Consider two versions of the same meeting. A task has just been identified, and it now falls to the group to figure out who can take it on.
Scenario 1: Someone reluctantly begins, “Ah, I have a lot on my plate right now,” and everyone else thinks to themselves: “You know what, I’m busy, too!” Suddenly there’s no capacity for the work at hand.
Scenario 2: Someone asks, “Whose expertise do we need to make this successful?” or maybe “Who would find this a useful challenge?” Not only does the group find the right person for the job, but they strategically rearrange other work so that no one person is overloaded.
What is the difference between those two situations? How do some groups collapse inward and run into so many dead ends while others seem to expand their size and time to fit their needs?
On the surface, it’s tempting to think that simply more collaboration is the antidote to burnout. However, there are serious risks to well-being when collaboration is unbalanced within an organization, or simply approached indiscriminately. For example, closer investigation of “collaboration overload” and the burnout rates for “extra-milers” are beginning to show that too often the highest collaborators in a system go unrecognized. In fact, they often spend a disproportionate amount of time contributing to the responsibilities of others without experiencing the same amount of help on their own work, and so they are not seen by their organization as high performers. We are rapidly learning that collaboration is a matter of quality over quantity.
At Conversant, we have found that the quality of listening dramatically changes the performance of a collaborative team. The most impactful shift is when people are not considering how to protect themselves, but instead are curious about what could be possible with all of the options available. Just as one person can have everyone running to their calendars, one remark with curiosity and purpose can start a chain reaction that opens up previously unevaluated opportunities. Try the steps below in your next meeting:
As collaboration within organizations increases, we must be awake to its deployment, balance its participants, and be purposeful in its approach. When those conditions are met, we can be smarter together, healthier together, and realize the impact of our aspirations.