This year, a team of us have been working on a Team Leader Training that has been enriched by working collaboratively with other departments in our organization. Each department is critical to accomplishing the mission. As we have entered into these collaborative, internal partnerships, I have been reflecting on a question:
How do we collaborate effectively with other departments? Are there any common practices around the world for breaking out of our individual silos and working better together?
I would like to start some dialogue on this topic, and I think many of you are finding ways to work more collaboratively in your part of the world. Also, I am convinced that what you are doing in this area of collaboration can help the rest of us. So leave your comments below.
I will begin by sharing a few thoughts of what I have learned so far that may spark your own ideas.
First, listen. I often go into a meeting too eager to share all I have to offer. Our department has great leadership development options to help people grow, help leaders be effective, and help teams be healthy. But our department does not exist for itself; we exist to help and support the other departments and the organizational mission. How can I serve if I don’t understand what my colleagues need? How will they share what they really need if I have not built relational trust? Understanding and trust grow when I genuinely listen. Listening requires me to be fully present and engaged with my ears, eyes and heart. I am asking more questions like, “What is working for you?” “Where are the bright spots?” “What are the challenges or barriers you are facing?” “How can I help you?”
A second way I have found to work better together is to understand the strategic plan, goals and priorities of the other departments in my organization. I think about it this way: The people I meet with have a full plate; they are busy, leading out in their plan; they may battle daily with crisis, complexity, perhaps weariness, betrayal, loneliness, family issues, personal growth challenges, etc. With all that baggage of leadership they potentially bring into the meeting, I don’t have to be too smart to realize that piling on one more of my priorities is not going to ease their burden. I don’t want to pile more rocks into their backpack; I want to help lighten their load. I want them to feel like I am getting under the rock with them to help them lift the big rocks they are dealing with. I can serve them better if I understand their strategic plan, goals and priorities.
Third, be genuinely interested in others. I can learn what is going on in their lives. Reading blogs and information about the current events, trainings, and trips, etc. helps me know what is currently happening in their department and what my colleagues might be thinking about. Following each other on social media is another way to stay current, especially if they do not live in the same city. When we do office together, I can take advantage of casual collisions to ask questions like, “How did your trip to ______ go?” “What was the best thing that happened?” Or, “How are you feeling about your upcoming trip? What are you hoping to accomplish?” “Can I pray for you?” “What have you been working on?” I can also schedule a lunch together to catch up.
So what do you think? How do you collaborate with other departments in your organization? What are some practices that have helped you break out of your individual or departmental silos and work better together?