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Walk the talk on collaboration

I’m enamored by collaboration and can get really excited about it.

But I think about previous experiences when managers and administrators say there will be collaboration. They often fail to walk the talk. Somehow they just can’t let go of the command and control tactics.

Failure #1. My first boss in extension wanted to implement self-directed work teams. We talked about the concept and the methods. We created the teams. It soon became obvious my boss couldn’t really let go of command and control. She was one of the best bosses I’ve ever had. Whether due to the structure above her or her own misgivings, she couldn’t walk the talk.

Failure #2. Fast forward 10 years to a several day workshop on LEAN. Each team was asked to map a process. One of the managers I worked with mapped a process on her own at home. At least in that instance, I was alerted immediately that nothing about that process was going to be improved. She didn’t want to know what we did in the process so our suggestions for improvement would not be needed.

Success #1. I needed to help on a project to recruit students from China. I knew almost nothing about the culture but one member of the team was from China. The question was: would I take over leadership of this effort? Ever hopeful that there could be collaboration, I said yes I would lead it. We pulled different people into that team at times to get more ideas and help. We had a very clear goal and timeline from the director but he stayed out of our work. When we gave him progress updates, he’d ask questions and offer comments. He was a part of the collaboration in a different way from the team members who knocked out the details of what we did and who was responsible. We recruited more Chinese students than the program could accommodate.

Show me by your actions, not your words
Collaboration is a great word and many use it. Do they allow new methods, new processes and new ideas? It’s no wonder we say—walk the talk. That’s civility to respect others and do what you say you will do.

Do you have similar experiences?

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