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What I learned about collaboration today

“Are you simply cooperating with people to achieve greatness or collaborating with them?”

This was the teaser to this morning’s Minute with Maxwell, which if you’re not aware is a daily leadership piece that John Maxwell produces. It’s a quick nugget of information.

John says, “If you are striving for excellence and higher-level thinking, collaboration is the way to go. The difference—cooperation is working well together while collaboration is “wanting” to work together."

John presents the 3 main benefits of collaboration: you will learn something new; you will be more creative; you will value your teammates more as a result of the collaboration process.

After listening to the piece, I reflected on a few contentious projects I had in the past and how collaboration could have helped.

There was a point in our business when it took way too long for physicians to join the health plan network. The communication was terrible, the timeline was terrible. It was really bad customer service. I became aware of the problem and essentially said, “This is terrible, it’s broken, it needs to be fixed. I’ve set up a meeting for us to sit down, go over it, and fix it”.

Shockingly, people were not lining up to get in on that gig. That was not collaboration. I did want to work with these folks, I just didn’t know what true collaboration looked like and why it was important. My approach was more forced cooperation, with mixed results.

The first thing I could have done better would have been to say, “I think this area of our physician experience can be improved. Would you like to collaborate with me on a solution?”

It’s very hard to say “No” to that when it’s phrased that way.

The second thing I could have done differently was to not think I had the answer. To let the team develop it together. This is how the 3 benefits can happen – when I could have learned something new, been more creative in the solution and valued the team members more.

Those things didn’t happen for me in that situation, and it’s stuck with me ever since, so I know it was a failure on my part.

Collaboration is like inviting someone to a party, where forced cooperation is like a trip to the principal’s office. No wonder one works and the other doesn’t.

My resolution today is to invite people to the party. Sometimes they won’t want to come and that’s o.k., then I have to find other ways to entice or find other people to invite, but no more trips to the principal’s office for me.

What is your experience with true collaboration? Do you collaborate at work or at home? Can you think of ways to invite people to a party instead of the principal’s office?

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