How to Kiss and Make Up

Posted 07.07.2010

It's pretty likely that if you're a leader you will, from time to time, have public disagreements or falling outs with other leaders. It's just the nature of things. Some of their goals conflict with yours even though you share common interests on other fronts. When you get cross ways with each other, one of you needs to take the initiative to "kiss and make up" in service of the bigger picture.

Netanyahu1 That's what happened at the White House this week when President Obama and Israeli prime minister Netanyahu had a very public reconciliation session after a few months of tense relations. As reported in the New York Times, there was a long photo op, an extended one on one between the two, a lunch and, when the visit was finished, Obama walked the prime minister to his limo. With that as an impetus, I thought it would be worthwhile to start a conversation on how to get things back on track when you and an ally have a derailment.

Here are three tips:

Know why you want to:  In the heat of the moment, it's pretty easy to say or do things that could sink a relationship if not corrected. Create some space for yourself to step back and ask, "What are we really trying to accomplish over the long run and what kind of relationship do we need to have to do that?" Answering that question with a clear head should help you clarify your true motives.

Clear the air: 
Invite your colleague in to clear the air. Agenda items could include resolving past disputes, agreeing to disagree where necessary and, most importantly, identifying points of mutual agreement and what requires cooperation.

Practice PDA:  If you and your colleague are senior leaders, it's important that you engage in some public displays of affection. As leaders, you set the tone for the rest of the organization. If they've seen you fighting, they need to see you make up.

So, those are some tips based on my take on the White House make up session. What about your take?  What are your ideas for patching up a working relationship that's hit the skids?