Sam, the CFO of a global company with HQ in Europe, was disturbed by the fact that his controlling team was constantly alienating internal customers. Our F’em: The 4F Approach to Conflict Resolution & Rescuing Fun process changed the team! The result? Dramatically increased (internal) customer satisfaction, re-energized employees, improved compliance and better data quality!
Andrew was the head of controlling of an international, industrial conglomerate, with global headquarters in Switzerland. He had been with the company for more than 20 years, reporting to the group CFO.Unfortunately, while Andrew and his team always delivered on time and with superior quality to the CFO and the executive board, there was a growing level of tension with the finance functions in the operational units around the world. Some operational units said they would rather not deal with the group anymore because they were so arrogant, stubborn and controlling. They complained about constantly being snubbed, their emails going unanswered, and, getting requests for input at the very last minute, with impossible deadlines.
Uncovering the true / Real Issues
The team became so “customer unfriendly” because they were overwhelmed. The tensions had led to high turnover. New team members had little time to ramp up and thus were not fully qualified for the job. Longtime team members had been working in “overdrive” for a long time and were exhausted. And the problem was further amplified by the fact that – to reduce costs – the group members in the controlling department did not travel to their customers in the subsidiaries. Most communication was done through email. The collaboration became more and more hostile.
The Turning Point
Interviews with internal customers of the corporate controlling group produced very helpful information and helped us to illustrate the main issues of contention with a lot of specific examples. We spent more than half a day (of a 1.5 day workshop) with them to understand what the feedback meant and to identify key messages from their customers. Initially, the reactions of the team members were very emotional and defensive. However, after collectively sifting through the comments, dissecting the messages, checking for understanding, and recognizing what the stakeholders were experiencing, the team became more relaxed and even empathetic with their customers.
A clear communication plan and action items for the team members to reach out to customers led to dramatically improved relationships. Their customers felt that they had been heard, and felt deep satisfaction. This resulted in a relaxed, re-energized controlling team.
The Lesson Learned
Taking enough time to go through step one (understanding the issue) was crucial to resolve this conflict. We allotted 1/2 day to this step. While that may seem like a lot of time, the time investment paid off. Once we had this common problem description and were able to describe the issues (un-emotionally) from the customer’s perspective, the lion’s share of the conflict resolution process was done. Once we had mutual understanding the willingness to collaborate happened organically. We then cruised through steps 2-4, and produced a list of actions for how to start a constructive dialog with the operational units.