Sea ViewsFrom President and COO, Adam Goldstein

Sea Views Blog with Adam Goldstein

How to Connect with a Colleague When You Have Conflicting Interests

We are not all the same.  Not in life and not in business.  As a consequence, maintaining a healthy perspective on differences among people is a critical success factor in a business career.

Some years ago I was struggling to keep a balanced perspective on one of my colleagues.  He ignored or at least appeared to be disinterested in fundamental elements of our daily world at Royal Caribbean.  I’m not talking about esoteric stuff.  I mean he did not care about what departments we had, who was responsible for them, how information flowed within the company or which of us might influence his success. He simply pursued his interests as independently of the rest of us as humanly possible.  I searched for a construct to help me and others understand how to make the relationship with this colleague work.

So I came up with the metaphor of the bee and the tree.  RCL is a fairly large organization overseeing a complex business model that requires mastery of hospitality and maritime, two sectors of the economy that do not normally go together.  We constantly develop products and services and launch them successfully into the market for our customers or internally for our employees.  Yet we are perpetually frustrated that we cannot act faster.  Our people, especially those who remember the days when we were much smaller and depended less on corporate process, feel we are bureaucratic.  From their perspective, at least, we are a tree. After 45 years we are firmly planted.  There is nothing wrong with this.  But it is a particular paradigm.

Our entrepreneurial colleague a/k/a the bee had primarily an external facing responsibility, working on transactions and organizing projects on a fast moving basis.  From the bee’s point of view the tree could not keep up with his efforts.  He and his small team were nimble in a way the tree could never be.  On the other hand, many of his efforts did not come to fruition.  To him, that was natural, his role was to pollinate flowers and see what he could make bloom.  Rapid twists and turns were the norm.  To those of us in the tree, he was flitting about haphazardly, maybe even randomly.  It didn’t seem likely that he was going to build anything of substance. The paradigms of the bee and of the tree did not overlap. This caused misunderstandings and occasional ill will.  But I found that explaining the predicament in these terms provided a frame of reference that helped my colleagues to co-exist.

The above example happens to be about a person and a company.  But that is not the essential point.  For example, the U.S. government and the business community struggle to understand each other’s paradigms.  To the latter it is self-evident that job creation is the product of business activity.  The saying “America’s Business is Business” underscored this nearly a century ago.  To business leadership, it’s almost bizarre that our government does not necessarily see it that way.  This is a profound challenge to the two sides that undermines needed engagement to spur economic recovery.

Paradigm conflict of this significance is obvious as it relates to Democrats and Republicans, any number of countries, religions, ethnicities, clans, etc.  Coming back to business, one of my responsibilities as a leader of Royal Caribbean is to recognize as quickly as possible when we encounter an alien paradigm.  If it is the paradigm of an adversary  or at least an entity or person with opposing interests, my goal isn’t to adopt the alternative paradigm but rather to explore it with the intent of gleaning opportunities to connect with it in ways that would be beneficial for our company.

It’s easier to say “put yourself in their shoes” than it is to actually do so.  A lot of times you will have no desire whatsoever to be in the others’ shoes.  But you may walk better in your own shoes if you take the time and put in the effort to why “they” are wearing the shoes they have on.  At least that’s how it looks from high in the tree.

This blog was originally published on LinkedIn.

6 responses to:
“How to Connect with a Colleague When You Have Conflicting Interests”

  1. binh lam

    Dear Mr. Goldstein,

    My name is Binh Lam. My family only cruise with Royal only. We love crusing with Royal and was very satisfied. However,
    my most recent call to the Royal representative was very disappointed. I notice that there was a price decrease on my reservations. All I ask for was either a room upgrade or price difference refunded to me. I have to reservation on file with Royal 7184894 and 7187133.
    I booked my cruise half year ahead of time. My reservation 7184894 for 4 people in a room was purchased for $4168 and now its only $2332. That is a big price difference ($1836) and it mean alot for my family to either be treated to a suite or an upgrade for the overpriced cruise that we had paid for. The representative was not willing to work with us for our request. I am very sad and upset with Royal for such unsincere gesture. My other reservation is 7187133 which i paid $2694 and now its $1394. The price different is $1300.
    So in all we are looking at a total of $3136, now that is alot of money that i am overpaying. Please help our family get a fair deal on our upcoming trip. My family and I would greatly appreciate it if you would help us in this matters.

    thank you


    • Royal Caribbean International

      Hi Binh – Please visit the following link to learn about our Best Price Guarantee: Thank you.

  2. Lisa Langrell


    Well said. It’s all true in my humble opinion. I view things almost three dimensionally at work-its just how I am wired. I look at things from every angle, from the “roots” to the mission or keeping with the conversation the “apples the tree produces”. I engage people from the roots or backbone on up such as the folks that work on our plumbing, HVAC (heat, vent and AC), electrical, project managers, engineers, admin, procurement, contracting, and the folks that do the producing that the public mostly engages with. For me, spending the time in each of these fields to see how it all flows, program effectiveness, chain of custody, looking at how various departments work together or not, and a host of other things-its all important and everything each person brings is important to the mission of the organization. What I found is that one side cared about final destination and the other side was concerned when the car had its last oil change and spark plugs changed before heading out. I found many alien paradigms when I first started. Lots of hurt feelings or feelings of insignificance. A disdain had developed amongst the bees as you accurately name them-there was no communication occurring, no acknowledgement that these tiny little bees were equally important and significant to the success . I was unofficially the bridge creator and really by accident but because of the way I am wired, I was able to see these alien paradigms. I observed, asked questions and wanted their opinions (key I think) about how they thought a process could be better. Building relationships or putting yourself in someone else’s shoes certainly is a benefit. The two were not that far apart but a shift had to occur from both sides. Eventually we got there and we are now a well oiled machine. A shift in a level of respect had occurred that took nothing more than a thanks from the top to the bottom-that little effort opened up the ability to make changes and close gaps for the overall mission.

  3. Gabriel Fok

    Hi President,

    i had travel with Royal Caribbean last November and experience great time on the ship. Everything is fine like the show, the food, all the entertainment.

    However, i bought the full package of digital photo around $300 USD, and the make up keep input the wrong date. Our cruise day was Nov 17 – 24 on Allure. But half of the photos i bought show Nov 10 – 16!! That really annoying me and a bad mood for myself to recall this wonderful memory.

    i had called to customer service try to ask them to fix it for me, but they did not reply very well and this problem could not be solved. That is the first cruise in my family. That is why i am so concerning all details, perhaps, that is why this is being ignored.

    thanks for the great experience on the ship anyway.

    Gabriel Fok

    • Royal Caribbean International

      Hi Gabriel – We’re sorry to hear this. Image Photo Services operates the photo department onboard all Royal Caribbean ships. Please give them a call at (800) 772-3470 or (305) 476-3666, or e-mail at

  4. Joy

    Just found out the Dreamworks Breakfast is no longer complimentary with our fare. Now, there is a charge! Very disappointed. This is our first experience with Royal Caribbean and so far, it is not what we expected. We read reviews and how others raved about the Dreamworks breakfast for the kids that we opted to book so we can experience it. But to our dismay, RCCL is starting to charge a fee for it. I understand the demand, but as with your entertainment shows, the reservation system should be sufficient. Contemplating if we should just cancel our booking and try the Nickelodeon experience on NCL. Thank you for your time.

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