Over-Collaboration: Solution #2: Better Skills and Behaviors

Our last newsletter gave you some questions to think about regarding planning and attending meetings and encouraged you to be more intentional. Our second solution is about skills and behaviors needed to avoid over-collaboration. Next week, our third solution will look at the role the organization plays in making collaboration work.
In our careers, we’ve likely learned many of the keys to effective collaboration: building trust, having diverse input, not being a control freak, and recognizing people’s contributions… among other things.
In a world where collaboration is increasingly necessary and pounded into us from all sides, it’s also likely that we’ve not learned the nuance of limiting and shaping collaboration so it doesn’t waste our most precious resource: our talent’s time.
Here are five skills and behaviors great leaders utilize for avoiding over-collaboration.
  1. They are goal-directed. The best collaborative leaders are overt about the who, what, where, why and when of collaboration.  Does our business strategy for this initiative require a great deal of collaboration? What does it look like… project assignments ?  Weekly meetings?  Or is regular reporting enough?  Do I need maximum collaboration with group A or person B now or only later in the project?  Great collaborators start by determining the outcome they are trying to achieve and then work backward, intentionally designing the collaborative elements of their project, initiative and working relationships.
  2. They define clear roles for each collaborator. Everyone involved needs to be able to answer ‘why am I here?’ At a minimum, they need to know the role they play in decision-making, including “final” decisions. One of the fastest ways to make people think that collaboration is a waste of time is when they have a different assumption about their role in decision-making than the leader or other stakeholders do. Transparency is critical.
  3. Each meeting has a purpose. We talked in the last newsletter about the sheer number of meetings on everyone’s calendar. Too often, the purpose of each meeting is not well defined but occurs because everyone has it on the calendar.  Great collaborators will tell you what outcome is expected from each meeting. They also run meetings effectively and efficiently.  And, if the meeting isn’t needed, they cancel it.
  4. Great collaborators facilitate conversations by asking the right questions. Meetings and conversations are decidedly two way. They lead the meeting and the collaboration process by asking open, thought-provoking questions not simply sharing information.  One of the questions they ask regularly is… “how well are we collaborating?”  Is everyone’s time well spent?  Can we do with fewer people, fewer meetings, or different collaborative methods?
  5. They promote constructive conflict. The power of collaboration comes from the diverse perspectives in the process. Great collaborators know that constructive conflict, focused on robust debate and deliberation, usually creates a superior result.  They also do not tolerate destructive conflict and they step in to stop it when they see it.  Importantly, they are also mindful that time constraints don’t allow for every voice to be heard on every topic.  They set expectations for debate and deliberation in advance.
Think about these five skills and behaviors.  Where are your strengths? Where are your development areas?  Choose one of your development areas. Identify two actions you’ll take to improve in that area. Let us know the results.