Working Effectively with Challenging Colleagues – Part One

  1. What often causes friction between talented colleagues?
  2. Recognizing what need can lay the groundwork for harmonious cooperation?
  3. How can you prevent friction before it starts?
  4. What’s the best way to blunt a personal attack?
  5. What can foster continuing good will within a group?

 Biotechnology executives face plenty of challenges.  Working with their talented colleagues shouldn’t be one of them.  Medical researchers, scientific operations experts, skilled business managers and talented marketers are all working to benefit both the public and their companies.  Laudable common goals often unite people.  But according to Creighton University scholars Anne York, Kim McCarthy and Todd Darnold, “General management research …finds that managing diverse work groups is one of the most difficult challenges in today’s organizations and that it is not going smoothly.”

Part of the problem may be that each of these areas is important to achieving the goal of bringing new, potentially life-saving therapies successfully into the marketplace.  But research finds that, due to built-in biases humans use to protect their self-esteem, each tends to feel that his/her area is the most important and that its turf must be defended.

This can cause contention and rivalry to develop when teamwork and camaraderie should be the order of the day.  In fact, according to York, McCarthy and Darnold, “The practitioner literature suggests that such teams often fail to fulfill their potential and are sometimes quite dysfunctional.”  That may not be the case at your company, but one fact is often inescapable:  The intelligence and expertise that helps people excel as individuals can produce friction when they work together in a group.  What can help to lessen or eliminate friction and assist these groups to accomplish their goals?

Recognize your need

Your need for what?  For the rest of your team.  Bestselling author Dr. Robert Cialdini and coauthors related in Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive that DNA pioneer Dr. James Watson was asked to list the major factors that helped Dr. Francis Crick and him win the race to discover the structure of DNA. One surprising factor he listed was that he and Dr. Crick were not the most intelligent scientists working in this field (no one who read Dr. Watson’s controversial comments on race and intelligence will debate him on that point!).  Watson related that the most intelligent researcher in the race to discover the double helix had been British scientist Dr. Rosalind Franklin. He went on to say:

Rosalind was so intelligent that she rarely sought advice.  And if you’re the brightest person in the room then you’re in trouble.

Yes! further states that “Behavioral scientist Patrick Laughlin and his colleagues have shown that the approaches and outcomes of groups who cooperate in seeking a solution are not just better than the average member working alone, but are even better than the group’s best problem solver working alone.”

An illustration that works

So, teams that work well together can reach heights of accomplishment that would be impossible for any one individual.  One wise man likened a harmonious group to the human body.  The brain, as intelligent as it is, would be painfully stationary without legs and feet.  It could scarcely receive nourishment without hands, a mouth and a gastrointestinal tract. 

Similarly, each member of the group is important in his or her own way.  The most brilliant scientists cannot produce a product without someone to manufacture it within standards of quality and cost-effectiveness.  Even breakthrough products will rarely sell themselves.  Effective marketing, business development and sales efforts are essential if a new drug or procedure is to reach its potential in helping its target audience find relief and its creators achieve financial success.  So the first step in working together in a team is to realize that the team needs each one of its members if it is going to reach its goals.

But this step is not the only step necessary to help groups work together more smoothly. A further measure will help to head off friction before it begins.  What is it?  Stay tuned.


One Response to “Working Effectively with Challenging Colleagues – Part One”

  1. ArtessNar Says:

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Christian, Satellite Direct Tv

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: