Collaboration – Walking the Talk!

Collaboration is more than meets the eye and it takes a lot of skill and self awareness. Most people are less aware how much they compete instead of collaborate, or how soon they give in and compromise or comply. Not only are we unaware of the collaborative breakdown when it happens, we often do not have the intentional skills needed to navigate across the great collaborative divide.

Basically this is due to two things: mindset and language.   We need a common language to discuss our differences and manage conflict. And in order to do that, we must be able to attain and remain steady in a proper mindset for it. I’ve found that even if one has learned a skill, when the mindset is off-balanced or skewed, the perspective inhibits one’s ability to speak and listen well.

Literally, the state of your mind is what informs the awareness of your words, your actions and your presence.

You have to be in the proper perspective or no amount of wording will be believed. In fact, without proper orientation in your viewpoint, the receiver may feel manipulated by an insincere dialogue – as if it’s just trained slick talk. That could make the relationship worse. That said, it is hard to be authentic when we react defensively, for our defense behaviors have been honed and molded in us over many years and it takes courage and intention to get curious about it enough to change them.

But, don’t wait until you feel you are perfect at staying present. You need to learn a good method and practice – a lot. You are better off fumbling through a learning curve in speaking through difficult conversations and conflict resolution, than to come across as a slick ‘cover-up’ of what you really are about on the inside. You have to try to be sincere and real. It’s better to look like you are really trying to learn a new skill than to ignore using a method that works if you apply it. That said, it’s difficult to do if you feel like you’ll mocked or made fun of by someone else who is resistant to being open and transparent. If you aren’t in a proper mindset then you will not want to be all open about it.

Don’t Have a Skewed Mindset

Many leaders are unaware of their many defensive states of mind and the mental traps they get caught up in when they are faced with the collaborative breakdown dynamic on their teams.   And those that are aware of them do not know exactly how subtly it happens and can suddenly hijack their thinking skills.

A person does not even have to be harboring a hidden agenda, or be overly competitive. They simply need to be sort of stuck in their own reasoning that they are right, that others do not need to have an explanation from them, that others don’t deserve more cooperation from them, or maybe that the time it takes to be more connected with others is just not really worth it.

That’s a negative mindset and lethal to collaboration.

You would be surprised how prevalent the self preserving mindset is all around the conference table. It doesn’t help that the team member who is right may leave a communication vacuum resulting in lack of role clarity.   The lack is perceived as control tactics when silence and evasive responses contribute to the situation. All this slows progress down by confusing others.

When people are present and skilled, they are more coherent with each other and are able to express themselves with a positive impact, even if the conversation is difficult.

Get Real In Meetings

Getting real in a meeting requires some intention and skill because it is uncomfortable most of the time. However, when we do not have a method and process to follow, we risk miscommunication that can grow into misunderstanding.

And different generations may perceive the situation differently.

Let’s say you are guarding and masking (and everyone does it at some time or another), whereas a senior baby boomer may understand this as old guard good ‘fencing’ between neighbors, the younger generation might readily conclude this as disrespectful insincerity.

Young professionals today will not be influenced by those who are guarding; and they may feel manipulated. If young professional today will also not be very influential in their work place if they are guarded, evasive and lacking the openness to share information.

Everyone wants their ideas in a collaboration relationship to be heard and considered –not pushed aside just based on lack of years in workplace. However, it is equally important younger workers realize that any sense or declaration of certainty about next best steps will require more disclosure, reasoning and insight in order to solicit trust from their elder colleagues. But this goes both ways all the time.

It doesn’t matter the generation, skills to communicate during collaboration are not natural to most people and it might appear as if it’s an age gap difference, when really it’s not.   There is usually a lack of understanding the key components necessary to norm into your team and organizational culture.

Key components of Collaboration Work

  • Shared Language
  • Proper Mindset
  • Method to Follow A Process for Team Norm

It is an important part of coaching work in organizational psychology to provide effective and proven frameworks and tools to instill in the culture. If you want to read more how we do it at IMI, click here.

About the Author:

Jane Hundley, Executive Coach, M.A. Industrial Organizational Psychology (I/O) & Development, President of Impact Management, Inc.

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