Sunday, May 29, 2016

When to Walk Away...

A recent experience with collaboration left me feeling frustrated, though, coordination, not true collaboration, gets closer to the interactions. The group adhered to Robert’s Rules, but we did not talk much outside of the meetings. There was little knowledge of each other, and we had no discussion of ground rules, priorities, or specific goals for the work we were doing. As the year evolved, we had less and less trust and no place for feedback. At one point when ideas were brought forth for discussion, instead, accusations vented momentary frustration and caused irreparable damage.

How to collaborate? My “to read” pile proffered help from Dan Sanker’s Collaborate! The Art of We.

Turns out, it’s a good idea to spend time getting to know each other, building trust and mutual understanding, writing down goals and measures for success, and establishing communication protocols. Ground rules for constructive feedback include focusing on ideas, not the person. It’s helpful to have leadership that has the ability to see the big picture and has the ability to tolerate intense exchanges of ideas and opinions without withdrawing or becoming defensive, thus avoiding the shouting match/accusation mess endured in the above experience.

What can group members do in these situations?

Executives are the ones to set up the ground rules, agenda, and goals. It falls to them to articulate this and leaves the non exec in the weak position of asking non-threatening questions or throwing out reminders of why we are gathered. Without trust, specific goals, or a place for feedback, the best tact is retreat. If the group dissolves, hopefully, a new, more collaboratively minded group will step in.

Individually, it helps to be self-reflective, work on our interpersonal skills, and contribute to the mindset of how we can work together which includes things like treating one another with respect, listening to one another, being honest, honoring commitments, and sharing the blame when things go wrong.

I stuck out the group and tried to focus on the reason I was there. In retrospect, I would advise myself differently. It takes a toll to be part of something unhealthy, and it tends to draw you down. If you’re involved in a collaboration or group work in which there is not a discussion of the group’s goals, a reminder of what’s been accomplished, what work needs to be done, lacks written communication, allows negative comments to block the flow of ideas, walk away.