Agreements are the main mechanism you and your team use in working together. It is how you get things done, and yet I find it is a leadership tool that is often overlooked. I believe that making good agreements is key to your success so let’s take a closer look.
What are agreements really?
When done right- agreements are a commitment of free will.
The common misunderstanding about agreements is that they are just about integrity. The truth is sometimes people make agreements that can’t be met out of self-protection. These agreements are unrealistic.
Think about it: have you ever made an agreement that you knew you couldn’t actually keep? Maybe in the moment you agreed because it took the pressure off. You told yourself things like:
maybe they’ll forget about it,
if I’m lucky things will change before this has to really get done
or all I need is a little more time and I will find a better solution
Well, your team could be doing that right now, and if they are it is hindering the full potential of your achievements.
The truth is agreements made with pressure, stress or in the middle of conflict likely won’t hold. They may even feel great in the moment (like it is a win to have gotten a commitment), but they may be agreeing to take the pressure off, with no intention of actually doing what they say.
Really think about it. Do you want your team to agree to things they can’t actually achieve and ignore problems that need to be dealt with until they explode? Or do you want to harness your team’s critical thinking and address issues in reality before they trip you up?
For example: You make a change during a stressful project without giving your team time to think about what they might need to meet the change, set tight timelines, with limited resources etc. Then add that the situation is high-stakes, so you apply more pressure—and then your team makes an agreement they are unable to achieve. This leaves your project missing the mark. Issues previously ignored are now clearly on the surface in a way that can’t be ignored, but in the time, they were not addressed the damage is done. Now you are way off your timeline, and it takes a huge pivot to get things back on track. Costing you more money while threating the success of other projects. Things can snowball fast.
To become a pro-level, your team needs to have an environment where they have the safety to make agreements they can keep, raise issues early and renegotiate agreements as needed.
So next time you are looking to make an agreement with a co-worker, slow down, make space to have a discussion, get a handle on the emotions and ask what they really need. Ask open ending questions on how it could happen, not just about if it can. And make sure there is follow up planned so you can adjust if needed.
Remember agreements are a commitment of free will.
Now, get out there and lead!