olds. It may provide short-term benefits, but it invariably takes a toll on relationships and may well jeopardize long-term gains.

By contrast, there is the story I heard recently of how a friend of mine (a knowledge manager at another law firm) obtained the cooperation of the head of his firm's technology committee who had become a roadblock to necessary change. At issue was integrating into a single user interface the firm's intranet with an enterprise search tool. My friend made his case to the partner and asked nicely for cooperation. It was not forthcoming. So, my friend waited a while (presumably checked his own assumptions to confirm they were correct) and then went back a second time. No dice. My friend is famous for his persistence, so he went back a third time and was successful.

What made the difference? Here are my observations: It wasn't a typical battering ram approach. Rather, between the second and third visits, my friend worked on his relationship with his colleague. In a natural (not manipulative) way, he got to know his colleague better. And, his colleague got to know him better. As a result, when that third conversation occurred, each had a deeper understanding of the other's concerns and in the process put more capital in the bank of their relationship. This foundation allowed the partner to step aside and permit the proposed change, despite his own misgivings.

When seeking collaboration or cooperation, it is not enough merely to be persistent or to impose your views through sheer determination. By doing so, you undercut the very ground on which collaboration is based. Rather, take the time to establish understanding and trust with your proposed collaboration partner. We've heard time and again how critical trust is to collaboration. It's equally important for good professional relationships which, in turn, are critical to your success.

So be persistent ... at building trust. You'll reap the benefits sooner than you imagine.

4 comments:

Joel said...

I appreciate the emphasis on relationships of trust. It seems one can get stuck in the mindset of 'I have the best idea, and everyone should just agree.' Even if the assumption were true, it's clear that active listening, great relationships, and compromise win out over the best idea presented.

Mary Abraham said...

Joel -

You make a good point. Taking the battering ram approach usually means you won't have the benefit of the creativity and wisdom of others as you're trying to implement your idea. And, without that input, you run the risk that you miss the idea that really is best.

- Mary

Oz said...

The same guy Mary is talking about has made in the past the big mistake of not building bridges: in an argument with one of the key executives about what information should be shared in the enterprise search system, she made the comment that exposing certain information will cause risks. I then went to the head of the Risk Management Committee who confirmed that there are no risk concerns. Instead of getting back to the concerned person and working with her an acceptable solution, I forwarded her the email, saying only "FYI".
It cost me many months of work to get her to accept...

Mary Abraham said...

Thanks for letting me share the story, Oz.

- Mary