Authentic Collaboration — Avoiding Collaboration Overload

 

collaboration_Jennifer-Leonard

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):

  • Ingrown
  • Indecision
  • Inaction
  • Inefficiency
  • Inequity
  • Inconsideration

Collaborative Overload

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.

Authentic Collaboration

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.

Meaningful Participation

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.

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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.

10 Life Lessons from Youth Sports (Part 2)

Play Ball!, by TMAB2003, Flickr

Play Ball!, by TMAB2003, Flickr

As with many families, our kids are regularly involved in youth sports. With so many demands for time in the life of a family, it is important that parents are intentional about where they invest their family time.

In light of this, as a family we took some time recently to ask a few questions about youth sports:

  • In what way are youth sports meaningful?
  • How do they contribute to the development of children and youth?
  • What life lessons may be learned from participation youth sports?

In response to these questions our landed on a list of “10 Life Lessons from Youth Sports” that fall into five main categories: Physical Lessons, Emotional Lessons, Relational Lessons, Mental Lessons, and Spiritual Lessons.

In my last post I shared lessons 1- 4 in the physical and emotional areas.

Physical Lessons

  • Lesson 1: Physical Health Is Important
  • Lesson 2: Athletes Are Born and Made

Emotional Lessons

  • Lesson 3: How to Lose, and Win, Well
  • Lesson 4: How to Press through Perceived Barriers

Now we turn to lessons 5 – 6 in the relational area.

Relational Lessons

Lesson 5: We’re in This Together

Along with the physical and emotional lessons, youth sports provide a significant opportunity to learn about the value and importance of working as a team. In the realm of most youth sports, the priority of teamwork is pronounced. Even in individual-oriented sports like wrestling, gymnastics, or tennis, individual effort is working toward team outcomes. In other arenas like basketball, soccer, or football, the priority of coordinated teamwork is expressed in an added level of team commitment.

Through such dynamics, kids learn that they are “in this together” with those around them. There are interdependencies that abound. As an athlete, they are motivated by the support and care of their family and friends. They are guided by the insights and direction of coaches and officials. They are strengthened by the encouragement and performance of fellow teammates.

This sense of interdependence was pronounced on the football field this past season. Quarterbacks and running backs could not move the ball without the protection of their offensive line. Linebackers could not do their job without defense ends and corner backs doing their essential work of containment. On the football field, you quickly learned both that others are depending on you to do your job, and that you in turn are depending on others to follow through with their jobs. Success comes when the coordinated efforts of the team moves toward a desired outcome.

Lesson 6: How to Respect, Engage, and Share in Authority

Along with learning the lesson of being in this together and being mutually dependent in a team, youth sports provide an important opportunity to learn how to respect, engage, and share in authority. First, youth athletes encounter authority in the form of coaches and officials.

Coaches and officials make many decisions throughout a game. Coaches decide how to run practices prior to games. Coaches decide which players to put in and what time to put them in the game or match. Coaches decide on key plays that will be made or strategies that will be utilized in light of the team’s performance on the court or field.  Similarly, officials of various types make judgements about athlete performance and adherence to the rules of the game or match.

Anyone that has played sports long enough realizes that good and bad calls are made both coaches and officials. In light of this, one of the key lessons is how to respond well to these calls. When a bad call is made, will athletes stay focused on the work that is before them, or will they become distracted and disrespectful to these authorities.

In addition to respecting authority, youth sports also provide significant opportunity for youth athletes to begin to exercise authority in appropriate ways. Coaches cannot personally enact the strategies and plays they call. Only the youth athletes can do this. And so they learn to take responsibility and authority on the field, court, mat, and beyond. And, they learn to share this authority with others, learning to take direction from fellow athletes when needed. Youth sports help young people to learn how to respect, engage, and share in authority.


I’ll pick up next time with Mental and Spiritual Lessons associated with youth sports.

What are your top lessons from youth sports? Please take a moment to share your thoughts below.

Valuing and Appreciating People (Leadership Practice 4)

Value, GotCredit, Flickr

Value, GotCredit, Flickr

I’m in a series highlighting 9 Effective Servant Leadership Practices. Servant leadership is not just a good idea. It works!

The 9 effective leadership practices highlighted in this series capture core leadership dimensions that are correlated with effectiveness in the team context around three broad areas: Beginning with Authentic Leaders, Understanding the Priority of People, and Helping Followers Navigate toward Effectiveness

Understanding the Priority of People

I’ve walked through the first grouping in previous posts. The second grouping of servant leadership practices presented in the model emphasizes the importance of Understanding the Priority of People. In this second cluster of servant leadership practices, leadership behaviors associated with effective teams include: (1) valuing and appreciating, (2) creating a place for individuality, and (3) understanding relational skills. This week we take on Leadership Practice 4— Valuing and Appreciating.

Practice 4: Valuing and Appreciating

Understanding the priority of people begins with a basic commitment to Valuing and Appreciating people. While this includes the communication of appreciation for follower contribution as a primary focus, it also emphasizes the value and trust of people at a more basic level.

Jim Laub notes the following about valuing people and organizational health:

Healthy organizations have a different view of people. People are to be valued and developed, not used.”

This gets at a core characteristic of servant leadership. As a leader, do you view the people primarily as resources to be used and deployed, or do you view people as intrinsically valuable?

The Innate Value of People

Laub continues:

“Leaders accept the fact that people have present value not just future potential. People seem to have an innate ability to know whether or not they are being valued…whether or not they are trusted. Effective leaders accept a person’s value up front. They give them the gift of trust without requiring that they earn it first. As leaders work with people in organizations they will serve them by displaying the qualities of Valuing People.”

Many leaders value their followers after the followers have demonstrated their value to the organization. Consistent with Laub’s comments, servant leaders take valuing people to another level. Servant leaders value people not only for what they contribute, but rather value them primary for who they are as people.

Valuing Leads to Appreciating

Several research participants highlight similar observations, noting the importance of trust in valuing and appreciating followers when they are “given responsibility and released to accomplish the task without second guesses,” and when “verbally appreciate[ing] them as people first, then for their contribution to the team.” Another participant noted that a follower feels valued and appreciated “when a leader authentically and legitimately applauds the performance of a follower and acknowledges their unique contributions with concrete examples.” Such expressions must be connected with reality, though, and in the words of this participant must be “genuine, deserved, and observable” if such expressions are to be effective.

How Do You View Your People?

So how are you doing on this front? Are you valuing people for who they are, or merely for what they contribute to the organization? Is this valuing of people translating into expressions of appreciation? Teams flourish as members are valued and appreciated in the journey toward effectiveness.

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Related Posts for the 9 Effective Leadership Practices:

Cluster One — Beginning with Authentic Leaders

Practice 1: Modeling what Matters

Practice 2: Engaging in Honest Self-Evaluation

Practice 3: Fostering Collaboration

Cluster Two — Understanding the Priority of People

Practice 4: Valuing and Appreciating

Practice 5: Creating a Place for Individuality

Practice 6: Understanding Relational Skills

Cluster Three — Helping Followers Navigate toward Effectiveness

Practice 7: Communicating with Clarity

Practice 8: Supporting and Resourcing

Practice 9: Providing Accountability

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Note: For those wanting to dig a bit deeper, please check out my article entitled “A Model for Effective Servant Leadership Practice.”