Let’s walk through Professor Brian Uzzi’s “3Rs” of converting rivals into allies.

A young business school graduate has been appointed to a managerial position in a huge multinational company. He’s talented, intelligent, and exudes the kind of emotional, intellectual and behavioural alignments that excellent business leaders need. However, he has a problem: he has managerial responsibility for a 20-year company veteran who believes the job should have been his. The new manager’s days are rapidly filled with behind-the-back murmurs and strained smiles.

Our new manager decides to implement the first “R” – Redirection – by arranging a one-to-one meeting with the company veteran in the latter’s favourite eatery, tacitly signalling that he appreciates the latter’s worth. During the meeting, he acknowledges the situation they are both in and then deftly redirects the cause of it from himself: he didn’t put the veteran in this position; the company did.

Redirection establishes a small zone of commonality and paves the way to Step 2: Reciprocity. The essence of reciprocity is to give before you receive: our manager promises to support the veteran’s leadership development and future promotion at the company and immediately offers him the chance to attend executive-level meetings, a move that gives something concrete in the here-and-now as well as in the future. As Uzzi puts it, “Reciprocity involves considering ways that you can immediately fulfil a rival’s need or reduce a pain point.”

The manager gains too, benefiting from the veteran’s considerable technical knowledge during those meetings.

Uzzi’s third step is “Rationality.” The manager makes it clear that he sees the veteran as a valuable partner and offers him the “right of first refusal” to collaborate with him. This subtly but clearly communicates that “valuable” isn’t the same as “indispensable” and the veteran will need to think lucidly and carefully about the offer before him.

Deal with the emotions first and work on reason last.

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