Collaborating for Success

In school, I always struggled with the team project. The idea of collaborating with others and creating a plan for creating the work always seemed to lend itself to a lot of vague discussions followed by one person doing the heavy lifting to get the project across the finish line. In my career, I’ve learned that essentially most of my work life is one big group project. I’m sure we’ve all worked on projects with colleagues that go well and then we’ve worked on some projects that just can never get going or get finished. What are the key features of a successful collaboration versus an unsuccessful one? 

Trust

At the core of a positive collaborative experience is trust. If your team trusts each other, it really does enhance the communication process. In Franklin Covey’s book The Speed of Trust, Covey describes in great detail the benefits of working in a high-trust environment. A few of these benefits include decisions being made faster and the outcomes of these collaborative efforts are more impactful. 

Clarity

What is the purpose of your project or collaborative effort? Is there a specific time when the purpose or objective needs to be completed? Collaborative endeavors that seem to drag on are usually lacking in a clear purpose and a deadline hasn’t been agreed upon. If these two items are taken care of right at the beginning of a project, the team has a better chance of success. Also, each team member should have a clear idea of their purpose for being on the project as well as what is expected 

A Conflict Management Strategy

When collaborating with others, differences of opinion are bound to happen, and having a strategy for managing conflict is helpful to continue to move forward. The first step in managing conflict is to accept it’s happening. If a team tries to ignore the fact there is an issue, this is only going to break any trust within the team that has already been established. Direct communication is generally best between those team members that might be experiencing conflicting views.

Summary

Collaboration is essential in the workplace. As long as teams focus on supporting a high-trust environment, having a clear focus and deadline, and a strategy for managing conflict, any collaborative endeavor can be successful.

Showing up for Work: The Spectrum of Authenticity

Working with my feet on the desk

Lately, I’ve been curious about how people find themselves at work. It seems harder to let outside influences go as we jump into our days in a world that sometimes seems anything but normal. Many of us try to “be professional” as we sit at dining room tables that have become our home offices, attending Zoom calls while attempting to mute at the same moments our toddler screams and our dogs bark at the Amazon guy. The usual distractions used to be the smell of someone heating up last night’s fish in the community microwave or the coworker’s personal conversations over the cube wall, but now our distractions are intensely personal and not as easy to drown out.

As we work from home, making a clear distinction between our home and work lives is becoming harder. So the question becomes, “Do we try harder to force the separation or just let our coworkers and clients see a little more about who we are outside the office?” Although uncomfortable, my vote is for the latter. I also don’t think that we have to swing from one extreme to another, based on who we’re interacting with that day we can work within a spectrum of authenticity that is based on trust. 

Low Trust: Higher Walls

If we’re dealing with a client or coworker that we may be lower on the trust scale, we may choose to build some barriers between our home life and the life we project on our Zoom meetings. Some ways that we can create some “space” starts with how we’ve configured our digital meeting space. For example, if you’re working in your bedroom, you may want to consider using the Zoom background feature. This can give you a little more privacy while you’re doing video-conferencing. Also, you may want to invest in a noise-canceling headset.  A headset is a great way to filter external noises at your house, but it’s also a great way to prevent your little ones from overhearing heated business discussions.

Medium Trust: Test the Waters

Perhaps you’ve been working with your coworkers for a few years and you’re willing to test the waters maybe it might be time to let them in a little to your home life. The Covid pandemic has introduced a completely new element to our working lives and it’s natural to feel a little uncomfortable in this new environment. Although Dorie Clark’s article What to Do When You Don’t Feel Comfortable Being Yourself at Work was originally written for those that don’t feel comfortable in their current work environments, I think it can offer some great suggestions for those that are uncomfortable about working from home. Broadcasting our home lives can display some of our deepest vulnerabilities however, exposing these vulnerabilities can also open us up to deeper relationships. The key with those you’re starting to build relationships with is to start small and work from there.

High Trust: It’s Still Not a Face-to-Face Conversation

If you’re on a work call with a colleague or client you’ve been working with for years, still beware of the technology you’re using to communicate. If you are using a technology that is sponsored by your company, it could be automatically recorded. And if it is recorded, are you sure you want that conversation played back to you someday? Based on the relationship (colleague or client) you may choose to introduce your family members while on conference calls (especially if you’re interrupted), but you still want to make sure that each layer you reveal of your personal life is being matched by your colleague or client. 

Working from home presents an interesting social experiment. After years of working with people face-to-face, seeing how they live and interact with their families presents some challenges. Continuing to assess how we show up for work and the version of ourselves we display will continue to evolve. There are no easy answers but continuing to examine who we trust with which information will continue to be a factor in how we now reveal ourselves to those we live and work with.

Making Change Stick: Training is a Huge Step in Adoption

Woman training team of people

Let’s face it; change is hard. Many of us have recently dealt with more change than we ever thought possible. In the shift to remote work, many of us have learned that implementing change requires more than just a solid strategy for change management, but on a deeper level, it requires a commitment to learning how to work differently. 

Many of us initially struggled with the transition from face-to-face to remote. However, after we did a little training by reading some articles, watching a few Zoom meeting tutorials, and then practiced what we had learned, we got better. We need to apply the same strategy to our organizations after creating a change. We must solidify the change by continuing to train and reinforce how we’ve learned to work differently after the change. In this article, we’ll discuss three ways to use training and development to reinforce the changes made at your organization.

  1. Use a training sandwich approach. When a change or new process is rolled out, make sure you create a training sandwich. Train your team before, during, and post-implementation. Repetition is key to solidifying change and making it “stick.” Although there are many ways to approach this idea, Procore is a great example of a software company that has given tremendous thought to how important training is to adoption. Procore has learning paths and certification programs for each type of user accessing their platform as well as continuing education content.
  1. A link to a Confluence page or a Sharepoint site is NOT training. Training by definition is “the skill, knowledge, or experience acquired by one that trains.” Other synonyms for training include: drill, exercise, practice. In Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, Mattis details the preparation required prior to any military campaign. Drills and practice are critical to the success of any mission and Mattis attributes much of the success he experienced on the battlefield to the drills conducting prior to each mission. Successful outcomes directly resulted from extensive practice so that when errors were made on the battlefield, his troops could quickly adapt and overcome. What if we applied this same care and diligence in our training programs after a change was made within our organization? Practicing what we learn is key to adoption.
  1. Communication is a two-way street. After changes are made, many times the communication stops. Implementors of change stop sending written communication and managers stop discussing the new change at meetings. However, how teams communicate change and keep the conversation going, is another key aspect of training. Communication should not be the one-way push of information. A key element of communication is listening to feedback and creating forums for discussion. Don’t underestimate the power of listening to your team. Discussion is a key element of learning and reinforcing new changes. These discussions can also lead to improvements and innovation as well.

Change may not always be easy, it’s important to nurture the change once it’s made. Backing change with a solid training approach is an excellent way to reinforce and increase adoption within an organization.

Charting a Course in Change Management

Webinar presentation for SMPS Southeast Regional Conference

Recently, I had the pleasure of presenting “Charting a Course in Change Management” with Courtney Kearney for The Society of Marketing Professional Services Southeast Regional Conference.In the presentation, we outlined Dr. Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Change Management. I had presented this topic with Courtney about 6 months ago at a Zweig Conference in Las Vegas. It’s amazing how much can change in such a short time. During our initial presentation, Covid-19 wasn’t even on the radar. When we were addressing questions from the audience, they focused mainly on how to handle implementing technological changes to accommodate growth in an expanding market. Now, our presentation featured questions from the audience on how to manage changes forced on our business based on a global pandemic. Although change is the only constant, why does it still feel so hard even with the small changes? Why do we resist something that is so natural? Even though I’d like to think of myself as someone who can handle change well, Covid-19 has taught me that I still have so much to learn. If you’re curious to hear more about change management, please check out the presentation that Courtney and I gave on July 10, 2020.

Don’t Waste a Crisis

A little more than a year ago, I became a mother and never has my life become so small and large at the same time. I went out a little less and I focused quite a bit more on raising my son. I thought I had settled into my new routine until Covid-19 hit. 

Since beginning to live a more socially distanced life, I thought my very small world would get even smaller. However, in this time of increased stillness, I’ve found an opportunity by beginning to question my deep-rooted beliefs as I watch an ever-increasing Covid-19 death count and social media exploding with racial injustice.

It was once said, “Never waste a crisis.” In this current crisis we find ourselves in, I find myself asking more questions than ever before. And what makes this time more challenging than previous times in my life is I could distract myself by going somewhere or creating tasks to keep myself busy. Now, I have to be still, look into my son’s eyes, and really think carefully about the important “stuff” life is really about.

The Covid-19 health crisis has forced me to ask questions about my purpose and if I’m the type of wife, mother, and friend I want to be. The Black Lives Matter Movement has inspired me to think that maybe change is possible. Maybe we’ve reached the tipping point as a nation that real change can start to take place. 

In this moment of uncertainty, I find the questions comforting because I’m no longer plugging away in my day-to-day without a focus. I can make everyday count just a little more because I’m more contemplative than I’ve been in months. 

In my life, the times when I’ve felt the most stuck or isolated are the exact times when the most growth is happening. I hope I will be strong and focused enough to not let the current crisis be a wasted moment in my life, rather I hope it will serve as inspiration on how to do better in the next chapter.