22 Jul

Can Collaboration Work?

by Guest Blogger Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew MorgenWe enter into collaborations assuming we’ll succeed as teamwork partners. Yet we rarely achieve true partnership:

  • Because we listen uniquely and through biased filters we sometimes mistakenly presume intent or misconstrue what’s been said and agreed upon. Problem: Flawed assumptions, wasted time and relationship capital, and restricted scope.
  • There is often not enough diversity to enable maximum creativity and unrestricted solution options. Problem: Similar ideas and options constrain possibility and maintain the status quo.
  • Agendas and goals are often established with less than the full set of essential participants.Problem: Hidden agendas and inadequate preparation.
  • Not all vital collaboration partners are present. Problem: Incomplete input and limited output.
  • Collaborators often enter with specific (albeit unconscious) goals and limited tolerance for risk. Problem: Restricted possibility and inspiration.

As a result, we end up with little real change, spend time waiting for takeaways that don’t occur, expend considerable relationship capital, or overlook the full range of possibilities.

  1. Biased communication. After spending 3 years researching and writing a book on the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I now appreciate it’s nearly impossible for collaboration partners to all walk away with the same understanding. Therefore, 1. Tape each session. 2. Get group agreement on what’s been said and action items before moving on to the next topic.
  2. Gender, age, and ethnic diversity are necessary. Consider your goal. Think about who you might invite to offer different perspectives. Invite Troublemakers.
  3. Make sure everyone has access to the agenda well before the meeting. There can be no hidden agendas; too much is lost that ends up being problematic later on.
  4. Everyone must attend meetings. If anyone can’t come to the meeting, cancel it or there will be a voice, an idea, an annoyance missing that would counteract the reasons underlying the collaboration. Anyone who will touch the final solution must be present to move forward or there will be fallout, sabotage, and resistance: there is no way to compensate (as per creativity or consensus) once a meeting is held with folks missing.
  5. No restrictions. Collaborators must enter with no assumptions. Collaboration means you either meld disparate ideas, or cultivate something new among you that’s never existed.

We all bring our natural biases and assumptions to the collaboration table, thereby restricting possibilities. Yet until we confront, challenge, and defy the status quo with new thinking, there can’t be change. And that’s the problem: Our results are in direct proportion to our ability to override our biases and assumptions.

BIAS RESTRICTS COLLABORATION

Since researching and writing my new book (Free download What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) I have realized it’s pretty impossible to accurately comprehend what others mean to convey. Here’s a summary of what I learned:

Not only do our eyes merely take in light that our brains then translate (through our filters uniquely developed since birth) into what we think we see, our ears merely take in sound that our brains then translate (through our filters) into what we think others mean – hence we each experience the world uniquely, through our personal translations. To make it truly pernicious, our brains only offer us the translation itself: we never know how far from the Truth we are, potentially causing misplaced resistance and misinterpretation.

For effective collaborations, we must move beyond our filters to hear others without bias during meetings:

  1. Notice resistance, feelings, annoyances, or immediate negativity the moment it happens and ask yourself: How can I hear what’s just been said in a different way?
  2. Since you don’t actually know if what you think you’ve heard is accurate, tell your collaboration partners what you think you heard and ask them if they heard the same thing.
  3. Make sure there are no strong feelings left unsaid after each discussion topic.
  4. At the start of a session, everyone must agree to goals/outcomes for each topic; as each topic is completed, everyone must agree on action items that will match the original goals. Everyone.
  5. At the end of the session, agree to all action items and take-aways. Do a review of what’s been accomplished according to original goals. Ask if anyone else needs to be included for the next session.

By minimizing biases, by including a full range of thought-partners, and by checking in with the other collaborators as to what’s been said and heard, it’s possible to form effective collaborations. Otherwise, we’re merely doing more of the same.

_____________________

Sharon Drew will not longer be writing original content or sending out original articles. She will regularly change out articles from her library of 1500 published articles on sales, Buying Facilitation®, change, listening, collaboration, and decision making. You can still purchase her learning products on Buying Facilitation® and hearing others without bias. Should you wish to reach Sharon Drew for coaching, training, consulting, or speaking, she can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com or 512 457 0246.

Visit my websites: www.sharondrewmorgen.com and www.didihearyou.com

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29 May

Meetings: The Purpose, The Pain, The Possibility

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew MorgenAs business folk, we hold meetings regularly. Yet often we don’t accomplish what we set out to achieve. Why?

The Purpose

Meetings are held to accomplish a specific, beneficial outcome requiring the attendance of the right people with the right agenda.

The Problem/Pain

Often we end up with miscommunication, wasted time, incomplete outcomes, misunderstanding, lack of ownership and ongoing personnel issues – sometimes an indication of internal power and faulty communications issues.

The Possibility

With greater success we can: stimulate thinking; achieve team building, innovation, and clear communication; and efficiently complete target issues. Here are some problem areas and solutions:

People. When outcomes aren’t being met effectively it’s a people- and management problem including: fall-out, sabotage, and resistance; long execution times; exclusion of peripheral people; restricted creativity and communication; exacerbated power and status issues. Are the most appropriate people (users, decision makers, influencers) invited? All who have good data or necessary questions?

  • Rule: unless all – all – relevant people show up for the meeting, cancel it. It’s impossible to catch people up or have them collaborate, add creative thoughts, or discuss annoyances. Once it’s known that meetings aren’t held unless all are present, the frequency, responsibility, and motives shift.
  • Rule: unless all – all – of the people who will touch the outcome from the meeting’s goals are in some way represented, the outcome will not reflect the needs of all causing fallout later, with resistance, sabotage or a diminished outcome.

Agenda. No hidden agendas! Recipients of potential outcomes must be allowed to add agenda items prior to the meeting.

  • Rule: unless all – all – of the items of ultimate concern are on the agenda, the meeting will be restricted to meet the needs of a few with unknown consequence (resistance and sabotage).

Action. Too often, action items don’t get completed effectively. How do action items get assigned or followed up? What happens if stuff’s not done when agreed? How can additional meetings be avoided?

  • Rule: put a specific, consensual, and supervised method in place to ensure action items get accomplished as promised.
  • Rule: as meeting begins, get consensus on what must be accomplished for a successful outcome. This initial discussion may change agenda items or prioritize them, detect problems, assumptions, resistance before action items are assigned.

Discussion. How long do people speak? How do conversations progress? How do the proceedings get recorded? What is the format for discussions? How is bias avoided?

  • Rule: record (audio) each meeting so everyone who attends can have it available later. Folks who didn’t attend are not privy to this audio. (See People above).
  • Rule: design a time limit for speaking, and rules for topics, presentations, discussions, cross talk.
  • Rule: include periods of silence for thought, notes, reflection.

Understanding. Does everyone take away the same interpretation of what happened? How do you know when there have been miscommunications or misunderstandings?

  • Rule: unless everyone has the same perception of what happened for each topic, there is a tendency for biased interpretation that will influence a successful outcome.
  • Rule: one person (on rotation) should take notes, and repeat the understanding of what was said to get agreement for each item before the next item is tackled. This is vital, as people listen with biased filters and make flawed assumptions of what’s been said/agreed.

Transparency. Agendas should be placed online, to be read, signed-off, and added to.

  • Rule: whomever is coming to the meeting must know the full agenda.
  • Rule: everyone responsible for an action item must be listed with time lines, names of those assisting, and outcomes.

Accomplishments. Are items accomplished in a suitable time frame? What happens when they aren’t?

  • Rule: for each action item, participants must sign off on an agreeable execution. A list of the tasks, time frames, and people responsible must accompany each item, and each completed task must be checked off online so progress is accountable.
  • Rule: a senior manager must be responsible for each agenda item. If items are not completed in a timely way, the manager must write a note on the online communication explaining the problem, the resolution, and new time frame.

Meetings can be an important activity for collaboration and creativity if they are managed properly and taken as a serious utilization of time and output. Ask yourself: Do you want to meet? Or get work accomplished collaboratively?

__________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? (free download at www.didihearyou.com) and NYTimes Business Bestsellers in the area of sales, decision facilitation, change management, and helping buyers buy. She is developer of Buying Facilitation® and a recognized thought leader in communication and decision making. She is a coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant. For those in sales, coaching or leadership want to communicate better Sharon Drew Morgen has the tools to help make improvements with online learning, group coaching, or on-site training. Sharon Drew can coach and train your sales teams or license trainers to prospect and get more appointments by finding real buyers on the first call. She can be reached at: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

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21 Apr

Guest blog: Do you want to lead? or have someone follow?

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew Morgen

I’m a dancer. When I studied the Argentine Tango there was a foundational rule that I believe is true for all leaders: The leader opens the door for the follower to pass through, and the leader then follows. If anyone notices the leader, he’s not doing his job. The goal is to showcase the follower.

Much of what is written about leadership falls into the category I call ‘trait-centered leadership’: someone deemed ‘at the top’ who uses his/her personality, influence, and charisma to inspire and give followers – possibly not ready for change – a convincing reason to follow an agenda set by the leader or the leader’s boss. Sounds to me like a mixture of Jack Welch, Moses, and Justin Bieber.

What if the leader’s goal overrides the mental models, beliefs or historic experiences of the followers, or the change is pushed against the follower’s values, and resistance ensues? What if the leader uses his/her personality as the reason a follower should change? Or has a great message and incongruent skills? Or charisma and no integrity? Adolf Hitler, after all, was the most charismatic leader in modern history.

IF YOU CAN’T FOLLOW, YOU CAN’T LEAD

Whether it’s for a group that needs to perform a new task, or someone seeking heightened outcomes, the role of leadership is to

  1. Facilitate congruent change and choice,
  2. in accordance with the values, skills, and ability of the follower,
  3. enabling them to shift their own unique (unconscious) patterns,
  4. to discover and attain new behaviors congruently and without resistance,
  5. within the parameters of the required change.

It demands humility and authenticity. It’s other-centered and devoid of ego, similar to a simple flashlight that merely lights the existent path, enabling followers to discover their own excellence within the context of the change sought. It’s an inside job.

Being inspirational, or a good influencer with presence and empathy, merely enlists those whose beliefs and unconscious mental models are already predisposed to the change, and omits, or gets resistance from, those who should be part of the change but whose mental models don’t align.

This form of leadership has pluses and minuses.

  • Minuses: the final outcome may look different than originally envisaged because the followers set the route according to their values and mental models.
  • Pluses: everyone will be enthusiastically, creatively involved in designing what will show up as their own mission, with a far superior proficiency. It will more than meet the vision of the leaders (although it might look different), and the followers will own it with no resistance.

Do you want to lead through influence, presence, charisma, or rationality? Or facilitate the unique path to congruent change? Do you want people to see you as a guide? Or teach them how to congruently move beyond their status quo and discover their own route to excellence – with you as a GPS system? Do you want to lead? Or enable real change? They are opposite constructs.

POWER VS. FORCE

Here are some differences in beliefs between trait-centered leadership and more facilitative leadership:

Trait-centered: Top down; behavior change and goal-driven; dependent on power, charisma, and persuasion skills of a leader and may not be congruent with foundational values of followers.

Facilitation-centered: Inclusive (everyone buys-in and agrees to goals, direction, change); core belief-change and excellence-driven; dependent on facilitating route between current state and excellence, leading to congruent systemic buy-in and adoption of new behaviors.

Real change happens at the belief level. Attempting to change behaviors without helping people change their beliefs first meets with resistance: the proposed change pushes against the status quo regardless of the efficacy of the change.

New skills are necessary for facilitation-centered leadership:

  1. Listen for systems.This enables leaders to hear the elements that created and maintain the status quo and would need to transform from the inside before any lasting change occurs. Typical listening is biased and restricts possibility.
    2. Facilitative Questions. Conventional questions are biased by the beliefs and needs of the Questioner, and restrict answers and possibility. Facilitative Questions enlist the unconscious systems and show them how to adopt change congruently.
    3. Code the route to systemic change. When asking folks to buy-in, build consensus, and collaborate, they don’t know how to make the necessary changes without facing internal resistance, regardless of the efficacy of the requested changes. By helping people move from their conscious to their unconscious back to their conscious, and facilitating buy-in down the line, it’s very possible to avoid resistance.

If you seek to enable congruent change that captures the passion and creativity of followers, avoids resistance, and enables buy-in, open the door and follow your followers.

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard?  She has developed facilitation material for sales/change management, coaching, and listening. To learn more about her sales, decision making, and change management material, go to www.sharondrewmorgen.com. To learn more about her work on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, go to www.didihearyou.com. Contact Sharon Drew for training, keynotes, or online programs at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. Sharon Drew is currently designing programs for coaches to Find and Keep the Ideal Client, and Lead Facilitation for Lead Generation

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22 Feb

Atrendia Friday Video 12 – Don Tapscott – Getting Beyond E-mail

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In this McKinsey interview, Don Tapscott describes how we get beyond e-mail to the new social platforms.  He focuses on the central and compelling point that you don’t leverage knowledge through containerization, but through collaboration.

Don Tapscott

Tapscott has authored or co-authored fourteen books on the application of technology in business and society. His 2006 book, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (2006) co-authored by Anthony D. Williams, was an international bestseller, #1 on the 2007 management book charts, and was translated into 20 languages (Source: Wikipedia)

This very short video is a must for those of you who want to confirm your belief that social collaboration tools are not only important, but inextricably so.

Contact me if you are interested in finding out more information about how to propel your organization in the direction of less siloing and more collaboration through the proper mindset, methods and cutting edge tools.

Click here to enjoy the video

Find out more about our Executive Leadership Coaching Program

Happy Friday!

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08 Feb

Atrendia Friday Video 10 – Carly Fiorina (Former CEO of HP): Leadership and Capability

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In this youtube video, Carly Fiorina speaks about how leadership is a combination of capability, collaboration and character.  She underlines that it is up to, and the responsibility of, leaders to drive change.  To take risks, to keep learning and to change the order of things are things that only leaders can do.

Carly Fiorina - former CEO, HP

Duration: 5:03

This video inspires us to ask ourselves: are we leading or managing?  Are we taking the necessary risks or are we complacently maintaining? Do we misunderstand leadership as making decisions instead of enabling others to work collaboratively – creating synergies instead?

Get started on your journey with the Executive Leadership Coaching Program today.

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