Collaborating well is essential for success in any organization.

Collaborating well is essential for success in any organization. So when we encounter challenges to our collaborative performance, it’s tempting to blame those “uncollaborative” colleagues of ours.

You know the ones: If only that domineering guy from Marketing would shut up and listen for a change, then we could actually make some progress. Or, if only this teammate who never seems to say what she really thinks, would just be honest for once, then we could collaborate much better together.

The only problem with this thinking is 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘁 𝗱𝗼𝗲𝘀𝗻’𝘁 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸.

There are three reasons for this:

1. Assuming that our collaborative challenges lie 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 with those people makes us victims of 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 “bad behaviors,” leading to resentment or resignation (or both)—not to better collaboration.

2. Our problem-solving orientation. We’re generally eager to solve problems that seem to threaten our success. So when those “uncollaborative” colleagues are the problem, we’ll get to work trying to solve or fix 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮. But few of us like to be “solved” or “fixed” by others—especially when we don’t see 𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘷𝘦𝘴 as the problem in the first place. (Remember, those colleagues are probably assuming that 𝘺𝘰𝘶 are the problem—not them.)

3. Focusing on others as the problem doesn’t work because it prevents us from actually doing something skillful to improve our collaborative performance.

So, instead of trying to change your colleagues, try recognizing that they are only one part of the equation. 𝘞𝘦 are always the other part. The difficulties you may be having with your colleagues are, quite literally, 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 difficulties. It is 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 assessments, disappointments, frustrations, or other reactions that you must deal with—not what they’re doing or not doing.

As long as you believe it’s all about them, you’ve boxed yourself in, and the only way out is to try to change or fix 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮.

The key is to shift your attention away from those people out there and back onto yourself. This doesn’t mean blaming yourself. It means examining yourself and your own role in the situation: your thinking, feelings, assumptions, stories and bodily predispositions.

Yes, it’s counterintuitive. But after several decades of helping executives and their teams transform their collaborative performance, I’ve seen how critical this shift of attention can be. It will expand your self-awareness (valuable for all of us, in any position) while opening the door to new ways of responding to situations that don’t require others to change for you.

Interestingly, when you focus on changing yourself, those people around you often end up changing 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙢𝙨𝙚𝙡𝙫𝙚𝙨, because we humans tend to respond in kind to each other’s actions and ways of being. It’s a virtuous circle that can absolutely transform your collaborative performance. And it all starts with you.

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