5 ingredients for effective collaboration

Collaboration can be very rewarding. It is often talked about but not easy to achieve, and it doesn’t always make the top of the priority list.

Although it’s not the solution to everything, effective collaboration can be a source of satisfaction and has the potential to make work, and life, more fun. Of course, collaboration does not mean that we have to agree on everything.

I’d like to share some thoughts on the ‘ingredients’ of successful collaboration:

#1: Letting go of control

No one is as smart as all of us, said Ken Blanchard. It’s ok to not have all the answers. In collaborative cultures outcomes are largely dependent on organic group processes. It is important to empower others and trust in the wisdom of the group and diversity of thought.

#2: Celebrating diversity

Interesting things happen when people bring different backgrounds, disciplines, skills and ideas to the table. We need to be open to a dialogue that celebrates differences. This is not always easy as our tendency is to engage with like-minded people.

Diversity improves decision-making as it stimulates critical evaluation and prevents groupthink. Diversity also means accepting that we can have differences of opinion.

#3: Aiming for mutual benefit

In collaborative cultures mutually beneficial solutions become more important than winning and personal gain. We need to attend to the needs of all parties and not just our own.

Consensus improves the quality of decision-making through genuinly addressing individual concerns. Asking questions and finding out what outcome the other party needs is key to finding common ground for agreement.

#4: Formulating shared values or goals

Often we want to jump to the ‘how’ without having explored the ‘why’. Universal values are motivating! They answer the why question and are the reason we get out of bed in the morning. Providing excellent care to our patients is an example of a universal value/goal most of us share.

#5: Building relationships

If we focus on outcomes without investing in relationships, there is a good chance that we will fail. Building trust and relationships are key components of effective collaboration. This is never a once-off tick-box exercise but should be an ongoing activity.

This post was originally published on BridgeBuilders.

Try win-win instead of hardball

Teamwork is essential in healthcare. Yet, too often, we act as individuals looking after our own interests. Solving problems together, even if the objectives seem opposed, is beneficial for all parties for many reasons.

Stephen Covey introduced the principle of win-win in his book the Seven habits of highly effective people. It’s still a great principle for conflict resolution, incl in teams, groups, organisations etc. Covey:

Win-win sees life as a cooperative arena, not a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-win means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying. We both get to eat the pie, and it tastes pretty darn good!

A win-loose outcome is bad for all parties. Even though the winner may feel triumphant, the loser may not want to deal with the winner ever again.

So what’s required for a win-win result? First of all it requires an open mind. Black & white or good & bad thinking is not helpful and often not realistic either. Secondly, understanding the other party is crucial:  Where do they stand? What is important for them? Where is the common ground?  And finally: flexibility, as there are always more solutions to a problem.

Win-win is not about being nice, as Covey said. It’s about being courageous and considerate at the same time.

The seven habits according to my son

At breakfast my six-year old son mentioned he knew ‘the seven habits’. I couldn’t believe my ears. Was he talking about the seven habits of highly effective people, by Steven R. Covey?

“What kind of habits have you learned?” I asked.

He put down his cup and said to my amazement and surprise: “Habit one: be proactive.” So this is what children learn in school these days!

Here are three of the seven habits of highly effective kids, according to my son:

Habit 1: Be proactive

“When I start cleaning up my room before mum asks me to. ”

Habit 3: First things first

“When I do my homework first, and then play a game on the iPad.”

Habit 4: Think win-win

“When Daniel and I don’t agree and we find something we both like.”

If only all adults would strive for mutually beneficial solutions, set their priorities based on importance instead of urgency, and take responsibility for their choices in life…