Collaboration is an Inside Job (Article #1)

Team collaboration success stories indicate that as far as collaboration goes – all is not well in the workplace. Have you ever found yourself wondering “How can I keep up with all of this?” You have 35 emails to reply to, 12 voice mails and three meetings scheduled for the day. Then a close colleague pops into your office and asks for your urgent help.

There is no denying our society is changing rapidly. One of the most obvious and life-impacting areas is our workplaces and work practices. A senior manager in the social services lamented to me recently the amount of email he had to deal with each day. I asked him what was the most stressful part, without hesitating he replied that he missed the ‘authentic connection’ with other people.

Team collaboration success stories show that workers feel severely stretched between the three channels, email, phone and face-to-face meetings. These three channels are presently in a three-way struggle for our attention. No matter which channel triumphs we are still frequently left feeling as if we are losing ‘authentic connection’.


Team collaboration success stories demonstrate that the quality and quantity of connection in the work place is shifting rapidly but not necessarily being turned into productivity. But is communication-technology and the associated changes in the workplace really enabling us to be more effective? This process could be referred to as ‘virtualization’. The virtualization of teams and groups is changing the way we achieve our team and individual objectives. It began when we developed language (or earlier), then the emergence of the Guttenberg press, followed by radio, telephone and most recently the internet and email technology.

My definition of ‘team virtualization’ is any process that is introduced or expands to replace more traditional ways of communicating with other people. For example when phone calls replaced some or all face to face conversations, or when teleconferences replaced some or all physical meetings.

Interestingly the challenge of how we connect to each other has inspired the creation of a foundation – the ‘Peer2Peer Foundation’. Created by Michel Bauwens, the P2P Foundation is a meeting place for people interested in exploring peer-to-peer communication alternatives. This foundation is small but growing fast as the challenge of virtualization continues to grow.

Two Kinds of Growth

In his book ‘Chaos Point: The World at the Crossroads’ Ervin Laszlo states that our species is changing in how it develops. He claims that we are moving from an era where the three “C’s” of conquest, colonization and consumption are giving way to connection, communication, and consciousness. Laszlo claims that these “C’s” constitute two kinds of growth and that we are presently transitioning between the two. Connection and communication are on the up swing, for sure.

The proliferation of cell phones and internet access is making sure of that. What is not so certain is the shift in consciousness that we also need to make. The question I hear so often in my consulting work is “How can we continue to embrace technological changes and maintain ‘authentic connection’ with both clients and colleagues?

Obviously there isn’t an easy answer to this. However, one of the most useful assumptions we can adopt is that building a highly collaborative work environment is everyone’s job. It’s first an ‘inside job’. But how do we do that? A list of some of my solutions to this tricky question can be found in an article at this Blog.

Below are ten ways to increase collaboration in the workplace:

1. Raise awareness of the importance of shared assumptions. Assumptions cause us to run on ‘autopilot’. Individuals are not the only ones who operate this way; teams do it too.

2. Check your own assumptions before and during the project planning phase. Your own assumptions will effect how you interact with others and deal with the inevitable challenges of working with other people.

3. Intention is the keynote. Just as a team’s attention is important – so is your own. Intentions have an eerie way of manifesting into reality.

4. Encourage team members to find out about each others’ roles. The more they know about each others’ perspectives, the more likely they will empathize with them when the going gets tough.

5. Establish a reward system for innovation and creativity. Ensure that rewards are equally available for ideas and innovations that don’t work as for those that do.

6. Plan to use all of the experience in the team. Think of the years of life experience represented in a room of 15 people with an average age of 35. It represents over 500 years of life experience.

7. Celebrate your successes along the way. Celebration acts to reinforce the progress being made. When it done at the team level it empathizes the importance of the team process in reaching desired objectives.

8. Invest resources in your own learning and when possible encourage others to do the same. Continuous improvement is only possible when individuals and the team as a whole are embracing continuous change with continuous learning..

9. Real change only comes when people change how they behave as well as think. This is just as true for the workplace. Never was it truer that we need to be the change we wish to see.

10. Model what you want to see more of. Providing our colleagues and clients real-life demonstrations of collaboration at work is the strongest incentive and inspiration you can provide to others.

There are things you can do to change the level of collaboration we experience within your team. Team collaboration success stories that there are no ‘silver bullets’ that will create over-night results. However by taking collaborative intelligence as a principle to live by you can change how your team operates. That’s why I say collaboration is (first) an inside job.


7 Easy Ways to Build Workplace Collaboration (Article #2)

Ever wondered what your workplace would be like if everyone collaborated more effectively? Stephen James Joyce, the best selling author of ‘Teaching an Anthill to Fetch’ and a recognized authority on collaboration, shares crucial insights on one of the most pressing questions in business to-day: How can we develop a greater sense of collaboration in the workplace? This free downloadable e-Book , ‘7 Easy Ways to Build Collaboration in the Workplace’ is packed with practical solutions to an important challenge every business team faces.

Collaborative intelligence (CQ) has become an important issue lately because of the need in business to respond more quickly to a rapidly changing environment. Technology rushes to the rescue. Will a piece of software enable collaborative leadership or enhance employee retention all on its own? Everyday we hear promises about what a piece of ‘collaborative software’ can do for our team. But have we heard this before? “A PC on every desk will lighten your work load”, “becoming networked will enable us to share the work more equally”. We all know that these promises haven’t always turned out the way we thought they would.

If you are working in a team that’s ‘just not working well’ you’ll know what I mean immediately. No matter how sophisticated a piece of software is – there will always be the human factor. At either end of the interaction, there is a person, each with their own likes and dislikes and personal quirks. Collaboration intelligence depends upon the right tools but also the right attitude.

In this free downloadable eBook you will learn how to:

  • Develop great collaborative leadership
  • Reduce the strain of working inside a team
  • Achieve more through people and less through politics
  • Solve problems with greater creativity /flexibility
  • Raise the level of employee retention and stabilize your team
  • Accomplish more with your team using less effort
  • Increase the leadership skills of the entire team

Collaborative leadership further enhances the sense of connection people have with their team. So developing collaborative intelligence (defined as the ability to harness the energy and intelligence of a group or team) should be the prime objective of any business or team wishing to ‘up their game’. Collaborative software is part of that strategy not the complete solution.

When you develop leadership skills through out the entire team more can be achieved with less effort. Employee retention is raised by higher levels of collaboration within an organization. Nothing succeeds like success. When collaboration and collaborative leadership is high, team members feel much less inclined to leave for another company. As a result employee retention is much higher. Your team has become a ‘team of choice’ and people want to join it.

Experience tells us that breakthrough performance is not just about the skills of individual team members. Special team efforts come from galvanizing each member around a clear and highly challenging objective. This kind of performance does not depend on a ‘secret ingredient’. In fact when a series of specific factors are put in place, collaborative leadership for example, it becomes inevitable.

The result of applying the tools found in this free downloadable eBook is higher collaborative intelligence and in the long run, greater employee retention and team stability. Of course there is the side benefit of a happier workplace.


Leadership and Followship: Two Sides of the Same Coin

A tidal wave of change is sweeping away a lot of old assumptions about business teams. The touch stone of the success of a business used to be the quality of its ‘command and control’ system. Orders issued from the top were fed down through progressively large ranks of staff until they reached the bottom of the pyramid.

Most of us are aware that the hierarchy that these businesses depend on is rapidly becoming an expensive luxury that neither pays its way nor provides much efficiency.

When it comes to leadership and team effectiveness, hierarchies are giving way to networks. As a result there has been a corresponding change to the way people can be managed. There is already a small mountain of literature on the topic – the long and short of the issue is that leadership and followship have become two sides of the same coin. Each member of the team needs to know when be able to follow and when to lead. Leadership in such teams passes through the group in the same way the ball passes through a highly effective NBA all-star team.

Team effectiveness relies on everyone on the team knowing what game they are playing. Everyone must be willing to accept the ball and pass it, just as enthusiastically. This type of behavior relies more on an attitude than a particular skill. However most of us were not brought up to think of leadership as something that everyone should be striving for.

‘Leaders are born not made’ types of thinking thankfully died away a long time ago. The notion that some people are better leaders and others make better followers is equally limiting. Geese take turns leading the flock in their ‘V’ formation, a good example of how leadership can be handed from one member to the other.

The guidance system for the group, rather than being a ‘strong visionary leader’ is the collective, focused intention on a specific outcome. Team effectiveness depends on members responding to the collective wisdom of the team and remaining ‘tuned-in’ to the groups shared objective.

This is one of the reasons a balance between leadership and followship is so important to the entire teams success. The result is high levels of collaborative intelligence (CQ). Collaborative intelligence (CQ) is defined here as the ability to harness the energy and intelligence of a group of individuals.

Here are a few things team leaders can do to raise the CQ of their team:

1. Actively explore the assumptions that your team has about leadership and followship (some team members may not even have heard of the term ‘followship’ before)
2. Make time for the team to examine it’s reason for existence – what it’s prime objective is – this is equivalent to drawing up a team charter
3. Discuss with your team members the concept of leadership flowing through the teams and what that might look like in your team
4. Decide on a few steps the team could take to share leadership more evenly
5. Encourage teams members to take greater responsibility for team performance

The changes cannot happen over night and represent a change in the culture of the team as well as the way it functions. As a result team effectiveness will be higher. The team will be much better equipped to meet the challenges of the rapidly changing business world we live in.

Collaborative Intelligence: Collaboration in Community Organizations (Article #3)

Have you ever been in a team that didn’t collaborate? I think everyone has. In a moment I’m going to tell you what to do when you find yourself pulling your hair out because of frustrations and lack of team collaboration. But right now I want to let you into a little known secret about great team work. Researchers in collaboration in community organizations have noticed an interesting paradox when it comes to building collaboration at team level.

The paradox appears in the expression that ‘there is no I in the word team’. What they discovered was teams are full of the letter ‘I’ – so to speak.

Sure when the chips are down maybe a team with low levels of cooperation can produce results – but at what cost? A sign that a team is drawing on its equity is that the individual members show signs of fatigue or stress. Unless team members have aligned themselves with the goals and values of their team there will be little long term success.

The ‘I’ in ‘team’ has needs –Maslow’s hierarchy of needs identified the different kinds that an individual has. Right at the top of the pyramid is the need for the individual to reach actualization. The paradox is that, although actualization is an inherently individual thing – one of the best ways to attain it, is through group or team based activities.

Fire-fighters and sportspeople (to name just two of many examples) recount feeling as if they were ‘complete’ and ‘at one with the universe’. They regularly report these feelings when involved in deeply collaborative situations such as saving lives during a fire or when making a play that involved extreme coordination between team players.

“Research findings have suggested that the level of individual actualization contributed not only to the success of the individual but also to the success of the organization” (North American Journal of Psychology 6/1/2006 Authors: Dorer, Hester L.; Mahoney, John M.

What are business and sports teams but just another kind of community anyway? When we see examples of deep collaboration at play in work situations we are really witness to collaboration in community organizations.

So if you are pulling your hair out because of lack of collaboration in your team – start by looking at it as a community of individuals that haven’t quite worked out what they can achieve within their team. Providing the team a strong example of discovering fulfillment through the team sends loud message to your colleagues.

Encouraging the team to discover their purpose can be amazingly effective. This can take the form of drawing up a team charter that states clearly some identifiable ‘higher calling’ the team serves. Finding ways to make that purpose meaningful is, of course, everyone’s job. The result can be a team that enables everyone to bring the best out themselves – for everyone’s benefit.