Opening Doors to Teamwork and Collaboration: 4 Keys That Change Everything

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Top diversity experts Katz and Miller offer a short, engaging guide to four simple behaviors that fundamentally change the quality and nature of people's workplace interactions, thereby opening doors to more productive interpersonal relationships, greater job satisfaction, and increased organizational success.

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Opening the Door to Trust Key #1: Lean into Discomfort

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CORE BEHAVIORS TO TRUST

Lean into Discomfort

TAKE RISKS: experiment with new behaviors and actions.

SPEAK UP: address issues.

Everything new feels uncomfortable at first, which is why discomfort is a prerequisite for learning, growth, and change.

For most people, trusting others—and truly joining them—is challenging, and that can be uncomfortable.

Discomfort does
not always
mean stop and
run for cover.

Some things that make me uncomfortable are just unsafe situations and not great ideas to pursue. The discomfort I may feel when someone suggests bungee jumping into a volcano, for example, is a useful warning to heed.

But what about when I feel discomfort interacting with new team members because I am unsure of what they bring to the team or what working with them will be like? Avoiding those interactions is not the best course of action.

The same goes for the discomfort I might feel when I need to work with someone in another department or whose language is different, or when I need to present new ideas in front of a room of leaders.

 

Opening the Door to Collaboration Key #2: Listen as an Ally

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CORE BEHAVIORS TO COLLABORATION

Listen as an Ally

LISTEN AS A PARTNER:
be ready to join the other person—and give the person the benefit of the doubt.

LISTEN FULLY:
respond with nonverbal communication as well as words, and check in with the speaker to confirm you understand what is being said.

GIVE ENERGY BACK:
engage in a spirit of building on what was said.

Allies are willing to work
a little harder to hear,
understand, appreciate,
and build on others’ ideas.
Are you willing to
Listen as an Ally?

“Are we all in this together?” should not be the first question that comes to my mind as I start my workday because it shouldn’t be a question at all. The knowledge that we are all in this together to achieve common goals should be the basis for all my interactions, decisions, and actions throughout my day at work, every day. It should be the foundation—the given.

But in too many organizations, people have a very narrow sense of “we.” Often it is more like us versus them. And when we ask if we are all in this together, people have different ideas about what this refers to. Instead of a shared sense of purpose and joint effort, there are conflicting priorities and competition for information, attention, and advantage. And even together doesn’t feel like reality. Too often, these words sound less like a genuine question and more like pie-in-the-sky sentiment that prompts eye-rolling and gets ignored, especially when it is not tied to a reward system or how people really work in the organization. People and organizations may say they are all in this together, or even aspire to be so, but it definitely isn’t how they act.

 

Opening the Door to Understanding Key #3: State Your Intent and Intensity

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CORE BEHAVIORS TO UNDERSTANDING

State Your Intent and Intensity

Share whether your statement is a

NOTION: an initial idea

STAKE: an idea you’re committed to, but can be moved

BOULDER: an item requiring action, with little room for negotiation

TOMBSTONE: a nonnegotiable position (Act or else!)

In other words,
I say what I mean
and how much I mean it.

When I say what I mean, it eliminates guesswork. When I make people guess my Intent, there is a strong possibility they will guess wrong—which guarantees that effort, resources, and time will be wasted. When I clearly state what I mean and how committed I am to the idea or thought, others are better able to act quickly, decisively, and correctly. By clearly disclosing our objectives and intentions so others fully understand our Intent and Intensity, it makes it easier for us to achieve Right First Time interactions.

This enables everyone to calibrate how much to invest in a discussion, when to contribute ideas, and when to move to action. This makes life and work much easier for all of us!

 

Opening the Door to Breakthroughs Key #4: Share Your Street Corner

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CORE BEHAVIORS TO BREAKTHROUGHS

Share Your Street Corner

SHARE YOUR PERSPECTIVE: recognize you have a piece of the puzzle.

ACCEPT OTHERS’ PERSPECTIVES: as true for them.

BE CURIOUS: hear another perspective as different, not wrong.

Most intersections have four street corners. Some have even more. The challenge is to hear from all the Street Corners! Don’t assume your view is the only view, the best view, or even the correct view.

I am standing at a busy intersection, waiting to cross the street, when I hear a screech of brakes. I look up just in time to see a large black SUV plow into the rear passenger door of a red sedan, which spins around and smacks into the front left quarter panel of a parked minivan.

Fortunately, no one appears to be injured. From my vantage point on my street corner, I can see the drivers of the vehicles involved in the accident getting out of their cars, each pointing a finger of blame at the other.

Uh oh, I think. They are going to have trouble sorting this out. It looked like the SUV may have been to blame, but the red sedan may have run a traffic light. I was an eyewitness, but I really can’t say who was at fault.

 

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