Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How to Collaborate in the Workplace: One Conversation at a Time

Presenter: Andrea Mayfield

Leadership and how it guides organizational culture

Which behaviors encourage collaborative cultures?
How do leaders create an environment that ensures staff are engaged with the organization?

Rankism = organizations in which the hierarchy gets in the way

Many problems arise because of confusion about process. Often staff within an organization are working toward the same goal, but there has been no discussion of process. This can result in infighting between departments.

The importance of moving from the implicit to the explicit

The intent/impact gap. Leaders should try to narrow their own intent/impact gap. What is your intent? What is the impact of your actions? Our actions can be easily misinterpreted. We should strive to narrow the gap between intent and impact.

Don’t assume intent of others. Discuss things--particularly with difficult people. Ask direct questions. Is your intent to…? That is how you are coming across to other people. Make assumptions visible. Get it out on the table.

Un-discussables—-the elephants in the room--result in nasty surprises or missed opportunities. Discuss and understand.

Robust dialogue is a vital and healthy part of conversation. If you or your organization is uncomfortable with disagreement, frame the conversation and prepare for opposing viewpoints.

Dissent is not disloyalty. A good (productive) fight is healthy. Frame it up and depersonalize it.

I trust your passion about the collection and about our goals. I have concerns about whether you’ll meet deadlines. What can we work on or change?

As you prepare for a meeting, try to determine what your role is and why you were invited. Was it to drive the meeting? Discuss issues? Play Devil’s Advocate? Offer your experience and expertise? Each meeting is different and, to be most effective, you must determine and embrace your role.

With elements of organizational culture (example: assigned parking, close to the building for management), we must ask ourselves -- Does this help us or get in our way?

The say/do gap: What we say we believe versus what we actually do

Find examples of corporate cultures that you admire. Look at and learn from them.

System theory breaks staff into top, middle and bottom. Middles can be allied with upper management or front line staff. There are strengths and weaknesses to either alliance.

Arrogant/confident line – we walk it everyday.

A culture that promotes almost exclusively from within is not looking outward for new ideas. One administrator stated, Incest made us slow and dumb.

The quickest way for leaders to erode trust in their organization is by allowing incompetence and bad behavior.

Decision making – if it will be I want to hear from everyone, then I will make a decision in my office, then say that beforehand.

Understand that this is very different from We want consensus. Consensus means that everyone must eventually agree; that is an extremely long process.

Perhaps the decision must be made by the leader and then you seek consensus on how to roll out a new product, policy or service.

Sunk cost bias = We’ve already spent X dollars on this, let’s stay the (wrong) course

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