What I’m Learning about Collaboration

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?

14485059353_8d009d4eb3_zI 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?

Photo credit

About Steve Morgan

I work in Global Leadership Development with Cru with my wife, Terry. We have been married 34 years and have 4 grown children. I have a Masters in Global Leadership together through Azusa Pacific University. I generally write about 5 “L’s: Living Well, Loving Deeply, Learning Continuously, Leading Courageously and Leaving a Legacy. I occasionally write about Laughing Loudly. Subscribe on the right side to receive an email whenever there is a new post. I invite you to leave your comments so we can dialogue on the various topics and learn from each other. If you are new to the site, you might start with looking at some of the top posts or doing a search on the right side bar for one of the 5 “L’s” that interest you. Or you can view the blog archives for topics. Photo Credit: sarahjoellephotography.com
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12 Responses to What I’m Learning about Collaboration

  1. daylerogers says:

    I love your examples–especially beginning with listening. It’s becoming a lost art, an under-appreciated tool that pushes me to think first of the other person before wanting to dump my ideas out. It shows a selflessness that really is biblically based. Thanks for this, Steverino. We really do collaborate more than we realize–I just need to be more intentional.

    • Steve Morgan says:

      Thanks Dayle for reading. Yes, we do need to be more intentional about collaborating. I think we all want to do that, but we just get busy in our own worlds. Someone has to take that first step. I like what you said about listening also. Have you wondered about how we “listen” in social media contexts?

      • daylerogers says:

        Don’t know that we do. Don’t think that’s the purpose in the big picture of social media. It gives everyone a platform to say something without being responsible to really listen to what others have to say back. Don’t have to deal. Kind of interesting, when you think about it. I get virtual collaboration. But at some point people need to listen to one another Great thought, my friend.

      • Steve Morgan says:

        I agree that we probably don’t “listen” well in social media platforms. Do we accept that because that is they way things are or because that is the way they ought to be? Do you think people might have the same need to be heard in a social media context as they do in person? I am wondering how we can do that…

      • daylerogers says:

        I think people want to be heard, known. That gives value and dignity to who we are and what we do. Social media doesn’t quite do that. You’ve brought up a great question, though. And thanks for the link. I’ll be sure to read it. You rock, Steverino!

      • Steve Morgan says:

        Thanks for adding to the conversation. You have got my interest on this topic and I wonder what is out there on the topic of listening in social media.

  2. Jim Rumelhart says:

    Steve, these are all excellent points. I feel we all are in many ways working in isolation on our own projects and can feel like no one else cares. But when someone takes a moment to connect, it can be the encouragement we need to continue on. God uses people to communicate His love to others. So it is important to that we slow down and put our Jesus glasses on to see what God wants us to do at that point in time.

    • Steve Morgan says:

      Hey Jim. Thanks for stopping by. I loved your perspective on the encouragement side of collaboration. I had not thought about that. We get so busy and wonder if anyone else sees or cares about what we are working on. When someone takes a moment to connect, it feels validating. That is motivating to consider as we take initiative to collaborate with others around us. Those Jesus glasses help us see the needs of others around us and encourage them. We all go through hard stuff, and who knows, the initiative that you or I take today may really make a difference to encourage someone to keep moving forward. Thanks for adding to the conversation. Hope you are doing well.

  3. I like to ask: “How can I help you?” And then, as you suggest, I listen to the answer and determine whether or not I can help.

    I also like asking: “What question are hoping to find an answer to?” Listening to the answer allows me to determine the best ways I can offer assistance.

    People are much more willing to collaborate if they can find an answer to a question or solve a problem.

    • Steve Morgan says:

      Thanks Anne Marie for stopping by and taking time to comment. The questions you ask can be powerful ways to connect with others. And we don’t collaborate just for collaboration sake-if there is a common question or problem to solve, everyone is more willing. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  4. Pingback: Service is Defined by the One Being Served | Leader Impact

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