LEADERSHIP: Cross-functional Crisis

Val's question:

I work in an office environment and I often need help from other groups to do my job. I always ask politely and say thank you when they do help. Recently, I’ve had to rely on other departments more frequently, but they often have their own priorities, and aren’t always willing to help. What can I do to get the job done when things are out of my control?

Thanks for your help, Val.



Great question. Those of you interested in this subject should also look for my video on matrix organizations. At some point everyone in a big company runs into this problem. This subject is something that's so pervasive that I’ve developed a detailed framework that I call Managing the Periphery.

I can’t cover all the details in this forum, but the basic premise is that you can’t focus solely on your task, or your department’s responsibilities. This is especially true, if you’re in a leadership position. The idea is to widen your circle of influence, so that you can more directly impact customer outcomes, and eliminate roadblocks along the way. You should get this process started before you get to the crisis level.

I can briefly summarize the process in three easy steps.


  1. Make friends outside your neighborhood.


Don't let your introduction be part of a request for a favor. Go out of your way to be extra friendly, as often as you can. These aren’t just robots programmed to do your bidding, they’re living breathing human beings. Ask them how their weekend was. Take interest in their hobbies. Do they have kids etc? Get to know them before you need something. Doing a favor for a friend is more readily embraced than some stranger piling work on their shoulders.

2. Establish good will.

We do this by finding ways to deliver value with no expectation of reciprocity. Find ways to do even small favors. Help them with something they need done, whether it’s part of your job or not. But do it before you need something. Once you build a rapport, they’ll be more receptive to your requests.


Good things happen when our integrity and good will precede our arrival.


  1. My “Beads” for your “deeds”.

What I mean, is to use good old fashioned bartering.

If you’re up against a deadline and you haven’t built a rapport yet, propose that you can do something for them, in exchange for them helping you. Provide your service first, and over-deliver, so that they’re more eager to help you now, and in the future as well.


I once had a project manager tell me that he couldn’t deliver a prototype to a customer, because the parts he needed were stuck in incoming inspection. So I went to the department manager and asked him what he could to free up the parts. He quickly told me he couldn’t do anything, because he was backlogged by at least a week. Now, based on the high priority of the customer delivery, I could have pressed the issue and easily gotten what I needed.

The problem with that approach is that I wouldn’t have an ally for future endeavors. So, what I did was propose that I loan him one of my guys for a couple of days until he cleared the entire backlog, not just the parts I needed. I created a win-win situation, which got me my parts immediately, and helped him clear his backlog in half the time. Additionally, I made a new friend outside my neighborhood and established good will, thereby widening my circle of influence in one fell swoop.


So Val thanks for the question. I hope it helps your situation, and keep the questions coming.


Do you agree? Let me know what you think. I would love to hear your unique perspective.


Stay up to date on the latest Leadership insights and receive FREE stuff we don't often share anywhere else.

Spamming is not OK. We will NEVER share your information with anyone else.

Join our e-mail list. Get FREE stuff.

Immediately receive our exclusive training: How Great Leaders Build Trust.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.