As we observe our clients, and business trends we believe now is the time to renegotiate and "re-contract" all of your relationships. In our post called the New Rules from early last year we said, “all bets are off” and "all the rules have changed.” Given all of the big pictures changes to doing business in the last 18 months or so the New Rules gave us a way to work with our clients to help them navigate the unprecedented challenges. With the new year, new decade and the passage of time we now believe we have reached the next level and it's an important time to re-evaluate and re-contract. (We also consider this the third step in developing your approach to the year. First step we blogged about was to complete 2009, second step was to create a plan for 2010.) It seems to us almost everywhere we look since January 1st there is a new, refreshed attitude, (although we do recognize many are still struggling and we offer our compassion and empathy to those still in the midst of major issues). We see companies "cleaning their closets," making final changes to their rosters and negotiating to buy or merge. We observe people leaving, (or getting ready to leave), their current employment, and starting new jobs. Overall there seems to be a general shift to action mode with a "let’s get to it" attitude.
We just attended a workshop for Vistage Chairs, (www.vistage.com), in the Orange County area this week led by a wise teacher, James Newton of Newton Learning Corp. During the discussion, James brought up the concept of "re-contracting" with our CEO groups for 2010. His presentation connected with what I have been experiencing and it has lit a fire to "re-contract" in every area of my life.
There are three fronts to this effort. The first is to "take the offensive" in areas where your suppliers or partners may be planning on re-negotiating your existing relationships and just haven’t gotten to you yet. Take some time to review these relationships and make sure you are clear on what you want, what you are willing to pay, and how you want to move forward in the future. Be proactive so you aren't caught off-guard and unprepared.
The second is to review and update expectations about how things are being done inside your firm. Work with team leaders, department heads, and/or your executives. Get their take on how things are going in their various areas of responsibility and what they see can be improved in 2010. Make as many areas visible and mutually agreed upon as possible in order to have the greatest level of effectiveness and velocity possible.
The third is to re-contract your relationships in the rest of your life. Having authentic conversations during quieter moments regarding mutual expectations and arriving at agreements for who will do what, and how you will solve any breakdowns will take a lot of friction out of your relationships. There will be much more opportunity to enjoy your relationships this coming year if you have taken time to work some things out in advance.
I suggest a very simple formula for re-contracting your relationships: 1) Take some time to clearly articulate "what I want from you." Make sure you have reflected before the conversation and are very clear about your priorities. Producing a verbal laundry list is likely to be received with overwhelm so be specific. 2) Take time to listen to "what you want from me." It's critical to be open, curious and receptive. You can't fairly expect to successfully re-contract if you aren't able to really hear what people want from you. 3) Discussion - make sure you have allotted enough uninterrupted time for some thorough discussion. 4) Counter offers - this is critical. Be ready and willing to negotiate. 5) Agreement - the goal is to end the conversation with mutual understanding and acceptance.
We'd love to hear about your re-contracting experiences. Let us know how this works for you!