Avoid Team Tangles--Call Pinches Before They Escalate

Fri, Apr 28, 2017

Are you or your team experiencing frequent pinches? The unwillingness or inability to verbalize and share missed expectations, or pinches, tangles team relationships and slows down productivity.
I learned about the "pinch model" many years ago while working at Wilson Learning. I have found it incredibly useful and now use it in my MBA classes and with clients. The Pinch Model was developed by John Sherwood and John Glidewell and then Sherwood and John Scherer expanded it further.
What's a pinch, you might ask. Imagine that you and a teammate agree to complete a deliverable by a certain date. You each have inter-related parts to contribute to the whole project and a clear deadline and deliverable. Your teammate doesn't come through on the agreed upon date. You feel some momentary discomfort, like a pinch. It doesn't last long. With that first "pinch" you have two choices. Say something and resolve the issue or say nothing and hope that it doesn't happen again. What do you ordinarily do?

If you are like most people, you don't say anything and hope that the situation improves on its own. If it doesn’t improve and you say nothing, resentment and tension build, and you get to a point where you feel a “crunch.” At that point, you feel so much resentment, anger, and even hostility that you might lose your temper and say something you later regret. Or, you avoid your teammate. Either way, the working relationship is fraught with tension. You cannot “kiss and make up” when trust is eroded. The relationship may not be salvageable. In a work setting, this tangles processes, communication, and strangles productivity.  

How to Avoid Crunches? Call Pinches early and often

When you start working with others, set out clear expectations and agreements about who is doing what and by when. Recognize that each person may have a different interpretation about what is expected. At the first sign of a “missed expectation, say, “I’m feeling a pinch. I thought that you were going to complete XYZ by this date. Did I misunderstand? Let’s clarify and make sure we are both on the same page.”

 When I first learned this model, a colleague wisely said that clarifying your expectations with others early and often was like having a set of windshield wipers on to get rid of the bugs on your windshield. Windshield wipers keep the windows clean so you can see through them clearly. Clarifying missed expectations when they are minor keeps your relationships clean.

So, get in the habit of calling out pinches with peers and colleagues. Introduce the language of pinches to your teams and avoid team tangles. Does your team need assistance in creating productive rules of engagement? You might benefit from the assistance of a team expert. The Tangle™ is an experienced team coach and offers a variety of solutions to teams experiencing similar difficulties described in the pinch model. 

Team Coach, Team Expert, Pinch Model
Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

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