You Can’t Policy Relationships

A close friend recently shared about the ongoing tumult in their organization. It is a large organization with many departments and layers of bureaucracy. They have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on consulting support and have recently fired two high priced consultants. The results weren’t there.

In the face of conflicts amongst employees in a department where there is not solid leadership, where the people in charge will not answer the questions about their own roles and responsibilities, and where role clarity is generally lacking, they did try mediation. As we share in our High-Performance Teams resource (downloadable for free) and our book Building Trust and Relationship at the Speed of Change, clarity of roles and decision-making related to work, being in learning together and focusing on relationships to ensure trust, are all essential ingredients for healthy teams.

Worldview Intelligence Healthy Teams Model

The end result in this organization was a series of new policies were writing outlining behaviour commitments. This came out of identifying the leadership, communication and relationship challenges that emerged during the mediation. However, nobody double backed to the team members about these behaviour commitments. They are being thrust upon the staff in a document. They have said that team members can call out other team members if they are not adhering to the outlined behaviours. But, how do you do that when there is no trust, there is no relationship and leadership is lacking?

The job is only partly done. Policy is never enough. Commitment to changed behaviours, beginning with the leaders, is essential. It doesn’t just happen because it’s written down. It requires the hard work of building trust, building relationship and skills that can be developed and honed over time but which challenged teams do not have or do not have real permission to use. If some individuals do have the skills, the culture does not support them in speaking up.

Iceberg of Systems Change

Relationship conflict is the tip of the iceberg. The team culture requires re-designing to support the behaviours identified. This requires an understanding of the mental models or worldviews that currently exist and what is needed to bring in a new worldview perspective that will move the team in the direction identified. Without support, supporting structures, hard work, learning together and hosting the conversations needed with humility and compassion to directly address the issues, ensuring psychological safety is built, this attempt will also fail. And it will likely make matters worse. Saying there is a policy for that has never landed well when relationship issues need to be addressed.

The path forward is easy to identify and much harder to bring to life.