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“We Space”: Getting Things Done Through Rapport

Submitted by on Friday, 15 June 2007

I recently went through a stressful move – but of course all moves are stressful. Given I had to continue running my business, travel for work engagements, and help with my son’s wedding (thankfully my future daughter-in-law is as obsessive as I am), I had to get all the moving parts very well organized in advance.

The most difficult thing was to manage people in different states with different communication styles (differences in communication styles between Texas and New Mexico were potentially problematic) including two realtors, middle people, money people, survey people, transfer people ….. you know the deal. A lot of stuff that I wasn’t used to dealing with in my normal life. And lots of chances for delays and lost paperwork.

I faced a serious organization problem here: everything had to be orchestrated to within an inch of its life; every person had to do their job well, and on time, or it would mess up the next step or next person’s job. Since I didn’t know most of the people involved, I had to figure out how to encourage excellence across contexts, jobs, and cultures.

I decided to create a virtual team and bring everyone into a WE Space, simultaneously. Otherwise it would become a ‘he said/she said’ thing with too much duplication or too many cracks for undone work to fall into. Not to mention that I believe that a WE Space is a more effective way to instill buy-in and cooperation.

A VIRTUAL TEAM

I set up a chat group and included everyone – from the realtors to the money people, the support folks to the wire people. I then sent them all an initial note, introducing myself and wondering if they had any ideas about how to navigate through the riggamarole of signing papers and transferring funds on the dates and in the time frame I needed. I listed my time requirements (tight!) with the progression of events in a perfect world, and asked for help making the impossible possible. I shared everyone’s numbers and email addresses, and sat back to see if it would self-organize – assuming it would, given my belief that when a defined group takes responsibility to complete one task together and must do their job in front of everyone else, the best would arise from each individual. And so it did.

Everyone pitched in. It was delightful. They introduced themselves to each other, sent community notes to each other, told each other what was needed at each stage. They basically became one unit of folks working on a project together, right from the start. Given they were in different states and were strangers, it was quite a heartwarming feeling to see everyone working so hard to do their jobs well.

As a result of the ‘chat room’ communication – a virtual WE Space in which each person and each function got to share their expertise, frustrations, and needs with the others – we got everything done on my time line, with absolutely no glitches whatsoever. And everyone  thanked each other for their help and support. Notes to each other like: “Thanks Team!” “Good Job Melinda!” “Couldn’t have done it without you, Jamie!”

WE had become a team, all rooting for, and helping, each other. The task – closing on one house, purchasing another, painting one house while packing the other in a different state, getting the truck in on time to meet the moving helpers – ended up being the unifying factor.

BROKEN PROMISE

Imagine my surprise, amidst all of this Love Fest, when my mover got a call from Budget Rental Trucks that they didn’t know when – or if – they could have our truck. Could we maybe use two 15 footers rather than one 24 footer? They wouldn’t know until the next day – the day we needed the truck at 9:00 a.m. to pack it for the move – if the truck we ordered (and they confirmed weeks before) would be available. And if it was not going to be available, they might know when the next 24 footer would be.

“Damn,” my mover mumbled as he got off the phone. “We might not have a truck for tomorrow.”

“WHAT???” I exploded. ‘WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE MIGHT NOT HAVE A TRUCK???”

I felt everything collapse around me. All of the planning ending up moot because there was no truck, and no knowledge of when I’d have one.

Visions of putting up drivers and helpers in hotels for a night (or however long it would take to get a truck), of fighting traffic on Memorial Day rather than leave a day earlier if we got the truck a day late, of having no people at the other end to receive the truck…. the entire move became a mess, with visions of me waiting in some hotel with movers while the new owner took over the home I’d just sold.

“Please dial the guy’s number again and let me speak with him.”

He dialed and handed me the phone, pretending to get back to packing.

“Joe? This is Sharon Drew Morgen. I’m the woman who ordered that 24 foot truck for tomorrow?? Do you have a few moments to hear me whine and beg and be scared that I won’t be able to move?”

“Hah. Sure. Go ahead. I understand your annoyance but there is nothing I
can do. I’m not the dispatcher and this happens from time to time.”

“I bet that must be frustrating for you, living here and wanting to stay in good standing with the community and yet being at the mercy of Budget and out of control around their decisions.

WE SPACE

“I wonder if there is something we can do here?? I’m so stuck, and won’t be able to move out, and the new owner is moving in tomorrow, so she won’t have a place to stay if my furniture is still here. And then there are the folks waiting at the other end to take the stuff off the truck. It would be a mess all around. What do you recommend?

“Nothing I can do except suggest you try taking two trucks. I can promise
you that.”

“I have a problem with that. Not your fault, of course, but other than not having 2 qualified drivers, the gas is SO expensive that I couldn’t afford twice the expense.

“The other problem I’m having is more of a professional one:  I chose Budget because it was the only truck rental place that gave me a guarantee. Confirmed and guaranteed. Uhaul was $300 less, but couldn’t guarantee a truck. I had no reason to doubt your guarantee.

“Tell you what: if I end up having to use 2 trucks, I’m not going to pay for the rental or the gas for second one. I think that would be fair, don’t you think??

“Any thoughts as to how I should best handle this to try to make it right? I know it’s not your fault – you’re the partner at the wrong end of a bad deal and I’m the dumb customer that trusted your guarantee. I’m trying SO hard not to scream, or cry. But I’m scared that this is all going to fall apart, and I’m SO tired from the moving and the stress. And the thought of trying to reorganize everything if there won’t be a truck is beyond my capacity at this moment. Give me some thoughts on what you’d do, and maybe between the two of us we can come up with a solution.”

“Let me see what I can do here. I can’t be the person who makes these
agreements or decisions, but I can get to someone who can. Let me call
you right back.”

When I got off the phone, my mover stared at me. “How did you do that? You were angry but were nice, pushy but not screaming. What do you think will happen?”

HELP ON THE WAY

Joe called back 5 minutes later.

“I called the dispatcher (which apparently he hadn’t planned on doing after his initial call with my mover) and told him there was no choice: we had to have a truck. The guy said he didn’t think that it would be possible, and I told him again that we just didn’t have a choice. I’ll be here ‘til late tonight waiting for the truck, or first thing in the morning. You’ll have your truck.”

I went to pick up the truck at 9:00 a.m. the next morning as planned. It was sitting there, all bright and clean and new. Joe came out to greet me.

“Truck came in about 30 minutes ago. I stayed ‘til 10:30 last night, and was here from 6:30 this morning. I kept calling the dispatcher. They couldn’t find a truck. They found one very late yesterday in Montana, and a driver drove all night to get the truck here by 9:00. But we got it.”

“How nice of you to take so much time and trouble to do this for me!!! I’m so impressed!” I was. Really impressed.

“Tell you what,” Joe said. “I knew you were being nice to me but I could tell you wouldn’t have been nice to the dispatcher. If we weren’t going to be able to get the truck, when I called to tell you, I would have dialed his number for you, put him on the phone, and dove under the desk. I wouldn’t have wanted to hear what you were going to say or been on the wrong end of that conversation. But I knew that Budget needed to honor the commitment to you. I called and spoke with him many times last night. And we got the truck. Our guarantee is still good!”

I wonder what the odds would have been of getting that truck if I hadn’t been in a WE Space with Joe? I made Joe and I equal partners; I included him into the problem and the ability to create a solution. And between us, we both won.

The WE Space is hard for some, as it gives up the ‘control’ that one person thinks they can have, in service for the outcome that the WE ends up with – the ‘all’ in service of each ‘one’.  I use it in all of my calls with clients, helping me achieve an ease and flow of communication that couldn’t be achieved if I entered the call to get my needs met, my way.

Use the WE Space to have discussions to ensure a win-win, in which both people gain, no one loses, and you’re creating the most alternatives possible.

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