Collaboration is Key


by SimGHOSTS Board Member, Matthew Charnetski


Collaboration is Key

Lately I’ve been working through some rough waters at work.  Nothing truly remarkable, I suppose.  Nothing that overshadows some of the truly important things in life.  However, when you spend as much time at work as most of us do, discomfort in the workplace seems disproportionate to a lot of other things.

The bottom line?  It’s been stressful.  Something is in the water?  Maybe it’s the full moon?  One of my colleagues swears by some of the more far fetched (author opinion) blood moon theories…  I’m not sure what it is, but we’re working through it.

We have a somewhat complicated situation.  We have two campuses separated by a pretty good geographical spread.  We have pretty distinctly different logistical concerns and needs.  The campus cultures are very different.  The other campus is pretty well established and much of their staff has been there, and doing their work (and well) for quite a number of years.  Our campus is primarily new faculty and staff.  Our team structures and job duties often don’t match.  The list goes on.

When we operate on our own campuses, things run smoothly.  When we try and work together, things get trickier.  So, what’s the secret to collaboration?

We’re not perfect, but we’re working on it.  And I’ll take progress over perfection every day of the week.  Here’s what we’ve come up with:

1. You have a voice, use it.  It’s easy to get stuck in your own head.  To create meaning in gestures or careless phrases.  Speak up.  Don’t stew on it.  If you have a question, ask it.  If you have a concern, raise it.  If you don’t feel comfortable speaking up in a group or to the other person involved, figure out an official and appropriate path to have that conversation.

As part of this, though, we work really hard to create an environment with as little “shame and blame” as possible.  People need to be able to gently bring up what is on their mind without fear of inappropriate repercussion.  This, in itself, is probably an entire series of books.  Not a blog post…

2. You’re all on the same road.  Bumps, twists, turns. This goes with that psychologically safe environment.  We fail together, we succeed together.  And we are greater than the sum of our parts.  Let’s take risks together and work to make those things pay off.  Let’s revisit things occasionally as we get new eyes.  

3. Roles and Responsibilities.  A lack of clarity on this can be crushing.  And not just organizationally.  Everyone has a title.  Everyone “knows their role.”  Roles flex.  I don’t know many people that do not have “other duties as assigned” somewhere in their job description.  And, sometimes, job titles don’t adequately differentiate different roles.  Be explicit.  Spell out who is responsible for what.

In addition to that, further define that in any process you’re working through.  If there is a position that may be held by any number of people from different levels of your organization, name it and assign responsibilities.  Write it down.  Making those clear definitions will ease the strain of any process, change, and even the organization as a whole.

4. Shared Mental Model

“We’re all here for the same reason, [fill in the blank].”

Are we though?  What is the mission of your organization?  Your department?  Your team?  What role do each of you play in each of those things?  Having a sense of personal purpose and understanding the contribution of the work that you do will far outweigh any catchy phrase, vision, or mission statement.

If you know the why, you can figure out the how and take it from there.

I certainly don’t have the answers, but I’m looking.  And I’m absolutely open to anyone who has more to add…