Triangulation #1

In a dyad, unless you are in a honeymoon period when two become as one, there is an essential and fundamental “X vs. Y” dynamic. This dynamic means that another person that might be a partner also becomes an adversary. This condition happens frequently in organizational dynamics, and perhaps none less so than in a supervisor/supervisee relationship.

The leader can use triangulation to shift the focus away from the dyad and onto a third point. That third point can be a mutual adversary, a mutual challenge, or a mutually agreed on “higher principle.”

Imagine two people out on the street. They are arguing about a new policy. They can’t see eye-to-eye. Then they look up and see an airplane fly into a building. Suddenly the argument is irrelevant, and they band together to escape the falling debris. This is a dramatic example of spontaneous triangulation.

The third point of the triangle allows the pressure to be displaced from the adversarial dynamic of the dyad, and allows a turning toward some other point of reference. During re-placement on the third-point as the now mutual adversary, the relationship can be reframed into one of allies working against a mutual threat, and each of the former adversaries can re-experience the other as an ally.

In regular organizational activities, triangulation is often needed to remind internal parties that they may disagree on particulars, but they are facing a threat from external source: a competitor, the marketplace, a regulatory bureaucracy, etc.

Triangulation can be especially useful during performance reviews where the adversary is career development and promotion, but may need to be deployed at other times too.

Caution is advised against triangulating against Headquarters or the Main Office, as this usually backfires against both the leader and the led.

I’ll deal with this concept more in “Triangulation #2.” Then in Triangulation #3, I will discuss using Triangulation with your project partners and clients.”

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