Disagreements happen in any relationship. Even with all the planning and preparation, there will come a point when you and your outsourcing partner would disagree on certain things.
To be clear, as long as you’re not arguing over issues that are absolute deal breakers (like fraud, theft of business secrets, etc) the occasional disagreement isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It comes with the territory when you’re working with a different set of people. The great thing about this is they force you to think outside the box and consider new ideas for your business.
That being said, just because disagreements can be helpful doesn’t make them fun. Arguments are stressful. When they’re drawn out, it can be a waste of time and money. And when they’re not resolved, it can destroy what otherwise might have been a very fruitful partnership.
What makes the occasional disagreement so unpleasant is we have this idea that when you get into an argument there has to be a winner and there has to be a loser. We all want to win because it’s so satisfying emotionally to be proven right. But with working relationships, settling an argument this way isn’t really helpful or productive. It takes time, more time to prove yourself right than solving the problem. And having a winner and a loser doesn’t strengthen relationships; in most cases it weakens it.
In most cases, the best course of action is to argue in a way where you both come out as winners.
Focus on the cause and the cure
The adversarial nature of disagreements comes when one party forces the other to take ownership of the problem. The winner receives recognition. The loser is accepts the blame and takes responsibility for solving the problem.
And to recognize which one is the winner or the loser, they both have to defend their case as well as try to discredit each other’s arguments.
But this system doesn’t work because in most cases, both parties play a role in creating the problem. Also, the entire process of determining who’s right and wrong takes time. That’s time you can’t afford to lose if you’re working on time sensitive projects.
And in the adversarial set-up, the solution the loser brings to the table may not be the best solution. It can also be that the winner refuses to take that solution. The best solution usually comes when both parties work together. Solutions are best implemented when both you and your outsourcing partner agree to it.
So instead of automatically looking for someone to blame when a problem arises, take a good hard look at the problem instead. Work with your outsourcing vendor on finding the root cause of the problem and possible solutions for it.
The 5 Whys
One good exercise you and your outsourcing partner can use to help find the root cause of a problem is to implement The 5 Whys. It’s a technique that was first used by Toyota engineers to help them find the root cause of a particular problem. Basically it involves asking the question “why” several time to find where the problem really started.
For example, you hired a virtual assistant to manage social media. Your goal was to build a community of 500 loyal customers around your brand. But your virtual assistant was only able to rally 200 customers.
Problem: Your social media community only has 200 members instead of 500
Why? Your VA wasn’t able to reach out to more loyal customers.
Why? There was a drop in the number of mentions of your brand, so you company isn’t as visible on social media as it was before.
Why? There was a spike in people unfollowing your accounts, lowering your reach.
Why? There was a series of negative reviews about your company and it reached some of your loyal customers.
Why? There were complaints for customers that were not addressed by customer service. These customers complained on social media.
With this process, you’ll see how a big problem can be broken down into different parts. From there, you can work on creating strategies to help solve these smaller problems. You now know you need to push your customer service to resolve issues faster and offer irate customers solutions. Now your social media virtual assistant knows to watch out negative reviews on social media and de-escalate the situation.
By addressing the smaller root problems first, you’re able to implement solutions faster that have a cumulative effect. And if you feel you still haven’t reached to the root of the problem, you can always continue asking “Why” to check if there are other factors in play.
Develop Collaborative Solutions
The great thing about collaborative solutions is that it rewards both you and your outsourcing partner when you solve the problem together. And by working together, things get done faster.
Let’s say you’re having a problem with your website’s SEO. Both you and your search engine optimization expert have figured out that the root problem is that there were some web pages that had duplicate content. You contribute to the problem by identifying the pages you need and identifying the pages you need to change or get rid of. Your SEO expert can then make recommendation on how to bounce back from the penalty by maybe improving on the meta data of the remaining pages or looking for new keywords.
Then you can work on developing protocols to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. Maybe work together on improving your website’s documentation and sitemap. Gather samples or templates for website content as a guide for your web content writer.
Disagreements are normal and healthy in any relationship. They key is to be calm, focused, and use disagreements as opportunities to strengthen your partnership. Remember that great outsourcing partners are hard to find. Don’t let fights destroy your profitable business partnership.