Photo Credit: collaboration, by Jennifer Leonard, Flickr
I’m a fan of teamwork. Team leadership was an area of focus for me in my Ph.D. dissertation research entitled Servant Leadership and Team Effectiveness. See some of my positive affirmations of teams in the following posts:
While teams have many benefits, there are challenges associated with teams as well. See a previous post in which I highlight and discuss the following 6 Challenges of Teams (subtitle…Removing the “I’s” from Your Team):
In a recent HBR article, Cross, Rebele, and Grant take up another important challenge in an article entitled “Collaborative Overload: Too Much Teamwork Exhausts Employees and Saps Productivity.”
In their article they provide several important cautions surrounding team member exhaustion, and in so doing remind us to not overload on a good thing. The core of the identified problem in the article is expressed in the following manner:
“Although the benefits of collaboration are well documented, the costs often go unrecognized. When demands for collaboration run too high or aren’t spread evenly through the organization, workflow bottlenecks and employee burnout result.”
Cross, Rebele, and Grant go on to recommend solutions to this problem that are focused on better managing collaboration through efficient organizational and team practices. This is good advice.
As I engaged their work, I also began to think of another solution that I’ll label “Authentic Collaboration.”
From my experience with teams, groups, and committees, the problem is not too much collaboration, but rather too much of the wrong type of collaboration. Let me explain.
When participants in a collaborative process are playing a role on the team, group, or committee that is authentic and meaningful, this type of collaboration tends to be energizing. When participation is inauthentic and merely procedural, this type of collaboration tends to be energy draining and feel like wasted time.
Often from positive motivations, leaders and administrators tend to draw people into a collaborative experience because these leaders and administrators need a representative from diverse divisions or interests in their organizations.
When this practice is about wanting to authentically hear voices from these unique perspectives, this can lead to meaningful and authentic collaboration. However, when this practice is simply about wanting to placate an organizational perspective or voice, and the voice at the table is not authentically desired by leadership, this can lead to unproductive and inauthentic collaboration.
Again, I would argue collaboration is not the problem, but rather the wrong type of collaboration. When people are invited to the table of collaboration, the invitation needs to be authentic. Help people to be good stewards of their time by facilitating meaningful participation for all involved on the team, group, or committee.
What has been your experience with collaboration? What problems and challenges have you faced? How have you engaged these problems and found meaningful solutions? Take a moment to share your experience below.