It has been said that human beings use only a small amount of their true abilities, cognitively as well as in their roles at work, in performing their duties each day. If each of us can do so much more, can you imagine what highly engaged individuals can do in teams? However, every bit of the benefit of teamwork depends upon collaboration – an art that has been lost as we focus on what we can do individually.
The lack of ability to collaborate often shows up most clearly in the political or legislative process, where agreement if not true collaboration is required to gain approval. In this environment, attention is given to issues that are used to inspire emotion in order to win people over to a cause or point of view. One of the recent examples of such an issue, which has been a challenge for some time, is violence in our society. This was most recently brought to light because of the tragic circumstances in Newtown, CT.
In a truly engaged environment, such issues would be recognized for high levels of collaboration and dialog. A shared focus on what is best for all involved would prevail. The objective would be identified and would guide discussions that consider all points of view. However that is far from what happened after Sandy Hook and other incidents.
Both sides started in immediately. People on the side of gun control wanted all sorts of things to occur such as a ban on all guns. Others on the opposite side of the argument viewed any discussion regarding gun control as an act of tyranny. The irony is that the conversations that have occurred have generally limited our ability to solve the problems we face and rarely honored those that were victims.
We might imagine that in such a situation, those concerned would focus on the issue we all share, that of safety and security for our homes, families and businesses. We would also consider the importance of Constitutional rights and civil liberties. Instead of asking for gun control or protesting against it, we could imagine starting with an inclusive question such as… “How can we make this society safer and less violent while attempting to maintain our civil liberties in the process?”
We have a much better chance addressing the “real issues” from this starting point as opposed to the divisive one that has been used. And I mean “used” in its most derogatory form.
These decisions, of course, do not occur in a vacuum. If we are not collaborative in the larger vision for our country our ability to make good choices is compromised. We see this behavior very quickly crawling and spreading into our boardrooms, schools and living rooms. Our leaders, cable channels, networks, newspapers and magazines have fostered a win at all costs, they are the enemy, half truth version of the truth. And many of us have bought in hook, line and sinker. We cannot talk about issues anymore. People are afraid they will be labeled, called names or worse ostracized. Of course, conversations happen among the like minded, but that only serves to increase the barriers between us. We see others in caricature form. So, where the issue appears to be a stand-alone opportunity, it is clearly a beacon showing us the importance of having a culture of engagement and collaboration, nationally, organizationally, and individually.
This example highlights something important about the relationship between collaboration and freedom. The greater collaboration and engagement in our society, the less likely we are to take the easy road of straight compromise or the road to nowhere based on the lack of willingness to compromise. Collaboration…real collaboration leads to new ideas and innovation. That is what this country is based on. A new idea. That is what our economic success has been based on. New ideas. Let’s return to that important principle. We must open our minds and our arms. We must start our conversations collaboratively and inclusively focusing on opportunity rather than fear and on what is possible rather than why it won’t work.
As you seek to create value in your organization, what opportunities do you have to collaborate? Is there a process in place to support this effort? Is the process flexible enough to meet the needs for which it is designed? As you seek to go the extra mile, do you help others do the same? What are the larger issues in your organization that can be addressed by collaboration, and what freedoms are at risk because of the inability to collaborate? How are you “taking aim” to protect the freedoms that support the opportunity for engagement and trust? How have you made it safe for everyone to speak openly regardless of who they are, where they are from, what part of the organization they work in, and their willingness to challenge the status quo?