The Collaboration Communication Conflagration

Fire The Close Minded Leader

Collaboration is not possible without communication. Communication can be a tricky thing. Merely talking is not enough to accomplish communication. In order to communicate effectively you have to encode your message send it to the receiver, the receiver has to receive and decode the message and then acknowledge that they have received the message. It seems like a lot of overhead but it’s an important distinction.

We’ve all been to meetings and planning sessions where people talk at cross purposes and past each other: It ends up being a chain of reactions and misunderstandings leading to a suboptimal result.

As Shakespeare said it, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

But conversely, and I certainly hope you’ve experienced this in your life; one can attend a meeting or planning session where true communication and collaboration are taking place. Communication is the foundation upon which collaboration is built. Collaboration is an accelerator to innovative solutions relating to project delivery and execution.

Now for the boring part: we all know how to have better meetings but we typically don’t do it. So let’s first get the basics right.

  • Send out all the material related to the meeting prior to the meeting. Send out an agenda, with times allotted for individual topics.

  • Keep high-quality minutes of the meeting with action items.

  • Arrive for the meeting early, start on time, and end on time.

 Now for the not so boring part. What we all really want to know is how to get the true dynamic of communication and collaboration going on a regular basis within our teams.

In the Arbinger Institute book Leadership and Self-Deception, they discuss a multifaceted approach to developing highly effective and trusting teams. They have a phrase to describe two different mindsets.  One mindset is “inside the box”, it is not conducive to communication and collaboration.  The other mindset is “outside the box” it is conducive to communication and collaboration.

If you are inside the box you think of others as objects being used to accomplish your goals.  This mindset leads to a number of other unfortunate dynamics which transcend the scope of this post, but to learn more, I highly recommend you read the book.

If you are in an outside the box mindset you see other people as… wait for it… people.  Who have their own interests and needs and you work with them to achieve common understanding.

If you manage to reach this level of communication and collaboration everyone will be better off and your projects will progress as though they are sliding on Teflon. If you discover that those in leadership not only have a closed mindset but are unwilling to evolved, I think you are actually switching from a communication challenge to an HR challenge.