Collaboration? Bah, humbug!

Let’s follow-up with a new topic.
Our Follow-up is on this:

Leading is an energy-creating “verb x30” which Alaka‘i Managers commit to:
How are you leading today?

New Topic: When do you decide, and when do you collaborate?

I am continually amazed at the number of people within workplaces who do not want to collaborate. Collaboration is supposed to be a good thing, right?

Not necessarily.

People want to be asked their opinion about most everything, so they feel they’ve had a say, and have given their input: To not ask them what they think first, can be like a kiss of death, fatal to any great idea you come up with. But when it comes time to sort through all their input and create something, they’ll roll their eyes or otherwise shrug off the opportunity, and say something like, “I wish my boss would just make a decision and be done with it.”

Is that what happens with the team you lead? Do they want collaboration, or quick decisions?
Are your antennae up for the signs? (For that eye rolling doesn’t happen in front of you.)

The ugly duckling by Pasma on Flickr

Figuring out why your team is down on collaboration could be the best way you work on your fresh start in 2010 (assuming you want a fresh start, and are ready to capitalize on January’s mood magic.)

I am within this effort myself right now, trying to better understand the current moods of a team I lead. I sat down yesterday afternoon with a steno pad in front of me, pen in hand, and used the two lined columns for these brainstorming headings:

  • On the left: When do they want to collaborate?
  • On the right: When do they prefer I make a decision for them?

What quickly became clear to me, is that the answers I scribbled in each column had very little to do with me: It was all about my team and the different kinds of work they are ready for, or are excited about, and where in the work process they prefer to take action —or ditch action, praying I delegate it to someone else, or otherwise expedite it myself.

As a leader, you have to make some decisions about what will work for you in the coming year or not. Is your team in the same state of readiness you are?

We usually want to get as much collaboration as we can, because it delivers so much: Problem-solving, creativity, open-mindedness, questing, curiosity, tenacity, and much more which taken altogether, become the ingredients of a healthier work ethic —and a better functioning team. However getting there can take some focused, diligent managerial work… This one is a good example of that 30-70 leading/managing guideline we talked about before:

  • Say you spend 30 minutes filling in 2 similar columns on your own steno pad:
  • Chances are you’ll need at least another 70 minutes to come up with your plan on how to boost your teams collaborative spirit, and make less decisions for them.

Then you’ll need to get it done.

Don’t shy from being decisive, and making the decisions expected of a good leader – shoot to decide and direct 30% of the time.
However don’t rob your team of the growth they can achieve making more decisions on their own – get them to make 70% of the decisions to be made.


  1. says

    Great point!

    We are dealing with something similar to this with a team I am leading at the moment. Not everyone is sold on the direction we are leaning toward, so I am giving them the opportunity to sound off later this week. Every idea is on the table, and they are free to state their opinions honestly and openly. Knowing this group, there will be plenty of good discussion. However, I have made it clear that I have the final say.

    • Rosa Say says

      Good for you Kerry; that “sound off” remains so important. Meetings like the one you have planned can be a buzzing hive of collaborative synergies, OR they can be a battlefield rife with land mines, and neither possibility can be ignored. Leading the discussion takes skill, and so the point I wanted to stress within this post, was that we have to know our team well enough to be able to read the signals they give us as our practice gets more perfect. When you say, “Knowing this group, there will be plenty of good discussion” I cheer for you, and the relationship history that implies you have invested in them.

      There’s a fine line we must be aware of, with assuring a team we’ll own responsibility for “the final say” too: They cannot have that feeling of “why do we bother, when he’ll/ she’ll still do this his/ her way?” A mentor of mine used to call it “definitive decision-making with ‘me too’ wiggle room.” Co-authorship will usually trump the best buy-in possible with a singular decision.

      Let us know how it goes! Love to learn more from you.