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From Breakdown to Breakthrough: Forging Resilient Business Relationships in the Heat of Change

From Breakdown to Breakthrough: Forging Resilient Business Relationships in the Heat of Change

by Michael Papanek, Liz Alexander


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What happens to you, your team, even your entire organization when the business environment becomes more volatile and challenging? Have you noticed how some leaders continue to achieve breakthrough results under even the most difficult of circumstances while others’ relationships break down, creating even more turmoil? Which of these leaders do you choose to be?

In "From Breakdown to Breakthrough", leading change consultant, Michael Papanek, draws on his experience, insights, and research with top executives to shine a spotlight on how anyone---even those whose business relationships have suffered in the heat of change in the past---can establish the resilient relationships required for a long-term track record of business success.

From his early days working during the General Motors---Electronic Data Systems merger in Detroit, to launching his own consultancy in San Francisco just as the U.S. economy reached its nadir, author Michael Papanek learned first-hand why it is vital to ensure all business relationships are Strong, Flexible, and Fair. Weaving this knowledge into a model applied successfully by his clients within leading organizations including Apple, Google, and Yahoo!, Papanek now offers this proven approach to any business professional wondering how to rise above the vicious cycle of relationship breakdown that many of us find ourselves in---especially during times of incessant change.

The history of every company is always about key relationships that either led to long-term success, or breakdown. Some leaders seem naturally adept at riding what Papanek calls “The Heat Curve,” emerging from volatile times with their relationships not just in tact, but enhanced. From Breakdown to Breakthrough shows how you can achieve that not just for yourself, but for everyone you work with.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781630479800
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Publication date: 01/17/2017
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Over the past 25 years, leadership consultant Michael Papanek has advised top executives at the worlds best companies including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!,, Apple, Cisco, Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente. His methods for creating resilient relationships during change are used by the likes of Telefonia, Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T, Sprint and Mercedes-Benz. As an expert on 21st century organizations, Papanek continues the legacy of his grandfather, Kurt Lewin, the psychologist known globally as the father of Organizational Development---the study of how human dynamics impact business results.

Read an Excerpt

August 8, 2008, seemed an auspicious date on which to launch myself as a self-employed consultant. So it was with positive anticipation that I left the firm where I’d worked for more than sixteen years to set up my own consulting practice. The enormity of the change---and the challenge---was not lost on me. I kept my spirits high and my confidence fired up by thinking about what I had to bring to the table: over twenty years of experience as a leadership and organizational change consultant with a strong resume, a reputation as a rainmaker, and a wealth of contacts. There was also the possibility of working for my old firm as an independent consultant, and at much higher rates.

Twenty-three days later, Lehman Brothers filed for the largest bankruptcy in US history. The New York Stock Exchange fell more than seven hundred points in one day. Commentators were predicting that ATMs might stop working and that we would all be “eating grass” within a week.

Had I just made the biggest mistake of my professional career?

As the initial shock began to wear off, I realized that what I had always taken for granted was now in jeopardy. My former business life had been like driving a speedboat along an easily navigable river: no obstacles, full speed ahead. Now it seemed as if the water level had dropped precariously, exposing all the rocks, garbage, and other barriers that had always been there but that I’d never had to consciously consider before. I started to doubt whether my business relationships were strong enough to allow me to navigate in this new, uncertain environment.

I wondered: had I always been fair to others in my business dealings? Did I really try hard enough to produce results that benefited everyone, or was the focus more on my needs? I knew I had the skills, but did I have a good-enough reputation to weather this new storm?

Because my old company used a group of independent consultants as contract workers to meet shifting client needs, I’d assumed they’d send work my way while I built my own practice. However, my fears grew as I realized my former colleagues had many independent consultants to choose from and, now, less work to farm out to them. Why would they choose me?

As I took a long, hard look at my current business relationships, I realized that too many of them were in breakdown mode—meaning they were not as positive, solid, or likely to survive these challenging times as I needed them to be. In fact, some of the relationships at my old firm had been so dysfunctional that they had largely influenced my decision to move on. Now that everyone was experiencing enormous stress in the wake of what was to be known as the Great Recession, many of these relationships appeared to be too tenuous to survive this new “normal.” What I needed was a way to transform them from breakdown to breakthrough.

You may have experienced something similar. Whether starting your own business or adapting to today’s uncertainty and rapid change, perhaps you have also found that stress has detrimentally impacted your business relationships?

Let’s face it: our hyper-connected world has profoundly changed the rules of business engagement. The higher up the hierarchy we go, the less inclined we may be to adapt quickly to a more cooperative, collaborative way of interacting. After all, isn’t that what leadership is about, according to popular culture? Getting people to buy into our vision, directing them to do what we want, being wholly focused on what “I” need to achieve?

Table of Contents


1: The Power of Resilient Business Relationships

2: How Change Happens

3: Getting to Why


4: What’s the Problem?

5: From Ignorance to Knowledge

6: From Doubt to Trust

7: Talk to Action

8: Shifting the Heat Curve


9: Leading a Resilient Team Culture

10: Resilient Relationships Across the Organization

11: Creating Resilient Relationships in a Complex Relationship Economy

12: Overview: Key Strategies and Tools for Resilient Business Relationships

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