The Four Disciplines of Collaboration

When I sat down one day to think about the virtues most important to me as a business person, especially the one virtue, which has brought me significant success, collaboration all the sudden emerged on the top of my list. So, just what is collaboration?

Collaboration is the respectful exchange of thoughts and ideas in a group setting, which can lead to innovative, and strategic objectives.

One reality is for certain; without collaboration, you will not be able to build a solid and cohesive team. The reason is that people love to give their input, it is in our nature to have and give an opinion. People like to be heard, and affirmed for their input. Therefore, teams should implement a process of collaboration in their work culture in order to improve team synergy and creativity.

Allow me an example. I started a business with a good friend of mine. Since its inception, we have been amazed how well we work together. Collaboration has been one of our cornerstone values, where I want to hear what others have to say, in exchange, I also desire for others to listen to what I have to say. When the right collaborative synergy is present in your work culture, you will see creativity and innovation surface to the top.

I have discovered four valuable principles on how a team can cultivate a collaborative culture within their business model:


1. Mutual respect is required from team members

Respect is one of those values we impart as a gift to others. Respect builds trust, and trust is the glue for relational and creative activity. Oftentimes, and it is most common, the CEO is feared by team members. Our fears are usually based on traditional models of management, rather than adopting an open system, where people can be free to say things regardless of their position or seniority. So the key for any leader is mustering up the courage to hear things even when they don’t sound pretty or in line with a previous decision made by the CEO.

Respect for your colleagues provides the incentive and impetus required for transparent dialogue. Transparency, respect and trust are all related in some way, and the results of applying this three chord strand will stagger the outcomes of your decision-making process.


2. Improve your listening skills

Listening is like a fine turning the radio dial in your car so you can receive the proper wave length in order to listen with clarity. Have you ever been in your car where you reach a radio station you really want to hear, but for some reason you are out of range, and all your hear is static voices. Perhaps you are in between reception towers or in some obscure place. Sooner or later you reach that point where the reception improves and now you are able to hear with clarity, right? We have all been there.

The key in any group setting or meeting is to remove the static, get in range of the speaker, so you can hear and feel what is being said. Perhaps you have other things on your mind, this is actually static, which keeps you from being focused on what is being said at the moment. So get in range, listen carefully, and stay focused on what is being said and how they are saying it.


3. Patience allows time for great ideas to surface

You would be surprised at the creativity of your team members when collaboration is valued as the centerpiece of a discussion. The sweet spot of collaboration is when synergy is strongly present among your team members.

It is when you hear something being said, then you filter it through your own experience and purpose for the organization. Sometimes what is being said can trigger a memory, a thought or an idea. This is the magic of collaboration – I call it the “Triggering Effect”. One person says something, which tiggers something in you, and stimulates others to join in and add their own wisdom. All the sudden, you have a lively discussion.

Collaboration is the spark of innovation. When there is a good flow of communication, and everyone is offering their nuggets of wisdom, you would be surprised of the outcome. Allow others to have input, and together you will see results you have never seen before.


4. The discipline of contemplation

This is probably the most difficult thing to do in a collaborative meeting. It actually happens after a collaborative session with your team members, where you are left alone to make the final decision from all the wisdom put forth.

Oftentimes, we want to implement things right away, and sometimes this is useful and warranted. However, the art of stepping away from a good meeting to think about all the collaborative input is to meditate and think through everything that was said, then allow some time for what was said to soak in, so you can return the following week with a better clarity. Sometimes when you get an idea it is best to sit down, and give it some thought.

Contemplation, the last discipline of collaboration, is key to consume and consider your team’s input. At times you have to step away to absorb all the valuable insights from your team. The best remedy is give yourself a week until the next meeting with your team members to return and say, “These are my final thoughts on what we discussed last week, any final thoughts on your behalf?”

I hope this helps you as much as it has helped my business partner and I, to think and talk through our ideas before implementing a sound strategy. The end goal is to have your thoughts and ideas generate organizational synergy, innovation, strategy, and impact.

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