The C-word.

Now don’t go getting your knickers in a knot! It’s not a naughty word! This week’s serving of sh*t-shifting goodness is around ‘Collaboration’. Specifically, I explore the question

“How do I maintain a sense of identity and autonomy when working collaboratively?”

Collaboration is the ‘new’ way of working. It can include teams of people working on a project or in a shared space with shared responsibility such as a classroom.
Research conducted by Cross, Rebele & Grant (2014) found that

“According to data collected over the past two decades, the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more”.

When set-up with forethought, collaborative ways of working can be incredibly powerful, however this is often not the case in many situations. Often people are placed together out of space-filling necessity, internal politics or because they are experts in their field.

When this occurs, they can often flounder, trying to find a way of working together whilst maintaining their sense of identity and autonomy. Having to constantly think, consult and act with a collaborative mindset can be overwhelming and exhausting. Sometimes the dominant voice, or ‘power-holder’ can win-over, resulting in people retreating into their silos or rifts to occur. When this happens collaboration becomes a concept, not an embodied way of collective being.

Collaboration isn’t about creating cookie-cutter people.

The gold lies in your collective diversity.

So how might we maintain our sense of identity and use our ‘gold’? In working alongside many organisations and collaborative teams I have found the following elements need to be deliberately created and embedded:

R: Relationships. Understand each other, how you like to work, your behaviours in certain situations, your areas of strength and how you like to receive feedback.
A: Agree on your ways of working, systems and structures, workload distribution, how you will use the space, timelines, roles and responsibilities.
R: Review constantly. Make sure you constantly reflect on how things are going. This maintains a culture of open dialogue and collective problem-solving.
A: Acknowledge the collective journey you have taken and the successes along the way as well as the end-point.

Finally if you want to keep your sense of identity and work to your strengths when working collaboratively, you need to ensure your voice is heard.

Collaboration involves contribution.

It is up to each individual to contribute to creating and maintaining the collective.

Questions to consider:
Where do you sit with this?
What are you giving?
Where are you holding-back? Why?
What systems and structures do you have in place that maintain the collective whilst honouring the individual ‘gold’?

Are you interested in finding-out more about how to create a high performing, collaborative team? Check out my workshops for individuals or teams in 2020.

Keep an eye out for next week’s post where I discuss Collaboration Overload.

Reference: January – February 2016 issue (pp.74–79) of Harvard Business Review.

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