Thursday, June 02, 2011

Key Collaborative Behavours

Reflecting on a number of meetings I've been involved in the last few months, I'm realizing that three key behaviors are required for effective collaboration (and just plain old good teamwork):

Limit your airtime.
There are many people who always monopolize the time available in meetings and consume the vast majority of airtime with their (on the positive side) ideas, enthusiasm and excitement, their (on the negative side) assertiveness, aggressiveness, and sometimes ego. If you want to be collaborative, and contribute to a collaborative environment, give others the time and opportunity to contribute to the conversation.

Invite contributions.
More than just allowing time/opportunity to contributions, an invitation is a very powerful device for encouraging participation. Questions like "What do you think?" "How do you feel about... ?" "What would you do about...?" when asked genuinely/sincerely, will draw out perspectives worth considering, even from the most reluctant of participants.

Chose the right time and tone for critique/criticism.
One of the easiest ways for smart people to demonstrate they are smart is to look for, find and point out faults in logic, ideas or plans.  At the wrong time, criticism, in particular if it's harsh, can completely stifle creativity/innovation, in particular in the early stages of idea generation and exploration. As I'm sure most of you have seen, withering criticism can also create a climate that discourages more introverted people from sharing their thinking. So, defer critique and criticism to later in the thinking process, once the ideas are generated and will articulated. Then, when it is time to analyze and think critically, do so in a positive tone and "on the same team" as others, exploring the thinking objectively for gaps within the context of the conversation.

"Check-in" for common understanding.
We all view what happens around us differently, thanks to our DNA and our experiences that create the mental models and filters we use every day. Just because something is written, illustrated, or presented on a PowerPoint slide, don't assume that everyone shares the same understanding. Do your self a favor - test for common understanding about key ideas and concepts before everyone walks out of the room. Ask people questions like "What does that mean for you?" "Explain in your own words.. " "How does this apply in  your context.. ?" "If you had to explain this to someone else, how would you.. ?"  If you are doing the presenting, use illustrative examples to ensure everyone is "on the same page."  Simply asking people "Do you understand?" is not really a good test for common understanding.

Limiting. Inviting. Timing. Checking-in.

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