11.16.12 | Transblog
Teamwork. Collaboration. Cooperation. Cahoots. Call it what you will. It’s a difficult thing. It’s a delicate traversal of personalities, circumstances, power dynamics, energy, and context. What’s more, every situation proves itself unique and every day brings different challenges. Creating a once-size-fits-all toolkit is a hefty proposition; crafting a modus operandi that works for each individual takes time and practice.
We live in a world, however, where our infatuation with speed often predisposes us to wanting everything right now. This obsession of ours has had an impact on just about every aspect of our lives. We eat in our cars, sip lattes on public transit, and talk on the phone as we race from one destination to the next. We leave early in the mornings to avoid the rush, and rush home late at night in time to say good night to the ones we love. We make things quicker. And we don’t make ‘em like we used to. We don’t fix things that are broke —that would take too long; instead, we upgrade. We are disconnected.
In addition, there is a constant demand on us. A push and pull. To even consider slowing down seems unthinkable. Understandably, with age, we’ve all created a way of working, a style, that we know generates results. We’ve developed rules, set ourselves into routines, and constructed behaviors. We micromanage others when things aren’t done our way and insist upon our ideas. It’s no wonder we’ve been preconditioned with a my way or the highway mentality. This breeds an adversarial culture. Poisonous to teamwork. So, when we find ourselves working with others, who bring similar but conflicting styles, rules, and behaviors to the table, letting go of the reigns is so much easier said than done.
By rushing around, we often spend so much time looking for that quick solution, that we move right past what has been laid before us. Action, without reflection, actually produces the counterintuitive result of taking longer to come to a desired outcome. Out of individual reflection, patience, and practice will invariably come a new set of group rules, routines and behaviors which actually facilitates and fosters collaboration. Steven Johnson would call this process Emergence —a system we don’t actively design, but one for which we design in hopes of its eventual appearance. That said, if we don’t take the time to see it, we could miss it completely.
The process begins individually. Following an ancient Greek aphorism γνῶθι σεαυτόν, “Know Thyself”, each person should be aware of not just what they contribute in terms of strengths, but also, and most importantly, of what they do that hinders collaborative interactions. Only by being aware of these things, can we actively make changes. Thinking up a personal strategies to avoid doing those things; consciously checking-in with yourself to gauge whether you’re doing those things during collaboration; perhaps even having others point out when you do something counterproductive to collaboration. By bringing to the forefront barriers to collaboration, we can address, discuss, and solve these issues. In a recent talk with our studio, Larry Keeley would call this Tradecraft. I simply call it “stop talking about each other behind one another’s backs.”
Tradecraft includes acting professionally, and coming to collaboration open and ready to work. Of course, most of this is more often easily said than done. Part of being a successful collaborator and developing a set of skills to use in various circumstances, also requires listening to others and trying to understand their points of view. Take a leap of faith. Let go of those reigns. Allow others to take the lead. Empower them to succeed and offer support rather than criticism. Their success becomes your success–a team success. When all is said and done, before rushing off to the next big project, slow down. Take the time to step back and assess what you did that was particularly successful, and acknowledge the things that weren’t. Before you know it, you might find that a style of collaboration all your own has emerged.