How to Overcome the Frustrations of Collaboration

It seems faster to make decisions on your own, especially when others don’t think like you.

It’s simpler to give direction and expect obedience, than to endure the messy work of collaboration. The truth is, the fastest way to get simple work done is clear direction and obedient compliance. But…

You’re on your own when people feel excluded and disrespected.


4 dangers of mindless compliance:

  1. Distrust. If you enjoy explaining every step forward, expect mindless compliance.
  2. Distance and isolation. If you enjoy feeling alone, make decisions in isolation.
  3. Sabotage. If you enjoy interruption and disruption, exclude people.
  4. Lethargy. If you enjoy half-hearted efforts from your team, hoard information. Keep them in the dark.

Engagement and collaboration:

Engagement is a choice. You can’t coerce it. Collaboration requires feeling respected and safe. You can’t demand it.

Rise above reluctant conformity and half-hearted compliance by including others early and often.

12 ways to create collaborative interactions:

  1. Keep teams small. Anyone who consistent leaves the meeting without something to do shouldn’t be in the meeting.
  2. Maintain personal openness. Avoid defensiveness.
  3. Explain who will make the ultimate decision.
  4. Don’t ask, “What should we do?”
  5. Don’t ask, “What do you think?”
  6. Define success. “This is what success looks like for this project. What, if anything, am I missing?”
  7. Explore options. “What options come to mind when you think of successfully completing this project?” (When someone evaluates an option, thank them and explain, we’ll evaluate options later.)
  8. Evaluate pros and cons. Don’t ask people if they agree. “What are the pros and cons of option A?” Expect everyone to see both sides of an option.
  9. “What challenges might we encounter if we choose option A?”
  10. “What advantages do you see to choosing option B?”
  11. Maintain gratefulness and respect.
  12. Include others early and often, even if they disagree, they will pull with you.

How might leaders create collaborative interactions?

Added resource: Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams, HBR