Buzz Word: Collaboration

Publication 11, Issue 7

What does it really mean to your staff?

Okay – picture this…standing over a small fire on the first floor of a building, the Firefighter calls people to a stand-up meeting and says “In the spirit of collaboration, what should we do?”  HELLO, I don’t think so!  Of course, this is an extreme scenario, but I have to tell you – the word “collaboration” comes up a lot in my coaching work with my clients – and it conjures up different images in people’s minds.  While the word collaboration stresses out many of my clients, I like to “collaborate” which to me means, we’re going to include folks, make lists to get things done, have fun and be strategic – all in one!

I’m hard-pressed not to find the word “collaboration” in some form or fashion of my clients’ mission statement, values, work ethos, websites, etc.  But, is it just a “buzz word” or does the organization really value collaboration?

Not too long ago, one of my clients said to me, “Wow, KathyG this collaboration thing is really hard work!”  So I thought I’d check it out and what I found out is that it’s not the word “collaboration” per se that bugs people, it’s the way in which we use it – under stressful situations or when things didn’t work the way the organization wanted it to work, the first time around!

So despite what “collaboration” means to your organization, here’s the harsh reality of what it means to each of the Playground Personalities©, especially under stress:

  • Peacemaker – “Oh, now finally, someone is going to actually talk with me and include me in the discussions.”
  • Organizer – “Oh, that means I have to check-in with everybody before I can get all the things checked off my list!”
  • Revolutionary – “Oh, that means it’s going to take forever to get something done!”
  • Steamroller – “Oh, that means someone is going to ask me for my opinion or idea.”

And, organizations wonder why there’s so much grumbling about collaboration?  The bottom line is, organizations want to make sure that before one department impacts the work-life of another, that people have met to discuss and work through the issues before they become problems.  Collaboration also gives an organization an opportunity to see or hear about other things that they might not have thought of and if done correctly, “collaboration” usually minimizes surprises!

So, now that you can see where the disconnects come in – the next time your organization begins a collaborative process, make sure everyone knows the benefits of collaborating v. not collaborating and get people’s buy-in upfront.

Let’s be mindful when we ask our staff to embrace “collaboration!” Just like any word – we can’t overuse it – otherwise it will lose its meaning!

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