I was recently asked by a client company to facilitate a meeting between two executives who were at war with each other regarding how things were being handled in their business unit.

They were based in different cities and communicated mostly by email. The traffic was fast and furious, the temperature was rising, and there was real fear that these two executives, both of whom are highly prized by the company, might not be able to live in the same organization.

It seemed like it was time to get them together, so we arranged an in-person meeting to see if we could put some of their issues to rest.

The agenda for this meeting was simple:

  1. Pull out their Accountability Chart (The EOS® tool for managing organizational structure) to make sure they were both absolutely clear about their respective roles and responsibilities
  2. Make a list of all the issues that were causing friction between them
  3. Tackle those issues using the EOS “Issue Solving TrackTM”

In short order, they were able to solve–both well and permanently–every one of those issues.

Why did this work so well, especially considering how much friction and frustration they’d been experiencing?

First, going back to their Accountability Chart helped them see clearly which decisions each of them owned and which ones they had a right to express an opinion on but not to decide. Underneath the friction, each of them had great respect for the other. As soon as they stopped seeing the opinions expressed by the other as an attempt to usurp decision-making authority, the temperature dropped and the progress increased.

Second, simply being in the same room, face to face, dramatically increased the quality of their communication. Research shows that when you’re trying to say something to another person, more than 90 percent of what they think you mean comes from your facial expression, body language and tone of voice. Less than 10% of it comes from your actual words.

If you doubt this, think of all the things you can make the phrase “Thanks a lot” mean depending on how you say it.

There are two valuable lessons in this. First, absolute clarity and alignment about who’s accountable for what makes everything easier. Very few companies really nail this. A strong Accountability Chart will get you there.

Second, when you really need to get things done, there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face.  This is why once a quarter, leadership teams in companies that run on EOS go offsite, put away the electronics, and spend a day face-to-face making sure they’re aligned on vision, holding each other accountable, setting goals and solving key issues. It’s at the heart of why EOS companies consistently outperform their competitors and peers.