Collaboration: Key to Dynamic & Fluid Teams

Inclusion and Collaboration Breeds Better Business

We could all use a little more championing, advocacy and awareness for others. And at this point, if you haven’t heard about safety (Psychological Safety) and EQ (Emotional Intelligence) you’ve probably been away for some time on an island with no internet.

EQ, short for Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence, is the fuel that generates an acute awareness of others and also having an awareness of, control of, and the ability to share your emotions. It’s also the fuel that enables you to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically and enhances others around you to “reveal” themselves and their ideas. And if you get the others in the room to share, you can get the rest of the lot to jump in and contribute to build-on optimal solutions.  It’s like having a cave full of gold in arm’s reach that you didn’t know existed but was always there. Once you figure this out, you’ll be an “everybody advocate” for life. A Harvard MBA in hand alone, won’t do all of that ;).

I’m not talking about enabling others to rely on you to help them reveal themselves, but it may feel like that at times. Sometimes it’s just a small push. Consider it, doing the right thing for the betterment of the team and organization. (OK all you Gordon Gekko’s in the room can just stop and get off the bus right here!).

Are You Even Aware?

You may not even know you have a people advocacy deficit in your team or organization. Maybe you’re already operating at a decent level and think you’re running just fine without all of this fluffy, hoity-toity, woo woo mumbo-jumbo. And maybe you’re still able to get from point A to point B and get your stuff done and reach your quarterly goals. But also a car with bald tires running on leaded gas like they had in the 70’s can do that too – emitting black soot toxins into the air with the balding tires about to bust open. Sure, you’ll get there but not always in the most optimal way and you’re leaving behind a path of damage without even knowing it.

What is Your Team and Organization’s Culture?

But there is hope and you can be the change you want to see in your world (to almost quote Gandhi).

In general, there is an underwhelming amount of EQ muscle memory that is yet to be fully realized in the business world. Let’s say you’re running a meeting and have some problems to solve that determines the next three months of work. You put it to the team to figure it out. In typical tribe behaviour, those whom you’d expect to speak first, typically do. Their opening comments may start with louder-than-necessary vocal variety, with hands and arms flailing in unison to unwavering and generally likable charismatic facial expressions. But they have emphasized their points, speculated thoughts, cited industry trends, backed by some Harvard Business Review data and other key points. And there’s nothing wrong with this – if it’s just a warm up act to more ideas from others to open up and share. However, this warm-up act  becomes the main event in most cases and all the other acts never get off the bench.

…opening comments may start with louder-than-necessary vocal variety, with hands and arms flailing in unison to unwavering and generally likable charismatic facial expressions…

The first to talk in a meeting
(it’s cool if everyone else chimes in)

And who is this person that I’ve implied is obnoxious and selfish? In some cases it’s someone who wants to break the silence. It may likely be someone who has unofficially and unknowingly fallen into a norm as “the first to talk”. And the bad behaviours continue from there. And the objective and ideas (and maybe innovative ideas) stay floating in the heads of those who do not or can not speak, for various reasons.

…Meanwhile, back to the meeting…

You ask if anybody else has any adds or ideas. Crickets chirp, so you put it to vote and everyone “agrees” to move forward with the “flailing” idea that the team spends the next ~2000+ hours of work on. At this point a few things could have been done:

  1. You table the decision to a later time (end of day or next day), encouraging others to send you back ideas or confirmations of the directions.
  2. You table the decision and make a point to meet separately with all who didn’t speak up to see what their thoughts are.
  3. You do a blind vote (email, text, Slack) asking what is a reasonable amount of time for all to process and consider the direction. You follow up telling the team the decision date and set up time to do vote.

They all sound more cumbersome than necessary but what is the cost of 2000+ hours of work to your business?

This is hard stuff to get business to move forward and not all of the above suggestions are possible, given short time frames and may sound ridiculous. But if you had the safety and EQ culture to begin with, most of this goes away.

For those who didn’t speak-up or refrained from communicating in other ways, you may think that it’s their problem but ultimately it will become yours and everybody’s problem too.

We Are All Surrounded by Greatness

Many times it is the initial thought that is shared by the Introvert that starts an all-inclusive collaborative discussion by all that ultimately yields a better idea than the initially proposed one. Statistically, this is a fact and science has proven this. See Margaret Heffernan’s TED Talk on Super Chickens.

So how can you enable an optimal team? Build your social capital and if people aren’t able to bring up conflicting, controversial or challenging thoughts and ideas, you’re doing it wrong. All of this takes time to build – like all good things in life, such as Bourbon! Here are some tips to be a better people advocate:

  • Vulnerability Share : Be vulnerable and share one thing with an introvert on your team that reveals an alternative side of yourself to start the ball rolling. This will inevitably open up the doors of communication.
  • Invest Your Time : Connect one-on-one with everyone on your team – especially the introverts. The payoff compounds almost instantly.  You don’t have to be best friends with everybody but understanding them builds an unmatched team dynamic.
  • Build Trust : In advance of an announcement email you’re going to send or a meeting or even an idea that you have, share with them privately about what you’re going to cover and ask if they have any thoughts. They’ll appreciate the time to process and maybe even provide some insight that you could prompt in a meeting.
  • Make space : Yes, this is Psychological Safety. Advocate meeting routines that everyone gets a chance to share and/or contribute. Prompt questions to incite others to speak – “Hey Karin, I noticed you might have some thoughts on this – what do you think?…”
  • Engagement Preference(s)? : Ask if they have a preference. Maybe they want to be quiet in a meeting and prefer to share thoughts and ideas afterwards? Encourage them to convey this to others and also advocate this on their behalf.

You Already Know What To Do

Of course you each have your own cultures and dynamics and would know when best to make adjustments to make all of this work and ultimately create a safe environment. And I really believe everybody’s job is to do that. And in a real way not fake way. And, if you’re one of those first to talk people, and nobody else talks when you prompted it. Talk to those people outside of the meeting and ask them what they need or if they do want to talk to begin with. If they don’t, that is not your problem. all I’m getting at here is when you get everybody to talk you get equality and productivity and happiness and great ideas and innovativeness and creativeness and y’all get to go home and eventually get more time to have your bourbon and pie. ~Σ

Chris Escobar is an Introvert Coach and also helps teams become more efficient through organizational development work. He resides in San Jose California with his amazingly supportive wife Boom Boom, sweet and smart daughter Zolie and ever loving and very funny son Evanusky.

Oh, and a sassy Bichon named Lola.


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