Culture & Competency

On Acting Collaboratively

I have been reminded over the past couple of months about the behaviors or acts of collaboration – what does it look like when someone acts collaboratively? Let’s take the word ACTS and make it mean something:

Acknowledge Intended Action. So much of our collaborative activity happens without being able to see the other person or what they are doing when they work. We sometimes see the outputs of their work through a document, a status update, or a presentation, but getting earlier access to the thinking and work process while in-progress is very useful. Knowing what people are intending to do gives us great clarity into the status of our collaborative work, helps with mitigating potential red flags over joint progress, and gives us an opportunity to contribute further as the opportunity arises. For example, I have been collaborating with another Michael over a possible educational initiative and knowing where he is at and what his timeframes look like are extremely helpful as input to my business planning. Tip: if you are not getting the appropriate level of insight into what’s happening, ask for it.

Confirm Timeframes and Changing Conditions. Stuff happens that upsets even the best laid plans, but it is the quick and regular sharing of those happenings that allows a group of collaborators to flex together. When completing an activity takes longer than expected for one member of the group, his or her sharing of that allows the other collaborators to adjust their expectations and work schedules. Sometimes work is very tightly-linked, and changes in one person’s scheduling will have major impacts on others. Keep a short account with each other to ensure you can keep working effectively under changing conditions. Tip: if you have particular constraints under which you are working, be clear with your collaborators about those so they know that delays in their work flow are going to impact the entire collaboration.

Throw Yourself Out There. While we are often quick to put boundaries on what we think we can achieve, there is tremendous value in being able to see a way through the roadblocks, interruptions, conflicts, and uncertainty. Throw yourself out there by describing how to make something happen – even if you can’t see every step along the journey. Paint the end goal, share it with your collaborators, and see how everyone can pull together to make it work. Even if your description isn’t met in all its fulness, the mere fact that you have described a way to get there can get the creative processes flowing in other people, and constraints that they thought were in place can be circumvented. For example, I have been working with a conference organizer for an upcoming speech, and I sent off a draft abstract. She replied with a much better construction of the idea, helping me to frame in my head what will work best for the intended audience. Tip: do your research, listen deeply, cast the vision, and argue persuasively.

Say Thank You. It is really important to express gratitude for the work of others within your group or team. They are investing of themselves to help you all achieve a better outcome than what you could achieve alone. Acknowledge it. If someone has gone above and beyond the call of duty, acknowledge it with more than just words. Tip: you get more of what you call attention to.

What does acting collaboratively mean to you?

Categories: Culture & Competency

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