So the executive team comes back from their retreat and shares the decree that everyone needs to collaborate and “work better together. ” Seems straightforward on the surface. However, it’s a nearly impossible ask for a number of reasons. First of all, there is a complexity that most people just don’t recognize. What’s collaborative to one person might not be to another. There are no collaborative rules of the road. Defining what good collaboration looks like is something we rarely see organizations do on their own. Secondly, very few are ever really taught the level of self awareness required to effectively work together or the collaborative skills required to collaborate effectively. The behavioral instruments out there help but they don’t come anywhere close to solving the problems of getting people working better together.
It is easy to explain why there is a lack of training to create superstar collaborators. Most of the world views collaboration as an activity as opposed to a process that can be taught, developed, shared and measured. After all, everyone is a great collaborator by themselves. We find that many who think they are great collaborators are exactly the opposite. It’s for a number of ego driven reasons that show up in a number of ways that create havoc. As long as you have a group of people, it is important to recognize that people show up differently to the collaborative dynamic based on a number of factors that include personality, skill level, ego driven behaviors and other factors. If you can’t help them understand how they and others that are different than them show up to the collaborative party, along with what the rules are, than you will continue to perpetuate collaborative insanity. That is the notion that if you simply tell people to work better together that they can do it. To those people I simply ask, “how’s that working for you so far?”