Leadership Skills: More Lessons on Collaborating and Making Agreements

Time for a “Recommended Resources” post: The Book of Agreement – 10 Essential Elements for Getting the Results You Want by Stewart Levine is one of those books you want to add to your shelf as one of your most important references.

Consult it often and your life, relationships, and career will improve immeasurably.

Why do I think so? Stuart Levine’s first book, Getting to Resolution, is the best I’ve read on resolving conflict, and, I think I know a thing or two about agreements.

What could Levine teach this veteran partnering consultant about making and keeping agreements with his second book?

A thing or two, it turned out.

Let’s start with what’s critical to learn if you don’t already know it.

Consider Levine’s Principle #2, “We work and live in a ‘sea’ (context) of agreements.” Do you realize all relationship behavior is governed by implicit or explicit agreements?

Someone can’t even push your hot-buttons unless you and that person have established — by implicit agreement — that “those” buttons are indeed hot and that you will explode if they are tweaked in a certain way.

And you know “Shhh, don’t tell a soul” implicitly means “Keep this to yourself as well as I’m keeping it to myself.” Even a chain of command is full of implicit agreements about norms like who can and can’t tell whom what to do, who can and can’t evaluate another person’s performance, who can and can’t make decisions, etc.

If you’ve worked in one hierarchy, you pretty much can move from organization to organization and quickly grasp the nuances of the culture. Why? Because you understand, from experience, the sea of implicit agreements.

You buy into, if not invent, these implicit agreements, and then live by them whether you like it or not. It’s your own doing.

So you might then consider Levine’s Principle #3, “We never learned the essential elements of an effective agreement.” I believe people clamor for control because they lack the learned power of agreement-making.

It’s much easier to just boss folks around — but it’s far more powerful and rewarding to make what Levine calls “agreements for results.” That’s a lot of what the The Leadership Gift™ Program is about.

So what do you do? You learn the essential elements of an effective agreement, then put them to use. Repeat. Improve. Repeat. Improve. Levine shows you how.

Just as he did in his first book, Levine gives us the foundation first and the practice second.

He starts with the Basic Law of Agreement (“Collaboration is established in language by making implicit and explicit agreements”), then offers ten principles, and then ten elements of effective agreements.

Elements include things like roles, time and value, measures of satisfaction, etc. Later in the book, he uses these ten elements to fashion templates and illustrate agreements for different situations (like employment agreements, sales agreements, performance appraisal agreements, feedback agreements, and many more).

The strength of this book is in combining his original concepts with his applications. For instance, Levine identifies the difference between agreements for protecting your interests and agreements for results.

The first is what you hire lawyers to do in writing contracts — he knows, Levine practiced law for years. He shows you how to make agreements for results and protect your interests.

Levine also provides application after application. More than half the book is devoted to templates for agreements for results in organizations, associations, communities, families, cultures, marriages, and more.

You’ll also want to read his section on training your lawyer how to make agreements for results. The Book of Agreement makes a terrific companion to my Teamwork Is An Individual Skill.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

What can you do to move up one or more level in each area?

Since collaboration is established in language by making implicit and explicit agreements, what agreements — implicit and explicit — in your life and work could use some attention from you?

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Posted in Recommended Resources on 12/30/2013 08:25 am
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