Team of Two

This will improve communication, organisational effectiveness and job satisfaction.

The idea

Much of the business of an organisation takes place between pairs of people. These interactions can be positive and developing or frustrating and destructive. You can improve them with this simple tool.

“Team of two” works well with any two people who work together. It is excellent for consultants and clients. It will even work for life partners.

It does not work when the relationship is so broken down that either party would rather have a battle than do anything to make it better.

The method

Each person writes down 1) How they think they could help the other person and 2) How they think the other person could help them.

The hypothetical example of a manager and secretary will make this clearer.

Manager’s list

Things I, manager, could do to help youThings you, secretary, could do to help me
Let you know where I am going when I leave the office.Tell me what you need from me so you can give me the best help.
Stop giving long urgent tasks after 4 pmHelp me be more organised in my work

Secretaries’ list

Things I, secretary, could do to help youThings you, manager, could do to help me
Talk to other secretaries on the site to see if they have good ideas we could useListen to me when I am overloaded
Filter your emails, deal with routine ones.Help me understand your priorities


The people share their lists and then decide what to do. 

A person may say: –

  • “Thanks, please do that. It will help a lot”
  • “Of course I will do as you ask”. This would be sensible if the request is easy and gives an immediate benefit.
  •  “I can’t do that because……”. The request might violate your values, by being (say) unethical, or it might be politically unacceptable or take too much time.
  • “I would be prepared to meet your request if you would help me with this one of mine”. The request might demand work or a change of attitude. You would both win eventually.
  • It helps people to follow through with their decisions if they record and preferably display their agreements.
  • Play the negotiation straight. If you use tactics or manipulation, then people will not use the method again. They will also become suspicious of all the management techniques you use.
  • Make your requests small, clear and doable. It is more useful to ask someone to say “Hello” in the morning than to “Be nice to me”.
  • Aim for equity in the negotiations. If people “give in” to every demand they will feel exploited later. People who want something for themselves for everything they give will lose co-operation. People will think they are mean.
  • Give the process enough time. The expectations take time to clarify. This is often the first time people have talked directly about how they work together


I have used these ideas in a series of workshops for secretary/PA and managers. The exercise easily led to free, open and positive discussions and decisions about all aspects of the work together, from the day to day, filing etc to the strategic, about priorities. One common decision was for the PA to attend some meetings with the manager so she or he would understand more about the manager’s work and thus be able to make better decisions about what was important.


Please play with these ideas and use them in any way that makes sense to you. If you stick to giving and receiving practical help and treating both parties fairly it will work well, if the people want to make their relationship work.

If you would like help using this idea, or have any comments or questions please contact me. Thanks, Nick