5 myths about collaboration

Don’t let talent keep slipping through your fingers. A lack of collaboration in your organisation effect your teams ability to do their best work. It can leave them coming to work each day disenchanted.

Drive better results, unite and inspire your team by helping them thrive together.

Myth no. 1: Collaborative teams just get along

The ability of a team to get along, like each other, be nice and come to quick decisions isn’t the basis of healthy collaboration. In fact, it can be a detriment.

If people are staying quiet and not expressing their own views on a subject you get wallflower syndrome. Where people turn up, sit and listen and go with the flow. Often because it’s easier that to speak up, there is a lack of psychological safety and its more than likely that they have learnt along the way that this is the best way. Their ideas may have been shot down in the past or that is simply the role they feel they’ve played since their first day.

Effective collaboration, instead, helps varying perspectives to be collected and challenged so that the ideas and initiatives that get progressed are better formed and more likely to succeed. When voices go unheard you are missing a BIG opportunity. The result is groupthink.

The term groupthink was first established in 1972 by the social psychologist Irving L. Janis, when he described the phenomenon of a team striving for agreement despite the unideal consequences.

In this scenario people set aside their own personal beliefs and adopt the opinion of the rest of the team to avoid conflict. This leads to suppression of individual opinions and creative ideas, sometimes resulting in poor decisions and inefficient problem-solving.

Myth no. 2: Bigger is better

‘We want the whole team to feel apart of this and have a voice’ said many a well intentioned leader. In reality big all-in initiatives are extremely hard to manage but also often provide far too many options that leads to plans going into a tailspin of overwhelm.

By involving too many people you get too many differing opinions and spanners go flying into the works almost immediately. We all have our own individual purpose, passions and areas of expertise so its natural in a group environment many people can see this as an opportunity to further their cause. This can cause a political minefield and can support individual focus over the collective intelligence of the group.

Here’s what you can do instead. Create a stakeholder map. Look at who needs to be involved and when. Not everyone needs to be involved through an entire process of an initiative or project. In fact, turning people over who come in and out when relevant is guaranteed to get you more buy in as they will be using their expertise and it will reduce the frustration that comes with sitting through meetings when individuals aren’t’ required. Instead look at the actions to be taken to progress the initiatives. Who needs to be involved to ‘do the doing’? Who needs to be involved to help with decision making? Try to limit the numbers.

Practical advice? Follow the “two-pizza team” philosophy of one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, Jeff Bezos. He believes that no matter how large your organisation is, individual teams shouldn’t be larger than what two pizzas can feed. This helps to develop more meaningful relationships and connection to the work. It also means that those involved come away with new ideas and more inspiration.

Myth no. 3: Collaboration is for teams not leaders

Think of the best leader you’ve had in your career. What made them so good?

Leaders who understand their teams often get the best outcomes. Not because they are busy rolling up their sleeves and doing the work then cracking a whip for their team to keep up.

Let’s take a minute to talk about collaborative leadership. Collaborative leaders get the best out of their team by understanding them as individuals and allowing them to do work they love. They provide support and guidance, also allowing for the personal growth and development of the individuals they manage by encouraging them to make decisions for themselves and giving them permission to take a risk.

Leaders who need to make all the calls, have all the ideas and have control over the operating details of their team quickly suffocate the essential oxygen of autonomy. By killing autonomy you not only kill the confidence of individuals but you slow decision making to grinding halt and the leader ends up feeling like they can’t leave the team to their own devises. Consciously, or not, the leader is cementing their indispensably through unhealthy means of control.

As Heath Evans explains: “The greater leaders I’ve ever worked with have never relied on their power to influence my efficiency or productivity. Instead, they chose a posture of generosity and trust, and in doing so I felt I was seen, I was heard, I mattered, I was valued. Ultimately I was capable of more than I had ever imagined – this has been the most effective approach to leadership I have encountered and more powerful than any hack or hustle to shortcut that human investment.”

Practical tip? Delegate tasks and hand over the leadership baton from time to time. Start by explaining why you will delegate a task and provide correct and clear instructions. When you select people to delegate, tell them why you chose them specifically, and how you hope to see this help them grow. Help them see each delegated task as an opportunity to take on more responsibilities or grow new skills.

On top of that, you ought to delegate results rather than methods. For example; Here’s what we are doing instead of following up on those leads. Tell someone your goals, you hope to achieve and let them tackle the problem in their own way. Don’t ever look for perfection or micromanage. Never forget to say thank you.

“When someone or your team completes a task you delegated, show appreciation and point out specific things they did well. This is the simplest step, but one of the hardest for many people to learn. It will inspire loyalty, provide real satisfaction for work done, and become the basis for mentoring and performance reviews,” Forbes expert Zwillig says.

Myth no. 4: Collaboration is only needed when focusing on a specific problem or project

If you’re banking up on collaboration time for that big ‘must succeed’ project you’re setting the project and your team up to fail. Collaboration can be like a multigrips. Fit for many purposes. (Ok bear with me here, I’m no tradie but let’s push through regardless).

I do what I do because I’ve gone from a silent employee, simply managing to meet the minimum, to ultimately smashing it. What was the difference? A collaborative environment. One where I was not just allowed to voice my thoughts in meetings but I was encouraged and expected to. My opinion was valued and heard. I can’t tell you the difference this can have on your workforce too.

Collaborative modelling (what we focus on at Liv By Design) has the power to:

  1. increase engagement in meetings
  2. reduce the amount of meetings by improving the use of other communication tools and platforms
  3. drive a healthy, achievement focused culture
  4. allow people to bring their whole self and creativity to work

I could go on and on.

Collaboration needs to be embraced at every level of a company’s structure, from the bottom to the top. Collaboration works when those at the top set the example and are collaborative themselves. This prevents the ‘us versus them’ scenario where teams feel their executive or management team are detached and the executive team feel their staff have unrealistic expectations.

Collaboration should be embraced every day. Even if it’s just 5 minutes at the beginning of a meeting where you gather every individuals opinions. It’s so easy to do and once your team knows how it will spread like wildfire. More things get done. More people feel valued.

Myth no. 5: Collaboration needs to be face to face

OK this one hits a nerve for me. We’re all heading back into offices now but let’s face it hybrid work isn’t being irradicated anytime soon. A beef I have is that many leaders over the 2 years of workforce disruption were, as mentioned earlier, banking up opportunities to collaborate until everyone was back face to face.

Don’t get me wrong meeting face to face has a huge amount of benefit. Our human needs for connection to each other as well as our work is most definitely a need. However, many workforces are remote. Many teams are geographically remote from head office. In these instances does that mean collaboration goes out the window? Heck no! And if it does we have a problem Huston.

It IS possible to have super engaging zoom and teams meetings. It all comes down to how you structure it. Just as a face to face meeting need to be structured to allow for collaboration.

Collaborating remotely has all the benefits we mentioned earlier along with a couple of others.

It can save your business valuable time and resources. Increasing productivity so you can focus on the most important tasks. In general it can also improve communication within teams, between teams and with third parties.

Don’t discount collaborative efforts online. They can be just as inspiring and engaging as face to face if you structure them the right way.

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about Liv By Design or how to get your teams collaborating more effectively, reach out!

I provide coaching and online training to help organisations like yours embed simple collaborative skills within teams so they can do their best work and achieve market leading results.

I’m so passionate about the power of collaboration that I created The Collaboration Project.

A 6-week, online (yet interactive) course that allows organisations to fast-track their way to effective collaboration and success!