Friday, July 22, 2011

Collaboration Is...

...the process of two or more people working together on a shared goal.  Having had the opportunity to work on a few committees over the years, I have learned what it means to be a collaborator.  It's not always easy and some of us have better collaboration skills than others, but luckily they can be developed over time. In order for collaboration to be successful it is usually helpful to have a few guidelines for yourself.
  1. Listen.  Part of collaborating is letting everyone's voice be heard.  This can be difficult if we are emotional about a topic, but it is key.  It is important that everyone feel as if their voice matters.  An increase in participation is sure to occur if everyone listens.  It's also helpful to show you are listening with a nod of the head or "mm-hmm".  This validates the speaker telling him/her that they are being heard (not that you are in agreement).
  2. Disengage from side conversations.  Closely related to number one, but any of us can fall victim to the side conversation.  In order for all members to hear ideas, one person should speak at once.  Also, side conversations can lead participants to believe that gossip or trash talk is occurring, which can lead to an uncomfortable collaborative environment.
  3. Compromise.  Because collaboration means that you are working together on a shared goal, you have to be willing to meet people in the middle.   Compromise does not mean you falter in your core beliefs, but that you know what you are willing to revise in order to accomplish the shared goal
  4. Stay focused on the shared goal.  Derailing the purpose of the meeting only accomplishes derailing the meeting.  Sure there are many things that are important to us or may be relative, but if it's truly not related to the shared goal, it does not belong.
  5. Make sure everyone on the team, committee, or board is involved in the conversation.  This can be difficult because some of us are more vocal than others.  Or because some of us are more friendly with each other than others.  But it's important to give opportunities for all to participate, even if that means using prompting questions.
I know I can certainly fall victim to becoming over excited about something and engage in a side conversation.  But I try my best to recognize that and quickly disengage.   Compromise can also be tricky for me, because I am pretty firm in what I believe.  However, I strive to make sure I really hear what others have to say because their points may be valid and/or for the greater good.  And the greater good is why we came together to collaborate in the first place.