Collaboration – Signs To Pay Attention To

Multiracial Hands Making a CircleThis is another post from Dr. Wright L. Lassiter, Jr., the Chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District.  We are honored to learn from his experience and leadership knowledge through these posts. Check back monthly for his posts!

From: Chancellor’s Weekend Memo # 337


In my previous commentary, I shared the work of the Chancellor’s Team to address key questions as a background piece on the subject of collaboration.  Following the group definition of collaboration, these questions were addressed:  (1) Why should we collaborate? (2)  What are the key questions to be addressed in order to effectively collaborate? (3) Do we want to be good collaborators?  The commentary concluded with a listing of benefits to be derived from effective collaboration.

Today’s commentary will address the costs associated with collaboration and a suggested simple and practical process developed by author and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith on how to improve collaboration within teams.

Cost Consideration and Challenges

•           In developing financial efficiencies, one college might not benefit from every decision.

•           In improving the District, there could be a loss of individual power.

•           To be more cost effective and efficient requires a will to cooperate.

•           To be recognized as a leader in higher education with student success could result in the need for strategic centralization.

•           To avoid duplication of effort could require more time on task.

•           Time invested now saves time in the future.

•           Making the most of our resources could result from external forces.

•           To speak with one voice necessitates a leadership directive.

•           Consider the strategic use of a facilitator when addressing the issue of competition.

•           Good and honest communication is an imperative.

•           In addressing student success, our work should be process driven.

•           A single vision should be a driver for performance improvement.

•           Fighting for dollars causes diminished interest in the best overall decisions.

Marshall Goldsmith Guidance

Marshall Goldsmith outlines what he calls a process for “team building without time wasting.”  For effective team meetings, he suggests a four-step process:

1.         Assess the current level and the desired outcome of teamwork.           In a team meeting, ask each team member to consider the questions, “How well are we doing?” and “How well do we need to be doing?” in terms of teamwork.  Then, have each team member write down a score from 1 to 10 for each question on a blank piece of paper and hand it in.  Calculate the average score for each question.  Based on Goldsmith’s experience, the result is going to be “We are a 5.8.  We need to be an 8.7.”

2.         Identify behaviors that would close the gap.                 Assuming there is a gap between “we are” and “we need to be,” ask each team member to list on another piece of paper what two key improvements in behavior would help close the gap and improve teamwork.  Goldsmith cautions to make it clear to team members that they are not to single out people, but rather behaviors, such as listening better, articulating clear goals, and so forth.  Next, go around the room asking everyone to share what they wrote and record their answers on a flip chart.  When everyone has spoken, ask the group to vote on which behavior would have the largest positive impact on group effectiveness.

3.         Have team members interview one another.    Have each team member conduct a three-minute, one-on-one meeting with every other team member.  In these sessions, each person should ask, “Please suggest one or two positive changes I can make individually to help our team work together more effectively.”  Then, have each person pick one behavior to focus on improving.

4.         Make the learning ongoing.   Goldsmith suggests having a monthly follow-up process in which each team member asks the other members for suggestions on how to continue his/her improvement.  The conversation should focus on the specific areas identified for individual improvement, as well as general suggestions for everyone on the team.

He offers that these conversations are most effective when both parties respect two simple rules:

  • The person receiving the suggestions cannot critique them.  His/her role is just to listen and say “thank you.”
  • The person making the suggestions must focus not on the past but on the future.

Goldsmith concludes his article with this statement: “In my work with many different teams, I have learned that those that practice this very efficient process can make huge improvements in teamwork in very little time.”

For more information on how BOSS classes can help you become more productive and effective or information on the BOSS degree and certificates, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

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