Greed and Fear: Part II – Applying the Framework

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In Part I of this post, we said that the ‘Greed/Fear Framework’ is focused on understanding others and is driven by a genuine desire to invest in others by actively listening and by empathizing.  This is easier on the ‘Professional’ level than on the ‘Personal level’.  Let’s look at an example:


Your business partner is responsible for Call Center operations in your firm.  The Call Center currently uses a legacy CRM system.  While the system is fully paid-for, it runs on hardware that is no longer supported by the vendor and the CRM itself is also out of support (though partial support can be obtained through a third-party).  Business operations depend on the predictable and reliable performance of the CRM.  Your business partner has sponsored a project to replace this legacy system.

Your business partner has been with the firm for some time and has been in multiple roles within the organization.  While not necessarily public knowledge, your business partner has been put in charge of this project as a ‘last chance’; should this project fail, part of the fallout may well be the elimination of your business partner’s job.  Therefore, in addition to needing a reliable CRM for Call Center operations support, your business partner also needs a win.

This is how the example above might look in the Greed/Fear matrix:

The ‘Professional’ column is usually the easy part.  An understanding of the business problem to be solved and the impact of doing nothing is generally enough, but it makes sense to gain a deeper understanding of the situation.  What happened in the past?  Why was the current system allowed to go so far out of support?  What drove that decision (or lack of a decision)?  These are all good questions to ask.  The goal is not necessarily to fill out a framework; the goal is to gain the necessary understanding of the ‘Professional’ wants/don’t wants involved in the issue so that you have a solid context around the issue itself.

The ‘Personal’ column is often times more critical than the ‘Professional’ and presents its own unique set of problems.  Most people at work want to look great and be successful in their job either because they want a promotion, want to get their full percentage of bonus or just because they get a deep personal satisfaction out of succeeding.  But most people aren’t likely to share their ‘Personal/Fear’ and asking them is likely to damage your relationship.

Your only hope in “populating” the ‘Personal/Fear’ quadrant is to rely on your ability to ask the right questions, listen effectively, empathize, and ultimately, to trust your instincts.  Some people are easier to read than others.  Other people will be more than happy to share the content of their ‘Personal/Fear’ quadrant (sometimes more than you want!).  Ultimately, you’re on your own to use your relationship-building skills to “populate” this key quadrant in the matrix.

You may also find similar challenges in “populating” the other quadrants.  People are not always as candid as you’d like with the ‘Professional’, either.  This is where the ability to build, maintain and leverage relationships becomes a key component in understanding the motivations of those with whom we work.  Don’t assume that you can simply ask about the ‘Professional’ and it shall be given.  You still need to sanity-check what you’ve heard against what you already know and what experience has taught you.  Trust your instincts.

Keep in mind that the intent is to use the matrix as a mental framework to understand the motivation and actions of others.  I don’t recommend telling others that you make use of this framework, as people may envision you analyzing them and writing down their motivations into little boxes.  I’d also recommend that you not share the “contents” of your matrix.  The purpose is to gain understanding so that you can communicate and work more effectively with others.  Branding yourself as a workplace arm-chair psychologist is not a brand that inspires trust and confidence.

© 2011, Mark E. Calabrese

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