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One simple behaviour to improve collaboration

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —October 23, 2008
Filed in Collaboration, Culture

From talking with people who are trying to improve their collaboration capability, I’m detecting a scepticism with the practice of getting your team or community together to decide, up front, how they will behave and treat each other. The feeling seems to be, “we can spend time talking about our agreed behaviours but then something else emerges that our agreement didn’t really cover, so it’s a bit of a waste of time.”

So, how about this? Teams and communities only agree one behaviour that becomes the catalyst for nudging all the rest in the right direction. The behaviour is simply an open invitation by all members to,

Call Me on It (respectfully and with good intent)

Whenever a person does something other members believe strays from the group’s values, members will talk about it and in doing so enables the group’s values in action to emerge and become visible.

For this to work everyone will need to develop the skill to receive, which in some cases will be sensitive, feedback. Most importantly, the person receiving the feedback must listen and not let their emotions send them into a typical flight or fight tailspin. This will be a crucial conversation.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

3 Responses to “One simple behaviour to improve collaboration”

  1. Luke Says:

    Nice catalyst for emergence of good behaviours Shawn.
    An anecdote that may assist with this. It’s true by the way and I don’t mind you using it!
    At one of my first senior management training sessions, we explored our Johari windows, a useful tool to help people better understand their interpersonal communication and relationships. A selection of behavioural adjectives is placed into a 2 x 2 grid with the axes Known to self / Not known to self and Known to Others / Not known to others. This yields a blind spot, a facade and an unknown area.
    We individually filled in the quadrants, paired off to discuss them and were then given permission by the trainer to notify someone when they displayed a behaviour in their blind spot or in the unknown category. I called my partner, respectfully, when their behaviour was dominant in the group. He was taken aback and we had quite an argument about it. Later in the day after some reflection, he came back and thanked me for calling him on that behaviour and that it was obviously something that he needed to work on some more.

  2. Shawn Callahan Says:

    Good story Luke. Did others in the group highlight other blind spots with the other participants?

  3. Luke Says:

    That was more than 10 years ago Shawn so I think I have done pretty well just remembering that story. I’m not sure if anyone else had a similar experience.

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