For all of the challenges clients create, most of what I hear from leaders tells me that relationships with colleagues cause even more persistent problems. That’s often puzzled me. After all, we’re on the same team with our colleagues. We have a lot in common simply by virtue of the fact that our destinies are tied together in the same organization trying to serve the same (or similar) customers better than the competition. But we get cranky plenty with our team-mates.

So why is that? One hunch came to me while in a planning session some time ago. We were planning a company-wide meeting for a particular group of leaders. Someone asked the question, “Do you think the participants understand the purpose of this meeting?”

One member of our planning team piped up: “Nope, I don’t think they have any idea why we’re pulling them out of the field for two days.”

Others in our team nearly jumped out of our chairs. “What? How could they not get it? We sent them the email!”

Can’t they read my email??

Then it hit me. If these colleagues were clients, we wouldn’t expect them to understand the purpose of a planned 2-day meeting with a simple email. Heck, we probably wouldn’t even really expect them to read an email. We would treat them with understanding, deference, and (at least feigned) patience. Because they’re clients.

No such luck if you’re a colleague. No, we expect 100% readership and acceptance of our emails and a rapid “getting on board with the program.” Why think colleagues are any different than clients? They’re busy, skeptical, stretched, and like a personal touch too.

Maybe we’d get better results from colleagues if we treated them just as well (if not better?) as clients.

What’s your experience? Why do we get exasperated with colleagues and what can we do about it?