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Radical CollaborationFive Essential Skills to Overcome Defensiveness and Build Successful Relationships
By Tamm, James W.
Attitude and Intention
Staying in the Green Zone
Where do you spend most of your life, in the Red Zone or the Green Zone? It's a choice. Most people don't recognize that this is a choice between two fundamental attitudes as they enter into relationships and conflicted situations with others. It's a choice that will fundamentally affect everything else you do and how you approach collaboration. Early in relationships, your attitude will either support collaboration or undermine it. Your attitude will determine how you perceive the world, whether situations are safe or threatening, and influence how you respond to those situations. The terms Red Zone and Green Zone summarize two alternative mind-sets and intentions. We must first understand our attitudes and then, if necessary, change them.
We invite you to reflect on this question:
Do you build your relationships
from the Red Zone or the Green Zone?
The Green Zone reflects an authentic, nondefensive presence. In the Green Zone, people's actions in a relationship are not driven by fearful motives, nor are they determined by an unconscious competitive spirit. Individuals in the Green Zone seek connectionfrom a centered place according to deeply held values and character, rather than tactical or strategic thinking. Their outer self and their inner self are congruent, meaning their conscious actions are in harmony with any unconscious motivations. When conflict arises, they seek to understand and to grow, for they desire mutual gains rather than victory. They seek to get their interests met rather than simply trying to defeat the other side. From the Green Zone, people do not perceive potential conflict as threatening, for they have tools and coping methods that allow them to deal with difficult situations in a less reactive way. Green Zone attitudes foster collaborative actions and are more receptive to overtures for collaboration from others. Green Zone attitudes also give people additional skills for responding effectively to those who don't want to be collaborative or don't know how to be collaborative. Individuals in the Green Zone are more effective when called upon to deal with others in the Red Zone.
In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins writes that his research team evaluated more than fourteen hundred companies to identify those that had progressed from good companies to sustained greatness and to determine the factors necessary for the transformation. Collins deliberately avoided the hypothesis that a company's greatness is a reflection of the CEO. The results of the study, however, proved otherwise. The leaders of each "great" organization have two things in common. First, they are fiercely ambitious for the long-term success of the company. Second, their personalities fit the Green Zone mold, namely, each CEO exhibits a compelling modesty and humility. They aren't boastful or egocentric. They demonstrate understanding rather than bravado, and they reveal a nondefensive authenticity.
In contrast to the authentic confidence of the Green Zone, individuals in the Red Zone exhibit defensiveness and fear. They often appear to be aggressive, so others usually fail to perceive that their attitudes and behavior are driven by underlying fears. Their motivation, however, is often to defeat the other side in order to defend themselves, to win regardless of the cost, and to make the other side feel wrong so that they can feel right.
It's not enough that we win; everyone else must lose.
Red Zone statement of Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, discussing his bid for PeopleSoft
These Red Zone protective mechanisms lack a generosity of spirit and heart. More often than not, they arise from fears that produce short-term thinking rather than long-term planning. Conflicts feel warlike rather than like problems to be resolved creatively. Forgiveness is foreign, and apologies are begrudging rather than heartfelt. Individuals in the Red Zone focus only on the best outcome for themselves with little or no regard for the interests of others. Positions are often stated in very strong terms, and the other side's views may be only a secondary consideration, if a consideration at all. Individuals in the Red Zone continually argue the validity of their own position and the fallacies of the other side's position, and they will often take disagreement more personally than warranted.
A Person in the Green Zone
- Takes responsibility for the circumstances of his or her life
- Seeks to respond nondefensively
- Is not easily threatened psychologically
- Attempts to build mutual success
- Seeks solutions rather than blame
- Uses persuasion rather than force
- Can be firm, but not rigid, about his or her interests
- Thinks both short term and long term
- Is interested in other points of view
- Welcomes feedback
- Sees conflict as a natural part of the human condition
- Talks calmly and directly about difficult issues
- Accepts responsibility for consequences of his or her actions
- Continuously seeks deeper levels of understanding
- Communicates a caring attitude
- Seeks excellence rather than victory
- Listens well
Excerpted from Radical Collaboration by Tamm, James W. Excerpted by permission.
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