Is Cooperation The New Efficiency?

by  Mary C. Schaefer  |  Workplace Issues
Is Cooperation the New Efficiency?

I was talking to a client today about her unusual ability to gain people’s trust quickly.

This supports her ability to get things done. To her bosses, she seemed to perform miracles.

I commented to her that I think the ability to gain cooperation is an underestimated component of efficiency. She said she had never really thought about it that way.

Take The Time To Prepare

Take the time to pave the road so things run smoothly when you need them. It was early in my career. I was a mainframe systems manager.  I depended on the operators in our computer facility to do what I needed, when I asked them to. Moreover, I wanted them to want to do to the work. Intuitively I knew it was going to require spending time with them. I needed to earn the right to ask them to do things, when I didn’t have the authority. They didn’t report to me.

Don’t Do It If You Are Not Sincere

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t simply using them. I wanted to get to know them. The more I understood their jobs, their routines, and their responsibilities, the more likely I would make intelligent requests of them. For instance, I would manage my work around their biggest printing and delivery days, etc. This would make us all successful at our jobs.

Cooperation Is Better Than Compliance

My supervisor criticized me for what he saw as me spending too much time with them. I tried to explain to him how it paid off. He didn’t seem to care so much about results as much as the difference between my approach and how he would handle things. He was quite strident with this criticism.

From The Mouths Of Babes

One day my supervisor invited me to his office. He asked me to present a particularly touchy employee relations topic to the operators because I had such a good relationship with them. Okay, so when it works for you, it’s okay that I’ve got these relationships…right?

What I said to him was: “I could do that. They will hear me out. But given your level in the organization I think it might be better for you to present this to them. This way you can develop the skills and the relationships with them so they can hear the message from you.”

I don’t even know where that came from. The other odd thing is that he didn’t push me to give the presentation then. I don’t feel like I ever paid a price for what could be perceived as impertinence.

The Skill Of Gaining Cooperation

As a former human resources manager we would discuss how different employees were good at teamwork or not. In a technical industry it was sometimes difficult for me to make the case that this was important, or how to measure it.

What we came down to is: “Do people want to work with this person? Are they able to get things done through others when needed?” Actually it’s not so difficult to measure, and yet, I still get resistance about the importance of this ability.

How has cooperation played a role for you in influencing outcomes?

About The Author

Articles By mary-schaefer
Speaker, coach and trainer Mary Schaefer’s expertise is in creating work cultures where organizations and human beings can both thrive. She is a former HR manager. Find out more about how Mary helps managers empower themselves to make the most of their human resources with this special collection of articles selected for LCG readers: http://www.reimaginework.com/LCG/  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Kerri  |  05 Feb 2015  |  Reply

Funny that you write about this now. I just finished directing two smallish conferences in which probably 75% of my role turned out to be putting the right people in the right jobs. My role in sight felt so easy because there was a solid team in place. Things would have been so painful otherwise.

Mary C. Schaefer  |  06 Feb 2015  |  Reply

Kerri, sounds like your insight served the situation well. Thanks for sharing that!

John Smith  |  27 Feb 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Mary – enjoyed this post:)

As I read your analysis of cooperation, I was struck by the thought that this is how emotional intelligence provides value in real time.

I tend to avoid using the phrase “emotional intelligence”, not because I lack appreciation for the essential value that emotional intelligence brings to leadership and management, but because I try to avoid overused or “buzzword”phrases.

You are making me rethink my stance, because this clearly shows how the ability to sense, interpret, and respond to the emotional landscape of another makes us more productive and better leaders.

By the way, your experience with your supervisor (“From The Mouth of Babes” made me think two things:

1) This is a perfect example of “managing up” and coaching from below.
2) When people are approached with agreement, followed by a “twist”, things happen:)

Thanks for a neat little post.


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