History prevents us from doing great things together.
Here comes Joan, for example, taking her seat at your weekly managers’ meeting. You know she’s good at what she does, but that utter bollox she made with your best customer three months ago still stings.
You’ll complete the meeting absolutely politely, and she will have no idea you’re still harboring hurt. You’ll also fail to collaborate at the level you could – and should.
Now here’s Fred walking through the conference room door. You know he’s absolutely the best guy for that exciting new project you have, but you find it hard to hail him in the hearty way you usually do, because you know he’s annoyed with another manager – and with you for not taking his side. You’ll give the project to someone else, and it won’t be just as well executed as it would have been if Fred had managed it.
And now you’re half way through the managers’ meeting – but only one-tenth of the way through the agenda. Why? Because you, and Joan, and Fred, and Arthur, and Kirsty – in fact everyone around the table has at least one issue with someone else. They all nurse some grievance, some story, some narrative, some perspective that colors and warps your interaction as a team.
No-one’s being mean. No-one’s being ornery – heck, except occasionally for Fred, no-one’s even impolite. But it’s slowing everything down. It’s draining the lifeblood of vision, innovation, creativity and passion from your interaction as a team. It’s making you mediocre.
What to do?
Simple. Declare an amnesty.
At least once a year have one meeting devoted to nothing but filling a couple of flip-chart sheets with every nursed grievance, every contested narrative, every ‘he-said, she-said’ and every “I can’t believe you did that…” that the team can come up with. Then have each team member sign at the bottom that they absolutely, irrevocably agree to forgive and forget each and every point on the sheets.
Draw a line through each item – a literal, black-Sharpie line, hug a little, and get back to being extraordinary.
Yes, you’ll start piling up some new narratives, but at least they’re new ones, right? And you can forgive those in six month’s time.