Collaboration Post 2 – 4 Tools To Create Constructive Collaboration by Matthew Hill

Most people, most of the time, are not in collaboration mode – they are pursuing a totally different agenda

Tool 1 Active Listening

Before you dismiss this with a, “ ‘been there, done that, know it all already!” (that would indicate that you are overdue for a listening refresher course), let us remind ourselves that most people, most of the time are not listening actively. They are more likely to be;

*Waiting their turn to give their version of what has just been said, and, if they are super competitive, to story top and WIN! This is not active listening.

Team

Selfless Working

*Asking WIIFM? “What’s in it for me?” This person mines your data looking to extract personal gain and advantage from your content. It is a search function akin to selective attention. Test this by throwing in some test words, “Sex, beer and Netflix” and watch thier reaction. When they twitch they will know you are on to them. This is not an empathic activity.

*I know best. The Listening Observer Critic sits high up, even whilst standing, and allows their privilege to leak out with advice, constructive (or undermining) criticism to let you know that they are just a little bit better than you. These people lack empathy and their contribution may leave a bitter residue.

And now the real thing – Active Listening

The missing elements include;

*First attempting a broad understanding of what is being said and then taking a further empathic step – to understand the speaker as the SPEAKER intends to be understood. This is the Platinum level of listening.

*Psychological proof. This stage is not attained by the listener repeating what they have heard. A smart phone can do that. They are tasked with processing the information from their own perspective, attempting empathy and seeing the matter from the speaker’s Point of View – POV and, then, expressing what they think they have heard. Here we may add, checking for clarity and the confirming the intention component as well. This will sound like, “So, IF I have understood you correctly, I heard XXX. Is that the message you wished me to receive?”

*Letting them finish. The talking stick remains with the speaker for as long as they wish so they finally can feel they have said their piece.

Shocked girl eavesdropping.

Listening?

Miracle

The first time you try these ideas out with a passionate person, the results may overwhelm both them and you. This may be the first occasion when they have actually felt listened too with respect, depth and acknowledgement.

Good luck

Tool 2. Point of View – POV

This is a POV and reconciliation exercise that can be practiced as a training exercise and then used in real conversations. The training version is simple. Split the group into 3s. The first person takes the role of Finance Director, the second, New Young Executive and the third, the Project Delivery Leader. The context is set – The 3 of you are discussing the progress of a critical 90-day work project for your Golden Goose customer. As it stands, you are not going to hit either the quality mark or the tight deadline. Q. What do you do? The suggestion that you are now going to form an opinion on is; PAID OVERTIME. Are you for it or against it in this instance?

+ The first task is for the 3 to get into character and give a one-line opinion, yes or no, with, maybe, one line of explanation.

The answers are normally the expected ones – The Finance Director says, “The new money is not in the budget – No,” Etc.

+ The second task is to work out a strategy for how to reconcile the 3 points of view to reach the required quality standard, and, put in enough work hours to finish the job and end before the deadline.

There normally follows some creative thinking, challenge to opposing positions and a reconciliation that ends come up with a strategy that is, 1) paid for, 2) creates more hours of labour to complete the project, and, 3) can be agreed upon by the 3 people in the discussion.

This exercises mirrors what is required of a Collaborative Working Group – the robust exchange of truths, creating options, reconciling differences and mobilising around a common outcome to stay focused on the task, and, not get distracted by difference.

Once the training version has been completed it is time to have a go in the BWW – The Big Wide World.

Tool 3. Letting Go of Defensiveness

If there were just one freeing exercise that was mandatory for all boards, groups and committees, this would be it. Humans are emotional, primal and full of fear. It is mostly misdirected fear around the participant’s core needs not being met that causes so much grief and delay.

Group Of Young Business People

Stop crossing your arms!

When a board member’s core needs are threatened, defensiveness can easily follow. The 3 needs are;

*Significance – Privilege, status, power, importance or position – When this is threatened or exposed, defensiveness will never be far behind.

*Competence – Another key component of a board member’s identity tool kit is their ability and skill level. When this is challenged, called into questioned or undermined in real time, defensive will surely follow.

*Likable – To generalise – We all have a deep deep desire to be admired, liked and approved of. It is a critical part of most of us and the one need that is examined the most – “Do they like me?” “Will they like me?” “Am I being likable now?” Etc.

How does defensiveness manifest? We can make progress when we spot the symptoms of defensiveness, spot them early and interrupt the negative behaviour that will inevitably follow.

Examples include; plunging into sulky silence, The “poor me” victim script, All or nothing, polarised thinking, wanting and needing to be right, spreading the blame or shame, experiencing a sudden drop in IQ, experiencing energy ripping through the body, doom mongering / catastrophizing, needing the last word, obsessive thinking, Needing to pour out information or saying, “I don’t really get defensive.”

Action – With self-awareness, each board / committee member can learn to notice their own pattern of moving into defensiveness. The next move it to interrupt that normal course of events, reset, and, move in a different direction.

If you start to witter when you feel attacked – Stop, centre yourself and remain silent. If you suffer a drop in IQ, stop and focus on an intelligence enhancing strategy such as collecting symptoms from the recent conversations and attempting to derive a root cause that can be dealt with. If you feel like pointing the finger, interrupt yourself and focus on environmental causes not ones originating for any individual in the room. And so on.

Tool 4 The Licenced Pessimist

If you are familiar with Edward De Bono’s Six Hat Thinking Model, you will know that the Black Hat is tasked with thinking of the biggest risks and the worst outcomes. This function is essential if a group is to combat GROUPTHINK. Groupthink happens when overly homogenous groups, often lead by a strong or charismatic leader, get behind an idea and really go for it. When it is a particularly extreme point of view, risk management goes out the window and, suddenly, something bizarre ends up being carried out by an enthusiastic lynch mob. Remember the HSBC credit officer who saw the 2007 subprime loan property disaster unfolding in the US and spoke up. He was fired by the group-thinking board and disaster followed shortly after.

Asking people to rotate and take a turn to act as the devil’s advocate is a great way to stress test all ideas, and challenge all assumptions before bad outcomes occur.

Hint – It is best to keep rotating this role through the group or an unconscious bias will grow and that single Black Hat will begin to be seen as not playing a useful role but OWNING their tasked negative perspective permanently.

Conclusion

We hope you have benefited from these 4 tools and ideas and will implement them with your committees, boards and teams.

Please like and share if you are going to take action or think others could benefit from this input. Thank you.

About the Author – Matthew Hill is a trainer, facilitator, coach and public speaker helping executives and leaders uncover their soft skill talents, develop their communication competences and, whilst reaching their own personal potential, help others to enjoy a better work life and great business outcomes. Contact him by telephone;  07540659995

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Collaboration Part 1 – What stands in the way? Matthew Hill

                                    Are we making assumptions and mistakes?

Our many many assumptions only delay the building of effective collaborative structures and getting to positive team collaboration.

The assumptions about collaboration, and, how we should all be able to instantly achieve this nirvana like state, give insights into the difficulties we face, and, they often betray our cultural origins too.

In this, the first of 3 short posts, we will explore the barriers to collaboration in order to confront them, raise self-awareness and, finally, be able to put together a blueprint for effective collaboration across place, time and difference.

Teamwork and cooperation concept

What stops us from working collaboratively?

                                                10 Assumptions and Mistakes

  1. Its all about the goal – Action based organisations or individuals are all about starting fast and ending with the achievement of a goal – growth, profit or the production of a new object etc. Whilst this approach has been enormously effective (with only 5% of the World’s population, the US accounts for 23% of the World’s economy), the magic that creates collaboration happened between the start and finishing lines. We can easily find ourselves looking in the wrong place and focusing on the wrong things.
  2. Nail down the strategy – We are taking a large step closer when we talk about strategy and the HOW? How will we get there? Here, however, the focus, all too often, again, misses out the human, the relational and the emotional. The assumptions made are like an engineer in a factory – building a sausage machine, fill it with sausage meat and casings, and turn it on. We look at process and give emphasis to the technical, whilst again, overlooking the human.
  3. Measurement improves business – You get more of what you measure? Why? Because that is where you put your energy and attention. It is easy to manage activity, and compare input with output – Notice we are back with the sausage machine analogy. This risks drifting into Stephen Covey territory where we are super-EFFICIENT without being that EFFECTIVE. There is a critical difference we must become aware of. You can be driving in a super-efficient way – in the WRONG direction!
  4. Man management will get us there – So we have reached point 4. Are we finally, going to to deal with the emotional human and how we can get them to collaborate? Not quite yet! Historically, humans have been treated as muscle machines; expendable commodities whose freewill must be minimised and whose bodies must be made fast, and, whose minds must be made compliant. Take a moment and consider how obedient are you expected to be in order to continue to receive your pay? It is a little scary. There is an unwritten subtext where you must sublimate much of yourself in order for your face and behaviour to fit in.

I remember my Welsh English teacher, Taff Davies, beginning the year with exactly this metaphor. “What is the key characteristic of an efficient machine?” He asked. Silent running was the answer, he wished to extract from the class.

  1. Privilege – Do you notice who gets promoted? Class based advantage helps promote pale males ahead of others. This happens because of the two confidences – Theirs and ours.

Their confidence is drummed in – Noblesse oblige, duty, leadership, expectation (BTW – This is not a walk in the park – There is a large promise that must be delivered upon by our silver spooned chewing heroes.)

Our confidence comes in the form of preferring to deal with a middle class white male when it comes to anything important. We are ALL compliant in this skewed system.

Society has programmed us to accept a specific and prescribed minority as the dominant leaders in our community. This is historical, political and economic. We have spent much less time, money and energy working to create the conditions necessary for wider, productive and sustainable collaboration.

  1. Me me me – Either from the elite in point 5. or coming from the wide lands around them, the personal agenda of the individual can so easily compete for attention and resources as to undermine the chances of everybody playing nicely, collaborating for something worth achieving, or, the key audience being served at all. Just look at the ego of that person in your own group. You know who I mean.Collaboration - letters written in beautiful boxes on white background
  2. Defensive feelings – It is too easy to get passed people as machines model only to take everything personally. This leads to drama and personal battles that have little or nothing to do with the mission, the team or the service that is to be delivered. – Defensiveness is at the heart of most escalations, team malfunctions and litigation. It is a primal human reaction and will not lead to 1000 create collaborative moments.
  3. The oppressed marginals are included – The opposite of 5., those stuck in the margins have learnt behaviours necessary for them to exist, persist and survive. Their voice is quiet and avoids critical challenge, licenced pessimism or contributing their own innovative ideas. No risk – no punishment. That is the motto of the un-empowered came up with to keep on living.
  4. I don’t do bias – The problem with us humans, is that we think we are objective, intelligent and sophisticated creatures – That we are above the fray. We subconsciously dismiss the views of outsiders, outliers and those not in our gang. And we only vote for our own and take comfort in the tranquil voice of the social leaders as with point 5. We all have plenty of unconscious bias that has been programmed in via parental chat, education, entertainment and, particularly, with every political speech we have heard.
  1. Pleasing people pleases people – We end in irony. Groups comply rather than offer rational challenge for a reason. It is because they wish to enjoy harmony and for each member to be liked.

The assumption is that nice people, doing nice things for the needy is the way to go. It is not.

People pleasers don’t please people. We get nowhere and the wheels eventually fall off the bus. Group thinkers take wild decisions, create unsustainable levels of risk and cannot self-correct.

When we replace groupthink with licenced criticism, we start to create the conditions for GOOD conflict, robust exchange and the possibility of progress. This is challenging in most subcultures, where confrontation is actively avoided (How many times do the Brits say, Sorry, Sorry, Sorry, Sorry every day?)

Being nice is not always a necessary condition for collaboration.

Conclusion – A raft of assumptions and mistakes stand in the way of forging effective teams, committees and communities that can act with purpose, from a strong based of shared values to achieve worthy and sustainable outcomes.

Next time we look at some exercises that can get us from the 10 assumptions and mistakes mentioned above and move towards behaviours supporting full-on collaborative teams working in a robust, courageous and effective way to fulfil their mandate.

About the author – Matthew Hill is a facilitator, presentation coach and leadership trainer, working with commercial and voluntary organisations to help them operate as robust executive teams, fulfilling individual promise and delivering overall results that are extraordinary.

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*** SIETAR Congress in Malaga *** – Matthew Hill and Susanna Schuler will be running a workshop on the second day of the 1st SIETAR Spain Congress in Malaga. Saturday, 29th September 2018. After lunch. Do join us if you can…

Matthew Hill – 07540 65 9995