We know that improved collaboration among people in an organization can increase innovation and productivity. But making that happen has proved challenging for most. But there is hope:
“Being receptive to the views of someone we disagree with is no easy task, but when we approach the situation with a desire to understand our differences, we get a better outcome.”* (p. 71)
A recent article* in Harvard Business Review discusses research done on best practices for collaboration and suggests these six training tools:
1. Teach People to Listen, Not Talk. We need to teach people to “listen to understand vs listen to respond.” The author suggests that “not listening” gets worse as people climb the hierarchy.
2. Train People to Practice Empathy. It’s like one of Steven Covey’s seven habits: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” The next time you are in a disagreement with someone, rather than thinking that they are uncaring or not very bright, try to figure out where they are coming from.
3. Make People More Comfortable with Feedback. Generally speaking we are bad at giving feedback and even worse at taking it. Check out this blog about the book: Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. The theme is that we can’t continue blaming those who are giving us feedback poorly – we just have to figure out how to “get it.”
4. Teach People How to Lead and Follow. Emphasis on the latter. While leaders need to improve their delegation skills which can better support “followership,” we need to spend more time showing people what a good follower looks like.
5. Speak with Clarity and Avoid Abstractions. Sometimes we are vague with our language, so we don’t offend or create disagreements. This does not help anyone. Practice straight talk and ask others for clarification if they are being unclear.
6. Train People to Have Win-Win Interactions. The value of “constructive conflict” where win-win solutions can be created is well documented in research, but is not practiced nearly enough. Many people start out thinking that their way is going to be best. However, if they use the prior five tools then they can start opening themselves to how much better a win-win is for everyone.
Overall, these techniques add up to a change in culture and mindset for an organization. As usual, it needs to start at the top with role modeling and reinforcement among positional leaders. By doing this, however, you can make collaborative teamwork the norm in your organization.
*Gino, F. “Cracking the Code of Sustained Collaboration,” Harvard Business Review, November – December 2019, pp. 71 – 81.